Friday 29 July 2016

Cotonou, Republic of Benin to Lome, Togo


2.20pm
Two passengers are legally required to sit in a single seat occupied at the front of Benin cabs. Three at the back. Moses had mentioned the potential hold up leaving Cotonou. He was damn right! My actual final act prior to my departure was to obtain a Benin newspaper. Futile. Maybe a CFA saving blessing as I don't speak French. Will have to use stamp date in passport as proof.

On the way out of Cotonou, we approached the Lome, Quidah and Abidjan Accra Roundabout.

 Still in Nigeria and witnessing the high season of Maize and Yam. There's a Badagry Baale for the wholesalers of Yam farmers. 
Okada wanted 500 gave him 100 which was initially agreed. The Bribe Circus in Glorious Galore. Medical Gate Nil -

more on these yeye people later

Nigerian Border Official demanded N2K for the Stamp out I gave him N1K.

Lone soldier on midsection Gate patrol wanted N500 I gave him N200.

No point doing the FEJ I'm a moralist stance. These Cats meant business and I'd be going absolutely nowhere if I didn't play. Naija over.

Prior to checking in, I struck up conversation with 'Stroppy' sister's sister. More affable. She'd never been to the Ivory Coast but knew it would take forever

(12-14 hours). She concurred with my earlier ‘Angels’re breaking journey - however she was of the opinion that the coastline focus was erroneous.


All trips to Cote d'Ivoire travelled up towards Kumasi before heading back down to the Sekondi Takoradi coast then on to the Ghanaian/Ivory Coast Border (Abidjan).

The shabby albeit practical ensuite had the three pin electrical sockets Yaay!! Top up time! I was wrong footed in Francophone Togo where the two-pin socket ruled the day and only God knew what laid ahead in Cote d'Ivoire.

​​I tried my best haggling with a local Loofah seller to no avail. He wanted 25EP for 3 which in retrospect was a few quid in Sterling however overzealousness got the better in me and I talked myself out of a very good bargain.

Our Danfo arrived and before long we were back in El Remaya Square

and the Le Meridian.


Siesta served, we ventured into Giza Unknown, dodging and weaving through Metered Taxi Drivers and miscellaneous tour operatives.

We decided to trek up the one way system towards the Pyramids in search of a conducive restaurant. After declining the popular 'hole in the wall' and a 'reputable' eatery where the manager justified the lack of a menu 'l give you give you good price' - we moved up to the top of Al Aharam adjacent to the Pyramid Driveway and settled for Restaurant Cheristo,  a Greek Egyptian joint specialising in Fresh fish dishes. Loved it. And so did the kids. Quote of the day after settling bill with taxes and service charge "No tip???” Class!

We branched off at an Egyptian 'On the Run' and passed a Dog pound which scared the living daylight out of Oluwashanu before settling back at the ranch for a quiet night in.

Friday 29 July 2016

Lagos, Nigeria to Republic of Benin


This is my second 5460 Road trip, the first across Southern Africa in March 2015.

This time I take on West Africa.


The plan is to travel by road from Lagos, Nigeria - Cotonou, Benin Republic - Lome, Togo - Accra, Ghana - Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire - Lagos, Nigeria


Now no matter how much research you undertake, nothing can prepare you really for the spontaneity of blessings which'll be bestowed on you by multifarious and overzealous border officials.

Left home (Opebi, Lagos) later than planned. Maruwa to Ikeja under the Bridge. Walked through Computer Village. Crossed Railway tracks at Ikeja along Bus stop. Crossed Expressway to the other side via pedestrian bridge. N50 Danfo to Oshodi/Badagry Road via Owoseni Street, then Church Street.

My cousin had warned me the night before about hanging around Oshodi district late. Glad to have heeded. Mad melee of hustle bustle - Crazy!

Danfo to Mile 2 (N100). Need to find out why Mile 2. Mile 2 of what? I had stocked up the night before with fruits, corn and nuts. Breakfast sorted then. So looking forward to Cotonou, Benin now. Oh look there's Apapa. Woah! I've missed my stop. Had to walk back.

It was 8.40am as I descended the overhead bridge overlooking the newly constructed looming avant garde overhead pedestrian crossing. I passed hordes of Okadas and buses and headed for the private car taxis. I switched into auto mild aggression just to lure away the Yeye chancers.


Boarded a Seme/Badagry bound car (N1200) and at 8.45am we left Lagos.

SHAYO
S independent
H diplomatic
A strong and powerful
Y loves food
O playful

At Krake I exchanged N12K to 19,200CFA. N1= CFA1.6 Paid for Bottled Tonic Water paid in Naira N130 and left Krake (1CFA) for Cotonou at 11.50am 
Republic of Benin - First impressions
Thatch roofed police checkpoints  
Cotonou / Porto Novo roundabout.
Female motocyclists in traditional attire. Hotel Camilio Palace very camp!

They speak Pidgin English like Ibos

Bed and Ivory Coast on my mind, I quickly escaped the descending cold nippy air and boarded a Molue plying Oxford Street to Kaneshie Market (1.90GHC).

The driver weaved through an overstretched Official Street then Graphic extending to the City limits. I had no idea where I was heading but I knew I had angels sitting on my shoulders tonight. Literally. ....

Ten minutes on the road now and the Molue hurtled towards the Expressway. I asked a woman sitting in front to alert me when we reached Kaneshie Garage. She was going in the same direction and offered to take me to the exact spot where Cars Coaches Buses left for Abidjan. She did. Her traveling companion expressed concern that I was considering a trip to the Coast that evening (8pm). I wasn't that mad - was going to find a hotel. She further advised that I break the journey in the morning. Either at Kumasi or on the optional route at Takoradi (both still within Ghana).

I had some thinking and thanking to do. Sorted in terms of logistics. I then trekked through the Accra Market in search of a hotel to lay my head. Angels. I meandered the vicinity for 20 minutes. Angels.

As luck would have it Adzepa Guest House on Abossey Okai was pointed out across from the Express Road Pedestrian Bridge. 

This spot was the only catering & bed lodge for miles and had all kinds of dark nook and crannies - where young lovers rendezvous whispering beneath the Afro-pop blaring out from the overhead speakers. This was definitely a brothel, a hovel, a cesspit of sin and vice - and not a place for the 'deserved' - Gentlemen of the Allezecome, I became indoctrinated tonight 'undeservedly' albeit reservedly.

The nonchalant receptionist barely looked up to register me in. The rooms (not available till 9.30pm) ranged from 30-45GHC. Checkout time 10am. How ironic that I had to wait in bar before room became ‘available’........ those of you that know me well will know drinking is not my favorite pastime -


I went into the buzzing street and spotted several 'good time' girls hanging tight on the corner of a church adjacent to Adzepa.


