Lagos to Cotonou: The Road Trip.

In front of La Cabane du Pecheurs / Photograph by Victoria Osumah

Nothing on this trip went as planned and that was a good thing!

What struck me the most about my time in Benin Republic is how similar yet how different they are to us (Nigerians). It was quite an eye opening experience and this is certainly a country I’ll be returning to soon.

TL:DR

If you’re here for the quick breakdown of costs, let’s get into it:

Transportation
We got a Coaster Bus that took 7 of us at the rate of N400,000 for 4 days . This price was inclusive of border protocols and it was the best rate we got after shopping around. Our Rendezvous point was Maryland Mall. The driver knew Benin really well, drove us around and also helped us find a tour guide when we got to Ouidah. This was the best price we got and trust me, nothing beats the comfort of a driver that knows his way around and of a Bus that’s with you throughout your stay.

If you’re travelling in a Bus, you should have a Manifest: a document containing the names of everyone on board and their passport number.

For more information on booking Buses, reach out to The Gallivanter Traventures.

“Sorting”
If there’s one thing Living in Nigeria teaches you, it’s that you won’t get very far if you do not know how/who and when to dole out “cash gifts”. I’ll explain further later in this article. This is a breakdown of the total cash gifts we gave out:

Border Patrol — N2,000
Port Health — N9,000
Immigration — N16,000

Accommodation
We stayed at the Ocean de Grace booked through AirBnB at $77 a night for a total of $253 (N129,500). We paid for an extra Mattress at 30EUR for 3nights. We also got charged taxes at 1EUR per day and a cleaning charge of 5,000CFA. Both of these charges weren’t specified on the AirBnB booking. There was an extra charge for consuming electricity beyond what the AirBnB gave as part of our payment.

Meals at AirBnB
We paid for Dinner provided by our AirBnB host on our first night and had breakfast also provided by the host the morning after.

Breakfast at our AirBnB provided by the host

Dinner — N8,000 per person
Breakfast — N1,429 per person

Tours
Tour guide in Ouidah — 15,000CFA / N2,143pp
Entry into the Python temple and Sacred Forest 500CFA pp for ECOWAS Passport holders + 2000CFA to take pictures. / N1,571

Total Cost Per Person — circa N95,000

Documents you’ll need

International Passport (ECOWAS), Manifest (if travelling on a Bus) and a Yellow fever vaccination card.

Exchange Rates

At the border we were offered N1,000 for 1050CFA i.e N1 to N1.05CFA. We felt we will get better rates in town but it seems they’re all in the same whatsapp group and the rates are Uniform across the exchanges. If you’re able to pay with your card, you’ll get a better rate. The first time I used my card, I was charged at N1000 to 1240CFA.

If you’re here for the full gist, read on!

Day 1

9:00am — This was one of those trips where nothing went as planned from the very first moment. On Friday night, we had agreed to all meet up at 7:00am on Saturday morning but sort of pushed that up to 8:00am because of the crazy floods that happened that Friday and to also allow everyone enough time to get to the meeting point.

OVO at Maryland Mall

There was a lot of Surge on Uber that Saturday morning which was unavoidable considering the rains and the floods the day before. By 9:00am everyone had arrived and was ready to go. Well, until someone realised they forgot their passport. We all thought it was a joke originally, then we realised that they really meant it. We figured it would be better to get a gokada to go pickup the passport from their House on the Island to avoid traffic. The Gokada we requested ended up taking 30mins to get to us. By the time He got to us, it was coming up to 10am and by the time he got to the House, it was 11:45am. I was so upset with the rider because it felt like he was “taking us for a ride” after we told him how urgently we needed to get the passport. We were also not pleased that it took him over an hour and a half to get from Maryland to Oniru — a 40mins max journey.

When the gokada rider got to the House, we decided to end the trip and request a new one to bring the passport back. That person took 25mins to get back to us. I had to contact gokada support to end the first trip. The gokada rider was so upset telling me ‘bout all the things he did for me. He eventually resorted to threatening me to send him his money for the trip he concluded.

While we waited at the Mall, we did a lot of Window shopping and actual shopping — at Shoprite, at Miniso, Ice-cream factory and Krispy Kreme — where the Shop attendant told us to leave if we weren’t buying anything even though we were asking questions about pricing on the doughnuts. Of course, we didn’t leave!

