Published: February 7th 2007December 24th 2006
A road off the market in Accra
Along the walls there were signs that warned against urinating in public.
After realizing that I would be in Africa for 10 days, and that it would be mostly work without to much time to check the place out, I decided that I had to work some sort of adventure into our trip, namely driving from Accra to Lagos.
We landed in Accra on Thursday, and were supposed to be there until Monday morning when we were supposed to fly in to Lagos. Before we had left the states I had check to see the distance between the cities as well as if there was anyone else on the WWW who had done such a thing. After finding two such travelers I decided it had to be done, especially if I wanted to meet some of the bankers from all of those emails I get telling me I have 50,000,000.00 in Togo.
All of the expats and Israelis we spoke to strongly advised us against it, being that its the time of year with the most crime on the roads, but we were set on our adventure and it also helped that we had lots of luggage and no reservation on a flight, so on Sunday afternoon we went with our
The local housing situation, Accra
We did pass some nice new places, and the place where we stayed wasent to shabby either.
Notice that on the wall there are signs against urinating there. One of the biggest African National Pastimes that I noticed is to just wip it out and go, with no regard to where they are or who is around.
host to the Taxi market to try and find a driver, after to many middlemen we were introduced to a big tall Nigerian fellow named Dada who had a Volvo that supposedly had air conditioning, we got a price and told him we would call if we wanted him. our hosts manager made a few phone calls and he checked out well, so we booked him for 3:00 am.
We pulled out at 3:45 with the airconditioner humming away nicely towards the border with Togo. After about 40 minutes warm air started coming out and we figured that he probably had not used to AC in many years and was out of Freon, so we rolled down the window and enjoyed the breeze.
We arrived a mile from the boarder at 5:30 am and sat down to wait the half hour until it opened, I got out and wandered a bit. It looked like the usual shady border town (not that I would really know as I do most of my traveling by plane) with everything for sale and many shady characters lurking around. A few Muslim money changers came buy, but at the time we had no
The wait by the border
This guy wanted to arrest me for taking this picture.
idea how much we needed to change so we didn't change.
At 6 am we hit the border, skipped the massive line of locals trying to cross the boarder for trading purposes and went into a little hut where we filled out departure cards and got our stuff stamped.
We then went to the Togo side of the border.
There were a few steps leading up to this desk where this French speaking officer was sitting, a long line of traders was coming thru and handing him a small bribe, those who tried to sneak thru without paying were beaten and sent to the back on the line. The scene is best dicribed as organized chaos. Without the noise one could have heard the waves washing up on the beach not 100 yards away.
So we marched up smiling gave a bonjur and told him we needed visas, we then filled out these forms, paid 31 dollars a piece in the local currency and got our visas, we then got back into the car and say waiting for 15 minutes by the gate for them to open it for us.
Once on the other side
Changing money past the Togo border
Our driver is the big guy standing by the drivers door.
we stopped in a parking lot and changed some money.
In Togo we were only stopped 2 or 3 times by rifle wielding people in uniforms to make sure our car wasn't stolen.
traffic was a pain as there is only one road with 2 lanes each way that serves both the local and the express traffic, and without the air-conditioner it was getting a bit hot.
We got to the border with Benin after about 1:45, and went thru the process of getting exit visas which was accomplished by entering a little shack with a bunch of people in there trying to get their passports stamped for both entering and exiting. So after putting ourselves in a spot where they couldn't ignore us, they stamped our passports and we walked across to the Benin side of the border.
We sat down by the desk of the immigration people, when the nice guy told us that we should have gotten our visas in NY or Accra so he was sending us back... After smiling and asking nicely for a minute he smiled and gave us forms to fill out.
While they were processing our forms this
big black guy who must have been 6-4 came by and told us that had to talk to us right away, so we kindly explained him that he was being disrespectful to the border people, and that as soon as we were done with him would give him some of our time. While he went away to wait for us, we asked the border people who he was and what he wanted, they had no idea, so they called him over and asked him, our French not being that bad we picked up that he was upset with us over the treatment of the Arabs in Israel and wanted to share his mind with us, having heard that the three boarder people two of whom were 270 lbs females got up and started screaming at him that if he didn't leave they would arrest him and deport him.. after he left we all had a good laugh and one of the ladies mentioned that he probably was baking to much in the sun...
We got back in the car with our Visas, and I promptly went to sleep until the border with Nigeria.
We had been warned by
According to our driver, Togo dosent have much of a economy, and most of the people live in proximity to the beach.
It looked like a party town the entire way with bars and resturants and not much else.
everyone that Nigeria is the worst country in western Africa and its people are the same, so we were expecting some trouble. The trouble started on the Benin side, they wouldn't give us a exit visa without a bribe, so I pleaded poverty and pulled out my last dollar three times (for some reason I don't think they thought it possible we weren't carrying anything) and showed that I had nothing in the pockets so after 20 minutes we got thru.
We then marched down the platform to the Nigerian side, filled out forms and the head of immigration was happy to see us and got our stamps after showing how much we loved Nigeria by kissing the ground. We then moved down the line to the Health Department, Customs and another few that I don't remember what they were. We were only really hassled by one guy who wanted 5 dollars each, knowing that he didn't deserve it being that we had visas with us that we got in the US and our yellow fever cards were in order we settled for 3 dollars for both after I told my driver that anything more he was going to pay for himself.
We then entered Nigeria, after a few helpful people wanted money for helping us 'find' our car 50 feet down the road, we started moving, slowly.
Every 50 feet was another checkpoint, after being stopped and stopped and stopped again and again and again, the first 500 yards took us 30 minutes. Our driver was helpful and tried keeping it to a minimum being that it is dangerous out there. At our last stop in the border zone one of the bigwig undercover guys who everyone saluted leaned in the back and said he had seen me before and wanted to know if I was from Saudi Arabia, I smiled and kindly told him I was from NY.
We were then on the road to Lagos which is only 40 miles from the border, after about 2 minutes of driving we hit traffic what Africans call a 'go slow'. It was hot, it was sweaty and all of these interesting people are trying to sell you everything you could usually pick up in your local Wal-Mart and more. I was to tired to take pictures so I just looked around.
About 20 minutes into this 'go slow' we saw a major commotion between the lanes, a car was crashed into the back of a truck and four dead bodies lay on the side of the road victims of armed robbers in broad daylight in the middle of traffic on a busy street with thousands of people around. (The next day while we were in a office in VI we heard that twelve people were killed outside by armed robbers who were upset that the bank didnt give them enough money. The lady we were sitting with at the time had been in traffic then)
My companion was shocked to the bone at the sight of the bodies, and wanted to hire a armed escort on the spot, I didn't like the idea being that I don't worry about such things and they would have eaten up my space in the back seat. So we kept on going in this traffic, I went back to sleep for the next hour as we went thru the slums of Lagos until we got to Lekki Island (I think) where our host lived in a secure compound.
Total driving time was about 11:30, the 40 mile drive in Nigeria took 3:30.
Our driver does that trip every day in usually about 7-8 hours, but being that we are whites and don't have local passports we spent a extra 3-4 hours at borders and getting stopped.