Irony 2 - Shadowing them from behind within the church grounds was a life-size statute of Christ. Angels?

We arrived at Sanvee Condji (Lome)

Togo/Ghana Border at 5.25pm.


We all disembarked for the various immigration duties.


Monday 15 August 2016

London, UK to Cairo, Egypt


First 5460 voyage accompanied by my adventurous kids and first trip abroad with all three in eighteen years!


BA Flight 155 postponed and now severely delayed. We finally take off at 20.47.



Now over to the French side.


Oh boy oh boy oh boy. The French were roaches compared to their slime ball counterparts. After settling three uniformed old men at the 1st exit Gate - I stumbled upon another set of cronies at the 2nd Gate. The Yoruba allegiance thingy didn't work this time and these guys were adamant they wanted their own - N500. So I counter-offered it with a caveat. I asked how many checkpoints to go. He said two. So here's me. I said for N500 he should be my 'fixer' and sort me out ahead of the way. He obliged and got on my Okada - so that's three of us now on one bike. Off we went. We soon reached the penultimate stop. The SS - Special Security "we are doing our job!" checkpoint.

Asked how to get to Abidjan.

Have to get to a place called 'Kaneshia' apparently.


Accra Mall my original rendezvous point was far from here. However the legendary Makola, Accra's major Market was round the corner, left on Rawlings and four junctions away.

Bought some serious Brass Band music infused the Tudu Road air. It was coming from a CD shop on Kinbu Street. Two CDs at 6GHC each (Afeto Yesu - Brass Band Academy of Music Anfoega and Aflao Brass Band Kale Hawo) ended up in my bag.


 12.35pm
Second Police checkpoint.
I was checked for Passport and Yellow Card. Smart police, young, clean, softly spoken. But absolute idiots. Ask for a bribe if you really mean business not a 'souveni, souveni' because I've loads of them.
 
I wasn't forthcoming - "no comprendi, no comprendi" I pleaded. But of course I knew what they were on about. I could sense their frustration so I thought I try the classic evasion trick - where you try and simply repeat everything they say to you back to them. "Souveni Souveni wetin?" My guy opens up his wallet and goes "Naira! Naira! Souveni Souveni" I go "We we - Souveni" I open up my wallet and give him N20. My driver sharp as a fiddle drives off.

Tarred Roads??? Oh course. It’s the Ivory Coast trademark. 

I'm finally in Cote d’Ivoire baby.

5460! BRING IT! You Smackhead.
Call it what you like......
Midlife Crisis? What Midlife Crisis??
I'm finishing this Mutha - Like or not. Me going to get there, all 54 Un-United States of Africa.

 1pm Aboisso (which I'm beginning to suspect is Abidjan) is now 11Kilometres away.

1.10pm Arrive in Aboisso (definitely not Abidjan)
1.32pm Driver takes a fag break.
1.35pm We resume.
1.49pm Bonoua
2.08pm Still on the road.

 I'm pondering. Do I really have to do this all over again on my return to Lagos? If and when I do get into Abidjan, would I really need to stay over?


Cote d'Ivoire is my last stop on 5460 West Africa (Part 1). I would ordinarily book a First Class hotel and celebrate in style. However this West Africa leg has knocked me for six.

I'm feeling run down and home sick.

2.10pm Comoe Bridge & Laguine Eburie
 2.16pm Abidjan Signage


2.20pm This road says "Hello - My names Abidjan, I'm nearby. Not long now"

2.32pm Abidjan Aeroport
2.45pm Abidjan we hail thee! 

Arrived at Gare de Bassam


Femi elufowoju, jr

Performer & Director

22GHC for air conditioned car 1 Cedi cheaper if non aircon. Car on ground was partially full so I opted for the next empty van if only to bag the front seat.

Invited to sit on a bench and wait for the next bus, I placed my big bottled water (550CFA) by my hip and within minutes it was swiped under my nose Kai!

Hold on to your yaassh for Ghana o.

Area boys at Aflao are more hectic than the Lagos Oshodi guy guy. Bwoy. I'm learning!

We left Aflao for Accra at 12.31. Apparently it’s a 3.5 hour drive - so here goes..... oh its a Hyandai and the driver's was the devil incarnate on the road - a real prized nutter! 120mph easily. I sat in front next to a Canadian (works in Cotonou) who did the route quite regularly. He reaked to high heaven (body and mout!) and claimed he was Pan African. He was pretty inqusitive and wanted my views on the altered states in the Continent. I said there weren't any (no small talk for me) and fell asleep as he rambled on.


We reached Customs (Douanes) at Sogakope - and everyone bar the supposedly Oyinbos for front had to disembark and walk to the other side whilst the driver settled the officer at the back of the van.


We moved on, not before being besieged by food hawkers - Gizzards, Dried Shrimps, Rolled Pastry, Grains, Nuts, Turkey, Fried Yam and something that resembled steamed moin-moin in Maize wrappers. 

The novelty of being spared the strip search walk to the other side treatment barely lasted a minute.

As we approached Lower Volta Bridge, stationed on either side of the road was another Customs (and Immigration) stop. This too was legit. We were all ordered to disembark for a bag and passport check.


While the driver paid his dues, I wandered off towards the river. I couldn't get close enough. I got my shots.

As we drove through Sogakope, on the other side was a small fishing hamlet Sokpoe, followed by Tefle, Vume, Tojeh, Ada (which is 66km from Tema)

Hwakpo (which is 89km from Accra)

We reached Tema at 3.30pm - first time back in 42 years. Tema Roundabout then Tema -

Accra Expressway. 

Finally arrived in Accra at 4pm. What an absolute Peach of an African City. Clean Green and Beautiful!

First impression - Lawd of Mercy! 

Flagstaff House on Independence Avenue

built like a Chinese monastery temple even

Cab at 10.55pm Home in 10. Mission Accomplished

So here we spend our last memorable evening in Cairo.

There is a brilliant episode of 'you're a very bad man' which I can't tell as brilliantly as my son can, so I'll leave it to him to share when the book's published, but our last night was bliss and the kids were pretty despondent at the trip's near end. Tomorrow we return to the UK.


After light brunch we headed back to Giza. The kids stay awake this time celebrating Halle Berry's 50th viewing The Call.

Saturday 30 July 2016

Lome, Togo to Accra, Ghana


8.15am
Woke up to the 'blissful' zinging of mosquitoes singing. My watch says 4am contradicting phone an hour behind. I begin my log updates in Gmail mode and lose it all after a couple of hours of composition. How for do? So I start again. After another couple of hours. I click 'post' on FaceCrook and discover my MTN Nigeria line had been in roam mode and all data now exhausted. 

