Surviving the Sun in Accra

My Adventures Living & Working Abroad in Ghana

2 Visas, 9 Times through Customs, 11 Stamps & 3 Countries in 3 Days

This past weekend was hands down one of the best so far on my adventure to West Africa this summer. After packing in the dark on Thursday night (loosing power is no anomaly around here anymore), Collin and Theresa and I headed out first thing Friday morning. We met up with a new friend (Emma) and hitched a tro-tro to the eastern border town of Aflao. Once in Afloa, we went through our first of many rounds of customs and walked across the border into Lomé, Togo.


Lomé is far from Accra in every sense. There are sidewalks without people hawking wares, streetlights (although I’m not sure they are actually used), very few vehicles aside from motorcycles/taxi-motos and GARBAGE CANS — What a revolution! This capital city is located on the ocean, similarly to Accra… however Lomé hasn’t turned its back on the water the way that Accra has. In Accra, the downtown core faces away from the ocean and the beach is filthy with garbage and fecies. In Lomé however, the main street runs the length of the water and the beach is littered instead with incredibly fit people out for runs.


Most of our time in Lomé, aside from riding taxi-motos, I’m a bit ashamed to say, was spent eating! After living in an old English colony for the past two months, travelling into an old French colony was sooo amazing. Three words: ‘French-Bread-Everywhere!’ …enough said. Oh, and though I’m not much of a coffee drinker, the rest of my crew couldn’t get enough of real coffee instead of the instant Nescafe that plagues Ghana. After a supper of homemade pesto gnocchi and dessert crepes, followed by an evening at our hotel listening to live music, we hit the hay early. I was truly disappointed in the morning when we decided to move on to Benin but also interested to see how another old French colony would compare with Togo.


And oh how there was a lot of compare and contract! After only a couple of hours in a bush-taxi, we hit the Togo/Benin border and went through yet again more customs. Arriving in Cotonou, Benin near noon, it was quickly apparent that this city is by far the most chaotic, insane and crammed city I have ever been to. The streets are literally swarming with cars and motorcycles and you really expect to see an accident every 30 seconds. Unfortunately, we had no idea where we were going and were dropped off at a pier beside a fish market. Although it was interested, it was definitely not where we were supposed to be, but we had no idea how to get to an area with taxis. Luckily for us, we met a very nice local who led us, with all of our bags, through the winding alleys of an enormous market to the other side. The market was so organized and structured and can’t be described as anything else than absolute organized chaos. The aisles in this market were twice as wide as those in others, and were even paved. Shops were crammed together in an endless line of umbrellas, scrap wood and sheet metal, but each area of the market was designated for a specific item (example: fabric section, men’s dress shoes etc).


Cotonou is the capital of Benin in every sense but name, and it a relief to escape it as we headed to Ganvie. In Ganvie, we spent the afternoon touring a stilt village which houses more then 17,000 people floating in the middle of a lake. Ganvie is claimed to be “the Venice of West Africa”… and I’ve been to Venice… and other than the whole stilt idea, they couldn’t be more different. The romance and crumbling architecture wasn’t exactly there… instead it was replaced with shacks and fishermen and the most lively funeral procession I have ever seen. It was held as a celebration with loud music and women dancing in bright African fabrics on wooden boats paddled along the canals. There was a floating market area where we bough bread and even a floating mosque. *Oh, and did I mention that there were no pigeons? Venice should take note of this!


After a very arduous trip involving an argument in French with a taxi driver who was trying to take advantage of us because we are foreign, we finally arrived at our hotel in Ouidah (a town 45 minutes away) and thankfully, notably smaller than Cotonou. Sunday morning we went for a walk along “le marche des esclaves” which was one of the dominant slave routes which were used during colonial times. All along the walk towards the beach, the road was dotted with voodoo shrines. Voodoo, in its original sense (not the Hollywood version), is the primary religion in Benin and originates from ancient nationals of the country, later spreading to Columbia and Haiti through the slave trade. The voodoo statues mark different aspects of voodoo life and there are a number of snakes and animals included.


By early morning, we had to begin making our way back home, so we caught a bush-taxi to Lomé and stopped for lunch with a group of travellers we met in Ouidah. After one more delicious French style meal, two scoops of sorbet and a chocolate-filled croissant for the road we caught taxi-motos to the border and walked through customs for the second last time before arriving back in Accra.


All in all, the weekend was amazing but very rushed. It was a great opportunity to experience other countries in West Africa and see the contracts between the different results of English and French colonization. It was refreshing to speak French again, eat pasta and French bread, ride taxi-motos everywhere with the wind in my hair, and take a break from the constant yelling of people hawking goods on the streets of Accra. It was great to see, but I’m happy to be back at home in Accra. It’s hard to believe that in less then five weeks I’ll be boarding a plane to head home to Canada.






  mom wrote @

glad to hear of another great adventure…….Canada is going to seem so tame after so long in Africa!

  Sherwin wrote @

Your passport is going to be chock full of stamps by the time you are done with it.

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