Nattitingou, Benin – Kara, Togo

We’d looked at a map and it wasn’t far, surely it wouldn’t take long to get over the border to Togo, would it?

Having had a lazy morning (we were up at 9am) we packed our bags and wandered down the road in search of the bush taxi rank. It wasn’t so much as a rank, more of a couple of beat up old Vauxhall Astra’s which bared a vague resemblance to a taxi. We attempted to ask for a shared taxi to the border but after numerous confused faces and a lot of gesticulation we weren’t getting anywhere, eventually though we were told to sit in a taxi and we would leave soon! Soon, soon in Africa can range from anywhere between 10 minutes and 10 hours, and about an hour and a half later we set off towards the border only to turn round a 20 minutes later and head back to Natti. Eventually we set off again and were blasting towards the border… or so we thought. Suddenly the car started to jolt, the engine started to stutter and lose power as we coasted to the side of the road. Bonnet up our driver stood scratching his head. I had experienced the very same thing with my Mototaxi the year before and although that was a bike and not a car, I was pretty sure it was the same thing. I attempted, in my best French, to explain what I thought it was, but unfortunately fuel injector, distributor cap and carborettour weren’t in my phrase book. After locating them myself, a lot of pointing and more gesticulation we got the bits off, cleaned them out and off we went again. We drove into the next town and the driver stopped and explained that he was taking his car to the garage and that he would get another driver to take us the rest of the way, fine, we just wanted to get moving!

This car seemed to work better and we were soon on our way and all seemed good, that was until the new driver tried to extort some more money out of us complaining that our last driver hadn’t given him a fair price. After explaining to him that that was his problem and not ours he continued but carried on trying his luck. At long last we made it to the border although you could be fooled into thinking it wasn’t a border, there was just a police man sat under a tree with a beat up old school desk in front of him with a tatty looking book and an abundance of rubber stamps. He did his thing and used a couple of pages of our passports up with stamps and stickers and we were free to go… we’d made it back to Togo.. finally.

Still moaning about getting a bad deal from our last driver, he decided to tell us that he wasn’t allowed to drive in Togo as he didn’t have the right insurance. Who’d have thought they cared about insurance? It was at this point it all got a bit weird, our driver drove into a town and spoke with a couple of guys at the side of the road, moments later we carried on driving and then these two cars were racing up behind us trying to overtake and shouting at us. Our driver stopped and started to explain to me that these guys would take us to Kara and that I had to choose which one I wanted to go with. The two Togolese drivers were screaming at each other and then started fighting each other.. to save anyone getting hurt I chose the guy with the jazziest top, it seemed the fairest way to make the decision. Turned out to be a bad call as he had the most horrendous body odour and the loudest stereo I’ve ever heard, it was an unpleasant trip!

We arrived in Kara eventually having had our senses violated for the previous hour and in true West African style I had to navigate the driver to our hotel. I’d gotten pretty good at this by now and got dropped just at the end of the road from where we wanted to be. In our Lonely Planet, we’d read that although it was down a bumpy dirt track which looked to lead to nowhere we were to keep walking as it was there…. It was and what a place it was too, it was a great little place, the rooms were small but they were cheap and it had a great little restaurant and something unheard of in West Africa, Wifi!!

Showered and changed we sat in the bar enjoying a cold beer reflecting on the days journey and discussing the next border crossing into Ghana, the one that wasn’t even marked on the map as a road! It was at that point we realised it was the Queens Jubilee so in true British style we raised a glass to Lizzie and Phil and went for a dinner of steak and chips!

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