Jeffery getting Ice-cream at Maryland Mall

When you Window shop at Miniso, you see things that you didn’t know you needed. At some point, they got tired of seeing us and turned up the music so loud so we couldn’t hear ourselves and we jejely left their store for them.

Window shopping at Miniso

We even ended up playing a few games of Pool — where I beat Chinedu (I couldn’t resist adding this fact). That’s how much time we had to burn while waiting for the gokada to get back.

According to our Driver, you can only buy Diesel at filling stations in Benin Republic. Petrol is sold on the Black Market at the rate of 400–500CFA per litre.

1:00pm — We eventually leave Maryland Mall after getting the Passport, buying some water from Shoprite and withdrawing N30k cash for the Journey. Both the Driver and Bus owner were very patient with us. Not once did they make a fuss about how long it was taking to leave.

4:15pm — 3 hours and 15mins in and we’re now past Agbara. The roads are in a deplorable state and the ride is bumpy but we maintained the energy on our bus. Traffic hasn’t been too bad thankfully. Our driver also makes a brief stop to fill up his tank, for us to stretch our legs while Bunmi buys some Badagry Pineapples that were ridiculously cheap at N200 each.

Driving through Badagry

5:12pm — We are now in Badagry and going through the Checkpoints on the road that leads to Seme border. While there were a number of police officers in Uniform, there were some not in Uniform and I was unsure about what paramilitary they belonged to — if they were immigration, military or Police.

5:16pm — We have now counted at least 8 checkpoints. So far, we haven’t been stopped and I believe this has something to do with the kind of bus we are in — a white coaster bus. It seems there’s an understanding between drivers of unmarked buses and the force in Nigeria. The Driver of the vehicle in front of us has been allegedly squeezing something into the hands of officers at each checkpoint — to be honest, It’ll be hard to say they’re officers because there’s a mix of people wearing and not wearing Uniform.

5:37pm — After 4 and a half hours of being on the road, we finally see the sign that says Goodbye From …. I presume the sign should say Goodbye From Lagos? But the Last bit is wiped off so I’m not sure what it should read.

Coming up to the Seme Border

And…..We finally get stopped at a Checkpoint. This time by a Uniformed unit that identify themselves as Border Patrol. An officer enters our bus and starts asking us questions, while he was doing that, another officer comes and they’re both trying to argue on who should be speaking to us. Jeffery comes down to have a chat with both of them. Eventually he gives them N1,500 for the good work they’re doing.

5:48pm — We finally arrive at the Border crossing point (Seme border). Someone in our group knew someone in Immigration which made things just a little bit easier but that didn’t change the fact that we needed to find something for the boys. We gave cash gifts to the Port Health officials who checked our Yellow cards and also to both the Nigerian and Beninoise immigration officials. This is also the point where your passport gets stamped.

6:05pm — While Jeffery is sorting out immigration — putting on his best smile and having a good chat with them, the rest of us are taking pictures, hanging around and wondering how long the process will take.

At the Seme Border / Photo by Victoria Osumah
At the Seme Border / Photo by Victoria Osumah
At the Seme Border / Photo by Seyi Oyefeso

6:15pm — Immigration starts calling us one after the other to take our fingerprints, ask questions about what we do for work and where we live and stamping our passports. Chinedu pulls out his french knowledge and starts using it to chat with people around the border.

6:51pm — We’re finally done and ready to leave the border to enter Cotonou proper. We take one last picture!

The group at the border / Photo by Oga TJ

7:06pm — We got stopped one last time by the Benonoise police before we cross into Cotonou proper. He asks why we’re not wearing our masks, why we don’t have Covid tests etc etc and by know, if you’ve been reading, you should know how this went.

7:18pm — Taking in the sights and sounds of Cotonou properly for the very first time. First impressions; the roads are cleaaannn!, they have a lane for bikes and there are no potholes. The air smells great and free of exhaust fumes too!

The welcome texts by Mobile networks start to drop too. I noticed my MTN data subscription was still working although I was burning through Data at a faster rate. 9mobile users had no luck accessing the internet. Everyone’s mobile network switched to show that we were now roaming and that new tariffs would apply to voice and data.

