I know my trip track doesn’t make it seem possible that I may own a map, but I do, and it was telling me it was time to head south. I almost desperately wanted to head north and into the desert, but exciting parts of the coast were waiting as were a riding couple I had met in Namibia and wanted to see again before I moved on. Southward Ho!
The ride south to the coast from Niamey was a nightmare. After the turn off to the border the road started to turn into a potholed chore and the truck drivers turned into crazed maniacs. Bad driving is something of an art in Africa, with truck drivers being the unchallenged maestros. The main north-south road through Benin is the primary transport artery to much of the landlocked parts of western Africa, and though much of it is in decent condition, it is rarely wide enough to comfortably handle two passing trucks. Despite this, the drivers act like the baggage train from some horribly routed army- with the same predictable results. Along that relatively short road I saw more overturned trucks that were still clearing their the cargo from the road than in the whole of my previous ride through Africa. I was also driven off the road twice- something that had never happened before. By the time I hit the coast I was incandescent with rage- I truly don’t think I have every been as violently angry in my life (well, at least since I was in a highchair). Getting into the city traffic of Cotonou I quickly realised that I was in no condition to ride since even the rather normal silliness of city riding had me starting to use the size and power of my bike against other riders and drivers. Not in the normal way you have to just to get anywhere, but in an idiotic way that would simply lead to grief and roadside brawls. I took a break, got on my bike, got off and made the break longer, then was finally able to get back on the road.
Leaving the area of the city I started to look for some place to stay along the beach that appealed. After riding by just about ever kind of accommodation (and cursing myself for every silly excuse I made for not stopping somewhere) I hit a village called Grand-Popo and the perfect place. Not only did the name reminded me of a Bermudian band, The Secret Po-Po, it had a relaxed quiet to it that is so rare in Africa. I pulled into a auberge that was at the very end of the town road, had a bite to eat with more to drink than normal, and then collapsed on my bed exhausted. Waking up the next morning I had a glass of fresh ginger juice (trust me- that opens your eyes WIDE) and some toast before checking out the beach…
I immediately turned around and booked another night.