Tuesday 15 April 2008

11th April 08

Date: 11th April 2008
Location: Grand Popo, Benin
Weather: Hazy sunshine, onshore wind but humid, 34°c
Status: All good, happy to be moving again, finally

Left Big Milly’s around the middle of the day on the 10th with a big departure party gathered for the big off after nearly 6 weeks of resting up easy and relaxing. Had the vehicle signed by all the staff and friends and got ready for the off.

The group’s been split up here as Bre (the hot Canadian girl) hasn’t had her new passport back from the Canadian Embassy yet, so couldn’t get her Nigerian visa and therefore couldn’t leave with us, so her and her brother Ammon have had to stay in Ghana until it finally arrives at the beginning of next week. They’ll then catch a bus from Accra to Lagos and another through to Calabar, in the east of Nigeria, to finally meet up with us and start their part of the overland mission for real.

It was difficult leaving as Bre and I have been getting on awesomely and I’ll totally miss the fun she creates and the laughs we have, but its only another week to ten days and she be back with us. Add to that the fact that Silvia was back in the camp with her, now, ex-boyfriend which made for some interesting politics for sure!

After we’d filled the vehicles to the top with fuel, visited the Shoprite to stock the cars with food for the less easy countries and repacked for what seemed like the tenth time, we finally headed east towards the border of Ghana and Togo some 200kms away.

As we drove the smell, heat and pollution of the city finally faded away and opened up to greener, more fertile lands on the edges of the coastal lagoons, of which there are loads on this part of the coast. The ocean became greener, the road conditions became more rural and the kms rolled. We passed by the edge of 2 enormous thunderstorms which just about hit the windscreen, but as we turned south east t skirt around one of the lagoons we headed directly into a wall of water which instantly turned the dirt road into a shitfest with brown spray, huge puddles and with Landrover wipers….a joy to navigate!

Case’s truck has 22” wheels, the Colonel has 16” ones, which means I have to go round potholes and he can go straight over them. Finally as the sun started to set we arrived at the Arola border post, and what an experience! The most disjointed post yet with hundreds of metres between offices, guides trying to buy our custom the entire time and stupid amounts of money needed just to get our vehicles through to the other side! We did take advantage of the offer from one of the guides who said he could take us directly to Chez Alice camping and we could follow him on his motorbike as it was some 15kms away which at the time we thought was a great idea…but it was one road, totally straight and signposted all the way. Still you live and learn!

It was almost 2 months ago that Charlie the German ex-special forces guy recommended we stay at Chez Alice and a couple of other people along the way also said the same, but I was really disappointed with the place. Yes it was a good setup, apart from the rooms being 300m away from the bar and social area, and the buildings were really nicely setup, the beer was cold and the food good and quickly served; but the place lacked atmosphere, soul and Alice (at least I think it was Alice) didn’t speak to us once, only to her table of German friends. A very different welcome from the warm, friendly approach we had from Wendy when we arrived at Big Millys!

So next morning we packed up and headed out the door before midday as our travel notes told us it was a good 5hr drive to the next destination, Auberge Grand Popo, only 95kms away but obviously on pretty crap roads. We covered the next 30kms no problem and arrived at the Togo/Benin border and how different it was to the last one!

Signed out of Togo in less than 20mins and headed through no-mans-land stopping to buy some fresh fruit and water on the way. The Benin side was a little more difficult but still we got through in around an hour and prepared for the ‘bad’ road we thought was ahead. Except that it never materialised, and within 40mins we’d covered the remaining 65kms and pulled into the driveway of Auberge Grand Popo as the only guests there!

Another oasis for us to enjoy and this time with a cold water swimming pool!!! Oh what bliss. Into the ocean and then into the pool to relax all afternoon, we headed to the restaurant for dinner where the selection was virtually all seafood, so we had a selection from the menu and loved it!

Watched ‘The Last Indian’ in Case’s truck on the laptop before heading to bed.

End of day location: Grand Popo, Benin
Distance covered: 320kms over two days

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