Togo - Benin: People-to-People
Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours

 
     
     
 

Dispatch 9 - Lokossa

 
 

Abomey-LOKOSSA (85km, 52mi)  Vegetation is much more lush than we encountered in the north.
Points of interest:  New agro-industry and other differences in vegetation and economic activity.

 
     
  Abomey, Benin, omlete, coffee, tea and bread for breakfast As was the case in most of Togo and Benin, Abomey has few restaurants, outside of those connected to hotel.  But being a bigger town, Abomey provide us with the opportunity for our preferred breakfast; omelets, baguettes and a hot drink.  Fueled up and back on the road we left the legacy rich environment and went back into the Benin that is much more of the moment.

near Abomey, Benin, school yards with bicycles parked on the side. Though we are definitely in a rural area there are a signs of relatively more affluence than you see in many parts of rural Benin and Togo.  In this case, it is a school with a lot of bicycle parked in the yard.  Bicycle are a major purchase in most of sub-Saharan rural Africa and if a family does have one it is unlikely that it will be given to a student to be left parked at the school all day.  The suggestion is that some families in this area have more than one transportation machines.  Maybe a couple of bicycles, or a bicycle and a motorcycle, or even a bicycle and a car. Which raises the question of why is this area economically better off?  There may be several factors; more fertile, productive soil for agriculture, closer to the market for agricultural products so less of the selling price is eaten up by transportation, closer to larger population center with higher demand so that commodity prices are firmer, more remittance from family members working in the larger towns and cities.  From the signage, buildings and land use it looks like the agriculture is moving up to the scale of agro-industry.

 As we head south the temperature doesn't seem to drop but the humidity is climbing steadily, which drags along the heat index.  It is easier to heat up and harder to cool down. Warm water from a water bottle loose all appeal and it is time to find out what is chilled at the local beverage stands.  Often the selection is just a couple of the better known sugar drinks or a local knockoff of the same.  Benin, Cocktail de Fruits labelIn Benin (and Togo), if you are lucky you can find a bottle of  'Cocktail de Fruits' (pronounced in French).  Ingredients aren't generally listed on beverages in Africa so it is hard to know for sure what is in it but it seems to be the least sweet and most thrust quenching beverage that you are likely to find in a Beninoise drink stand.  It taste like it has a lot of grapefruit juice in it.  The label also shows a pineapple, orange, apple and mango, and says it is made from fruit extract, which might mean concentrate.  A cold bottle sure flows down the throat nicely.

Azove, Benin, woman making and selling baskets Azove, Benin, woman making and selling basketsAfter passing through a stretch of a lot of "give me, give me, give me" between Dassa and Bohicon, this stretch was refreshing for the warmth and friendliness of the people.  It motivates you to get off the bike and make it more of a people-to-people experience, which is what bicycle travel really excels at, and the best bicycle travelers excel at.

Azove, Benin, taxi with mechanical problem under repairBicycles also offer additional control over your life that public transportation in Africa doesn't provide.  It is not that bicycles don't break down, they do, but when it happens 99 times out of 100 it is a fix that can be handled within the resources of the group and it take a matter of minutes.  What may not be apparent in this picture is they are not just fixing the tire and there is a group of people under the trees to the right -- who look like they have been there for a while.

Benin, insecticide impregnated bed nets sign This is an addition to road side collection of reading material that probably was posted after the year 2000.  In particular it advertises an action in October 2007.  The sign advertises a campaign for the free distribution of insecticide impregnated bed nets - 'save the lives of children'.  Funding for the program came from the World Bank, UNICEF, USAID, WHO and several other organizations.

Benin, All the girls to school campaign signOn the subject of signs, hopefully this one, with school girls, books in hand, will resonate with the local people as much as it does with me.  We saw it several times. It says "All the girls to school."  Among the sponsors are  USAID, UNICEF, Dutch, Danish, French, Swiss, World Bank, World Food Program, UN Family Planning, Aide et Action, Plan International, CARE, CRS and other non-governmental organization.

Lokossa, Benin, motocycle dealerThe relative affluence of Azove and Lokossa showed up in the market as well.  Both towns are off the main national highway and probably, largely have to depend upon their own means for their wealth, but both towns have what seems like an abundant supply of new motorcycle available. I trust the local businessmen to know not to keep that much inventory on hand unless they expect to sell.  The follow-up question is, "Is there credit or payment plans available, or are purchasers expected to pay cash?"  Historically credit was rare and the later was the norm.

Lokossa also had the typical African market that is a labyrinth of wooden stalls where anything and everything was being sold.  The merchandise from the stalls often spills out into the isle, which were already crowded so it was a very intense experience.  There was resistance to pictures taking in the market so you have to take my word for it that they had the usual array of grains, fruits, vegetable, meat, poultry, fish, soap, hair products, fragrances, shoes, cloth, blankets, tools and other sundry.  What made this market a little different than most is they had a section specializing in animal skins, parts and skulls for use by traditional healers and practitioners of Voodoo.  This foreshadowed things to come.

Benin, African barber signEvery town has one or more hair salons. Generally the specialize in men or women.  They are identified by signs showing the latest styles. Some signs will show twenty or more styles.  I am not sure if the shop advertised here is call, "Super Hairdressing," "The Difference," or "Without God Nothing."

Benin, Totoh Gnawoi, the founder of the town of LokossaThis gentleman is Totoh Gnawoi, the founder of the town of Lokossa, in 1780.  It is nice to see a monument to African history.  So much of Africa's history is oral history so as older people pass away and younger people move out of smaller towns, it is getting lost.  Not that cultures aren't dynamic, but sometimes it seems that Africa isn't even protective about the best of its history and culture, which preserves its identity.

Note: When this was posted a search of the Internet gets no hits for Totoh Gnawoi.  At least that should change when this page is indexed.

Lokossa, Benin, dinnerThe opportunity for meal in Lokossa was as good or better than it had been in other towns this size.  The bar is pretty low and there still wasn't a lot of choices.  For dinner we found a restaurant that had outdoor seating under some large shade trees.  It was still hot, but the slight breeze made it far more tolerable than it would have been inside. Plates were custom prepared and we dined on our personal choice of rice, sauce, meat, chicken, beans and cheese.

Lokossa, