We got up at about 05h30 and left for the border by 06h15. The drive through was uneventful, though we noticed lots of signs about stopping child trafficking, which was a shame. The border post was tiresome and protracted. On the Benin side the guy wanted us to give him 10,000CFA each to exit the country. I told him we had already paid for the vehicle and had paid for visas, but he said this was different. Pat felt we would just have to pay, but I said I would go and speak to Michael. Michael went over and after a lengthy discussion and transcribing of all sorts of irrelevant details we eventually we left without paying - surprise, surprise! Then it was the Nigerian side...
They tried to tell Michael there was a problem with our visas and that he needed to pay extra. So the bribery and corruption begins... Michael took the same polite, patient steps as always and the first I knew about any potential problem was when he arrived at the car asking for $5. Frustratingly, by the time he got back to the guy, Patrick had already paid him 50 Euros! I sat in the car with Togo during all of this, because she was feeling agitated. Then she needed the loo and I had to take her out the car which I wasn't keen to do as I didn't want to give them any excuse to ask for more money! After all the annoying and protracted bureaucracy we were ready to leave, pleased to get the first hurdle over with.
Then all the checkpoints began. We were extra friendly to everyone and waved as we approached each checkpoint. It seemed to work well and in general the police (of whom there were a number of different types) were friendly and not too insistent about 'souvenirs'. We also encountered one opportunistic "traffic warden" who told us we had committed a traffic offence by stopping where a load of other vehicles were stopped (so we could confirm directions). He said we would have to go with him to the office (some distance away) to fill out forms and pay a fine and he asked what we were going to do about it. We of course apologised and said we hadn't intended to do anything wrong and said we were more than happy to go all the way to wherever it was, then some locals started telling him how much he should ask us for so we took the chance to drive off while he was in discussion with them - damn cheeky!
There were 16 checkpoints within the first five kilometres following the border and so it continued until we got to Benin City. The roads were an absolute nightmare! On the motorway people just decide to drive on the opposite side toward oncoming traffic for a number of reasons - the road condition on the other side is poor, there is less traffic so they can drive faster, they need to drop someone off or collect passengers...
Diesel was scarce - we pulled into the first fuel station and then only when they were ready to pump in, did they tell Michael it wasn't 26 Naira a litre, but 50! Annoyed that they were trying to rip us tourists off - we left! The story was the same at all the other stations we stopped at, or else they had no diesel at all. We ended up paying 45 Naira a litre and having to donate them a piece of rope as a pulley to get the pump started!
A hundred kilometres or so from Benin city we got a very fast puncture just as we were overtaking a timber truck. Somehow we had picked up a big bolt (half an inch by about 4 inches) that had been lying in the road. It had been pushed right through the middle of the tread, but we have no idea how it got trapped by the tyre, unless it was in a piece of wood or something.
With all the checkpoints and the hazardous driving conditions, we made slow progress and despite vehemently agreeing that we did not want to drive at night, we only reached Benin City at nightfall, so we had to negotiate the unsignposted streets in the dark, along with all the other vehicle, human and animal traffic. I managed to navigate our way to the Hotel Edo where we took one room for Pat and Glen to sleep in (rather them than me - it was pretty grimy) and Michael and I stayed in Nyathi, along with Togo.
Glen and Pat went for dinner at the restaurant, but Michael and I decided sleep was a higher priority. We had a shower, I crawled into bed feeling quite sick and Michael went to join the guys for a quick drink, which turned out to be a not so quick drink...
We had another early start despite the fact that I felt absolutely dog tired because last night was filled with awful interruptions. Michael came to be quite late and when he opened the hatch into the tent the most awful smell wafted up! Togo had been sick and pooed everywhere, purging a whole lot of large, 20cm worms at the same time! I obviously hadn't heard her crying with all the rain. I was feeling pretty rough and Michael wasn't too much help with a few beers under the belt. It took an hour to clean everything up and the poor dog was looking really sorry for herself. We blocked up the back cabin so she couldn't crawl onto the seats and thankfully she slept until the morning.
We travelled solidly stopping only for some fuel (for which we had to pay 45 Naira a litre), some altercations with the police and other thieving 'officials' and to let Togo out to have a pee. She slept almost the whole day on my lap and she looked really worse for wear.
We had two very unfriendly encounters with some 'local council' men. The first bunch shouted and waved at us to stop and tried to throw a nail spike board under Glen and Pat's tyres. The second lot were a lot more hassle and had the whole road blocked off. They told us we needed to pay 11,000 Naira ($90) as a road tax. We refused saying it did not apply to tourists and told them to remove the nail spike boards from across the road. They refused to budge and started getting quite aggressive and then so did we. After much arguing it ended with Michael walking back to the police checkpoint we had just crossed, to get someone to come and arbitrate! Unfortunately the policeman wasn't too friendly either, but Michael buttered him up a little and he spoke to the other guys and told them to let us go. Yes - a result! Tourists-1, Bribery and Corruption-0.
The road conditions also deteriorated somewhat, which slowed our progress...
Just before dark we came to a pre-border immigration checkpoint about 60kms from Ekok. They gave Michael a really hard time about our visas, saying they weren't correct and that we couldn't exit the country with them etc. etc. Pat had a go at them, telling them it was all to do with money. He said we simply wanted to find a place to camp, have something to eat and get ready to cross the border the next morning. They continued to have long discussions while I took Togo for a walk.
They said we should stay at the checkpoint and we said we would. So we pulled up the two vehicles alongside the road next to the checkpoint and set up camp. Pat was absolutely fuming and crawled into bed without eating. I made life a little difficult for the checkpoint chief (Prince) by asking him where I could use the toilet that was private. He simply asked one of the nearby villagers if I could use their toilet and he led me in the right direction (with Michael in tow). Then he just pointed out across the bush and said, 'you can go anywhere here'. I protested that I hadn't brought a spade with me so would have to go and fetch one. He said not to worry everyone just goes anywhere they like - no wonder everyone is riddled with disease! Michael had a quiet word with him and said he understood that Prince was being as hospitable as possible, even though it wasn't his duty. Prince said he appreciated it and that in the morning we could just be on our way and if we had any problems at the border we should ask for Mr Terry, who was the chief there... Another result! Tourists-2, Bribery and Corruption-0.
The locals were all gathering to watch us settle in and I began to make a cold dinner of tortilla wraps with tuna and sweetcorn and pineapple and ideal milk for dessert. The next thing is an AK-47 is fired into the air. Needless to say I nearly 'sh-t' myself, as did all the villagers who fled at the warning shot to leave us in peace. We explained tactfully that it wasn't necessary and that the villagers were just naturally curious. They clearly don't have to account for their ammunition. They also cocked their rifles when a truck driver didn't stop soon enough for their liking. Bloody bunch of cowboys! They also took to throwing stones at the villagers which we discouraged as well!
Michael and Glen went for a walk with some of the locals into the village for about an hour and I sorted out the camp, getting ready to move up the road a bit, which would be a bit quieter than right next to the road. Pat got up and complained that the police were making too much noise and that they should turn their music down. Which in fairness to them, they duly did. We moved up the road and it was much quieter, except Togo was violently ill again and pooed up even more worms than the day before - perhaps the reduced dose human worm tablets are working?