I quietly checked out of Hotel Hokka, strolling and 'Happy Snapping' anything culturally interesting covertly. Winding through the market women early risers. I hit Border Road look right - wahala dey come later, look left yes beach side gentleness. The polite international bureau de change hustlers and pre-registered Ghanaian Sim cards massive offered me a seat and canopied with a 'ginormous' umbrella.

These cats can change anything to anyting! Dollars CFA Naira Sterling Australian Dollar. 19,200CFA @1.60 = N1. I exchanged...... As he was also doing Ghana Cedis I thought what the hell. @10.5 per Naira. Did N5K worth. Purchased a MTN Ghana Sim Pack CFA1K and a 10GHC MTN voucher.

I was 'fully loaded' and good to go!

SADE

S independent
A strong and powerful
D love to help people
E white heart

We got going again at 11.40am - this was a luxury bus offering full air condition and in-transit entertainment (TV). I feel asleep to the raucous laughter of the young and old as they settled back to the journey ahead and the comedy of one of Ghana's best loved family shows.

 I stirred at 2pm on arrival at the serene Biriwa Valley - young children and their mothers strolled leisurely downhill towards their Sabbath destination. We had been driving through the Cape Coast for the best part of an hour and in less than quarter of an hour we'll be in Ola U.C.C. It was here we stopped of briefly for respite before resuming our journey at 2.30pm

Travelling through Ghana by road you'll encounter several toll gates. Many!


3.10pm we reached 'Last stop'

3.30pm Shama.

Sunday 31 July 2016

Accra to Takoradi, Ghana


10am
I awoke to church bells. It's a Sunday - and in Ghana they go to church early. The keys from the succeeding organ was telling me to attend church this morning. And where better to literally roll out of bed into one. The adjourning St Andrew Anglican Church.

Left Azipka at 10am logged into my JVC and updated accordingly. My ride to Takoradi was a 38 seater air conditioned coach.


So here I go.  Committing to the Ivorian expedition. Part 1. The coach left the park at 10.35pm

There was an evangelist on-board (standing in the aisle with brown leather attaché suitcase) prayed sang and sermon in Asante. 5 minutes into his 'act' the coach stopped abruptly in the middle of the road a kilometre from West Hill Shopping Mall. We must've been there a good 45mins before a replacement coach arrived.

Now the thing you have to bear in mind is when these nincompoops start to bamboozle you like police soldiers you wouldn't know who is who and more importantly what to do.

In order to keep my cool and not lose face -

I masqueraded as a retired Professor (their fault for calling me Daddy) - beneath my shroud was a shaking leaf - You should've seen my hands.

"Come Down Come Down Come Down Come Down" This was the scariest mother jigging episode going "Come here here here" A burly man led me into a open canopied area by the roadside. I was then confronted by 5 uniformed guys who hollered poked, yanked and tore into me "Your wallet Your wallet, Hold ya cash for hand. Hold your money for hand. Oya empty all your pockets, we know ya carrying fake money" Huh???

  The guys stripped me bare right down to my underpants! "Now your bag! Quick Quick everything!" I'm now stooling virtual you know what but I'm thinking this guys are damn amateurs. None of my sterling or indeed my dummy bribe money was discovered - Yet I was still having a wee moment. Kids and loved ones, that’s all I was thinking of. Stern mate. 

And at the end of it all....... they only took N500 off me. Walahi!

When I asked the fixer why the French were financially obnoxious he said the economy was bad, a new president had just been sworn in, barely been in office two months and the nation was crumbling.

 The final embarrassment (Gate) could've been avoided. The fixer suggested I gave the Okada man my Passport and he'll hold on to my bag! Whilst I go through the final post solo. Oh just give the big man N100 you'll be okay. You mad?? Foolishly I gave it a thought - the Okada guy seemed enough and in a moment of madness I asked him to stuff my Passport down his pants. Why??? Please don't ask me - I'd lost all reasoning at the point. Delirious. Somehow I insisted on holding on to the bag.

Abass my Ghana changer sorted me 10.50GHC to the Naira (N10K) only this time this Cat spoke in millions something something - Huh???

Somehow my main guy for Ghana Kwaku Ankomah (ex RADA now based in Accra) and I could not connect. He was helpful however flagging up the key spots to venture.

Despite my lethargy I was determined to see as much of the capital as possible.


I was now running very very very low on funds, and even though I had 'topped up' I needed to conserve to preserve (I still needed to get to Ivory Coast and return to Lagos!!)

Travelling round the capital is relatively cheap. I was a stone throw from Makola Shopping Mall - where some frantic street singing and dancing was observed.


Adjacent was Rawlings Park (housing a mini Independence Arch, two taxi ranks and an assortment of bric-a-brac sellers)

I crammed into a 2.90pp Taxi heading towards the Osu district.

Enroute we passed the famous 28th February Road which led into Independence Square (Blackstar Square) a huge parade ground backed by the sea.


Pretty impressive Independence Arch dominated the centre - a monolithic replica of the Arc de Triomphe. Either side of the square boasted a huge Stadium, the State House and the Kwame Nkrumah Conference Centre.

 At the Togo/Ghana end of the Border (literally a minute walk from the beach) -

the 'virginal' exit stamp thingy carried on. It was now routine, just a question of how low can they actually stoop to. 3,000CFA low. No fuss I coughed up and walked through.

I was in bed asleep by 6.50pm
Woke up at 11.40pm, blog for a few hours before dozing off again.

Into the Togo dusk lit skies I stroll. Now where is that driver? Gone. Nowhere for dust. Panic. Heart racing feet racing My Johnny John Thomas is racing. Lawd Jesus - Egbami o! I run forward my feet don tire. I run backwards my thighs don suffer. I'm now sweating and breathing heavily like a bull frog. Every car parked along the Togo border one way road I check. Every big man in Green Ankara I asked to turn their cheek. No tribal marks. Mo gbe!  Mo rire he loni o. Wow! 

10mins of just strutting, nothing. Have I lost everything 5460 blessed me with? Not just possession. But maybe the courage to carry on? I remember Moses telling me about Bar Garage adjacent to Togo/Benin entry point being a mere stone throw away. In the distance I saw a line of cars in a hold up and vehicles pulling out. I wonder if..... So I started running.

The union guys as tradition in Africa would have it were at a rudimentary roadside desk with barriers blocking the road whilst monitoring departing fares. I asked if they had seen a driver driving a Toyota Nissan from Cotonou with mild tribal marks. Nope...... Whoops.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted one of the ladies from the same vehicle standing by the roadside making a phone call. She seemed frantic too. Same dilemma. This was reassuring. Then from out of the blue a voice with a French twang, was heard calling "Yoruba! Yoruba!" Lo and behold there he was loading more passengers for his onward trip.

