From Freetown, Sierra Leone, I flew to Cotonou, Benin. They’ve set up a tented medical facility at the airport for COVID testing on arrival. You take a rapid test to be allowed to leave the airport, and later you get the results of your PCR test. Since I was planning to stay only about 30 hours, I needed the VIP service to get results in 24 hours. More on that later.
I dropped my stuff at the hotel and was off to the massive Dantokpa market.
They LOVE motos in Cotonou.
I found a vegan restaurant offering take-out and at something that was like an empanada with potatoes inside plus a croissant. Weird combo, but they were the 2 most interesting items in the display case.
I walked until I was exhausted, caught a moto taxi back to the hotel, and then tried to figure out this shower.
Turns out none of the fancy-looking parts worked.
The next morning, I was up early, had breakfast at the hotel, and then walked to the mosque.
More walking took me past the national stadium and then back to the hotel for my tour to the Ganvié floating city.
The city originally started when the people fled slave-catchers who were selling Africans off to the new world. The armies of slave catchers couldn’t attack their lake village on horse, and they remained here even after the threat ended.
The city is MASSIVE. It really surprised me. They have everything here: gift shop, barber, mechanic for the boats, schools, even 2 districts with district presidents / elections. There are even 2 hotels!
I was super impressed by Ganvié, especially the little kids who effortlessly rowed their canoes to school.
Back at the hotel late in the afternoon, I checked out and was on my way out the door when this caught my eye in the snack shop.
I had NO IDEA that RC Cola had anything other than “cola” flavor. The orange was pretty good!
We passed the Congress building on the way to picking up my COVID test results before going to the airport. Remember my VIP service? Test results available in 24 hours, pick up from a facility right by the airport. Sounds easy, except it wasn’t. First, my results weren’t there. After about 30min of hassling them and them making phone calls, they figured out my results hadn’t been printed. An employee had to go to the lab and get them. When she came back, I needed my passport (they hold your passport for assurance that you’ll not go anywhere if you test positive). Now, they couldn’t figure out which box it was in.
Of course, the taxi driver taking me to the airport was irate that this was taking so long. Given where we were, it was still a bit far to walk to the airport, and this small side street was a guarantee that I’d never find another taxi if he left.
After a good 45-50min at the facility, I had my documents and was ready to leave. I gave the taxi driver everything I had left in West African Francs (which was about 50% again above the starting price). He wanted more, but I can’t give what I don’t have. I get his point that he could’ve gotten other customers during that time…
I had a hilarious time at the airport. When I checked in, my flight to Nouakchott, Mauritania first had a stop in Bamako, Mali. The check-in agent was REALLY surprised I was going to Mauritania. He asked a few times to make sure. Clearly, I was the only white person going there lately.
After going through passport control and security, I used my lounge pass to get some food in the lounge upstairs (this soda was HORRIBLE). Imagine my surprise getting a tap on the shoulder from my check-in agent.
“The boss wants me to confirm that you really want to go to Mauritania, it’s not a mistake.”
“No. I want to go to Mauritania, so I can visit every country. I know where I’m going.”
“But there are so many more beautiful places you can go. Are you sure?”
A few minutes later, he was back. I needed to go talk to the boss.
Since French isn’t my first language, they thought maybe there was a language barrier. The boss wanted to talk to me in English and see if I was confused. No, dude, I really wanted to go to Mauritania.
They let me go, and I got on the flight.
This was an ominous start to my next stop.This entry was posted in Africa, benin, cotonou