7:27pm — We come up to the first toll gate in Cotonou. It’s 300CFA for cars and 1000CFA for buses like ours.

At a Toll gate in Cotonou / Photo by Adebola
Toll gate in Cotonou

8:04pm — With the help of Google maps, we get to the area around where our AirBnB is located and place a WhatsApp call to our host who sends the facility manager to get us. While we waited, we got some roasted corn with the 200CFA coins our driver gave us.

The Facility manager comes to get us at around 8:10pm on his bike and leads us to the House.

8:16pm — We arrive at the apartment and check in to the AirBnB. The Facility manager has a list of every single thing in the apartment down to the number of forks and knives. He asks Seyi to follow him around as they take stock of everything in the apartment. He records them in this book he had. At checkout, they did the same checks to confirm that nothing is missing from the apartment.

At the ODG Residence / Photo by Seyi Oyefeso
At the ODG Residence / Photo by Seyi Oyefeso

9:12pm — We start having Dinner at the Rooftop. Dinner consists of Okra soup — imagine my surprise seeing whole ata rodo’s in the soup. The soup tasted okay sha. Nothing more and Nothing less than you’d expect from regular Okra soup.

Dinner of Okra, Fish stew, Cowleg stew, Amala and Eba

They also had fish and meat stew with cowleg and beef — to me the stew was too watery and didn’t have enough flavour. There was also Amala, Eba, egg salad and bread.
For drinks, there was a coffee flavored soda drink called Youki which had quite an interesting taste. It reminded me of coke but you could clearly taste the coffee.

There was also beer and they offered us 2 full jugs of fresh Mango juice coarsely blended which was really nice. Then, they brought us a tray of Watermelons too.

11:45pm — Dinner is a wrap and we head back downstairs to rest, and gist before going off to bed.

Day 2

7:30am — We couldn’t sleep with the AC’s the night before because having all the AC’s on kept tripping off the electricity in the building. Our host asked us to manage for the night and promised to get it fixed in the morning.

I started off the day by heading upstairs to the Rooftop to take in the view. The rest of the boys were already up there taking some pictures while we waited for Breakfast.

Photograph by Seyi Oyefeso
Photograph by Seyi Oyefeso

8:30am — Breakfast arrives: Bread, Crepe, Milk, Mayo, Hot Chocolate and fried eggs. The eggs were fried with onions and chopped ginger in such a way that you can still bite into chunks of ginger as you eat. While I’ve never considered frying eggs with ginger before, I found the taste to not be overpowering and I’d say it was quite flavourful.

Breakfast at our AirBnB provided by the host

Our host brought us home cooked breakfast by 8:30am and had to dash out to Church with his family. They were dressed in their Sunday best — ankara fabric.

Some of the boys went into town to change money. They found a guy called Nuru who moved to Cotonou from Nigeria and operated his own Bureau De Change — open air style, they didn’t have shops. The BDC guys just hang around a particular part of the Tokpa Market. We realized that the rates are fixed across all the exchangers and you can’t really shop for a better rate. Some of the exchangers allow you to transfer naira to their Nigerian bank accounts in exchange for CFA. In my own evaluation, they all appeared honest and straightforward.

The largest Open Air Market in Benin — Tokpa Market // Photo by Chinedu Udeze

Bunmi made us a nice pineapple and watermelon juice blend that she spiked for us to drink throughout the day. We also spent some time sitting around the table as a group and “unpacking” — talking about how we feel about the trip so far.

While the rest of the boys were out, the rest of us took some pictures in the house and on the Rooftop.

Seyi at the ODG Apartment / Photograph by Adebola
OVO at the ODG Apartment / Photograph by Adebola
OVO at the ODG Apartment / Photograph by Adebola
Portrait of me at the ODG Apartment Rooftop / Photo by Avis
Portrait of Avis at the ODG Apartment Rooftop / Photo by Adebola
Portrait of Avis at the ODG Apartment Rooftop / Photo by Adebola

12:28pm — We discussed leaving the apartment at 10:00am the night before but it’s now 12:30pm and we’re only starting to head out for the day. Today we plan to get to Casa Del Papa via Ouidah so we can see the slave routes rather than going straight there via the Beach roads.

