After receiving our Benin visa we headed out straight away from Ouagadougou. We had seen and enjoyed enough of this city and country, it was time for Benin. The border crossing, two days later, was a piece of cake. No lines no hassle and no bribes. Until we came to the Benin customs post to import our car. We have a carnet de passage but they didn’t want any of it. They started shouting some things in French, but we didn’t get of it. We just pardoned their French and guessed they wanted us to buy a laissez passer instead. The price was 15 euros, which was fine by us but then we got a receipt for only half the money. That pissed me off, because it meant they pocketed the rest. The people working at customs have well paid salaries, so they are the last ones that need it. They weren’t treating us fair so we demanded the rest back. Words flew around a bit, some commander came in between and they eventually paid it back. Welcome to Benin.
A bit after crossing the border we drove over a large mountainous range and that is when the humidity struck us. The temperature went a bit down and we got humidity in return. We then found out that sleeping in this humidity was a nightmare as it didn’t cool down in the nights at all anymore. Going down towards the coast the roads were packed with temporarily imported cars from Europe driving towards Burkina Faso. It was a two lane road which was occasionally occupied by the other half. This created a few scary moments on the side of the road, but luckily we made it out alive.
We arrived on the coast at Grand Popo and treated ourselves to camping in a beach resort. This was the life, the beach, sun, wifi, swimming pool and cold beers. It was a nice place to rest our heavily travelled bodies. Before leaving Grand Popo we passed by the famous Finnish-African cultural centre Villa Karo to train the Finnish tongue for once. They also said that Jasmin was the first finnish overland traveller they had ever seen.
In cotonou we applied for our DRC visas, did some shopping in an actual real supermarket (it even had aircon!!), changed the shocks on our car (was heavily due) and got ready for Nigeria. The owners of the hotel La Guesthouse were so kind to help us with everything. They even offered us a position to stay and help around for a while. Unfortunately we had our Nigerian and DRC visa already running so we had to keep going.
The benin-nigerian border crossing was surprisingly painless until we had the million checkpoints on the 80 km road to Abeokuta where we planned the first night. At some point there were 5 checkpoints in 100 meters! They were really pushing it in the end as it was dark, we were tired, hungry and we still had to find a hotel. Getting asked for a bribe at that moment really didn’t go in well. Luckily we outlasted all the checkpoints, quickly found the hotel, got ourselves some (definitely not tasty)room service and fell asleep shortly after.
One of the first things we noticed in Nigeria was that many people were seriously obese in the country. No starving poor Africans around here! They are also a bit more hot-headed and less happy to see travellers. As they said in Kazakhstan; we don’t need tourists, we have oil. So we drove through Nigeria in four days. Without all the annoying police checkpoints it would have been two days. Due to the recent Boko Haram uprising in the country the tourist travel advice is to be cautious and avoid all unnecessary travel. We luckily didn’t encounter any of this but instead we had plenty of the corrupt checkpoints. It was funny though, they always came up with something new to give a fine for. Once it was because we didn’t have permission for extra lights on the front of the car or permission for the roof rack or tinted windows. The best one was that our tires were expired! Most people here drive on tires without any threads left, and they were worried about OUR expiry date. It was obviously a game to fill their pockets. My personal favourite was a police officer who simply said that the reason to pay was because we are white people in black people’s country. All the times after some explaining, we got away without paying any bribes. We just sat in our car, ate some snacks and read a book. It usually started off that we have to go to the office and get our vehicle impounded. After a while it will be a heavy fine and we have to pay in cash at an ATM. Then it will be buying their lunch. (Catching a drift yet?) Then a gift for our “friend” will be enough. Eventually they let us go, it was a game we didn’t mind playing as we had all the time in the world. The longest time was 30 minutes, but usually it was around 10 to 15. Every time we were nicely welcomed: “welcome white man!”. Try to do the same for African tourists in Europe…
We kept hearing that Cameroon had closed the land borders with Nigeria for a few months, because of an Ebola case in Nigeria many months ago. We also kept hearing some tourists still get through while other ones get turned back home or shipped their car around Cameroon. We decided to try our luck, and damn we had a lot of it! We came to the border and the Cameroon side was indeed closed, they were not willing to even talk with us on the border… We then met another tourist who had a friend in the Dutch embassy in Nigeria. Bart called this guy and we got a number of a person in the Dutch embassy in Cameroon. After some explaining of our situation he was very willing to help us to get into Cameroon. In the meantime we hear stories of other travellers getting stuck in between borders (when you stamp out of the first country but don’t get into the next one) and some even camped 2 weeks in front of this border before they got permission. We slowly got ready to do this so we settled down for good in front of the Cameroon office. Only a few hours later chatting away with the other traveller we heard someone inside receiving a phone call and talking about a dutch and finnish traveller. We couldn’t believe it! Papers started moving around, questions were asked and before we knew it they told us we can cross into Cameroon! Hurraay! We just couldn’t believe it!
Now, a few days later, we are chilling in the touristic beach city of Limbe. The sun is shining, the water is rolling over the beach, the pool is cold and there is plenty of food around to enjoy the views as Mount Cameroon rises behind us.
Until next time!
Jasmin & Bart