Our bags were intact and he encouraged us to enter car and resume journey.

At 9.35am we were stopped at the first of two immigration stops. The unofficial rule was if you did not possess Passport, Identity and Yellow Card, you needed to disembark and board either Okada or the local blue Badagry bus, which drops you on the other side and picked up again by the original driver. That way you claim going to Badagry and avoid the N1K bribe. Several passengers opted for this though sadly for them we weren't stopped at Ilupeju or Ilogbo Eremi. Not only were the 'elusives' expected to incur further travelling costs but our driver too wanted his own for 'aiding and abetting' "whey my mineral money?:

 We soon passed the Seme, Badagry and Ajapa roundabout and hit Badagry at 10am. So far so smooth. No hitches. Then Genge! Minutes after crossing the huge Badagry West Bridge. We were stopped once more. It waa the Seme Border Police HQ. I was asked to get out of the car and proceed to the 'office'. I flashed my Passport and Yellow card and was waved back into the car. Duh!!!

And finally stood the almighty Giza Pyramids with the Le Meridien welcoming us in

(approximately 50 minutes drive from airport to hotel)

Impressive decor - huge flights of stairs and high ceilings. But air festooned with flies and indiscriminate smoking in the public areas. For a highly moralistic and religious country, I find this all very bizarre.

Le Meridien is a pretty impressive looking hotel almost as vast as the Citadel itself. Sprawling grounds with an amazing view of the great Pyramids of Cheops, Chepren and Mycerinus looming in the background.

Kids wanted us to stay up till 5am to experience breakfast first hand - we did..... Overrated.

Little man vows to adhere to a Pancake and milky egg breakfast diet. I wonder.

We retire to our rooms to catch Pyramids bloom at dawn.

First observations - where are the women of empowerment? I'm beginning to think Egypt is a make dominated service proviso...... maybe six days on, this perspective will change.

We emerge into an early Egyptian morning full of commerce and activity. The forecourt of arrivals awash with Taxi drivers - hundreds!
Our limousine awaited us - sleek black, huge driver. A couple of exchanges with our suited fixers and the customary 'have a nice day' hover before car door shuts.

I'm thinking I've settled you guys online. Move!

 As we slip through the Cairo streets, I couldn't help feel this is one country that prides itself on its culture and heritage. The architecture and miles of indigenous murals said it all.

Here's a bleary eye checklist of encounters caught at the break of dawn enroute to hotel.

  • ​​The Military Academy. Mosques beautiful mosques. Salah Salem
  • Citadel - a formidable fortress a sight to behold. Pillars upon pillars of un-plastered homes. The Museum of Civilisation.

  • Danfos, Danfos and Danfos

  • University Bridge with a line of Arabs fishing in the wee hours of the morning.

  • Signposts to the Giza Pyramids.

  • City Centre 1 - we learn Cairo is split into three huge commercial districts

  • Avenues of Palm trees. Donkey carts

  • KFC. Pizza Hut. McDonalds

  • War torn relics. No man's land. Speed bumps as high as the pyramids themselves.

  • Theatres

  • Dust. Sand

  • One long road...... to infinity

  • Heat night club. Parisiana. 6th of October City. Broad streets. Alex Dessert Road


This was my final act in Benin before departing Republic du Benin for Lome, Togo (not in the customary Peugeot 505) at 2.20pm.

Price tag 5000CFA.

Little Man spots the Golden Arches and there's no negotiating. Manna from heaven it would seem. Approaching the Golden Gates I couldn't help notice the mechanical palmtops strewn across this district. 


Still fascinated with the characteristic architecture dominating home and industry, the Steel Chrome combo-towers in palm trees hoisted mostly CCTV cameras and telecommunication lines.

I draw the kids attention to this phenomenon - amazing!



At the bottom of Kinbu where it meets Kojo Thompson I bought some long sought after Danshikis and small Kente cloth designer wallets (the utterly charming Beatrice of Ghana House)


Items were discounted to 23GHC (3) and 7GHC (3) 23 x3. Beatrice accepted my Naija spirited haggle as I parted with the total short of 2 Cedis. Well done me!

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Giza, Egypt


02.40am Cairo International Airport, Le Meridien 'meet and greet' official on standby to navigate us through Visa and other protocol. A familiar who you know and how much influence affair in Egypt. Long queues for the sake of it not unless you have the connections.

At 3am in the wee hours of the morning, I'm feeling it for the kids. Glum Look Galore. Hahaha or as Elushade would say 'lol'.

My Hausa driver was an honest man. I had earlier handed over N3K instead of 2 when paying the N1,200 fare. He exposed my folly and rewrote the Lonely Planet Guide of Nigeria.


Cotonou, Benin!
Arrived just before 1pm after an endless merry- go round that lasted almost 40mins - all considered a slice of cultural exchange never to reoccur.

We soon crossed a major bridge and was in town proper.
This city is female motorcyclists heaven!,

Oh my days - Sexy bwoy.

Found a barbers in the heart of the city. But was gutted that François' gaff was a Yoruba conclave. Should of known better - his neighbour's cement store spouted French gangster rap but as I drew nearer to the groom salon I was confronted with some serious Yoruba Fuji.

 Haircut 400CFA and Fuji 500CFA keep the change my friend. François was popular and frequented by Beninites and Nigerians alike. His French was impeccable but thank God he spoke a little English. Not many English speakers in Cotonou - very rare. My new host and his two apprentices obliged with their photography skills and when requested took me round the back for convenience.... disgusting!!

But hey, forget that one I've got a Barber in Benin now - Whey hey!

Exit stamp was going to cost 20GHC. I gave him 10. Stamped - Happy Bunny. Strut into Ghana? Nope so I'm heading for the exit exit exit. I could see signs for Afloa clearly ahead. ..... within touching distance. I was now skipping - ahead of me a middle aged plain clothed man was diverting people to his left, he wasn't uniformed so I brushed past him. He wasn't having it and we had a 'conversation' about whether he had the right to stop me. "Well I do!” rasped Agnes a uniformed waist coated woman beneath a sign which scrolled Pedestrian Checkpoint.


Agnes was not only enormous, she had the most terrifying look between her eyes. Facial hair anointed Agnes read me the Riot Act, made phone calls to 'Joyce' at the Checkpoint before to verify my 'don't respond to men claiming to be officers if they are not in uniform' claim.


Joyce was at home eating Fufu.


This was a classic moment being replayed for the umpteenth time as she scrutinised my Yellow Card, Passport and rifled through my bag.