The “Engineer” who was supposed to fix the light issue we had the day before has also arrived and they’re trying to sort out the issue with our Host and his facility manager present. Some of the group had to get off the bus to be with them while the issue got fixed and so we didn’t end up leaving the apartment in Cotonou till around 1:00pm. We figured the journey will take us an hour and a half to Ouidah based on Google Maps.

1:07pm — We made a brief stop at a small supermarket called Awoyo to get water. I found this really nice chocolate aswell.

Dark Chocolate from the Awoyo Supermarket
Receipt from the Awoyo Supermarket

2:03pm — We have now arrived in Ouidah and headed to a spot where our Driver said he eats regularly. Something that has stood out throughout the journey so far is the quality of the roads and the ease of movement around the City. Zero potholes. Smooth roads. Barely any traffic. Most people riding their own bikes around. Just all round great stuff!

2:30pm — We arrive at this Restaurant that our Driver has recommended and brought us to.

The menu is all in French and we try to figure it out amongst ourselves. I like the patterns on the wall and we get around to taking some pictures.

Seyi can put anything in his mouth and he does so again. He saw this woman selling this thing that looks like but isn’t kuli kuli and he called her to buy some.

Seyi orders some Racines beers for the table and I actually really really liked it. For someone that does not like a lot of beers, this tasted pretty smooth and sweet — compared to other beers. Unfortunately I couldn’t find them in Erevan to buy. They also brought some bottles of Sprite — I had never seen Sprite in such big bottles so that was a pleasant surprise too. I thought the sprite here would taste different from the one in Nigeria but it didn’t.

I ordered a Shawarma — this ended up coming wrapped in tissue paper (shocking) and placed in a black nylon bag (even more shocking).

My Shawarma came wrapped in a tissue

It didn’t taste too bad but certainly not as good as anything I’ve had in Lagos. It felt like it was loaded with Fries and not enough meat. The Couscous and chicken ordered by other members of the group did look tasty though and that came in an actual take-away pack. They all seemed to enjoy the meal.

Chinedu and Jeffery
Pouring OVO some Racines beer

4:07pm Python Temple, Ouidah. We arrive at the Python Temple in Ouidah. The first thing you notice is that the temple is located right opposite a Church. It turns out that the Villagers and worshippers of the Python contributed to building the Church. In Ouidah, It’s widely believed and acceptable to go to Church and still come back to commune with the Gods/Oracles.

The Python temple costs 500CFA per person to access if you’re from an ECOWAS state and a flat fee of 2000CFA for the opportunity to take pictures.

Our tickets to enter the Python Temple

We got a tour of the Python Temple and got to touch the Pythons. We got to put them around our necks and to listen to our guide tell us the History behind them.

The Python Temple

The temple is still very much in use and rituals still happen here from time to time. Our guide told us how the doors are opened every 6 months to allow the Pythons go out to find food. They go from house to house eating rice and eggs. It’s believed that if they come to your House to eat, you will receive a blessing.

I think something that stuck with me from the stories he told was the part about the 41 Virgins going to a River nearby to bring back water in Clay pots as part of the Python festival. Our guide mentioned that since it’s now difficult to find Virgins nowadays, this ritual is now performed by women who have reached menopause. I found that interesting because there’s a similar ritual done in Osun and I remember the guide in Osun specifically saying that the woman to carry the sacrifice must be a Virgin and come from the Royal family and this woman usually continues to do this ritual as a Virgin for many years.

As you exit the temple, there are a few stalls outside that sell beads and all sorts of artsy items.

At the Market outside the Python Temple / Photo by Adebola
At the Market outside the Python Temple / Photo by Chinedu
In front of the Python Temple / Photo by Me
Bunmi looking at the Church opposite the Python Temple / Photo by Me
Bunmi in front of the Python Temple / Photo by me

While at the temple, we met up with the Tour guide that our Driver organised for us. We eventually settled on paying him 15,000CFA to get a tour of the Sacred Forest and the Slave Routes.

5:05pm — We begin the short drive to the Sacred Forest.

5:16pm — We arrive at the Sacred Forest. The men in the area just outside the Sacred Forest appeared to be playing a game similar to Pétanque.

Men in Ouidah playing Pétanque

The Sacred Forest has a similar pricing structure to the Python Temple.

