Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Nigeria - Lagos

After a rather scathing commentary on Benin our last port of call before the boarder was Porto Novo. We had three days left before we wanted to cross so we decided to stay south. Arriving in Porto Novo there was no where to camp so we decided to consult the Lonely Planet and found a place called Songhai. We turned up and it seemed very odd, almost commune like! We had no idea what it was however we checked in for three nights for 9000CFA/night. The rooms were clean and basic! Perfect! Heading to the bar we asked the waiter was this place a community run thing and he replied no it's a business. It wasn't until the next day when we went on a tour 500CFA each with an English speaking guide we realised it was a practising model for sustainable farming. The place was amazing, it made its own bio-gas out of plant waste which powered the kitchens, they grew all their own crops, made fertiliser, reared fish and chickens. Walking round we realised the scale of it and how important it was for farming across Africa.. Students came to undertake courses in fish farming and agriculture, lots of people from Nigeria came over to take tours and find out new ideas! We were very lucky, on our tour was an old student, a current student and some people who lived in Lagos and owned a juicing bar. They were so knowledgeable about all the processes (e.g. Extracting Palm nut oil), and were happy to share they expertise! They were equally shocked to hear about our trip and we made some contacts whilst we stay in Victoria Island! It was nice to meet people from Nigeria, to hear positive things, places to go, dealing with the police (locals have to as well apparently) and safety pointers put our mind at ease a little! We managed to find insurance also here, we got 2 months for 32000cfa which is valid in all countries up to Congo so worked out well!

(Fish farms in Songhai)

(Palm nuts waiting to be turned in to palm oil - they are roasted, boiled and crushed. Palm oil is used in most cooking here)

(Vegetable gardens in Songhai - they make all their own manure and use plastic to keep the weeds and sun off the veg)

We woke up at the crack of dawn to get to the border, we had chosen Iki-Oroko 30km above the main Southern crossing due to it being supposedly quieter! It was very quiet, we got there about 7.30am just as everyone was going to work or school. Surprisingly we got through the Benin side with no issue, we had thought we would have to pay some incentive money, but it only seemed like the locals had to! Getting to the Nigerian side was also completely fine, we sat with some gentlemen whilst they stamped our passports - they were very impressed with how many countries we already had in it and carried on despite the electricity going out half way through! After the stamps we had to see the drugs and smuggling department (two men with a book), and then show our yellow fever certificates.. The first time we have had to do this despite it being a legal requirement since Senegal! Getting our carnet stamped was easy and before we knew it we were through!

Having heard the police in Nigeria can be imposing we were not surprised to be stopped within 100m of the border. They asked us to get out, sit down, hand over our passports ... They wrote our names in another book and chatted to us about Nigeria, where to visit/where not to visit! They were friendly, smiling and sent us on our way with no hassle! Being pulled over the next couple of times we had similar experiences and were beginning to wonder when our luck would run out. It did very quickly! As we got nearer to Lagos we were stopped by men in beige clothes and a burgundy hats. They were the Lagos road safety unit and are currently our least favourite police! There were three of them.. One was taking photos of us (on his personal iPhone), one was just chatting to us and the third was berating us! Telling us our car was illegal because it is a right hand drive, that he was going to make us to back to the border to his office to pay a fine or change the steering column to the left side... All kinds of rubbish! We sat there and took it.. our car whilst it is illegal, it can be driven because it is a temporary import and leaving in 2 weeks, however we heard it was common for police to try it on. Charles and I turned around and said.. Ok, we would follow you back to your office because we don't want to break the law, however if we drive we will be driving illegally so we will wait for a tow. The policeman went way to chat and came back.. He told us he didn't want to keep us waiting so would come to an agreement.. We cut him off say again we didn't want to break the law so we would stay here. He went away again, gave us our documents back and sent us on our way... Not before he asked for a gift.. We managed to not give him anything and went on our way. This opened up the barrage.. A three hour drive took six and we think we got stopped 30 times by different police. Some asking for something, and some just interested. We got stopped only once more by the red hats, again telling us we were illegal. Again we stayed, played along - I told him I would call my family and tell them I would be late (this was whilst the second man was taking selfies of us and the car). They went away, talked and came back and let us go! It seems like it is only ever one policeman who wants to try it.. The others can't be bothered! 

