Benin · 13 Days · 27 Moments · August 2013

John Cotollo

Adventure Trip Through West Africa

13 August 2013

Ghana - a first world country? So maybe you ask yourself why should I start and end my trip in Accra (Ghana)? The thing is Ghana is more developed than all the other countries of this region. Of course when you first go there you will be shocked about the living standards and how poor the country is, but wait until you get to Togo or Burkina! After experiencing that, you will be so happy to get back Ghana and it will be heaven for you to eat a tasty pizza in the Accra Mall.
Flying home from Accra On your last day you can enjoy the African life on more time before leaving to the airport to catch your plane home. But make sure you plan enough time to get to the airport since there is always a lot of traffic in the airport area.

12 August 2013

The Kakum National Park The Kakum NationalPpark is a beautiful park covered with tropical rain forest where you can see many many wild living animals such as the seldomly seen forrest elephants. But the highlight is the tree walk where you walk over the top of the rain forrest with an extraordinary view over the landscape. Don't miss it!

11 August 2013

The Stilt Village of Nzulezo The Stilt village is a village of local people that have been living on stilt houses for hundreds of years. You can go there by canoe and if you are lucky you might also see a crocodile on your way to the village.

10 August 2013

The Elmina Beach Resort The Elmina Beach Resort is a beautiful and relaxing hotel with a private beach. It is perfect for a one-night stay. The food is good and you can enjoy a few drinks in the sunset on the big terrace.
The Elmina Castle The Elmina Castle is the biggest slave fort on the gold coast. It was used by the British and the last place that the African slaves saw before they had to leave Africa through the so called "door of no return". It is one of the most interesting places on your route and allows you to truly understand how cruel slavery was.

9 August 2013

Kumasi´s Central Market The Central Market in Kumasi is the biggest market in West Africa. You can buy everything you want there. Especially handcrafted stuff and paintings are very popular. But be aware of pickpockets! They know that there are a lot of tourists.

8 August 2013

Mole National Park The Mole National Park is the biggest wildlife reservoir in Ghana. You can see elephants, warthogs, buffalos and monkeys there. You can take a guided tour where you sit on a Jeep to watch all the animals. There is also the possibility to spend the night there.
Paga Crocodile Pond When you arrive in Ghana take a stop in Paga and visit the famous Crocodile Pond. In this small pond there live approximately 400 crocodiles. The special thing is that you can touch them and sit on them if you want to take a photo for example. At night they come into the town so if you plan to stay over night in Paga make sure to lock your room.

7 August 2013

A last day in Ouaga After you come back from the Sahel region (where you drank tea with the Touareg) you should take a rest in Ouaga to prepare for a long journey back to Ghana. Best way to go there is to tell a taxi driver to take you to an international bus station and tell him you only pay him after he found a bus for you to Ghana!

6 August 2013

Safety comes first When travelling to west africa many people are scarred because they think it is very dangerous there. But if you follow some important rules you will be safe. 1) Don´t travel at night. 2) Don´t show people that you have money. Of course everybody knows that you have a lot of money (since you are none of them) but make sure to always keep just a small amount of money in your wallet. 3) Keep your wallet safe and hide some extra cash and your passport elswhere. 4) Don´t resist if you are being robbed. But that´s more of a basic rule and not only true for west africa. 5) Walk with confidence. Always know where you are going because people can see if you feel planless and insecure. You will find yourself in some situations where you will feel a bit uncomfortable but afterwards you will see it was not a big deal.
The Touareg If you take a bus to Dori, you will find guides that are willing to bring you to the Touareg. It is pretty expensive but worth it. First you are just going to lie on the ground and watch the stars for several hours because there are just so many of them. You will drink a very sweet tea with them and then you sleep under the stars surrounded by hundreds on animals. Most probably one on the highlights of your trip!

5 August 2013

The Cappuccino The Cappuccino is the only restaurant in Burkina Faso where you can find Western food at a very high standard. Prices are pretty much the same as in Europe. If you want to eat something more typical for this region, just go to one of the many restaurants around the market. Especially the self made juice is worth trying since they really only use pure fruit.
Ouagadougou Burkina Faso is very different from the other countries you have visited so far. Most people here are muslims, they are very religious and you see a lot of mosques here. Moreover the landscape has changed a lot since Togo. There are way fewer trees and the land around the town is a steppe. In Ouagadougou, or short Ouaga, you have to visit the marketplace in the center of town as well as the crafts village, where you can buy all kinds of art. The perfect time for you to buy gifts for your loved ones at home.

4 August 2013

Evala The Evala ritual is a manlyhood ritual in Togo where young men afte puberty fight against each other with their bare hands. The one who's back touches the ground first loses. It is a very big event in Togo and the young men spend a lot of time on training and preparing for it. Sadly a lot of them get injured and have to go to the hospital. If you are lucky you will also meet the president of Togo who attends every Evala in Togo. But if you really want to see this you should find out where and when it will take place before your trip.

