On the run from Benin

Cotonou Travel Blog

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Photo looking down to a river, family living below...

Setting off this morning was riding into the damp mist, I wasn’t the only one to have the lights on for a change.  It wasn’t long before I meet the first pile of twisted metal of the day, 2 lorries each not giving way to the other meant a head on crash where they both sides lose (a pair of ejjits!) and leaving other road users queuing so it was off onto the sandy side of the road and around them.

The border was simple with the usual immigration/police/custom offices spread all over the place and then I was in Nigeria.  I had heard about guys using 3meter planks full of nails to stop road users and then ask for money, line your pocket tax.  There was enough room to zoom past them with the bike but had a couple of close ones when they tried to move the plank as I rode past, lots of shouting and waving of arms.  I had passed more then a dozen of these until I was finally stopped on a long up hill stretch, I weaved left and right but the guy moved the nail board to match me.  Let the fun begin.  Apparently they were waiting for me, one of the others had phoned ahead to warn them I had busted through.  I stopped the bike in the middle of the road and refused to move to the side.  These guys were not all young and some were older.  The guy started by saying he was some sort of immigration official so I asked him for ID, he showed me something but still I said I had cleared immigration already at the border.  I asked for the police and he pointed to a young guy with no uniform standing behind me was police, Pinocchio’s noise was getting longer!!!  I started arguing saying they had no uniforms and asked to see there IDs and weapons, they had nothing.  The shouting continued and one of the older guys got very angry shouting and waving his arms in front of me.  The other guy wanted my passport and I said no.  I told him I refused to hand it over to him but he could look at it as I held it, I pointed to my entre stamps and visa saying I was legal in the country.  All this took a while and I eventually moved the bike to the side of the road to let other traffic pass more easily.  Then he asked for a photocopy thinking I wouldn’t have one but he was wrong, he copied the visa details down as I held my passport, if I handed it to them they would demand money to get it back (I want to hold all the cards).  As he walked away I asked what now and he shouted back “Mr Robert you are a very stubborn man!  DO WHAT YOU WANT!”.  After that it was real police check point up around the corner, real uniforms, real guns.  Ran another few nail boarders after that and had one guy I thought was going to hit me with the big stick he was holding above his head but I opened the throttle making it clear I was going through.

Riding on the road I saw lots of closed fuel stations, loads of them!  There is fuel shortages in Nigeria and had heard about them.  Finding fuel was not that much of a problem though, actual price was about 30% more than advertised (skin tax?), it was time to get the calculator out and keep it with the wallet (people tried to rip me off a few times the days later in the trip for fuel). 

The first town I hit was Abeokuta another sprawling wooden and tin roofed town with narrow busy with people selling, buying and busy with traffic.  The bumper to bumper traffic was slow work and it was difficult to filter through, I was matching the temperature of the bike and longed for the rush of air as the sweat ran down my face (it was mid to high 30’s degrees).  Suddenly whilst crossing a small roundabout I was in the middle of a cloud of smoke from the bike, NO!  my first thought that flashed in my mind was FIRE! (electrics, fuel or oil)  I quickly switched off the bike and realised it was steam, well at least my bike wasn’t on fire!  Jumped off and quickly pushed it to the edge of the roundabout in the middle.  Then the mass of inquisitive faces surrounded me, 3 or four deep to start with and all staring at this crazy whitie.  I quickly found the cause of the steam, the water pipe to the engine had blown off, from the pressure of the heating bike I hoped.  Many questions was asked from the crowd, all curious and all amazed.  With my lid off I started to push the pipe back on and then secure the clip holding it.  The sweat was now in full flow, I had ditch my jacket for my motocross shirt days before which was much cooler but the heat on this busy road and from the bike was too much.  With the hose secured I looked for a place to sit and have a cold coke, with the help of my fans the bike was pushed across the road to where we both could chill for a bit, the bike needed to cool down before putting water back and I didn’t want to put cold water into a hot engine.  As I sat in this wooden shack on a wooden bench I was making a guest appearance and still the crowd in front of me was getting deeper the cars had trouble passing.  The main couple of people asked me the usually questions and she relayed the information to the crowd and I could see the amazement in their faces, some asked to confirm things.  Then I told them the list of the countries I travelled and the astonishment grew as I listed the countries one after another.  Had my photo taken by a couple of people and one woman said I should meet the President as he was in town and not to worry with some spray I would smell better (hahahahaahaa).  I filled the bike with water said my good byes and thanks.    

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Photo looking down to a river, fam…
Photo looking down to a river, fa…
Cotonou
photo by: mike1104