We get in and our tour guide starts to explain the history of some of the statues of the around the Forest.

Our tour guide giving us a tour of the Sacred Forest

We get to a tree that’s said to be the King of Kpasse. The story says that The King of Kpasse turned to a tree because He didn’t want his enemies to see him die. It’s believed that if you touch this tree and say a prayer, you’ll receive a blessing.

5:42pm — We leave the Sacred Forest to head to the Slave routes. As we’re running out of time, our tour guide gives us a brief history of slavery inside the bus as we drove to the different places he wanted us to see.

He told us of Francisco de Souza who used his relationship and influence with the King of Ouidah to get slaves cheaply. He bought slaves from the King in exchange for materials like a bottle of wine, a mirror, whiskey etc. Francisco de Souza is also said to have had kids from 41 slaves and his descendants still live in the House. This House has existed since the 17th century. The slave market was right in front of this house.

The House of Francisco de Souza — the Portugese Slave Master. The slave market was just under the tree in front of the house.
Renovations happening on the Street in front of the House

The tour guide told us of the Slave forts — a lot of which have now been destroyed — where slaves were kept for a minimum of 2weeks and a maximum of 3 months while Slave owners waited for the boats that will take them to the Americas to come. He showed us one of the sites of these Slave forts and told us of the horrid conditions the Slaves lived in. They were kept on their kneels and in one position with nearly 1000 slaves being kept in very close proximity to each other at a time.

5:58pm — We head back to the bus to continue exploring the Slave routes.

A sign on the road to Franco de Souza’s house in Ouidah / Photo by Adebola
A house on the road to Franco de Souza’s house / Photo by Adebola
Photo of me outside a Store front / Photo by Chinedu
A woman selling Puff Puff on the path to Franco de souza’s house

6:09pm — We arrive at the Slave Museum still under construction and being built by Prof. Gbede Hounga. The tour guide gives us a brief tour of the site and explains some of the images on the wall outside the building. This site is known as Zomachi — which signifies a way to remind ourselves of our past so that we never go back into darkness.

From the Slave Museum, we visited the Slave room/fort where slaves were kept before being loaded onto ships.

And lastly we visited the site that was built to commemorate the 2000 Jubilee — a significant event in the Catholic church. It was about a 3 min walk from the Gate of no return which is currently under renovation so we were unable to visit it.

In front of the 2000 Jubilee Gate
Seyi in front of the 2000 Jubilee gate / Photo by Me
Me in front of the 2000 Jubilee Gate / Photo by Seyi Oyefeso

6:57pm — We eventually leave the 2000 Jubilee site and head to Casa Del Papa hoping to make it there before sunset. All of these places — Casa Del Papa, Sacred Forest, Slave Routes, Door of No return are all within the same area and are fairly close to each other.

7:07pm — After a short 10-min ride through the sand roads, we arrive at Casa Del Papa.

Our driver mentioned that car tyres will struggle on that road during dry season.

Our tour guide had mentioned that he would help us get in but to be fair, you don’t need anyone’s help getting into Casa Del Papa. You simply walk in like every other guest and go about your business. It’s free to access the place and the beach. The tour guide had told us that the receptionist told him it’s too late for us to access the beach, but we didn’t listen and went ahead to the Restaurant. We asked the Restaurant manager if we can use the beach and he said yes emphatically — he was a little surprised that we asked sef.

The Restaurant manager came to meet us to invite us for a Party that starts at 10pm. We asked our driver if it was okay for us to stay out that late and he said definitely! In fact, the other driver near him told us that he had left Casa Del Papa by 12am before, taken people to a club in Cotonou and left from there to another club at 3am. He emphasised that the country is extremely safe.

We headed to the beach and chilled out. They provide free WiFi but you’ll struggle to get anything done on that WiFi — it’s not worth it. If you’re here with friends, they’ve board games you can play at the Reception. Simply walk up to the reception and ask for the games.

They told us we couldn’t order food on the beach so eventually we headed back into the Restaurant.

Bunmi/Jeffery/OVO. Photo by Me

We ordered some food — I thought their food was quite pricey, very comparable to the pricing at high end restaurants on the Island here in Lagos. I had a plate of Creamy Pasta, OVO had Spaghetti bolognaise. I also ordered a Mojito cocktail.

