Travel Bird | Wanderlust in Benin

9 November 2019

Trips & Wanderings - (one year after ahah)

Last October, I went back to Togo, my home country, for one marvelous month of good time, precious family moments, lot of sunrays and delicious African dishes. It´s true that I had travelled a lot this year but this trip back to my roots was very much needed, after 4 years far from my loved ones. During that month, I was lucky enough to wander a bit around the Guinea Gulf, especially the Southside of Benin. So I just wanted to share a bit of my adventures with you guys.

To be honest, Benin had never truly triggered a particular interest in me. Maybe, it is because it’s a neighbor country and I was unconsciously thinking it was almost the same thing as my own country, Togo. But boy, I was wrong ! As beautiful as I think Togo is, there is no doubt that Benin has nothing to be envy us.

I started my journey crossing the borders in a quite unusual way. I was spending the morning a few kilometers from Lomé, at my grandmother’s birth village, Séko, for a school inauguration, and from there, only the Mono River separates Togo from Benin. Local people cross it every day back and forth to trade merchandises, visit family, etc… So instead of going back to Lomé to cross the official borders, my uncles advised me to just cross the borders like the others villagers: in a boat or more precisely, a pirogue ! It literally takes 5 min and when arriving to the other side, I could hop into a taxi and head to Cotonou, capital of Benin and my final destination.

You can imagine my level of excitement, it was going to be my first time on a pirogue and I have always dreamed of boarding on one ! So here I was, waiting at the river banks for the boat to come. I met quite an eclectic group of villagers waiting patiently to board, very friendly and who got excited as soon as they knew my grandmother was a child of Séko. I was no stranger to them anymore. I started exchanging with a sweet granny who told me her eldest daughter was living in Gabon and I told her that my mom was born and grew up there too. These little small talks always bring people together in the most unusual places.

When we got to the Beninese borders, my cousin who boarded the pirogue with me, helped me found a taxi to Cotonou and we drove with a very talkative taxi driver mixing Fon language with some elements of Éwé that I barely managed to understand, under a pouring rain that miraculously stopped when we arrived at the capital. 

I was lost and a bit scared to be honest. Cotonou has this very hectic side that is makes Lomé quite “peaceful” in comparison lol. I had no way to call my friend Marion that I came to visit and getting a SIM card seemed nearly impossible at that hour (a Friday at 6PM, almost everything were closing for the weekend).

Luckily, I managed to find a shop on the main street where some ladies agreed to lend me their phone for a call and I could contact Marion who immediately came to my rescue. I remember waiting for her in front of Saint Michel Church, next to a religious icons seller that was looking at me suspiciously at the beginning but who eventually let me sat by her side, with her sisters playing around us, in an awkward yet comforting silence of two strangers bound by a non-verbal agreement. Adventure is not always easy aha !

The rest of the weekend went incredibly well. We spent Friday night in Cotonou busy nightlife, living our best life at the “Jammin” bar, listening to a dope local reggae singer and having cocktails & beers. I spoke to many people that night, most of the conversations now forgotten, but I remember feeling good ad liberated.
Funny story, I even came across a girl I met two years ago on a small Malaysian island called Tioman, located near Singapore, and she was there, in Benin ! Like how on earth, the probability of seeing her again on the other side of the planet ? I couldn’t believe my eyes for real ! 

The morning after, we took the road to Ouidah, a town located at 1 hour from Cotonou, known for having been one of the main stops of the Slavery Road in West Africa. It was quite an emotional journey, I was not expecting to feel so overwhelmed by the spirituality and the solemnity of each steps of this bumpy road. I could really feel the weight of History in each commemorative place and I am truly grateful to have been able to do it as Slavery is part of my history as an African. We ended our little afternoon trip on the banks of the Mono River to admire one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen in my life. I felt like the scenery was straight up from one of the Lion King sunset scene, just breathtaking…

Leaving Ouidah behind us, we hit the road towards Grand Popo, one of the famous beach resort areas of Benin. An acquaintance of my friend was hosting a pool party so yall know, I couldn´t miss a good occasion to slay in a cute beachwear outfit lol. The party was a whole vibe: a fashion runaway around the pool at the beginning of the party, delicious homemade pizzas made by our host himself, booze everywhere, a pretty decent DJ, “cool kids only” kind of party and an overall good energy. The night was full of promises and interesting encounters. 

I partied like tomorrow would never come and ended up kissing a handsome stranger on the beach, under the most beautiful starry sky I´ve ever seen, cradled by the waves crashing on each other. What a time to be alive !

I left Benin with a lot of nostalgia, full of all the good times shared and the people I met there. I wished I could have stayed a little bit more but my time was running out and I had to go back to Lomé for some family matters. Absolutely a must-visit country in Africa. 

Stay inspired.

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