We finally got to Ikoyi (Victoria Island), a real change from the hustle of central Lagos where we had driven through! We were let into our host's house and just crumpled... We were so tired and exhausted. We were staying with some family friends, in the most beautiful house! We played a couple of board games with the children whilst waiting for food and sat down to the first food we had had all day (5pm!). Ego (our host) came back after work and was amused to hear our journey story.. She had thought we would have hassle but didn't want to say anything to put us off!! Sleeping in a comfortable bed in an air conned room could not come soon enough! Day 2 in Lagos we were lucky enough to have someone driving us, his name was Sunday and he was a God send.. He knew Lagos well and was inconspicuous so we were not stopped by the police at all! We went to the Cameroon embassy to ask about visas, they told us come back tomorrow and it would cost $120. He gave us the forms to fill in and we moved onto the Angolan visa. After asking a few people we found it to be told they only issue in Abuja. This was fine and we carried onto the MTN shop to buy a sim. We were scanned, as well as the car, and allowed into this air conditioned shop with high end phones everywhere. Sim bought for 100Nira (288 Nira to the £), and went for lunch. We stopped at yellow chilli, a traditional restaurant, and Sunday told us some of the good dishes to have - I had fish soup with semovita (rehydrated yam powder). It was lovely! 

(My fish okoye at the yellow chilli)

Day 3 was more of the same. We had heard that in Calabar the Cameroon visa was about $90 so we went to the embassy to ask. The man could not tell us why there was a price difference, and as we left he said we had to pay for the forms we had filled in.. He wanted 4000Nira.. He gave us a receipt and everything! We were shocked and a bit put out.. Over £12 for 4 bits of paper... It left a sour taste in our mouths as we left but I guess there was nothing to be done! From here we headed to Lekki Conservation centre - this was the number two thing to do on trip advisor so we thought we would give it a go! It was well worth a visit, it was a jungle conservation centre with wooden walk ways through the undergrowth.. We saw monkeys and lots of birds! As we walked through we came to this mental walkway.. We had paid for it so off we went! It was fantastic, we walked up 22 feet above the canopy, the views were stunning and it was such a different experience seeing the forest floor from above! We felt like birds! 

(Metal walk way at Lekki)

Returning home we stopped off at a mall.. It again blew our minds.. There was a Pandora, mango, Zara.. All very expensive! The food in the supermarket was international (including Souther African Mrs Balls Chutney) but again expensive! We have been told everything here is imported from overseas! We have been quite shocked at how expensive everything is especially coming from Togo and Benin which is so cheap!

(Even saw scones - had to take a photo for my Mum who likes to think of herself as a scone conneseur!)

We were hoping to visit Abuja to collect an Angolan visa, however whilst researching prices of hotels or even flights tehreon from Lagos (all VERY expensive) we decided to call the embassy to make sure they would issue. Despite in Cotonou and in Lagos the staff saying they would issue we were told down the phone they would not without a Nigerian residency card. So we are onto plan G with the Angolan visa. Emails and calls were frantically sent hoping to resolve the issue!

In the afternoon we spent time with our host, Ego. She took us to the Simply Green Juice bar (we had met the owner in Songhai in Benin). It was in a great little yoga studio with a lovely owner (her sons went too school in Oxford - small world). We we also taken to some amazing shops, one very high end designer shop which has lots of different African designs and furniture, and another a bit like a bazaar - different paintings and sculptures from different parts of Nigeria history! Fascinating! We went for dinner at Bogoburi - mandy and I had yam chips and egg sauce (amazing), and the boys had chicken pepper soup. It was very spicey.. Even for charles who can handle spicey!

Our final day we went to the Nike Gallery with Ego. It was an art gallery stuffed full of paintings and sculptures! The most impressive being paintings of the traffic around Lagos, and a monkey made out of strips of tyres! After this we went to the new Hard Rock Cafe. It had only opened in December with views of the beach! It was a strange experience, pristine and obviously very popular! After being here we went to Freedom Park in the centre! We turned up and there was a music event going on. It was obviously the place to be on a friday night with lots of young people turning up for live music and entertainment. Mandy and I tried Palm wine.. An interesting experience.. Much like coconut milk and alko saltier! But nice non the less! 