The foods we ordered at Casa Del Papa

The food was quite average and underwhelming. Seyi ordered a bottle of Heineken and they brought him a very tiny bottle. If you’re eating here, don’t expect anything spectacular, just enjoy the vibes.

Our total bill for the meals came to 43,000CFA. I was able to pay with my Nigerian UBA card. The receptionist needed to reset the POS machine for my card to work after it failed the first time.

Our bill at Casa Del Papa

At around 11:00pm we head to the other side of the resort where the Party was happening. When we got there there were one or two people dancing but nothing serious happening — well, until we decided to go in. Our group hit the dance floor immediately. There was another group there from a Travel company in Nigeria but they all seemed to just want to sit and do nothing else. Thankfully, our energy was infectious and got a few people from their group moving.

It was such a fun experience with Chinedu leading many of the dances. I can’t dance to save my life but the energy in the room was so on that I found myself learning steps too and joining in.

Casa Del Papa

12:03am — We decide to call it a night and start heading back to our accommodation. I was a little worried about driving back through the sandy beach road as it was dark and pretty much in the middle of a small village but there was nothing to worry about. It was a pretty smooth ride all through.

There were still people hanging around at 12:30am when we finally got into town. They just seemed to be going about their daily lives confident in the fact that they were safe —Nigeria — look at your mate.

We drove through parts of the City where there was live music playing and people were sitting on the side of the streets drinking and having fun. Others were just taking strolls and doing their own thing.

1:37am — We finally got home after a long drive. Nearly everyone else had fallen asleep.

Day 3

8:40am — I woke up and got out of bed. I met Chinedu and Jeffery on the balcony relaxing and taking in the very fresh air. We didn’t really have a lot planned for today but I was determined to get to the Erevan supermarket to pick up things for people back home.

9:13am — Every morning you hear the shouts of people hawking fresh bread pass through our street. While spending some time on the balcony, I saw a woman selling fresh bread pass and since we weren’t getting breakfast from our host today, we needed to get some bread. Jeffery and I ran down the flight of stairs, caught up with the woman and bought 4 loaves of bread from her. I believe they were 4 for 500CFA or so. Now that I think about it, she spoke pidgin english and not just French.

12:00pm — We finally settle down to a breakfast of Indomie made by OVO. She had gone to find peppers but couldn’t get on our street. One of the women in the area that had a stall gave her some peppers to use. Indomie was lit! Jeffery had bought some Plantains the day before at the Python temple — which he thought were bananas, so those came in handy. Jeffery made plantains for everyone. Seyi also came around to beat up and fry some eggs and just like that, breakfast was ready!

I noticed that the WiFi router the AirBnB provided for us was an MTN router and I figured we would need internet while we’re out for the day. I noticed I could pull the sim card from the router and I did. Chinedu offered up an android phone he had for us to use as a hotspot, so we put the sim card in it and turned the phone into a hotspot and just like that, we had mobile internet for the day!

3:45pm — Most of the day had gone because everyone just seemed to take their time today. We only started to leave the house at this time and had a few places in Cotonou that we planned to hit. Our first stop was the Tokpa market to change money.

As usual, we still spent time taking pictures before finally heading out for the day. Nobody snap pass OVO for this trip.

OVO outside the ODG Apartment / Photograph by Adebola

4:34pm — We got to our first stop. The Place du Souvenir, ex Place des Martyrs.

Jeffery at the The Place du Souvenir, ex Place des Martyrs with the birds flying above him / Photograph by Adebola

We met a group of boys practicing their Dance here and we decided to join them. It was such a beautiful moment as they tried to teach us the steps they were working on. Although we spoke different languages, it was nice that we could share a moment together through dance.

We took a selfie with the boys. Trust Seyi to exchange IG handles with them
Avis at the Place des Martyrs / Photograph by Adebola
Bunmi at the Place des Martyrs / Photograph by Adebola
The Boys and OVO / Photo by Seyi
OVO trying to shoot a Selfie Video
Photo of our group by a stranger

5:04pm — We finally leave the Place des Martyrs. We had noticed some spots as we drove into the area so we wanted to check all of those out.

