Nigeria and Benin
Countries number eight and nine – Nigeria and Benin.
Transiting north from Cameroon to Morocco.
After leaving Limbe/Buea we headed north through Kumba and Mamfe on surprisingly good quality Chinese constructed tar roads, which are a rarity in Cameroon outside the major cities.
In several countries so far I’ve encountered beautiful new roads where I was expecting days of four wheel driving. The trip from Limbe to the Nigerian border used to take seven days and was impassible in the wet season. It took us just 7hrs!!
Crossing the border into Nigeria was less painful than we anticipated and we were on the road again within an hour.
Between the border and Ikon, which is about 20km, we were stopped by Immigration, Customs, Police and the Army, sixteen times!! Welcome to Nigeria.
I would have liked to go into Cross River National Park to see the World’s rarest gorillas but the roads were impassible so we continued north leaving the rainforest clad mountains that I’ve been travelling through for the last month behind.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populated country and although the 550km road from the border to the capital is tar sealed it was riddled with pot holes and washed away in parts. The entire route is lined with houses and small communities, making it one continuous 500km village.
I arrived in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city on the 10 August and spent three days exploring the relatively new purpose built city.
Abuja is a planned and purpose built city similar to Brasilia and Canberra and became the capital of Nigeria in 1991. After a few days of exploring what is probably the most character-lacking city in Africa I couldn’t find anything picturesque to photograph, not a single building or monument.
We departed Abuja and headed north towards Benin, unsure of where we are going to cross the border.
On the outskirts of Abuja we found the impressive Zuma Rock which at 2400ft is twice as high as Australia’s Ayers Rock. Not surprisingly there were no signs, places to stop and take photos or walking tracks, so we just slowed down, took a couple of quick pics and continued north west towards the border.
The road in parts was terrible and our progress was slow as we past through countless small villages and surprisingly lush farmland.
After a while we began to cross several rivers and areas of floodplain converted to rice fields .
Just up the road is the mighty Niger River, which is my fourth and final big African river of the year. It starts in Guinea only 240km from the coast and rather than flowing to the ocean it flows inland across the Sahara Desert and for an incredible 4180km before finally reaching the Atlantic Ocean in Nigeria.
Heading into Northern Nigeria we were now in Boko Haram territory and had to remain vigilant.
By late afternoon we turned north at Mokwa and headed for the Benin border crossing at Babana. After a while we could see a storm brewing ahead and pulled down a track next to a corn field and bush camped in the Nigerian countryside.
The following morning we crossed a muddy Niger River under dark and stormy skies and looking like a scene from deepest darkest wet tropical Africa. I’d always imagined I’d see the Niger River in some scorching hot, dry and dusty Saharan or Sahalian landcape but maybe that’s still to come.
Africa’s four big Rivers – I started with a cruise on the Ugandan Nile in April, then camped on the Zambezi floodplain in June and spent a few days on the Congo River in July. I’ll have to wait until Mali before I can get my feet wet in the Niger but that’s only two weeks away.
We continued on for another six hours to Babana and after clearing customs & immigration we were visited by a member of the Nigerian Intelligence Service whose first question was, “So what are you smuggling”? A bunch of humorous replies raced through my head but with the Benin border only meters in front of us I refrained and he eventually allowed us to depart Nigeria.
It was late afternoon when we crossed into my ninth African country Benin, which is one of the World’s smallest countries. We drove north for an hour without any sign of a customs or immigration outpost or anything much else, so we drove down a rough track into the forest, found a clearing and camped the night in the forest of Benin.
At 11am the next day, after four hours driving we found a small police station with a helpful policeman who stamped our passports and welcomed us to his country. We’d travelled 80km across Benin before officially arriving, which is a fair way considering the country is only 270km wide!
We continued north to the town of Djougou where I resupplied at a couple of the local stores before continuing on. With none of us having been to this remote part of Northern Benin previously we spent a day exploring some back roads seeing several small traditional villages.
After three days in Northern Benin I arrived at the Burkina Faso border which also happened to be only five kilometers from the Togo border. I could have crossed via Togo but I’m planning to visit Togo along the coast another time.
Benin is the fastest country so far in Africa for entering and exiting. It took them ten minutes to stamp us in and ten minutes to stamp us out. Why can’t every country be like Benin??
All up I only spent three days in Benin but it’s one of the world’s smallest countries and like Togo I’d like to come back and see the coastal strip sometime in the future.
Bye for now.