 I was never going to give her 'something' and she knew it as she eventually waved me on.

Taxi was continuously running short of Engine oil. We stopped off to refill and noticed a football game being played in a small local stadium. I dashed across the road and joined a group of local spectators to capture a slice of it, before rushing back to the rejuvenated vehicle.

​​​
 12.35pm
Second Police checkpoint.
I was checked for Passport and Yellow Card. Smart police, young, clean, softly spoken. But absolute idiots. Ask for a bribe if you really mean business not a 'souveni, souveni' because I've loads of them.
 
I wasn't forthcoming - "no comprendi, no comprendi" I pleaded. But of course I knew what they were on about. I could sense their frustration so I thought I try the classic evasion trick - where you try and simply repeat everything they say to you back to them. "Souveni Souveni wetin?" My guy opens up his wallet and goes "Naira! Naira! Souveni Souveni" I go "We we - Souveni" I open up my wallet and give him N20. My driver sharp as a fiddle drives off.

Tarred Roads??? Oh course. It’s the Ivory Coast trademark. 

I'm finally in Cote d’Ivoire baby.

5460! BRING IT! You Smackhead.
Call it what you like......
Midlife Crisis? What Midlife Crisis??
I'm finishing this Mutha - Like or not. Me going to get there, all 54 Un-United States of Africa.

 1pm Aboisso (which I'm beginning to suspect is Abidjan) is now 11 Kilometres away.

1.10pm Arrive in Aboisso (definitely not Abidjan)
1.32pm Driver takes a fag break.
1.35pm We resume.
1.49pm Bonoua
2.08pm Still on the road.

 I'm pondering. Do I really have to do this all over again on my return to Lagos? If and when I do get into Abidjan, would I really need to stay over?


Cote d'Ivoire is my last stop on 5460 West Africa (Part 1). I would ordinarily book a First Class hotel and celebrate in style. However this West Africa leg has knocked me for six.

I'm feeling run down and home sick.

2.10pm Comoe Bridge & Laguine Eburie
 2.16pm Abidjan Signage


2.20pm This road says "Hello - My names Abidjan, I'm nearby. Not long now"

2.32pm Abidjan Aeroport
2.45pm Abidjan we hail thee! 

Arrived at Gare de Bassam

Bummed around the Avenue du Stadu area till

I sensed an air of hostility when I asked an Ivorian money changer Cedis for Naira. My cue perhaps to leave. I'd seen and recorded enough.

3.10pm. Boarded rickety Danfo to Aeroport. CFA500

3.40pm Arrived at Aeroport Junction. Helpful Policeman put me in a Taxi straight to Aeroport on Aeroport Road CFA1000.

3.50pm Arrived at Aeroport Felix Houphouet-Boigny. Sugar! Oh boy, Air Cote d'Ivoire was closed... phew but opens up again at 4pm

Last flight to Lagos at 7.20pm tonight

I'm hoping............

4.15pm
204,100CFA bags me a one way ticket to Gidi. I skip out of the office, grab a copy of Le Gazette and celebrated conquering FIVE (5!) 5460 West African countries in FIVE DAYS with a bag of deep fried Chicken Wings and a bottle of Ginger Pop! I devoured the protein like a child possessed. Oluwashanu would've been proud as took no prisoners. I sent each one of those wings to its maker.... naked!

5pm I have to say, security at FHB was water tight. But check in procedure was pants! All passengers regardless of their destination were penned outside, caged in by our own trolleys. Lagos had more decorum and panache than this.

5.40pm I was through - Gate monitor screens. You kidding. Just find your way people.

6.44pm Waiting to board. Can't wait.
8.00pm Finally take off, 40mins behind

10.20pm (+1) Landed at Murtala Muhammed Airport and cleared within 10minutes.

10.40pm
Hysteria outside Arrivals. Fans awaiting the homecoming of Nigeria's own 'The Voice' competitor (Africa edition) had just emerged from South African. His adorning fans were in their droves all wearing bespoke T-Shirts bearing the proud runner-up name 'Cornell'. He was overwhelmed. I interviewed him and the head of his Homecoming Welcoming Party.

Friday 19 August 2016

Cairo, Egypt


08.40am
A couple of the kids wake up to bouts of food poisoning.

I think - it's not the food kids, but the kegs of excessive mineral consumption.

 Oluwashanu is still dreaming of a day across both Western and Sahara Deserts Quad biking. Maybe I'm a bit cynical but as I'm not as optimistic, I begin hatching my big design for tomorrow Saturday, our final day in Cairo.

Today was our penultimate and a lot was on the cards. We tripped into Giza Town Centre aka Giza Square with the Metro Station and Spaghetti Bridges welcoming us in with open arms. We circumnavigated countless bric a bra markets and walked for metres till we parched for drink and respite.

We were spotted by a Gasoline attendant who sympathetically guessed our plight. He ushered us into his backroom office inviting us to help ourselves to his crudely configured water machine. We politely declined. We stopped off at a side shack brimming with cold bottled waters and quenched our thirst.

On our way back to the bus terminal on King Faysal Street we pick up what we thought were personalised abbreviated key rings translated in Arabic. We were skipping as at the time - our purchases felt culturally astute and a rare find. More on that later. What was definitely refreshingly culturally astute was the fact that here we were in the middle of the closest modern metropolis for miles and not one fast food joint in sight, just tasteful and gourmet fantastic hole-in-the-wall eateries serving indigenous plates (this is where I find the kids hampering my 5460 style!) Very frustrating for the kids.

 Weaving our way back through the dusty cosmopolitan street markets I finally spotted my dream shopping item. I was in Jalbya

(pronounced Galebia) heaven. Spent almost half an hour haggling for four outfits, but eventually came away with three. I was a very happy man. I'm naming each garment an 'Oyebade' - after my good friend and extraordinary music composer, the Late Oyebade Dosunmu - who passed at a tender age just under a year ago in Ibadan, Nigeria.


The significance being, the Jalbya

(a Nigerian version) was my last 'parting' gift to the great man - it remained a major talking point whenever we conversed. So I'll always wear them in his honour!

The kids were now flagging especially little man Shayo - Shade suggests we head for a franchise halfway across Al Ahram. Her idea meets grand approval but as we make haste towards the bus terminal a deranged Danfo driver almost put an abrupt end to our near perfect and tranquil day.

Hamlets along the way to Lome included Cococodji and Tori among others. As we passed the Toll Gate and Kpota it was home time at a French Primary School (Must find out if 'Ecole' is a French warning for 'School children crossing'). We journeyed passed Adijigo, Baapa, Lac Aheme. Matekpo, Heve, Hound Johundji, and Post De Grand Popo.

