Benin - Grand Popo
Day 98 (11 January) – Resting at Grand Popo
We had a day of rest in Grand Popo and it was Matthew’s last day with us. We all enjoyed his company a lot, as always, but Eowyn enjoyed it probably the most. We had a wonderful lunch all together at the restaurant with a fantastic view at the beach and the ‘ocean in which you could not swim because of the currents’.
At night we had to close Matthews visit properly by going out, but there just was nothing going on in Grand Popo (as far as we could see). So after a few beers we headed for the city center. Everybody who has been to Grand Popo knows it isn’t much, just this one main street… Matthew was able to stop one of the few taxi-mopeds and asked him where there is the party. Stanley and Niels were saying to each other that even if there was a party nearby and he knew about it, that there weren’t many other taxi-mopeds around to bring all three of us… But the guy did know a place and told us to hop on! All of us??? Yes! Four adults on one single bike, no problem! Although we were hanging on tight to each other and tried not to intervene with the balance, and it all worked fine! The guy became our guide, guard, waiter and best friend for the night when he dropped us at the local beach party!
Day 99 (12 January) – Matthew has to catch his plane
Technically it is day 99 but it feels more like the day before since there was little sleep after the local beach party… Stanley took Matthew to the airport but half way down the road Matthew took himself and Stanley to the airport, the dancing took its toll…
The rest of the day was more or less spent on the campsite and in the pool. Too tired to do much more…
Day 100 (13 January) – Car maintenance at Grand Popo
Holes in the roof tent… Huge ants running around through the tent… Enormous 7cm long cockroach in the tent walking from one site to the other quickly finding his way out as I shine my torch on him… Or was I still sleeping? Unfortunately not, I was wide awake and could not sleep anymore…
Niels changed his shocks again for the old ones. They feel a little more solid than the cheap and crap 15 euro Britpart. But just when he was finished and started to clean up the tools and mess, we met a German couple (Stefan and Heike, www.black-continent.de) who were so nice to hand over their old Monroe shocks… A thousand times better than what Niels had… So he basically could start over again… Third time in a month to change rear shocks, if only they would have come a few hours earlier… But so far it is a great gift!
Day 101 (14 January) – Still at Grand Popo
Just after the border is the small village of Grand Popo. At the end of town where the small road turns into sand and palm trees start we find Auberge de Grand Popo. They have an enormous lawn on which we can camp. The currents make it too difficult to swim in the sea but we can use their pool and facilities. The town has bread and eggs and we can get food and cold beer from the auberge. Most of the time we have the place to ourselves. We are joined on our last two days by Stefan and Heike, German overlanders who have just come from Nigeria. They are the first people we have met doing ‘the route’ in the other direction and we get lots and lots of great information from them. 6 days just slip by…
Info from the Germans who just came from Nigeria was that it is fine to travel through. The worst about it is the South along the coast, where we do not want to go to (like Lagos and the delta), and the oncoming trucks on the potholed road… They warned us for always being alert, but robbery wise it is safe to travel through.
The harmattan winds that blow through the Sahara started when we were in Ghana. It brought a change in temperature (from meltingly hot to bearable). Either the winds have picked up or they are more noticeable in Benin but there is a constant haze in the air. The sun doesn’t shine clearly in the day and there are almost no stars at night.
Day 102 (15 January) – Daytrip to Ouidah
We take one day trip into the city of Ouidah which is most famous for its slave trade. The Portuguese fort is the best preserved and has been turned into a museum but back in the heyday British, French, Spanish and Dutch had forts here as well. An estimated 12 million slaves were taken through the 5 forts. Most of these slaves went to Brazil, Cuba and Haiti (while many slaves from Ghana went to what is now USA). Boats left every 2 weeks filled with people. There were Christian and voodoo symbols throughout the museum (as you see throughout Benin) and our guide was telling us that Christianity and voodoo co-exist easily. He said he was Christian and also voodoo – 50/50 – no problem! They even built the catholic church facing the python temple since people can worship both - no problem! Sounds fine to us but not sure how the pope would feel about that one..
From the fort we followed the 4km path to the Point of No Return where the slaves were loaded onto ships. The monument itself isn’t so impressive – although it is difficult to think what would be an appropriate monument to commemorate such an atrocity- but you can stand looking over the beach and the waves – the last view millions of people ever had of their homeland. Farther down the beach there is also a monument for the Point of Return. After slavery was abolished in Benin in 1867 about 100 former slaves returned to Benin.
It turns out Senna (or Sena) is a popular Fon (Beninese) name. Our guide asked what Senna meant in our language and we said “trouble”! He wasn’t so amused as in Benin it means ‘God’s Gift’ and is a common name!