(View from the Hard Rock Cafe)

(Concert in Freedom park)

(Palm wine)

So far Nigeria has not disappointed (and we have only been in Lagos!) despite the prices and police we have only met smiling friendly people, and our hosts have been so welcoming, gracious and friendly! The places to see around Lagos have been amazing, from the quiet of Lekki to bustle of Freedom Park. has been great staying in a house with such lovely children as well! I have never played so many games of Nigerian monopoly ever. Funnily enough as we go around Lagos we are seeing the places on the monopoly board! Makes great entertainment! Tomorrow we head towards Calabar to attempt to get the Cameroon visa! Fingers crossed! 

#africa #overlanding #travelling #thisisafrica #nigeria #lagos 


Friday, 12 February 2016


The drive to the Benin boarder was very simple and didn't take very long. Getting our documents stamped was easy, as well as getting the passe vant... They still looked blankly at the carnet.We had decided to head to Cotonou straight away because we wanted to attempt to apply for some (more) visas. We arrived in Cotonou late and there was little in the way of campsites or cheap hotels with rooms! We ended up at Hotel Du Port which was an ok hotel but high up in our budget. Unfortunately (and I won't rant on too much) it was not the best of stays... Having told us they had no basic rooms we paid for a more expensive one to find out when we got there it had not been cleaned. The cleaner then took us to a clean basic room.. they lied to us to get more money out of us. After all this we managed to down grade, settled in, went for a swim in the most amazing pool, and made the most of their wifi. Morning came and we went for another swim, but Charles was told he could not swim in his swimming shorts (I genuinely thought this rule went out long ago!). Unamused we checked out to find we had been charged too much the night before, but when I tried to get a refund the man behind the counter, who was about as useful as a chocolate tea pot, had no recollection of the transaction made in front of his eyes the night before and despite arguing for half hour it was fruitless.. 

Cotonou seems to be one of the most Western capitals we have come to so far, so much so it had an actual supermarket - Super U! It was very strange going into a supermarket and we were shocked by the variety of items as well as the price! I don't think it was much more expensive than the UK however we have been living and shopping cheap for the last few weeks so it probably made the difference more exaggerated. We stocked up on some essentials (wraps, saussison..) and headed off for the camp site we had found on the Internet the previous day!

Chez Rada was a little piece of heaven again along the beach (Route des Pecheurs). It had a swimming pool and was a lot cheaper than the hotel the night before! We talked business with the owner and jumped into the pool! We were joined by some local boys who were very forward and wanted to practise their English! 

Getting up early we went for a drive back into the centre to find the DRC embassy. This was a mission because the map was wrong, and the sat nav wouldn't even register Cotonou (useless!). We asked a lot of people, other embassies and finally a police man who got in his car to escort us there.. Getting to this embassy it turned out to be Congo Brazzaville, not the embassy we wanted, however we managed to get directions. It was completely the other side of the city and for anyone looking for it near the Livingstone hotel! We got there after taking a 3 hour tour of the city and found Andi already there (he had rolled out of his hotel and got there in minutes!). We were called in and the man asked us what we wanted and our route, whether we had an Angolan visa.. We didn't but luckily we told him we were getting it in Abuja, one phone call later he gave us the papers to fill in and told us to come back at 3.30pm. We got back out at 1pm and went to Livingstone for lunch with Andi. It was decided at this point we would come back the next day to watch the rugby. At 3pm we headed back to the embassy to pick up the visa... After waiting, waiting and more waiting (with a Fan-ice) we got our 8 day transit visa for 15000CFA. 

Returning to the camp site we took a went the wrong way to get onto a road and were pulled over by the police. They were very aggressive and asked us for our paper work, kept it and told us to follow them. We were taken to the police chief's hut by the road where he said we would have to go back on Monday to pick up our papers and to be fined. We never disputed we had done wrong however he was so aggrressive. I was struggling to understand him, he couldn't speak English.. But luckily for us a guy who spoke both fluently came to our rescue and spoke to the officer calmly and managed to get our fine down to 10000CFA. He explained to us that he had just been to South Africa so was good with the police - we will get better at staying calm and playing them at their own game I am sure!

