Nigeria, Benin and Togo

Written by admin on March 12th, 2010

We travelled through these countries quite quickly, due either to their small size, security warnings, or as we had decided to spend more time elsewhere, so have grouped them together.

Thursday 4 February

Nigeria was a bit of a whirl for us and a shame that, due to the recent troubles and travel warnings, we chose not to explore the country.  The ongoing insecurity in the South around the Delta region and more recent outbreaks of violence in the North around Jos meant we didn’t really have much choice but to take a direct route through the middle.

Felicity was stamped in fine on arrival, but Marc’s visa for Nigeria had been completed with the wrong date on it by the embassy, with an issue date in the future.  We kept quiet while the policeman pondered what to do and in our heads thinking he is surely going to ask for a costly bribe to let us through.  Surprisingly though he just wanted to help us to make sure that we would not have any further problems throughout our trip, gave his stamp and wished us well.

We then began the very dusty drive to Enugu, which is not too far in distance, but due to getting stopped by the police literally every 5 minutes progress was quite slow!  However, we found the police to be probably the friendliest out of all the countries we had visited so far; very helpful and often very overexcited to see us.  We were stopped dozens of times at every single police stop en route and if they had not been so exceptionally friendly we would have become pretty irritated.  As the light started to fade we began to get the knack of a bit of a rolling stop at a lot of the checkpoints –  preempting the questions with “We’re going to Enugu, we’re trying to get there before dark, thank you!” usually met with a reply of “Enugu, OK go, safe journey” and even on one occasion “We love you!” 

We reached Enugu quite late and places did not allow camping and thought we were very odd for wanting to camp in their carpark.  We arrived very dirty, dusty and sweaty at what was the rather posh looking Placia Guest House.  The rooms were nice and pretty cheap and despite looking us up and down, due to the state of our grubby clothes, the staff were very friendly! 

Saturday 6 February

We made the drive to Abeokuta in good time yesterday despite the driving being a little crazy, due to the massive lorries that come hurtling towards you and often being diverted on to the wrong side of the dual carriageway into the oncoming traffic without any signs or warning, which helped to keep us alert!

After getting a little lost trying to find the right border town we left Nigeria today and crossed into Benin.  Upon arrival in Benin there was no sign of any officials, customs or immigration.  We eventually found customs many kms from the border, but they did not have a clue what to do with our carnet and even they had no idea where immigration was for us to get our visas and passports stamped in.  So we spent the next couple of days as illegal immigrants in Benin and hoped that it would not be too much of a problem when we came to exit the country!

Our first stop in Benin was Abomey, where we camped at a lovely campsite called Chez Monique’s; full of wooden carvings, huge African chairs and a nice shady place to sit and relax after a few days driving in Nigeria.  We spent a lot of our time entertaining a few of the local kids with balls and balloons and they enjoyed trying to pluck hairs from Marc’s chest!

The next day we pootled South, stopping at Ganvie, which is a stilt village on the lake.  We hired a pirogue and drifted through the village, enjoying watching the daily life on the water and the hustle and bustle of the floating market where everyone sells their wares aboard their boats.  We stopped at one of the stilt restaurants and were served one of the best fish dinners we have had, partly because it was huge! 

After Ganvie we drove along the coast to Grand Popo and camped on the beautiful beach.  A few travellers came by to take photos of Bob and to quiz us on the route down.

Monday 8 February

Today we slightly nervously headed to the Togo border, wondering how much of an issue we were going to face for having no arrival visa, so not officially being in the country yet.  However, to our surprise there was no hassle, we were stamped in and out on the spot and were quickly on our way to the Togo capital, Lome.

Due to it being such a short drive through this narrow country we were there in enough time to get our applications in for our Ghana visa and to walk round the hectic, bustling Grand Marche.  The heat and humidity was intense and people constantly make hissing and kissing noises at you to attract your attention, which got a bit much at times, but once we had switched off to them it was fun having a mooch around.  We were mainly looking for some cool material for Marc, as we had seen some great suits in Togo and thought he ought to really get into the West African fashion scene!

We camped at Chez Alice, a little outside the city, which was a good spot and we met up with a few other overlanders here; a nice French couple, a German couple and a Brit who was biking.  They were all heading South, so again we were quizzed a lot, particularly about some of the harder countries that lay ahead and they were a little nervous about, such as safety in Nigeria, the Congos and Angola.

Tuesday 9 February

After another discussion about the route with the German couple over pancakes we went back to the market early on to have more of a look before it got so hot and bought material Marc had seen and liked for his suit.  We picked up our Ghana visas and headed to the Fetish Market.

Togo is a centre for voodoo religion in West Africa, so we thought we would check out a fetish market to see what it was all about.  It was very DIFFERENT - monkeys’ heads, dogs’ heads, chameleons, bones and skulls of every animal filled the stalls.  We had to meet the Fetish Master for the market, who took us into his strange back room and blessed us by talking to the spirit, in the form of a lump of iron and earth with eyes gouged in it.  He then talked us through the various fetishes we needed to keep us safe on our travels and in life.  We felt we should buy one, so as not to offend.  However, the starting price was ridiculous at £40 and so we politely declined.  After further consulation with the spirits though he told us we were lucky today, as the spirit decided we could have one cheaper.  Eventually the spirit told the Fetish Master it was OK for us to pay just £3 for two.  All part of an interesting experience!

In the evening the French couple invited us over to their camper for a glass of French wine and to talk about our travels.  Their English was as good as our French, so the conversation was always extremely animated whilst we tried with odd words to make conversation.  Marc’s French is not too bad and improving, however a few times when he has tried to have conversations in French recently they have replied saying sorry they dont speak English!

Wednesday 10 February

Today we left Lome, crossed the border and headed on to Accra.  The Togo police gave us a bit of hassle and were trying to fine us for driving up the wrong street at the border, but were clearly just after a bribe.  Travelling has taught us a lot of patience and we didn’t have particularly long drive today, so we made it quite clear to him that we were happy to sit and wait.  Locals again suggested we should just pay, so we could be on our way, but we opted to sit it out and eventually he got bored, accepted our apology and we were on our way.

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