Between Cotonou and Togo border - and 3 hrs of travelling, we encountered only one police road checkpoint. Just one! Nigeria are you reading???


Monday 1 August 2016

Takoradi, Ghana to Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire


4.15am
Wow! Cannot believe I'm almost there.

Ivory Coast is within touching distance.

God and Angels has been terrific! 

 SSS'd, Banana Breakfasted and Blogged before waving farewell to Amenla Hotel and heading towards Busumakura and Obetsebi Lamptey Blvd.

Hit Takoradi - Tema Station (Elubo) at 6.20am. Spotted the first and only direct Takoradi to Abidjan bus. Geezer (Abidu) must've seen me coming and wanted 85GHC (I think the going rate is 55) I stuck 60GHC in the palm of his hands and he was eternally happy. Topped up with MTN Ghana (10GHC) and had my first hot coffee in 5 days. Boy Takoradians love their sugar.

 Time now was 7.40am. With time, never trust an African in Africa. Abidu guaranteed me we'd be leaving at 7am! We finally left the Station for Ivory Coast at 7.55am.

9am Reached the Hamlet of Ndatiem, one of multiple Police check points along the way.
9.10am Ankobrah, a very muddy Beach Resort. Whatever happened to Axim?

10.03am Arrived Elubo interchange
10.50am Still here......

11.21am We leave and arrive at Border within seconds!! What all that time? We could've walked across countries ages ago.

11.39am Smooth departure from Ghana.

All papers checked and done. The lead officer goes '1,000CFA' I go "Nah mate don't even try it. I'm a retired Professor from Legon University, we teach our undergraduates never to perpetrate the canker worm eating into the very fabric of this great country. No cash my friend. I'm done ". He waved me on. Didier Bunter was waiting for me on the other side.

12.19pm Now unusual for most borders, the annexing Cote d'Ivoire entry point was a taxi ride away. Huh?

12.25pm My 'professorship' didn't wash with the French Cats on this side, the hungry meows. They cited the 'Virginal' Passport line. 1,000CFA. I chucked 700CFA on the table. Eastwood would've be proud at the speed at which he drew his stamp. "Pheam! Take it”

12.29pm
Emerged into the daylight of Cote d’Ivoire. Couldn't believe the long line of travellers on foot waiting to have their Passports stamped into Ghana. Unreal.

 Bunter was now stuffing his face with Chicken and White Rice. I was being tailed by a motley crew of hustlers - I'm cool with that. I no be small boy but they were becoming aggressive bwoy! I looked one straight in the eye and yelled "Kuro ni waju mi jo!" (Get the hell outta my face in Yoruba).

 To my utter surprise they did. Bar one. "Babaaa, ewo le se, baba mi?"

With feigned reassurance I responded "Moun bo, moun bo" (I dey come) Yeah right!

 By this point Didier was being surrounded by tens of 'subcontractor' taxi drivers. Of course Bunter had no intent of driving us to the capital.

He plied myself and two young Ivorian ladies into a selected cab, settled the driver and waddled off. The driver was slow off the mark and was besieged by the vicious looking French area boys. It was the driver's big payday and some boys wanted their favours repaid. 'Mazda' (the make of his car) took forever paying his dues but at 12.30pm we finally finally got away. Signage says - Aboisso 53 kilometres away - no idea what that means.

I'm going to Abidjan mate.

Thursday 18 August 2016

Giza, Egypt


8am
A much more coordinated morning. 

Children up early and at Breakfast with a customary poolside surf before hitting the poolside for a dose of swim and sun.

In the afternoon we boarded a Danfo heading into Central Giza (Giza Square) along Al Ahram. To play it safe (another clueless day as to where we were heading) we were not going to venture as far as we wanted to.

We aimed for 'Cairo Mall'.


A very jaunty ride which involved versing with the locals (on the whole, I found the average Giza Egyptian enormously friendly and very helpful). It was also a good opportunity to capture exclusive footage of Giza district life, an impoverished Cairo morphing into modernity.

On reaching the 'mall' - a dilapidated five storey block pleased in its own inimitable splendour, we disembarked hoping to discover a renaissance interior.


Much to our surprise each floor with each transitional albeit static escalator presented a bazaar of units selling old fashioned western-inspired attires 'Bagers & Shoses', eye-catching sequined Burkas, phone accessories and a plethora of fresh guava and enormous water-melons.


Our food court hunt was futile. Oluwashayo (youngest) was devastated.

We tumbled back into Al Aharam right into the path of a destitute Egyptian family who literally mobbed us with pleas for money.


Their five year old was particularly incessant and prompted my 'rage against the tactile' for the remainder of the holiday. (Why do these cats chase grab and molest you physically, why?) It is the touching which began to rile me and rile me it continued, including the middle-aged woman who literally chased us down the street and launched herself at Oluwashanu (eldest). He loved it by the way.

We broke for lunch at Mo Feeds, another wannabe Mucky Dee franchise - before continuing our adventure.

Elushade (daughter) up to this point on this trip, had been the centre of unnecessary attention. As a father I had no idea how awkward navigating the constant stares and blatant woof whistling from menfolk would become. Of course she was dressed inappropriately and

boy did Giza tell us all about it!

 Her older brother unbeknown to me had been full of vexation.

Elushade is pretty mature looking for her age (and would later be referred to as my wife towards the end of our trip).


We both should of thought through her dress code a bit more responsibly during the first few days of the vacation. But now we had endured enough notoriety and wanted to alleviate the stress. So we trekked at breakneck speed to a chain clothing outlet (Shaaban) to pick up a long flowing skirt

(I wanted a Hijab and the full Burka for her personally). The difference thereafter was clear. And breath.

 We shared a bus stop bench with Mohammed a friendly undergraduate who spoke impeccable English. 

During Supper our ears were drawn towards the rhythm of the most eclectic orchestrated percussion sound, coupled by a male choral cry which beguiled the listener. I abandoned my meal, grabbed my camera and rushed off to the lobby.

 What I witnessed was the first of six weddings hosted at the hotel over the remainder of our time at Le Meridien. The lobby was completely transformed. The vast stairwell leading to the rooftop garden was lit in a dazzling array of lights.


The entire ballroom area was majestic in appearance! Majestic with an aura of regalia.

In the middle of it all stood the young betroth couple surrounded by a bevy of musicians, singers and various family members.

It was an extraordinary sight to behold.


I by default was now an uninvited albeit very appreciative guest an Egyptian wedding!

Saturday 20 August 2016
Giza Pyramids, Egypt

8am
Up early today - all excited as we rushed down to breakfast - our last!

As I hadn't experienced the much talked about pool, Oluwashayo and I made it our first stop before hitting the popular Giza Pyramids.