Photo of me at Rue 390 by Chinedu
Photo of Chinedu at Rue 390 by Adebola

5:13pm — After a short Walk, we arrive at this square opposite what seemed like a School. Seyi was the first to hop on the statue and we followed suit. The Presidential Villa also wasn’t far from here.

Something you’d notice quickly is that a lot of the streets do not have names but numbers.

We got a Yogurt drink (Yaourt) from this woman that spoke Yoruba around the Square. She mixed the drink with condensed milk and added ice. She also had the option to have it with Couscous.

With the woman selling the Yaourt

We also got to take some pictures on her Motorcycle. Everyone that rode a Motorcycle here wore a helmet.

Seyi left us at the Yogurt place and went to a Cafe looking place about 2 mins away. By the time we joined him, he had ordered a meal of Attiéké — it tastes like Garri but it isn’t and Chicken. He also ordered our favorite beer Racines — it tastes like Orijin but way way better.

The boys shooting a potential Racines ad / Photograph by Adebola
Kouidio’s Attieke — We met the owner of the Cafe

6:24pm — We arrived at the Supremarche Erevan — Erevan Supermarket to pick up some things. The Supermarket is huge and had a lot going on. I noticed 85–90% of the items in the Supermarket were imported from France. They also stocked locally produced items.

Group picture at the Erevan Supermarket
Erevan Supermarket
OVO, Chinedu and Jeffery at Erevan Supermarket

We spent quite a long term shopping at Erevan.

My UBA Card didn’t work here but GTB cards did. You can also use your international card if you have one.

8:14pm — We arrived at Pilli Pilli — a Restaurant in the Suburbs to have Dinner.

We ordered chopped beef, fries, fish, potatoes, rice, plantain and chicken.

Pilli Pilli Restaurant
OVO and Chinedu at Pilli Pilli
Our spread at Pilli Pilli

Before our meals came, they brought us popcorn as snacks in a surgical bowl. That was weird but interesting.

I thought the food at Pilli Pilli was quite affordable and tasty aswell. We only spent half of what we spent at Casa Del Papa here and got enough for everyone to share.

It was also an interesting experience because everyone brought out what they had for this meal and after we put everything together, we could now decide what to order.

10:10pm — We arrived at Ci gusta on Rue 240 — an ice-cream, Burger and Pizza place in the heart of Cotonou to get Gelato Ice-cream. I have to admit, this was the best ice-cream I’ve ever had — beats anything you can get here in Lagos.

We also started singing the Birthday song for Seyi in the hopes that Ci gusta would give us a free cake but they didn’t :(. The waiter came to ask us where our cake was and laughed when we asked him to give us a complimentary cake.

After getting ice-creams, we spent some time taking pictures. Chinedu walked into this game place in the same building as Ci gusta and we spent another 30 mins there playing a VR car game.

Gelato ice-cream from Ci Gusta!
Enjoying our ice-cream at Ci gusta!
Ice-cream pricing at Ci gusta!
A happy man after having his Ice-cream

11:17pm — We finally head home.

Day 4

7:45am — Everyone woke up a little earlier today — our last day of the trip. I wanted to make one last stop at the Supermarket to get some dark chocolate and we also wanted to go to the Beach.

09:10am — Chinedu and I decide that we wanted to change some money in Tokpa one last time. We go downstairs to the area where bikes pack on our street and luckily we find a rider that speaks Yoruba. He bills us 1000CFA to take us to Tokpa Market and back.

At some point, we encountered some policemen on a bridge and our driver told us to come down. We couldn’t understand why but he said we should cross the bridge and he’d walk behind us with his bike. We eventually figured out that the issue was that he wasn’t allowed to carry two people on his bike at once.

We got to the Tokpa Market but couldn’t find Nuru. We found another exchange guy there that also spoke Yoruba and had Nuru’s number. He helped us call Nuru and Nuru asked us to transfer to his Nigerian account and the guy would give us CFA. Once Nuru confirmed our transfer, we collected CFA from the guy and we went into the Market — I wanted to buy the big tins of condensed milk they sold here. I remember it from years back when my mum brought some home.

I couldn’t explain what I wanted to buy to the okada guy so I showed him a picture from Google and then he drove us right to the store.

