I have always harbored the thought of doing a West African trip overland along the coast from my home country, Nigeria all the way down to Morocco. Between having the time, money and courage, I have managed to push the thought aside every time, until recently.
I got a chance to visit Benin Republic over the past weekend and the trip was amazing. I’m still reeling with excitement as I type this post because I’m having to relive the mini vacation over again. I originally intended to get to Cote d’Ivoire but had to cut that short because of my day job. Anyway, I’m very happy I got to visit Benin Republic at least.
Details of this trip will be broken down into a series of 2-3 posts. This particular post will only be about a recap of the trip itself and later on, I’ll breakdown costs, talk more about couchsurfing for the first time, getting to Cotonou and my experience crossing the Seme border.
Here’s an overview of how day one of the 3-day trip went…
Day One – Lagos to Fidjrosse
I left my home in Lagos at exactly 6 am and hopped on and off several buses to get to Cotonou through the Seme border. Transportation alone cost me a total of N950 (see cost breakdown) but I had to part with another N2,600 crossing the notorious border.
Seme border is a hot mess and everyone on both sides (Nigeria and Benin Republic) is only looking for ways to extort money from travellers. I quickly learned, among other things, that there was no such thing as ‘visa free’ and a fresh passport meant ‘new on the route’. *eye roll*
Anyway, after haggling with border officials, I managed to get across to the other side, where I changed some money before taking a shared Taxi to ‘Tokpa’. (I changed N10,000 for 13,250 cefa). Yep, our currency is rubbish right now!) From Tokpa market, I took a motor taxi (okada) to Fidjrosse where I would meet my couchsurfing host, Mark.
I had created a public trip on the website a few weeks before this visit and received a response from Mark shortly after. I talked to him over a couple of days and he was very helpful in shaping my itinerary, even offering to show me around since I was visiting during the weekend.
On arrival at Fidjrosse, he picked me up from where the bike man dropped me and drove us to his home by the beach. Thanks to his amazing personality, I instantly felt comfortable with him and it didn’t seem like we were just meeting for the first time. At his home, I met two couchsurfers (and couple goals) – Jon & Jade, who had extended their stay with him. After getting settled, he drove us out to a place called Bab’s Dock.
We took a scenic boat ride through the mangrove and across the lake to get to the place. An entry fee was required, I think it was about 2,500 cefa but Mark covered that for me. We had lunch there which cost 8,200 cefa (about N6,180). Again, he generously paid for that.
After lunch, we went kayaking through the mangrove for about an hour. It was an exhilarating experience and I enjoyed every moment of it. I also liked that the water wasn’t deep, which made the ride even more relaxing for me.
(Well, that and the fact that Mark rode in the two-man kayak with me ☺). The kayaks were free to use, so we didn’t need to pay more money to use them.
We stayed over at Bab’s dock until sunset before heading back home.
As soon as we got back, we started getting our costumes set for a party organized by some of Mark’s friends. Jade, who is obsessed with costume parties, did a great job with us – even though she had very little to work with. (Fun Fact: she used to work for the Olsen twins – as in they were her direct bosses!)
An African god, old man Mark, Nigerian-Mexican tourist and a Djibouti camel trader walk into a bar…
And so, day one ended on a high with a great party and zero dull moments. We returned to Mark’s place, got some rest and prepared to tour Ouidah the following day.
Mark documented the trip with a lovely video (below). Enjoy!