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January 21, 2013 / samwilson60

Full house

Just before Anthea’s plane landed, Sam and Sam confirmed that we should meet them in Possotomé – no details but they sounded happy. A bush taxi was the obvious option for us to join them, but in reality this would have meant three separate taxis with god knows how many others squeezed in and although Anthea arrived unfazed, I didn’t want to push our luck on night one so opted instead for a rather luxurious airport taxi all too ourselves. Arriving at camp was magical – suddenly our little group was complete and our beds (mattresses) had already been made on a rickety platform over the water.

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We spent most of the following day on the picnic blanket in the sand but agreed that it would be nice to explore too. We thought we’d arranged a boat trip with an emphasis on voodoo but as we were guided away from the water we realised that this was unlikely – most of the fetishes being on dry land. Despite our initial dismay, our walking tour was a great experience full of insights into the local voodoo traditions and village life. We were particularly excited when our guide started explaining about a spirit that comes out at night sometimes, resulting in drumming and chanting by the initiated few. The previous night we’d heard just such a thing without knowing what it was and while we’d been very tempted to go out and explore, thankfully we were all too tired – our guide explained that this would have been a gross invasion of a ceremony not even he would have been allowed to attend.

Over dinner that night – a three-course, veggie-friendly feast – we started plotting our next moves. The initial plan had been to head swiftly north, with two in the car and two in a combination of busses and bush taxis, but this was quickly feeling over ambitious and unnecessary, so we decided to limit our distances and do as much as we could together, with all four of us in the two-seated car. Not only was this more comfortable than expected, it seemed to reduce the number of police stops – perhaps we blended in better with all the overloaded local vehicles? We also wonder whether the wash the Tinker Beast received – against our wishes – on Christmas night helped our cause (we had been by far the dirtiest vehicle on the road for quite some time and were even starting to get abuse for it from moped riders stuck alongside us in heavy traffic).

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Remaining cautious despite the encouraging signs, we limited our first four-strong excursion to Abomey-Calavie, where we’d have a second stab at visiting Ganvié and the other stilt villages on Lake Nokoué. This time we accepted the offer of a roof-top camp at the hotel nearest the embarkation point and hit the water to explore the stilt villages.

 

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The next thing on the wish list was some live music and for this we headed to the capital, Porto Novo – supposedly a nicer option than the bigger, bustling Cotonou. We camped at one of the grandest hotels in town, or at least it was once, and the restaurant thankfully still lived up to its reputation. After an unexpected feast for lunch and even more unexpected but extremely encouraging news about our Nigerian letters of invitation, we got as dressed up as we could manage and hit the town. By nightfall we were grateful we’d been forced to take one room at least, as the live music scene had eluded us, we’d exhausted ourselves trying to find somewhere passable for dinner, and the insects were ravenous – time for gin and games in our periodically air-conditioned digs.

The following day was New Year’s Eve, arguably a better night to be in town, but by now we just wanted to be out of the city and by the sea. For this we headed back to Ouidah and the hotel that had previously let us camp on the beach. Armed with some really disgusting but very affordable bubbly, we saw in the new year swimming in our pants and playing in the sand.

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On New Year’s Day Sam gave the Tinker Beast her birthday service and Cat took Anthea on a tour of Ouidah’s internet, printing and photocopying facilities, in preparation for our (hopefully) last Nigerian embassy visit. We also received a visit from a pair of South Africans travelling with their dog and a Land Rover in the opposite direction to us. We had great fun sharing stories and, while they did nothing to reassure us about Nigeria, their tales of scaling Mount Cameroon had us beaming with excitement.

After one more night on the beach, it was time to head to Cotonou – Sam-Sam had to fly out and we had to sort out our Nigerian visas once and for all – so we hauled up at a German-run youth-hostel-style guesthouse within minutes of the airport and a dizzying array of restaurants.

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One Comment

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  1. leelee / Jan 28 2013 9:44 am

    super fun to catch up on all this. a bit late i know, since we were snowboarding in the alps last week. but much better reading to catch up on than the other 120 emails in my inbox. thanks guys! hope you’re still travelling safely and happily
    xxx

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