Just come back from over a month on the road. Here it is a panoramic and some tips to try starting to answer to the many questions I am asked.
The first question is always the same: why right there?
If you follow me, you know well how I choose my journeys, by now. And this one, too, perfectly followed the scheme: an advantageous flight offer, a place in the world never visited (in this case also quite unusual), a whatsapp message to Roberto and Valeria and…here it is…in few minutes the flight ticket was into our pocket.
But let’s start answering to the initial question: what to see in Ghana Togo and Benin? And why there?
What to see in Ghana Togo and Benin? Above all it’s an ethnographic journey.
People visit these places to see ancient people, primordial I’d dare to say, living really like we watch them.
They don’t do that for tourists benefit like it happens in many other parts of the world.
These are their houses, these are their habits, their lifestyles.
They have no conveniences, no running water, often they have no power…
It’s incredible to think that in the Third Millennium there are still people living like that.
From these considerations then endless thought ways open, but at the moment let’s them apart.
It’s certainly a journey that makes think a lot and over it it’s difficult to take off one’s mind, even if sometimes it’s the only thing to do. A journey deeply educational if you travel with kids, but perhaps it is also educational for adults.
What to see in Ghana Togo and Benin? In many areas of the coast it’s enough to walk at night on the beach to run into, maybe after even ten minutes like it happened to us, the turtles swimming up the ocean to lay eggs.
It’s an incredible emotion. And beyond description.
Only a piece of advice: don’t venture alone at night to the beaches. Always make you accompany by a local guide.
On the contrary early in the morning you’ll run into the very little turtles that, once broken the egg, run to the sea.
It’s one of the most beautiful scenes we had the chance to witness.
What to see in Ghana Togo and Benin? The clay houses realized like fortresses, the signs at the entrance to protect them, the drawings with complicated meanings.
The dusty roads to reach these villages, people and the omnipresent children asking for gifts and money.
In these villages life goes on slowly and sleepy, time doesn’t exist. Here people get up in the morning to arrive to the evening. It’s impossible to me to place myself even only for a week in this life.
Then the beautiful, great and huge baobabs with the fruits people consider so tasty. Unfortunately we didn’t like them at all.
To be honest it looked like to eat magnesia…but we are really happy to have tried!
What to see in Ghana Togo and Benin? Markets have their own charm and they are really unlike from one place to the other one and from one country to the other one.
The very good fruit and the very coloured and really cheap fabrics to buy and all their items to admire: we don’t know even what are most of them and what they are used for so we have to ask.
Valeria and I were bewitched by the coloured fabrics, even if, over the whole month, we didn’t agree about any fancy chosen.
What I liked, she didn’t like. And vice versa. Unbelievable!
Every market has its own soul and you’ll realize how they are unlike each other even few kilometres far.
The reason is they usually exhibit and sell local products, people are usually very permanent and so trade is less developed, too.
If you’ll cross an area where pineapple is produced, all the hundreds of stalls will sell pineapples and probably you won’t be able to find bananas.
This applies also for many products of the jungle (mango, papaw, tubers…), as well for the handicraft items.
Then if the market is on the sea and there are fishermen, it will be even more interesting.
In Ghana don’t forget to buy the wonderful glass handcrafted murrhines: they are got from any bottles people are able to get.
The final result is very impressive and if you’ll find the right place where to buy them, they are really cheap.
We did it at Cedi Beads’ in Ghana. A guided tour to discover everything about their realization and try to make them. And then a shop that, unlike many other places, had the intuition to increase prices for tourists by a smart way.
You know well I don’t love this kind of items and I just entered only to have a look around. At last they were so beautiful and they cost so less that I bought really a lot of them!
The lady running whole this is very clever and very kind: she will help you, will advise you and will give you a discount on the total amount.
Then at the markets you can always buy a rum bottle full of peanuts for about €2 and petrol from the transparent demijohn to test the very good quality before purchasing it.
What to see in Ghana Togo and Benin? In some areas of Benin, in the poorest areas, Voodoo is alive and well, like maybe we wouldn’t expect.
We were present at the Ouidah Voodoo International Festival taking place right in those days.
It’s something incredible and beyond description.
I thought it was a “buffoonery” by the description and the less info I got, on the contrary it is really a part of their culture and their lifestyle.
We saw incredible scenes, some of them literally turned our stomach, like when they cut the throat of a hen or a goat.
While this one is suffering terrible pains before dying, people lick the running blood.
Then people in a state of trance rolling in the sand, music and noise, multicoloured colours and dances that are unbelievable to us.
What to see in Ghana Togo and Benin? The safari park are certainly not famous, celebrated and full of animals like Namibia or Kenya are and in these areas it’s very hard to preserve the land. But the Pendjari Park in Benin deserves a tour.
Really many animals: elephants, hippopotamus, gazelles, antelopes, crocodiles…
…baboons, hyenas, jackals, lions, buffalos, warthogs…
You’ll be able to sight all of them in only two days of stay in the park.
My tip is to sleep inside the park and stay there at least 48 hours.
It’s not worth it to stay more and with less time you won’t be able to reach the northernmost part, where you sight more animals.
As well to sleep outside the park is not recommended due to the long distances and the long travelling time.
Practically the park seeks to preserve its own existence and the animals’ one, placing about 50km between animals and the last villages.
Considering the dusty roads and the distance, as well the fact a guided tour to enter it is strictly required, even if that will be no use (our driver sighted more many animals!), time widen out a lot.
