Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 25-10-2006

Yes, the Land Rover made it all the way up to Kara, northern Togo, and beyond – in spite of a dodgy drive-shaft!

The seven-hour journey begun just before 7:00am last Wednesday. Throughout the journey, you see things for sale by the side of the road. In Cotonou, it may be petrol or bread, like this one (where you can buy both!)

Further north, there are people holding up dead animals (bush rat, guinea fowl etc.) then there’s Fulani cheese, charcoal and… Gari, which is flour made from ground manioc. Here’s the gari for sale by the road:


One of the best things about travelling in Benin is that the volume of traffic is generally very low. However there are several ‘obstacles’ on has to contend with, which are less common when travelling in the UK. The first of these is the lorries, which you meet almost immediately, and which are all heading north out of Cotonou too, but at about 30 mph! So, there are usually about a dozen or so of these to overtake (which could take anything from 20 mins to an hour) before you can go a decent speed. You also pass many broken-down or even overturned lorries. Here’s one we had to circumnavigate a few months back (not in Benin):

Secondly, the potholes are pretty bad for quite a stretch between Cotonou and Dassa , so it’s always a challenge to avoid as many as possible.

Finally, there are the animals: goats, pigs, ducks, dogs etc. none of whom seem to know their Green Cross Code!!

I stop at the Auberge de Dassa, which does nice omelettes and other meals and also has a few ostriches out the back (not normally on the menu!!)


Most of the rest of the journey has very few potholes, and from Dassa to the boarder is a pretty fast, fairly empty road. Here’s the road just south of the Savalou mountains. Very pretty and – as you’ll see – it’s a pretty decent road:

The boarder crossing is quick and easy, which is always good news, and then the road heads westwards towards Sokode, in Togo. By now, it is gone midday, even with the change in time zone (Togo is always GMT, Benin always GMT+1), so I stop for guinea-fowl with rice and sauce at a small restaurant.

The last leg of the journey is over the mountains, past the Faille d’Aledjo, which is a part of the road in Togo where there is a huge block of cliff you drive round or through (depending on which way you’re coming). For those big lorries, it must be a challenge!
Finally, I descend the mountais into Kara, arriving at around 2:15pm. I stay at the SIL centre there, which is about 30 mins drive from the village where I’m doing the recording. Here’s the centre:

So, here are some figures to try and sum up my journey to Kara and back:

Number of Miles covered: 700

Number of hours at the wheel: 14

Number of Lorries overtaken: 27

Number of broken down lorries seen: 15

Number of overturned lorries seen: 3

Number of potholes avoided: 255

Number of potholes hit: 23

Number of goats almost hit: 11

Number of times I sounded my horn: 386

(figures are approximate, but a reasonable estimation!)
More info on the actual visit and recording session soon. Stay tuned!

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