One day and half of cycling brought me to the Togolese frontier. It was quite a busy road from Accra to Sagakope. After crossing the Volta river with it wide green basin there were chains of villages. Near to Togo border life bust out again a dense populated small urban which increase on Togo side.
The formality and order of things end when I cross the rope to Togo. Immigration officers they were quite happy, cheering themselves with liquors. It was fun that they kept on guessing the first Tanzanian president without success and didn’t click on their brain when I mentioned him.
The life on this side was vibrant, beach where lively with music and bars. There where also a smell of, that ‘still forbidden herb’ on the air, it was like entering ‘Togo Libre’. Both Togo and Benin are touristic in the coast, they receive good number of visitors from their two neighbors; Nigeria and Ghana.
The festival of ‘Valentine Day’ which I saw in Accra was in the continuation here. In that red nigh in Accra restaurant where flooded, bars full and extended in the streets. Every one seem to put on new dress. The commercial advertisements demonstrate how whole Memorial Day is commercialized. And here where the fast moving globalization, people trying hard to share the common global values.
Lome start just soon from the border and will finish about 50km before Benin border. It stretch bit more inland. I meet with old friend who was arrived in Lome from inland Burkinafaso. His stories where implying that Togo exist in the coast,inland is almost forgotten.
I was informed that the Benin visa was to be granted at the border just as Togolese. I found out that to be ‘no’ just after few hours of cycling form Lome to the border. Friendly and gentle immigration office said that is not problem, he will send my passport to Cotonou, the capital and I can peak it up when I get there. At small crowded room hot like hell, the new was broken ‘I’ll be fined for not observing Benin immigration laws’. It took me more that 6 hours to be served. I tried to resist but tired officer who she is serving more that 3 people at one time she through my passport aside.
There is influx of foreigners in Benin just like most of other African countries. I queued with; Indians, Pakistanis, Lebanese, Moroccans, Chinese, French, etc. Well, I assume the former ‘Marxist’ country has something to offer to all these souls.
In this region I’m overwhelmed with the prices of visas and tedious process, from Morocco to here is 12 countries, all require paper work and sometime senseless interviews. I think like most had that imagination that Africa exist in the whole as it people ofter called or claim ourselves to be ‘African. But West Africa have challenged this notion; Is that physical description or because of the physical features we share? I think we share more closer ancestors than we are divided.
The division is far too deep, it is an assimilation which is still practiced well till today. Yes, there are certain occasion we share and understand each but that is only small and limited bunch mostly consist literate who are able to see beyond these ill inflicted boundaries.
African leaders after the brutal death of euphoria and optimism accompanied by dream of United States has manage to do little to break through boundaries which was imposed upon the continent. West Africa within 16 countries their citizens at least can move around with less hindrance. Within this ECOWAS bloc there are achievements and more on plan like one currency, etc.
In this recently travel, I feel like even us called ‘Africans’ it is like our existence in this continent is a historical distillation, partly desire of being whole but also projection or fiction which we share with the rest of the world. As I made my way from outside to inside, I think of what this continent, it people mean to the outsiders? What it have contributed to world? There is no argument with the historical facts, that is clear enough. It is still a continent of untapped natural resources and possibly a space of infinite possibility.
In general, I just remembered the stories I was told in Latin America, the understand of North America and fast growing knowledge of Europe to replace the older one. Still the continent is just partly known to outsiders. But how much to it natives?. And Africans I meet; artists, football players, street hawkers in Spain. Well, it all thoughts and observation from the saddle of bicycle.
The Benin immigration with no mercy fined me $105 excluding the visa. Because of their overnight changers and luck of recourses they are overwhelmed with numbers of visa demand. I have to wait for 2 days for my visa before start what seem to be tedious process for Nigeria visa.
The most notable thing in cycling in Togo and Benin is the colorful dress. It is common to see multi color in Africa but I think Togolese and Beninois are most colorful dressed African I have seen so far.
I saw off my friend who already have got his visa for Nigeria. In this fare well is when the reality of cycling in Nigeria reveal. ‘I’m real going to cycle to Lagos?’ he asked. Beninies can’t understand why would someone go to Nigeria just live apart cycling to Nigeria. My friend Russlan from Ukraine he have been unrest since the change of the protester in his native country changed. He decide that he will fly from Lagos to back home and joined the movements.