Outside the park, too, you’ll sight several animals.
For example it will happen to run into “weird” animals along the road, like this armadillo sold by a boy who was trying to convince us to buy it since it is very sweet.
As well they sell bats (yeah, they eat those ones ,too, together cats and dogs) and mysterious grass cat. It took some days to us to understand what type of animals it was.
Practically it’s a sort of otter, very big mice with enormous eyes.
On the contrary, chameleons are often killed while they are trying to cross the road.
We were able to save this one…we hope for quite a lot of time!
What to see in Ghana Togo and Benin? The Gulf of Guinea beaches are those ones from which the slaves left towards the Americas to not come back.
Today you can admire several forts where slaves were stored, the doors of no return they crossed before to be loaded on board the ships, the sand roads, hot and sunny, which were crossed by them.
You can close to legends, myths, history.
The tree around which, with a complicated rite, men and women were made turned around to forget definitively whole what they came from.
What to see in Ghana Togo and Benin? The famous stilt villages are mainly two, similar and very unlike. One in Ghana, smaller, and one in Benin, Ganvié, which is really much bigger.
They are charming, as well the fishermen launching their nets, children (even really little) steering their boats alone hardly, women selling their products creating floating coloured markets.
Unfortunately the zoo effect is always just around the corner. Looking at the hospital we have to pass over the hygienic and health conditions, but the photos we take in these places are really unique.
What to see in Ghana, Togo and Benin? The huge artificial water basin created by a dam.
The water level is kept stable and many villages overlook the banks where life goes on calm.
You can reach them by canoe, visit them and even sleep inside them. With ability to adapt, of course.
It’s possible to have excursions by boat, swim in the fresh waters or simply enjoying the calm in one of the many resorts on the banks.
It’s interesting to observe the life going on around this huge water basin whose local people ignore practically everything.
What to see in Ghana Togo and Benin? Very beautiful, deserted, kilometric and uncontaminated sand beaches.
The beauty and the calm of a very long walk, like you can have few times in the world.
What to see in Ghana Togo and Benin? Yeah, we did it. We slept in the tree house.
You walk practically without being able to see the sky in the thick under wood of the rain forest accompanied by a guide.
You reach the tree house: you cannot go out from it without to tell.
The accommodation is very Spartan. At night the howler monkeys are very close and all the animals of the forest make an incredible noise.
Admiring the dawn rising on the jungle and canopying on the Tibetan bridges among multicoloured birds and howler monkeys.
Of course, the hot weather and the humidity will always be with you.
Then it will also happen, like it happened to us, to hear deep gun shots really close, while the guide will tell you not to worry since they are only poachers but now he has just called the other guides of the park and they together are going to catch them.
Meanwhile you are there, up there, in the tree house, in some remote place of the forest (there is no mobile signal and the area is not on GPS maps), completely in the dark thinking that…if you escape you wouldn’t know where to escape…and understanding their language…no way.
There is nothing left to do but to sleep and hope nobody enter with machete in his own hand! Maybe put the most unpleasant person of the group near the door!
What to see in Ghana Togo and Benin? They are a very particular aspect. Have you ever seen these coffins in any part of the world? I don’t think so.
You meet the artisans realizing them along the road by the strangest and most original shapes, next to furniture and sofas, everything covered by dust.
It’s enough to order what you wish: usually the shape is chosen according to the characteristics the person had when he/she was alive. Vent your own imagination!
What to see in Ghana Togo and Benin? Houses, life and above all children, so unlike and so similar in every part of the world.
Curious, warmly and smiling, perhaps because still unaware about fate and life ahead of them.
What to see in Ghana Togo and Benin? They are the places from where many our material of daily use come from: maybe we hear mention a lot about them but we know less about it.
For example, you can see really many rubber tree plantations: you observe how the tree is drawn out and engraved and…maybe you don’t know the product is really white and, just made harden, it has a nauseating smell you can smell from so far.
A thing really to hold your own nose!
Then there are the palm oil plantations, so mistreated recently in Italy but here is practically the only oil used, also in the restaurants to fry chips.
The drawing process from the fruit is very long and complicated and it’s different from one country to the other one.
Fruits are made by palms practically in a non-stop cycle, since the climate is very hot and really humid all over the year. Then they are sold largely along the road edge.
Another very developed activity is the cotton production which take place by a completely manual way.
Big, enormous cargos go along the main roads to reach the harbours on the Ocean to be shipped. The cargos come from these countries as well from Burkina Faso and cotton fluttering is everywhere along the roads.
What to see in Ghana Togo and Benin? And above all how can visit these countries safely and low cost? We referred to a local Agency in Ghana: Jolinaiko Eco Tours.
Cindy is a Dutch girl who married Apollo, a Ghanaian guy. They have two wonderful children and she has been living in Ghana for almost 15 years.
They created this agency which offers a personalized service, cared and sewed on your needs with really low cost prices (you think that other agencies arrived to ask over 15 thousand Euros for a 15 days tour for 5 people).
A driver will accompany you. Apollo and she will follow you from far all over the tour, without never complaining, even when you’ll twist the plans more times in a day, like we did!
So, was I able to make you curious?
Do you have desire to leave?
Soon I will give you a new post with all details and tips to plan the journey…that we cannot define “easy”.
But a few of wariness will be enough to make the journey unforgettable!