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27th Oct 12’ Suhum, Ghana – Togo – Mono, Benin

October 30, 2012

This morning I took the main road to avoid Accra, Ghana and finally hit the coast line. The road was bad and has been since arriving in Ghana and is usually due to road work diversions which take you along a heavily pot holed, corrugated road. Trying to avoid the pot holes really zaps your energy in the midday temperatures have now dropped to around 32’C and the sky is over cast.

The border between Ghana and Togo has been one of the busiest where I met my aggressive fixer who insisted all people from England are rude. I asked how he knew this as I had only just met him and hadn’t even spoken with him. I chose another who happened to be in a wheelchair and seemed to have much more influence than others. It’s almost impossible not using a fixer at some borders and this is one of them. Even if you refuse their services a fixer will follow you around and help anyway then demand payment. The border authorities, police and military sit and watch so long as the fixers don’t enter their buildings and pay them their cut.

At the manic Togo border I filled out my visa application for a small cost of 10,000 CFA, which is lower than expected. In saying this I did notice the official pocket the money, whether this was to be forwarded on to the correct receiver, I don’t know. This is all I had to pay; there were no other payments required to the Police, Military or Customs.

Entering Togo was again, an emotional experience as everything seems to be at the moment. The Palms were abundant along the white sandy beaches with the silhouette of empty container ships on the horizon queuing for their loads as far back as the eye could see reminding me of the Caribbean though you would replace the ships with Cruise liners. I wonder if they are transporting oil.

Approaching a check point, the Policeman waves me down, stops and stares at me speechless apart from making a short eeechh noise as Eddie Murphy does in his movies. His reactions not knowing how to handle this alien on his spaceship made me giggle. I try to help him and suggest what he needs to do but he stands there mouth opened and motionless then makes another screech noise. His colleague then also begins to laugh at his reaction and tells him to wave me on because I’m English. I continue with tears in my eyes from laughter.

En route to the Benin border another diversion took me along a corrugated, partially flooded port road where markets bustled selling the fish which had just been unloaded from the vessels.

The Benin border was a much more relaxed atmosphere with nothing to pay which seemed to be happening more often.

A lady offers me a Banana from the bowl she balanced on her head dress. I kindly ask for one, not a bunch and she insisted it was a gift with nothing to pay. Being brought up in an English culture where we pay over the top prices for most things and where nothing is free I find this hard to accept and can’t understand how such poor people have the generosity to give me food. I need to think about this one more.

I started using my Carnet de Passage since entering Mali and have used it in every country since, as its often asked for by the custom officials at the check points along the way, however it is becoming a real pain in the arse at the borders as the officials are never sure what they have to do with it. At a cost of £2000, I’d like to think some of this money was invested in either abolishing the tax or educating the custom officials in West African countries. Togo and Benin were no different and had to show them what parts to fill out and which copy belongs to them which I suspect ended up in the bin.

Following the coast line it was clear that a heavy storm was blowing in from the sea as the whole sky had turned a dense purple. In the distance, along the road I thought I could see a difference in the road surface so slowed down. As I approached, it wasn’t the surface but the difference between a flooding road and a dry road. You could actually take one step ahead and get drenched or take one step behind and be dry. When it rains in Africa, it isn’t for long but when it does, it bounces down and normally turns streams into raging rivers.

I decided against my third border crossing of the day in to Nigeria as I thought two was enough. Anyhow, I couldn’t pass through two countries and not even spend the night in one of them. There are Auberge’s and other hotels located all along the coast line of Togo and Benin, but I opt for one of the classier ones only to be turned away in the pouring rain because they wouldn’t allow me to park my motorcycle in the grounds. It was a blessing in disguise because further down the road I find a beautiful hotel with a room for me right on the beach.

Togo and Benin have been my favourite countries up to now and I wish I had more time to spend there.