We had a lazy Saturday morning, swimming and food, and waited for Andi to join us at the camp site. The camp site was about 8km from the centre so we decided we would get a taxi to the Livingstone so everyone could drink. Getting a taxi was easier said than done.. Firstly the camp site couldn't order us one (not sure why), and they offered us a chauffeur for 12000CFA. This, according to Andi, was a joke, and even after the negotiating we could only get him down to 10000CFA. We decided it was still too much and walked onto the road. We walked about 15 minutes in the heat until a three wheeler came past and we managed to get him to take us to the end of the beach for 2000CFA, leg one sorted. The journey was hilarious, the boys kept having to get out to push it through the sand, it rattled like crazy and we were all squashed together. Locals kept laughing at us and taking photos.. I think 5 white people in a truck is a rare sight around here! 

Getting to the end of the beach we paid another 3 wheeler 1500CFA to take us to the hotel Livingstone! The rugby was good, the boys were drinking beer from a tube that kept it cool and by the end of the evening we were all rather merry! We had the dilemma of getting home.. I made a vow never to take a motor taxi (mainly because I have never been on a motor bike in my life) however after a few glasses of wine and some peer pressure we all got on a motor taxi to get back to the camp site. It was actually fun and the driver was obviously competent! Charles and Andi were having a ball, telling their drivers to go faster! We got back and decided drunk swimming was the best idea so we all jumped in the pool, swigging gin and Sprite from the bottle! Hard core!! I am not sure what time we finally got to bed but it was a cracking night.. Topped off by England winning! 

With 5 days left of our visas were wanted a change of scenery, heading up North we stopped at Grand Popo. Finding somewhere to stay we ended up at the Lion Bar, a Bob Marley inspired Auberge. Again we were camping by the sea however the rubbish on the beach was horrid. Despite being in Africa for this length of time I am still shocked by the amount of rubbish everywhere! The bar was nice, the served good cocktails and the facilities were pretty decent! Walking around the next day we stopped for Foufou - a yam pulp - and fish stew which was lovely. 

Moving further up North we found Abomey.. This a small town known for its history. There are lots of palaces and a museum. Stopping for the night, Lena and Olly (who we met in Togo) arrived which was great to see them again - they had had a nightmare day travelling from the North including a hospital stop! Being pounced on by a 'guide' was not their top priority. Guides are normally locals who are sometimes official and sometimes just people trying their luck.. They pounce on you when arrive places and are often very persistent. Annoyingly so! This one wanted to take us to the palaces and museum, with a voodoo ceremony included.. For 15000CFA Per person.. A lot! We told him to come back tomorrow and luckily he went! Next morning we sorted out the cars and in the afternoon walked to the museum. Walking past the palaces we realised they were not traditional fairy tale palaces, mainly mud huts and red walls. The museum itself was good however the guide (paid for in the entrance price) could only speak French, luckily Lena translated (and then another guy on the tour) but it meant it was difficult to ask questions and find out lots about it (I did Wikipedia the place afterwards!). The museum was solely French, even the placards, and we did suggest that even having an English translation may help visitors! The museum showed the different relics from the palaces and different kings.. They told us a story about how one of the princesses created a child with a panther so all of the Kings had panther blood.. We were unsure where these panthers came from.. There are none in Benin now!! All in all it was good, something different, and we didn't need a guide to charge us 15000 per person - it all came to 5000CFA for both of us! 

We are now moving back to the south and the Nigerian boarder which we will cross over into on Monday! I have not enjoyed Benin as much as I had hoped. There are some possibilities why.. There seems less to see here compared to Togo or Burkina, and where there is (Abomey), they are run down and full of people taking advantage.. Take the museum.. It was a UNESCO site but the signs were rusty, it was only French friendly and you always had to be on your guard for 'guides' hassling you. It seems that in touristy areas people are only there to take advantage.. This goes for food prices as well.. We bought some drinks one day and paid one price, the next day they tried to charge us more! The hassle from locals has been more here as well, we cleaned out our car in Abomey and had some things we didn't want so we gave them to one of the workers there who subsequently came back 3 times asking for more! It was unreal! Perhaps it was our fault to begin with but still saddening. 

Perhaps we took the wrong route throug Benin, Lena and Olly came down from the north where they said it was beautiful, the parks and wildlife stunning - however again they said the hassle was just unreal. Perhaps if we had spent some time up there we would have seen landscapes other than beach and city. It could also be because we knew we had to cross into Nigeria on 15th so we could not explore without time limits, meaning we are always worrying about how far from the East side we travel. It could be many factors leading my to my conclusions, however I am definitely ready to move on! 

