After travelling through Southern Nigeria and around Lagos (we decided to give that a miss for obvious reasons) we crossed the border into Benin where we were back into a French speaking country and also the start of the slave trade and Voodoo. Voodoo here is very different to the US Hollywood description and basically is a type of religion which a vast amount of the country practice on a regular basis. Luckily they don't sacrifice people any more but they do still sacrifice animals - we saw a chicken's head biten off but more on that later!
The first few nights were spent in Abomey which is home of a old ancient kingdom. We spent a day visiting the sites including a museum (not our favourite) but the highlight of the day was when we found out that when one of the kings died, 41 of his favourite wives (apparently he had over 3000 wives!) committed suicide to be with him - hmmm or given a poison we think. The other highlight was finding out about how they fought with other tribes and one of the top punishments was sticking sand up someones bottoms - nice!
From Abomey we then headed down to the Benin coast and to Cotonou which is the unofficial capital (the actual capital is Porto Novo) where we got our Ghanian visas and had 2 nights by a pool and the coast. From there we did a day boat trip to Granville which is a village on stilts (well 45k people live there) and very impressive - people living like they would have done years ago living and fishing off the water, etc.
We then travelled along the coast to Ouidah which is where all the West Africa slaves departed for USA/Brazil, etc and there are forts and statues to commerate the Point of No Return from whence they got onto the boats. We have been regularly reminded that our ancesters were not good! We had an amazing night on the beach camping by a fabulous pool - as you can probably tell the pace of the trip has slowed down significantly from the first two weeks and as Benin and Togo are such small countries then we were only driving around 100km per day - a nice change and especially as we were by the beach.
Another stop along the coast towards Togo at Grand Popo where we witness the voodoo ceremony we mentioned earlier. It consisted of three haystack type of costumes whirling around for about 2 hours and the finale was the sacrifice of the chicken where the main guy literally bit the head off the chicken and then drank its blood! We also had to take part by trying the local moonshine - well it was foul and definitely the worse drink we have ever had. The locals loved it though and the whole village came out to celebrate - really special and something I am sure we will not see ever again!
From here we crossed into Togo which again is even smaller than Benin. Togo is still a police state (run by father and son for over 30 years) however no problems at all and the people in Benin and Togo were delightful and very helpful, smiling. It is also a lot cleaner than Nigeria - a change from the Environment Day we had in Nigeria!
We had a night at Agbodrafo and did a day trip to Togoville on a small rowing boat (which leaked so we spent most of the time bailing out). Togoville is famous for where Togo signed the treaty with Germany to colonise it plus also has a famous catholic church where John Paul II visited. From there we did a quick visit to Lome the capital to stock up on provisions and then up into the Togo mountains/forests to Kluoto for two nights visiting the local villages and going on a butterfly and waterfall walk. We also had a cultural African evening one night with local food and then dancing, fireeating, etc.
A quick currency update in Cameroon we were in Cameroon CFAs and then in Nigeria we were in Niara (approx $1 = 135 Niara). Then back into CFAs for Benin and Togo (different to Cameroon ones) but the same rate $1 = 490. Now that we are in Ghana we are in Ghanian Cedis which is $1 = 1.3 Cedis. From here on we are back into CFAs so should be much easier.
From Kluoto we then crossed into Ghana (back into English speaking country) where we spent a night on the shore of Lake Volta - It used to have the accolade of being the largest dammed lake in the world - and then four blissful nights by the sea near Cape Coast and Elimina visiting local school project and slave forts, etc before heading to Accra for the start and end of this trip where we lose 6 people and gain another 8 people. More on Ghana later.
Hope all is well at home - take care and keep us up to date with news, gossip. xxx