 We crammed into a small Danfo (local Volkswagon bus) and within seconds we were disembarking on the lay-by which led towards the Pyramids.

The lay-by was a Conmans primal avenue - the scams were legendary and stupendous to say the least! From 'I can drive you to the feet of the Pyramids' to 'the admission gates are a mile away but not with me for 5USD' - Ludicrous indeed as we were to find out in a matter of minutes.

Suffice to say we shunned all overtures.

The ticket office/entry gates to our destination was literally around the corner - there were various entry tariffs for the many landmarks and pit stops (all according to age categories and student privileges) all very confusing to be frank.

We purchased an all-inclusive package ensuring we were covered for the proximity to all three Pyramids, Museum and Sphinx. And we were in.

The scene ahead was simply majestic! A horse/camel ride would later bring us closer to the Plateau, Great Pyramid, Solar Boat Museum, Chephren and Mycerinus Pyramids, but what laid before us was the template of both Sahara and Western Deserts and I couldn't help feeling I was Lawrence of Arabia.

The Pyramids of Giza are the only surviving Wonders of the Ancient World and they remain mysterious even today. There are many theories as to why, when and how they were built, but so far not all these questions have answers. We took our time choosing carefully who to be our guide as there were far too many charlatans posing as official guides proving difficult to detect official tour guides - at one point I pour scorn upon an unfortunate tourist who wanted to tag along with us (apparently he was elated to stumble upon English speaking visitors as he had been desperate up to that point) how was I supposed to know??

 After parading the Great Pyramid of Cheops (Khufu: 2589-2566 BC) we settled for a genuinely charismatic tour guide with the cheekiest pair of camel and horse owners going;

Alhaji Mohammed and his cheeky young ward.

The next two hours of our lives, were no doubt the most exhilarating to date

Alhaji Mohammed explained how Cheops, the oldest and largest of the three visible Pyramids was built and by who (we video recorded his account of the Granite Alabaster Limestone). The Great Pyramid was built with 2,300,000 blocks weighing between 2.5 and 1.5 tons each. With the original limestone casing (now gone), it stood 146.6 metres (480ft) high. He told us that three chambers had been found inside the pyramid but they were all empty except for Cheops' Sarcophagus. There's a rumour of a fourth chamber filled with the King's treasure.

 Our tour package did not cover entry into the Pyramids as I had a hunch we'd be limited to what we could do inside i.e. photography etc. I also feared claustrophobia, lots of tourists and not a lot of oxygen. It was a good call.

Our deal with Mohammed and his chap was simple - two camels, a horse a day cart for 200EPs (all in). Both Oluwashayo (the youngest) and I settled for the carriage whilst the older siblings did the camels.

Our excursion on camel & cart back entailed a fascinating round trip along the Causeway from the Rest house, taking in the Boat Pits, Pyramids of the Queens and Mastabus of the 4th & 5th Dynasties. Observing from a distance Pyramids of Khafre (Chephren) 2558-2532BC and Mycerinus (Menkaure) 2532-2504BC plus the Valley Temple guarded by the legendary Sphinx. All worth it.

Mohammed's commentary was pretty comprehensive.

The Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops) is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza pyramid complex bordering what is now El Giza, Egypt.


It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact.

 4.30pm we finally arrived in Takoradi. We drove through Independence Ave before being dropped off in the city centre on Justmoh Avenue, one of three coach depots within walking distance of each other. Most cars and buses were heading back to Accra. On further enquiries I was directed towards the Takoradi - Tema Station along

Obetsebi Lamptey Blvd.

 Alas the last bus to Abidjan had gone. The Station master advised I jump on the local bus going to Ilubo, and then pick up a cab from there to Abidjan. Nah - it was getting close to 5.45pm and for the sake of sanity and security I was breaking my journey yet again. Tonight, Takoradi was mine for the taking.

I passed on a couple of costly hotels before settling for the modestly priced Amenla Hotel. Manned by Samuel, a softly spoken sanguine old man - he garbled inaudibly the tariffs (30-55GHC). I needed more cash and he pointed me in the direction of the "Black Market' via world renowned Market Circle Road. A friendly local spotted me and advised that if it’s the Mallam I was in search of, that I should be very careful. He then pointed out his favorite. His favorite who quoted 11GHC to N1K eventually swindled me out of 10GHC! Even Mallam be 419!

Left Lome (Togo) and Cotonou (Benin Republic) without the crucial third piece of evidence -

Save for images and immigration endorsements will suffice I suppose.

5460 West Africa (Part 1) Four Down One to Go


Aflao Car Garage

​​​​​As always we approach the point where there are no traffic lights, pedestrian or zebra crossings. Because in Cairo these things are non-existent.


We are stealth-like and cautious as we dash across King Faysal Street, literally all drivers (and as convention dictates in Egypt) slow down to assist our intention. Everyone except this totally demented chemically induced arsewipe who surges towards the family line at breakneck speed. The line panics - Shanu bolts successfully across to the other side. Shayo attempts to follow him but freezes halfway. Shade dashes back to the pavement whilst I lunge forward to save little man. The crazed Danfo brakes and screeches to halt inches away from my pot belly. Shayo is in shock. I'm in shock. The others are speechless. What happens next was unexpected. The whole of the vicinity round off on the driver. Cursing, shouting and spitting rage against his dementia. He shouts back and drives off. The family embrace with huge relief and I'm on my knees to little man with apologies. Appeasement was personified in KFC minutes away.
 
On our way back, we passed a high rise with a sniper posed at the top, his gun trailed on the busy street below. Then I noticed adjacent to every bank and hotel was a familiar phenomenon. I gasped and the guy who sat next to Shanu remarked in English, "It’s nothing". WoW!

Our host at the Chicken franchise was a lovely hospitable floor manager called Mashood.


It was Mashood who proceeded to tell us that the Arabic inscription on the key rings were translations for

Sally, Alice, Margaret and Freddie.

Shut the Front Door. More Appeasement.

Mashood not only gifted us with good luck charms and Egyptian page savers, he also proceeded to give us the English translation of our names in Hieroglyphics.

FEMI

F widely travelled
E white heart
M wisdom
I problem solver

SHANU
S independent
H diplomatic
A strong and powerful
N flexible like water
U economist

Enroute to Cotonou Garage Park, a teenage hawker enticed me with her laden of Ghanaian produce. Again it was the French charm - 3 packs of Gem biscuits for 1CFA. 3! 3! 3! With her, the Beninite honesty shone through once more. Gave her more than expected and was handed back the excess.