09:40am — Chinedu and I got back to the Apartment. I was only able to transfer money to Nuru earlier because we took the sim card in the WiFi. By the time we got back, everyone was ready to leave. Chinedu engaged the facility manager in a conversation to distract him so I could slip the sim card back into the router :).

10:00am — We took some final pictures at the Rooftop before leaving the AirBnB.

At the ODG Residence Rooftop / Photograph by Adebola
At the ODG Residence Rooftop / Photograph by Adebola

10:56am — After missing our way because two places on the map had similar names La Cabane du Pêcheur and Cabane de Pecheur, we finally found our way to the Beach — La Cabane du Pêcheur ! It was a nice sunny day for the Beach.

We spent sometime taking pictures on the Pedestrian walk first before going into the Beach to take More pictures.

Jeffery / Photo by Seyi
Chinedu / Photo by Seyi
Seyi / Photography by Jeffery
Adebola / Photography by OVO

We had a race on the Beach too, that was fun!

Me beating Seyi at a race on the Beach

While on the Beach, a football washed up to the shore and we ended up having a kick-a-bout with the local kids that came to the Beach.

Kids from around the Beach area that came out to play with us
Group Picture at the Beach

We found a Canoe and you know what it became — a photoshoot opportunity!

Bunmi on the Beach / Photo by Chinedu
OVO on the Beach / Photo by Adebola
Seyi x Adebola / Photo by Chinedu
“See as pesin fine” / Photo by Seyi
Jeffery the Fisherman / Photo by Seyi
Adebola and Seyi on the Beach

We decided that we didn’t really want to get anything to eat at the Restaurant on the Beach and went back to Erevan which was 5mins away to get food.

I got this Tillou baobab and Pineapple drink at Erevan which I thought was really really nice! I also got a Chicken and egg sandwich and small bottle juices for the rest of crew. The juices were top top quality, none of this watered down drinks we drink here — then again they were a little pricey sha.

A great great drink!

The people of Benin are colourful people. Not only do you see that in the patterns they were but also in the way they paint their buildings. We saw this Cathedral on our way out of Cotonou while heading to the border.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Miséricorde de Cotonou

They’re also a highly religious people. On Sunday morning, we could hear the sounds from Churches around the area from our apartment.

2:00pm — We arrive at the border and Jeffery takes everyone’s passports in to clear. The Port Health Services personnel asked us not to get off our Bus — we later realised it was to control the amount of people around because of Covid.

a 200 CFA Coin

We also met the same tour group that we had met at Casa Del Papa. They came with a tour company from Nigeria. They had been at the border before we got there and were still there for a while after we left. All 17 of them on board had to do Covid tests and get their passports stamped. It probably also took them that long because their guide wasn’t willing to sort.

3:17pm — We crossed the border into Nigeria and immediately knew our Holiday had come to an end :(. We got stopped at all 5 checkpoints immediately after the border and had to present our passports. Immigration also asked us if we were carrying anything illegal.

Eventually they let us go. It was a pretty smooth (bumpy) ride back with nothing crazy happening.

Ah yes! Something crazy did happen. Around Badagry, There was a petrol tanker in front of our bus. The driver kept reversing back and our driver kept horning, using his siren and everything he had to alert the tanker driver but he kept coming back forcing our Driver into having to reverse. Eventually, he ended up hitting a vehicle behind us — I figure it was a Danfo bus that’s why the driver that was hit didn’t make a fuss about it.

6:53pm — We arrived at Maryland Mall, thanked our Driver, got our Ubers and headed home!

IJGBs

Other Places we would have loved to see

Ganvie — The Village on water.

Bab’s Dock

The rest of the Slave Route

Porto Novo

Songhai Farms

Update 1 — July 23rd

My friend left for Cotonou today with some of her female friends. An immigration official stopped them and she had to call me to act like her Husband. The immigration official asked me who she was travelling with, where she was travelling to and why she was traveling. I knew the answers to the questions and he eventually let them go. I was shocked that it required a man’s approval for a woman to make the trip across the border.

Full-stack Engineer. Rails/Node.js/React. I love plantain chips! Reach me at Adebola.dev.

Full-stack Engineer. Rails/Node.js/React. I love plantain chips! Reach me at Adebola.dev.