May 13, 2010
Hotel: Hotel Bourgogne, Natitingou, Benin
A LONG day of travel planned today, covering over 400 kms north to Natitingou (Nati). We went back to the maquis where we had dinner, the book had mentioned that a Belgian tourist had taught the chef how to make crepes. They were delicious with homemade mango jam, yummy!
Our guide Marc picked us up on the moto-taxis for the ride back to Bohicon.. this is where the main north-south road passes. We bought a bus ticket around 9:00AM and waited.. and waited as bus after bus arrived from the south (but not our bus). Finally our bus arrived, only to have no seats available.. that was one problem we were worried about as the buses start in Cotonou.
We managed to get on anyway and sit in the aisle on some jerrycans, leaving around 10:30AM. The road was good all the way to the north, but we hit a huge traffic jam around 11:30 near the town of Dassa that cost us a few hours. It was sweltering on the bus as we sat motionless in traffic, my shirt just soaked in sweat. Finally most people got off and walked up to the next intersection where we were able to buy some drinks and some cold packets of water.. these are ubiquitous in west Africa, small 6" square packets of filtered/purified water. Some books say they are ok to drink, others not.. so to be safe we would just use them to cool off. Most are sold cold, so just holding it against your neck or forehead really helps to cool down!
The bus finally made it up to the roundabout where we boarded and took off up the less-traffic road to Savalou.
Pounding fufu, Benin
. we're still sitting in the aisle but luckily people start getting off the bus and we are able to get seats for the rest of the trip. Arrived just before dark in Nati, and walked up the two blocks to the Hotel Bourgogne. We'd been hot, sweaty all day and hoped to get an aircon room.. but none were available! We saw our first tourists here, supposedly they were also visiting the Pendjari Park. Before we left the US, I had contacted a couple of guides via email to arrange transport to/from the park.. I'd already made arrangements with one of them. When we checked into the hotel, there was a kid waiting there with my email address; I assumed it was someone from our arranged guide. Turned out it was the 2nd guy, so it was a bit confusing when both of the guides then showed up! The 2nd guy thought we were trying to get a better price, etc.
Well we were, a bit.. always good to have options.
Well as it turned out the guide I'd arranged with wasn't even in town, he was in the park. So the driver would take us to the park in the morning, we saw he had a decent vehicle.. a Land Cruiser apparently once owned by someone from New Jersey.
Apparently water gets cut off in the early evening in Nati.. I was just able to have a shower but it was turned off by the time my friend wanted his. Also the light was burned out in the bathroom. So he wasn't much in a good mood by that point. Dinner at the hotel was pretty good, grilled Zebu steak with haricot verts.