Wednesday, May 9

Benin - Voodoo

Brett: Leading up to the coastal border, the view of the beach was obscured by a 4km long queue of trucks that had obviously been there a long time. Togo Customs exit was at (N6 13.738 E1 34.712) and the Togo Immigration exit and Benin Immigration and Customs were together (N6 14.414 E1 37.731). The border looked like a big market, with loads of people, but it was fairly easy and friendly. We didn’t need a visa for Benin on our SA passports and we were through with our carnet stamped in 10 minutes. There were quite a few road blocks after the border that were aggressively searching local cars, but they just waved us through.  
We liked Grand Popo Auberge immediately and camped ($6pp) under the pine trees near the beach. The auberge is a huge property with several lovely old colonial buildings with large wraparound balconies. They have a kickass restaurant (unfortunately a bit pricey but good for a treat) and a pool. The beach is very pretty, but not good for swimming as it is so steep you end up getting dumped by 2m waves before you even get your feet wet, and the currents are strong. Mira and Mark turned up at the campsite on the second night and we had a great evening chatting around the braai. It was great to have a few relaxing days after the dramas of Togo and we managed to catch up on loads of washing and tidying.
Mary: We headed to Lake Aheme, a Voodoo stronghold, and tried to find some Voodoo “stuff”, but there isn’t a huge amount of really obvious stuff to see, much to Brett’s disappointment. We sat and had a “voodoo” coke at the “voodoo” stilt restaurant at Hotel Chez Theo in Possotome. The only signs of voodoo we actually saw were the fetish shrines, protective gods placed in the villages to protect the houses. We did the tour of the Dahomey Palaces in Abomey, which was really interesting – the Dahomey were evidently quite a vicious bunch, with carvings of battle gore and a throne resting on the skulls of some king’s enemy (unfortunately they don’t allow photos). They also used to capture villagers from nearby kingdoms on their raids and sell them – the biggest source of slaves for the slave trade at the time. There were a couple f very interesting displays of gifts given by westerners to the Dahomey kings, including jewellery, porcelain, and a set of amazing crystal whiskey bottles in a silver holder given by two English traders, Richard and William King. That sent us puzzling over whether or not that could be one of my ancient rellies on Pop’s side of the family – we will have to investigate that some more. We stayed at Chez Monique ($6pp), which allows camping in the awesome forest garden. It’s also a massive artist’s workshop, and the grounds are full of tons of carvings and masks – very surreal. The town was quite quiet and there wasn’t a huge amount going on at Chez Monique, so we decided to head out to the nearby Chez Delphano for a dinner excursion. Whatever we had, it wasn’t chicken, with narrow little drumsticks and huge wings, but it was roughly the size of a chicken and we decided in the end it was probably a crow or something, anyway it tasted great and we decided to go back for pancakes in the morning for breakfast. I was feeling pretty grotty so we ended up staying another day, catching up on sleep and watching movies during the cooling thunderstorms.
Before we left, we did a few internet chores to prepare for the Angola Visa, printing out forms and documents and trying to organise our letter of invitation (bizarrely only needed for the tourist visa in some countries where you can apply, but not all) and russling up some plausible-enough-looking accommodation bookings. We drove to Parakou and experienced our first and only Benin checkpoint, where they just wanted to give us directions. Nice. In Parakou we stayed at the pleasant little Hotel de Canaris, where we took a room ($13) as the courtyard was very small. We left for the Nigeria border early in the morning, not really knowing what it would be like.

1 comment:

  1. Does everyone wear the same slops?

    Michael, Claudia and Nick van Esch