#africa #overlanding #travelling #thisisafrica #benin #songhai

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Southern Burkina and Togo

After our change of plan we decided to travel to Nazinga national park in the hope to see elephants. Driving there took a long time, mainly, as I wrote in the last blog, due to police checks. They were fine every time they stopped us, chatting about what had happened in Ouagadougou and where we should drive etc, but it was just time consuming stopping and being written into the tourist book! Coming off the main roads we spent about 3 hours travelling on piste (red dirt roads, bumps and lots of dust). Arriving near to the camp site we saw two elephants in the bush. This was my first time having ever seen an elephant(s) andThe  it was breath taking, they were about 10m away and were not worried about us being there, and carried on eating the leaves. I managed to get some good photos on the camera. 

Arriving at Nazinga Ranch we were told we couldn't camp but the rooms were 10000CFA, this was fine, and after paying the bill, the park entrance (and the camera fee) we were shown our rooms. The room was basic, however there was a shower and space! The thing I miss most is space to wonder around.. Mainly after a shower, and privacy! Walking to the lake we saw some birds and other wildlife.. Suddenly we heard a crashing! On the other side of the lake appeared a herd of about 20 elephants of all ages and sizes! I had gone from never seeing an elephant to seeing a whole herd! The sounds, and watching them interact was awesome! We stopped and watched them but sadly the sun went down quickly (as it tends to do here) and we headed back to camp. 

A great thing about Burkina Faso is the amount of vegetables and salad being sold.. Having come from Mauritania, Mali and Senegal where every road side stall seems to be only selling lemons, oranges or water melons it is a welcome break! At the camp we had salad for dinner. Lettuce, eggs (which you buy boiled!), tomatoes, green beans and cucumber! It was just fantastic and very cheap. Mandy had bought 2500CFA worth of salad and veg which I counted to have lasted us 25 single meals (adding tuna or eggs). Meat is still very expensive and I am not sure whether they are taught to butcher an animal or just to hack as you get given a weighed amount of meat which includes everything! Not great value! 

Waking up at 6am the next day we wandered to the lake and saw the sun rise, along with crocodiles and different birds. Heading out into the park in the cars we slowly drove around, but only saw crocodiles and baboons! Reaching the second accomodation place, Camp Elephant, we were again told there was no camping and we got a room. It was not hugely expensive and it had a pool! I have decided the best thing about having a room is clean feet.. Walking out of a shower and onto a clean floor (and not dust or sand) is a nice feeling! That night whilst making dinner (the hotels allow you to provide your own food), we heard shots in the park, this fuelled the hunting debate, which carried on when we were at the bar with a party of middle aged rich French men who in English told us they were shooting beef however I am not sure that was the direct translation from French!

(Photo of the national park day two)

To get to the boarder we had to take the road that went to the outskirts of Ouagadougou, the capital. As you may have read already there was an awful attack on a hotel there last week resulting in many deaths and injuries. Having spent time in this beautiful country my heart and thoughts go out not only to those involved, but the country itself which is so welcoming and warm. It is a country surrounded by some difficult boarders leading to issues within. It is a shame because what it needs is people to come, visit, spend money, meet the locals and surrounding landscapes.. Not negative news because of some fanatic from a neighbouring country! Anyway.. I digress! Driving there was not a long route however it was long.. Again because of the number of police checks which increased and got more thorough as we got closer to the capital. There are different forces and each had their different check points. The national police in their beige, smartly pressed uniforms who are generally older gentlemen, the local police in their green all in ones, generally younger and carrying AK47's, and the military who wear a rather groovy orange and green camouflage all in one and stand intimidatingly arms crossed, legs wide and AK47 in their hands (apparently there is a low crime rate due to proactive policing.. Shoot first!). However every police and military official we spoke to was lovely, they wanted our passĂ© vant, passports, drivers licences and then to look in the car.. There was never an issue.. However me trying to describe our awening out of the side of the car, in French, was amusing.. My French book did not have a direct translation...(NB since meeting Sammy and Richard they told me it is an'au vent' which makes a lot of sense!). We have come to the conclusion that the reaction you get from officials is entirely down to how you are with them... Always say 'bonjour, ca va?' With a smile, have the documents ready to had straight over and they are fine with you! We did get to our intended stopping site about 100km from the boarder! 