Took pictures of what look like an imposing Iyalode and child statue overlooking the food market where official city motorcyclists plied their trade. An approachable and friendly Copper took pictures of me against signage for a Police Station.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Al Elwahab, Egypt


A lie-in for the biguns - whilst Oluwashayo and I venture down to breakfast - another mediocre affair, little man does his customary scrambled pancakes. After we hang by pool.

Our first full day and out we go again into the big Egyptian unknown. Kids were agog with my exploratory theory. Never grab a taxi when you can hook a bus! "But Dad they said there are no buses going into town" "Oh yeah, watch me". I flag down a Danfo - "Where we going Dad?" Yeah, Papa- where you going?" Retorts the driver "I ain't got a clue, straight I suppose"

Half an hour, we're still heading out of Cairo. Kids asleep. We past signage for 6th of October City and within minutes we're driving past Dreampark (Cairo's No. 1 Theme Park) and huge monstrous Malls. All commuters disembark in the Centre of Al Elwahab another district of one way systems. To return we were to figure it all out when the time came.

Saturday 17 June 2017
Madrid, Spain to Algiers, Algeria

Be Patient!! 

Dropped in the middle of Accra, Kinbu P.W.D Yard. Tudu Station - cars and buses going to Lagos Mile 2 Agege, Mangoro, Ibadan and Abeokuta.

Other passengers in the car with me were a trio from Benin Republic.


The Muslim driver was loving his 107.5FM radio station while the dulcet tones of "Pure water, bottled water, mineral" and "Amora wa o taba ri wara" ruled the air as we were crawled through traffic outside FESTAC Town.

 Supper must've been Steamed Fufu wrapped in Plantain leaves. I'm still guessing but at 1GHC (must learn to call 'em Cedis). I also bought a bag of fruit - Pears and Bananas for a measly 3 Cedis (not the same, sticking to GHC).


As I retired for the night I realised I had exhausted all MTN Credit and Data on my phone.


I was now officially 'missing' - shut off and oblivious to the world at large. No-one I loved or loved me knew where I was or have any clues whatsoever of tracing me. This was a crazy thought but essentially true. I was all alone at the bottom of the Gold Coast. Not even a mosquito in sight.

Weirdly in my enthusiasm to 'conquer' another country, I erroneously jumped the Benin Post and proceeded on foot to the Togo frontier. Man took one look at my passport, took 500CFA from me, passed it to female colleague who then handed it back to me chuckling "Go back to Benin and stamp your Passport". Yeepa!

 Mad run yes mad run back through No Man's Land and a throng of travelling merchants. I passed my driver with his distinguished tribal marks now being cleared by Customs and heading for the Togolese welcome gates. Oh no!  How for do? "Baba! Baba! Moun bo!" I screamed - Baba's side window was fully wound up. Man was chopping away on his chewing stick and completely oblivious to my yelps. (He did reassuringly mutter to us that he'll wait for us on the other side) - I was now worried that 5 passengers had disembarked and I was the only one running in the opposite direction. But my major wahala laid way ahead.

 Well it wasn't that bad considering my current predicament - just another 2000CFA for an exit stamp in the jacket!! I whizzed back across to Togo immigration and got hit by another 2000CFA. Why not make it a hat trick with our friendly cad and cat at the sentry post?

Nah they wave me through.

Kwaku mentioned experiencing Accra's answer to London's Oxford Street, aptly named Oxford Street! So I did. Very cosmopolitan indeed. If only I could locate the Republic Bar (behind Frankie's) but I was bursting so I nipped into KFC to oblige. 


I was now officially in Ghana. Aflao to be precise and as one wotless man held my arm to say an officer wanted my attention - his eardrums must've shattered from my torrential set of expletives.
Akwaaba - From Francophone to Anglophone.

All which remains is the actual stylized picture of the object representing

the word as found in ancient Egyptian.
 We visit the Pyramids tomorrow.

Saturday 30 July 2016

Accra, Ghana


​​
At the Ghanaian entry point I spot three young camouflaged officers relaxing by the visa office

I asked politely if I could camera the Welcome to Ghana sign - they grant permission with glee and warned me not to heed any call from any unscrupulous un-uniformed individual once I pass customs (wish they told me about the final Pedestrian Checkpoint which laid ahead).

 



Incomparable the difference possession a bag makes. Bags attract attention and search brigades. But I had nothing to hide. "Go get your passport from Okada man stupid idiot!" Bellowed the man with the stick for barrier. I was swift.

Whilst the SS demonstrated honesty with a glint in their eye, my fixer remained an ignoramous - he even asked the Okada for a cut.

Okada man was completely bereft and after he dropped me off. I gave him N600 for his steadfastness. He stood by me. My 'ordeal' could've been worst so I considered him an angel.

Welcome to Ghana - land of Premium Shitto! Going to break my fast and Mulla you Gyal! (For those of you who are wondering - Shitto is a traditional Ghanaian dried fish sauce marinated with tomatoes onions and fiery hot peppers - do not play!)

At last I was able to pick up two newspapers certifying date and location.

Aflao (Ghana/Togo Border) rocks!

We finally left the border at 5.40pm.

Beautiful bungalow buildings surrounded by pristine lakes and chateaux on oasis - first impression of God's given country. By the way I've counted the word ensemble several times on different signboards.

Togolese soldiers man their checkpoints made out of pyramid of rocks and boulders - you have to weave and meander through them like an obstacle course. Crazy but fun!. Are there any skyscrapers or anything taller than two storey buildings in Lome?

It’s taken us 5hrs from Cotonou - now 6.35pm Lome is the land of industrial cement!

Hotel Sancta Maria. Beautiful beaches lined the beautiful beautiful coastline. Fontana Beach. Ibis. Assemblee Nationale, Frontier Ghana.

Must mention again the Lome coast line is sublime!
--------
Dropped at Lome Border with Ghana (Afloa) Garage adjacent to beach and literally and 5 minutes’ walk to the Togolese Ghanaian Border.


Car park bombarded with touts / money changers/ Sim card replacers’ etc Tunnel vision marshalled me through and headed straight to a seated money changer. I'm in good hands. The rate similar to Cotonou CFA1,600 -  N1. Did another CFA19,200. Any hotels nearby?  He pointed to the tallest building breaking into the non-existent Afloa skyline. In the distance Hotel Hokaa loomed.

I thanked him.


I made my way to the beach to soak in Mother Nature and engage in beach football and fish net trawling. My bag had been differentiated in Cotonou with a used pure water sachet knotted into the bag's lapel.


Noticed De first Nigerian restaurant. 

I checked into a single ensuite room at Hotel Hokaa for CFA9.

Being on the border meant that nightlife was prolonged into the morning, considering the hotel was boxed in by the beach border market and the buzz of the many West African restaurants lining the coast.