It feels great to update the travel section of this site once again. After one year and seven months, I left the shores of Nigeria.
I joined a group trip organized by Elrom Holidays to Benin Republic, along with one of my favourite travel buddies – Tunji. This wasn’t my first time visiting the country. I was there in 2007, on a Faculty Excursion during my undergraduate days. It’s long been my desire to revisit the country after I actively started traveling in 2017.
I had sworn off land borders when it comes to cross Country travels, after my not-so-pleasant ordeal at Immigration in 2018, when we took a night bus from Uganda to Rwanda. All that was a distant memory when I hopped on the trip to Benin Republic after getting travel motivation for months from Mark and Elohor.
It was only when time began to pass while undergoing immigration formalities at Seme border I remembered I had said I wasn’t going through any land border again. That’s the thing about travel, we make decisions when facing inconveniencing situations on a trip, but once the moment passes, the traveler in us forgets and we find ourselves right back there again. Anyway, this land border experience wasn’t anything close to that of Rwanda, at least we were not out there in the cold at night for hours.
Road travel remains my favourite mode of travel. I have been craving a long ride where I’ll be able to have an extended moment with my thoughts, explore music albums I haven’t had the chance to listen to properly, and also enjoy the bliss of falling in and out of sleep as the vehicle moves.
One thing I knew for sure, was, I wasn’t going on any international trip without getting at least, the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. I had my shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine a week before the trip. That was about a month ago and I’m still healthy, so if you haven’t taken it, I encourage you to.
The tour was three days, five nights trip over the Easter break. For the first night, we lodged at La Casa Del papa. We got there early evening, so there was enough time to check-in, shower, and take a walk towards the ocean.
The seaside room is highly recommended over the lakeside room view, though it costs more, it’s worth it.
There was a buffet later that evening but I skipped it. I instead took in the evening air by the ocean, taking a well-deserved rest after the day’s road trip. La Casa del Papa is beautiful, both during the day and at night.
The following morning after the complimentary breakfast, I went kayaking. Funny how what I could easily do in 2016, became an uphill task for me. Tunji had to put me through the basics of kayaking before I eventually got a hang of it. I think the trick is to relax and take it paddle by paddle, the strokes going in opposite directions of where you want to go.
Well, one thing no one tells you about kayaking is, your shoulder is going to hurt. I don’t think I will be doing this exercise in a long time to come, except of course I’m placed in the middle and I don’t have to paddle. Resting in the boat while it floated was quite peaceful and enjoyable.
After Kayaking we checked out of La Casa Del Papa. We left Ouida and headed to Python Temple. I didn’t go inside as I’m not a big fan of snakes. The closest I got, was the statue where we took group pictures.
I’m all for adventure yea, but see ehn, I strongly advise that one should stick within what’s comfortable for the person. No peer pressure. Like Kizz Daniel sang – nor go dey do pass yourself. The same persons you want to please will be the ones laughing and trolling you when shit goes south.
I humbly took a walk to the Art Gallery across the street. Though I mostly did this to pass time while the others indulged themselves with putting snakes across their necks. (We were supposed to visit the Door of no return but it was under reconstruction at the time.)
From here, we went to the shopping mall where surprisingly almost all goods are imported from France. You can read up on the weird relationship Benin Republic has with her colonial master – France.
This finally gave me an idea why things were relatively expensive when compared to prices of similar items as obtained in Nigeria, even though their currency – West African CFA franc exchanged with the Naira at N1000 to 1,140 CFA.
After the mall, we checked-in at Paradisia hotel. Later in the evening we went to a restaurant (Yaro) recommended by Elohor. I’m also recommending the restaurant to anyone who visits Cotonou. The food was amazing, especially the fried chicken.
Apparently, you need to order your food like an hour early when in Benin Republic as meals are freshly prepared. Someone said she will be ordering just fries since they prepare it from scratch. Then someone responded that does she know if that’s when they go to uproot the potatoes? LMAO
The following morning we headed for Bab’s doc, where we had to take a speed boat through a mangrove. The ride was enjoyable though short.
I spent my time on the doc relaxing. I rested on a hammock for most parts of our stay there, while others engaged in various activities like games and sailing.
We retired to our hotel for a well-deserved rest. Later that evening we went to a beach lounge opening – La Plaque by Code Bar. I had a swell time here, enjoying the cool weather and Nigerian music the Dj kept playing all through the night. The food was amazing, though it was a bit of a challenge getting the Chef to focus on my order.
Even though we got back to the hotel late, we still had the energy to bond over games in one of the rooms. We played ‘Never have I ever’ till about 2 am. Thanks to the alcohol, my extroverted self was fully present and I enjoyed myself.
The next day was the return trip to Nigeria, back to reality.
I’m glad I listened to Elohor when she said we should go to Benin Republic. This trip breathed life into me. I was happy and in travel high. A needed change after struggling through the first quarter of the year.
What’s that they say again? Travel as much as you can. As far as you can, as long as you can, Life’s not meant to be lived in one place.
Here’s to more trips in 2021 even as the world fights to win the battle against covid-19. Please get vaccinated if you haven’t.