Traveling around the neighboring countries in West Africa had been on my mind for a while now. For one reason or another, the desire has just remained a dream (although I have visited Republic of Benin several times, but this is the first time I’m going with a camera and some friends).
My travel buddies this time were Cassandra Ikegbune of cassiedaves.com and Lola Salami. At first, we had a smooth ride to Sango Ota laughing/listening to old Naija jams that bring back memories but we encountered an unusual traffic going to Idiroko border due to an accident that had occurred earlier that morning. We reached the Idiroko border and experienced one of the worst border crossing. Everyone in uniform was always looking for an opportunity to hassle us but we got past the border successfully. That became our mark on our way to Guesthouse Haie Vive in Cotonou owned by a fantastic French man named Jean-Claude Vaucher.
The locals showed us hospitality with their friendly customary greeting “Bonjour” and cheerful smiles. This has manifested everywhere. I don’t speak French but language wasn’t much of a barrier because I speak Yoruba, which is a widely spoken local language in Benin.
We couldn’t really explore much due to poor planning and limited budget among us. Nonetheless, a lot of things have caught my attention while we explored: great architecture, colorful walls (felt like I was in Morocco or New Orleans in Louisiana, blue skies (we were lucky the weather was nice to us during our stay), wide road network (although there are less cars on the road but more motorcycles which is popularly called zem or taxi). One thing unique to Republic of Benin is that fuel/gas/petrol is sold on the side of the street. They are put in jars of various sizes on a table. I didn’t see any gas station throughout our stay. By the way, I kept asking my friends if they saw any soundproofed generator because we had 24hrs uninterrupted power supply the whole time and I think that was a big deal for a place referred to as “small country”.. AH!
Our car ride led us to a little gem in the city – La Casa Del Papa; located in the city of Ouidah. After a long scary ride, we arrived and had our first “proper meal” – It seemed impossible to find a local joint to eat during our first day in Cotonou. And when we found a place to finally eat, it just made all the stress of our commute disappear. The environment was just magical, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery and very relaxing atmosphere.
I’m sure this is the beginning of a continuous awesome project series where I bring you guys great culturally diverse content with the aim to inspire each other to leave our comfort zone once in a while and travel. Bienvenue!
Post first appeared on urbanehanger.com. Published here courtesy Pelumi Alabi.