All was fine as we parked up, chatted to the sucurity man and set up for the night. During our rowdy game of uno in the dark a group of men walked towards us. It was not until they got into the torch light we realised it was 5 police officers.. 4 wearing bullet vests and carring AK47s. A slightly scary sight! I managed to mumble 'c'est bon rester ici' and the reply was 'non!'. Right we thought! After that my French skills went the window, they said they were there for security reasons so I said 'passports?'. They checked them, asked some questions, took a fiche and wrote down other details. Having done this they went away and chatted.. Came back and asked to look in the cars.. After a fairly comprehensive look they decided it was ok. Smiles all around and they were happy we were not a threat. When they left the security guy said it was because of the attacks that had happened and it was for all our safety.. It was fair enough! I think the guns often make us British who are not used to them feel a bit uneasy! The rest of the night was rather dull in comparison!

Waking up early we headed to the boarder which took about 5 hours. Getting there it was all rather confusing as it serves at the boarder for 2 countries, Ghana and Togo. Getting to the customs took a while but once we found it we were ushered in! We had a slight hiccup because the official was convinced that our visas for Burkina Faso were wrong.. On the visa is the passport validity as well as the start date of the visa (06.01.16) and then 90 days. He was convinced that our visa datas were the passport validity dates and could not comprehend it was 90 days from 6th Jan.. After he talked with various other people he found it ok and guided us onto customs to have our names written in another book. Leaving we had to pay 2000CFA car tax and made our way to the Togo customs. Getting a visa was fine, 10000CFA for 7 days and could be extended in Lome for free! Bonus! Customs on the Togo side was a mission. As in other countries they had never seen a Carnet before so we needed to buy a passe vant again which was fine, this was 5000CFA. Having done this we were free to leave!

Togo was similar looking to Burkina however the houses had become more house like.. More western looking but still made out of yellow stone. We drove to Depong the first town after the border and camped in a hotel which had wifi! It was a quick scramble to put up the tents and have a beer and a chat to the parents! It was nice to catch up with the gossip and what was going on! Next morning after another tent escapade we set off for the Grotes de Nagou. Arriving there the scenery was amazing.

We were approached by a man who would sell us tickets (2000CFA and I did get a receipt) and told us we had to use him as a guide. I did ask if it was necessary and he said yes (funnily enough). After being stung at the Cascades in Burkina we decided an upfront price for the guide of 4000CFA which was ok for both parties. Going through the doors we climbed down metal ladders until we hit a ledge. After a 10m walk we saw Windows and little houses in the rocks! It was very impressive! The guide told suit was used in the war (I am unsure which one) and all the nearby village stayed there if they were attacked.. 300 people for around 2-4 months at any one time! They made arrows to defend themselves, and had maize stores as well as a running spring for water. Just amazing! Was definitely  worth the money we paid. We are finally getting more savvy when it comes to guides; the guide today spoke French and I could pretty much understand him so when he started talking about how his solar panel at home had broken and that he did not have enough money to fix it I replied with sorry I don't understand. It is very difficult because these people have nothing however we cannot help everybody.

Our next stop was Mango. Turning up we found an Auberge which was only 4000CFA per room. We could not see them because they were being cleaned but we thought we would take the risk and go with one! Driving back out into the village we found some street food as it was 3pm and we were chomping at the bit for food! We chose well, pasta, noodles, couscous, meat and a sauce all for 1000CFA. Was a bargain, whilst we stood eating some of the local children came and chatted to us.. They were so lovely! Smilely and talking about school! We headed to a bar for some beer.. 2 beers later  and desperate for the loo we headed back to see what our rooms looked like! Surprisingly they were really nice, basic but comfortable! Walking back to the bar we stopped off at a rather groovy disco place for another beer before we headed to our old faithful from the afternoon! 5 beers in and I was man down.. The walk home was a little blurry and apparently I had a altercation with a storm drain much to everyone's amusement. 

Getting to the room we realised there was no blanket so poor charles was sent to fetch it from the tent! He is a good one! Waking up in the morning slightly fragile was headed off towards Lome. We had planned to do this in 2 goes due to the distance and ended up in another town to stop for the night. Again it was a hotel room because they were so cheap and good quality. The town come alive at night with lots going on, the smells of meat cooking and the music blaring from speakers makes great watching! 