3 August 2013

Benin cheese In Benin there is a very special sort of cheese. You only get it in Benin and it looks very much like raw meat. But don't be afraid, it is really good. You should also try a local beer in one of the small dark lunch rooms next to the street.
Daytrip to Ouaké On the next day I recommend you to do a day trip to Ouaké a boarder town in Benin. Just ask some moto taxi drivers (motorbike drivers that take you anywhere you want) and tell them about your plan. They will show you around in Ouaké, but don´t expect too much of the town. There is not much to see there apart from a big mosque. But the real deal is the motorbike driving through the beautiful landscape of north Benin. After lunch and a beer or two you can ask your guides to show you how to ride the moto which is also a lot of fun if you've never tried this.

2 August 2013

Arrival in Kara When you first arrive in Kara, it is most probably already dark so be sure to go to the next best hotel to spend the night there. If you checked it's ok to go to a bar nearby, but be sure to always stay in public places with a lot of people. Right in the center of the town, which is actually just a roundabout, there is a big bar with loud music and food.
The road to Kara The road to Kara is a very long one! Not only because of the distance (about 400km), but mostly because of the slow, old, overloaded and dangerous buses that will take you there. Just imagine 20 people, one old Vespa, several tons of goods and one or maybe two goats in the back of a bus that was licensed for not more than ten or twelve people.

1 August 2013

Couscous au lait One thing that distinguishes Togo from Benin and Burkina Faso from Ghana is the food. As soon as you cross the boarder you will see that people have a very different taste. Whereas Ghanaians like spicy food, the Togolese also eat a lot of sweet stuff. Especially "Couscous au lait" is worth trying! You will also find Spaghetti on the menu which is totally edible.
Lomé On your first day in Togo you should spend the afternoon exploring the capital Lomé. It has a really beautiful beach, but be aware of the tons of plastic bags in there. After that I would recommend going to the "Place de l'Indépendance" which is the independence place. There you can also see the parliament. In the Togo national stadium are always basketball, football or handball games and at night you can go to a lot of bars drinking some local beer. But be sure to get home till midnight since some districts are not really safe.
Getting to Lomé On your first day outside of Ghana you can visit the capital of Togo, Lomé. You can get here by Land-Taxi. It is some kind of "safer" Taxi that starts in Accra and travels directly to Lomé. If you want to find the taxi station in Accra just ask a normal taxi driver to take you there and he will show you. It costs a bit more than a normal bus but you sit in a big and rather new car and you feel much safer. Be sure to also get your visa in Accra before you start your journey. Best would be to get the so called "Visa conseil de l entente" which allows you to travel to 5 countries including Togo, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso and Cote d´ivoire. It only costs 50 dollars but you have to be lucky to get it - depending on the mood of the embassy's stuff. Unfortunately they sometimes say that they don't sell it because they get more money if you only buy the visa for their country (depending in which embassy you are).
A most important tip TALK TO PEOPLE As a tourist in west africa, you can´t survive without the help of locals. They are the only ones who know where things are! There ared no bus shedules or restaurant menus on the internet. The people are the only ones who know where to find everything. But don´t be scarred, they are so kind and helpful you wouldn´t believe it.
What you will need There a several things that you really have to think of before travelling to west africa. Firstly make sure to get all the relevant vaccinations! Best think is to ask a specialists on tropical diseases (He or she should also advise you on making a first-aid kid). Pack also clothes for cold days because temperatures can cool down very much on some days so be prepared for cold days too. Good shoes! Trust me, you are going to spend a lot of time in them. The rest of your backpack doesn´t look much differnet from when you are travelling else where.
An introduction to travelling in west africa As you could assume, travelling in africa is very different from what most of the people have experienced yet. You can´t really compare it to an ordinary holiday and if you think you´ve seen it all because you have been to south east asia I can guarantee you´ve not. So what makes the big difference? Firstly, these countries are some of the poorest on earth! Togos GDP for example is not much more than a thousand dollars per capita. So when you go there you will see a lot of people who have close to nothing. Some doesn´t even have enough to eat. So be also prepared on that mental stress because it´s not going to be easy. Secondly, the people are not prepared for tourists! As you will find out, you will go to places where some people have not seen white people in their entire life. Also be prepared to live in really dirty and old hotels, with cockroaches under your bed. So if you are very fastidious, this trip is most probably nothing for you.
A last few hours in the western world - The Accra Mall If you enter the Accra Mall, you would not think that you are in Africa right now. Cleaning standards are as high as in every Middle European Mall and even the stores don't differ a lot (e.g. the Apple store). It is most probably the last chance for you to eat burgers and pizza for the next two weeks. But if you don't want to go there on your first day, believe me, you will go there after you come back from your trip.
The memorial of the Ghanaean leader In the Kwabe Nkrumah Park you will find the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum where the famous Kwabe Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, was put to rest. He fought for the independence of Ghana from the British and was also a founding member of the Organization of African Unity. He is considered as the nation's hero till today. The mausoleum has a beautiful architecture and the park is very clean and full of plants. It is the perfect sight for a sunny afternoon walk.