From here we headed straight to Lome, we needed to extend our visa and as the weekend as fast approaching we needed to get a move on! We arrived and found the visa services. We had just missed the opening hours by 10 minutes but the man told us to come back tomorrow (Saturday) at 7am. Very  early but it needed to be done! We stayed the night at Chez Alice which sadly was not great, we were in a hot and dusty car park, right next to the road. However it was cheap for food and we met Sammy and Richard whom I have been talking to along the way for advice and tips! It was great to finally meet them and they told us of another camp site where lots of people were staying. After a very sticky night we woke up early to head to the visa services.. We got to be told 'oh no we don't open today.. Come back Monday at 7am'..  We were not best pleased! Making our way to Coco Beach (about 1km down from Chez Alice) we stopped off for breakfast and a coffee! Coco beach was a lovely camp site, right on the beach with decent facilities! As promised by Sammy, there was lots of others. 2 other couples and a group of bikers who were stranded in Togo because they had not got their Nigerian visas in Bamako and they were not issuing here.. Later on they finalised shipping to Gabon but I think it was a difficult process! Staying here was a lot cooler and you could dip in the sea!

Monday morning came around and back to the visa service we went.. 1000CFA (not free as the boarder promised!), another form, 2 passport photos and come back tomorrow! Tuesday and all was fine, visa came back with a month and multiple entries! We headed to the Benin embassy who charged us for photocopying our photocopies and told us to come back Friday at 3pm! The longest visa time yet! It was however only 10000CFA for 15 days so not too expensive! The decision was made to hang around at Coco beach till the Friday because our passports were still at the embassy and we didn't want to risk travelling somewhere to find we needed them or were asked for them by the police. We spent the time at the Grand Marche, the central shopping and trading place for Lome. Charles finally bought some new flip flops, parting with his old ones and myself some tops.. 3 tops for 4500CFA, cheaper than Primark! Friday came around quickly and we headed to the Benin embassy.. Getting there we found that everyone who has applied gets their visa at the same time on Friday.. We had to hand in our receipts, were given a number and wait till we were called. An hour and a half later I was called into the waiting room to pick up all 4 passports. Once in there it was a musical chair type game where one person went into the office and you moved up the chair queue.. Very bizarre and very disorganised! This left us with no time to apply for the Congo visa so we headed back to the camp site for pizza and beers with our camp mates, which now included another biker - Andy who's face book page is Wheelie Adventurous. 

(Photo of the 'West Africa Crew')

Having spent a week in Lome waiting for various visas we headto the mountains for the weekend with Ollie and Lina, a German couple who have been on the road for nearly 2 years! The views from the campsite were good, however due to the sand winds from th Sahara everything was very misty! On the Sunday we paid a guide to take us on a 8 km walk around the area, he told us about the local plants, wild life, pigments for painting and also the coffee plants. The coffee industry here is interesting.. It was not until Westerners came to the area that coffee was planted here, it is not a native plant. The guide said people do not drink much of it here, however they export it, it gets made to NescafĂ©, then reimported to sell.. We could not see the point of this! However we did buy a bag of it to use in our caffitiere! 

We are now headedback to Lome for the Congo visa which took a day and costed 60000CFA. We have heard the DRC visa can be picked up in Benin but there we also concerns they will turn you away at the boarder as you are not a resident of the country of issue.. A risk we may just have to take! Our final day took us to the fetish market, a culture stemming from Benin. It was full of dead animals ready to be ground into fetishes.. The smell was rancid and the variety of dead animals a little disturbing in places. The guide told us that different blends of animals allow for white magic to be produced.. Good travelling, safety in the homes and even one for the boys stamina... All sorts of weird things! Not my cup of tea but worth a visit!  In the evening we had a final farewell fire and stew with all the over landers we have met at coco beach! Great way to end a great stay!

Togo has been another fantastic country. The people again have been very friendly, welcoming and the sights stunning. It has been nice to stop off in one camp site for longer than 2 days, and meet people who speak English well enough to have a conversation about their travels! We definitely hope to meet up with them again along the way! 

Final words.. These Fanices were introduced to us by the Oasis Overland bus! 200CFA and AMAZING .. Ice cream in a bag!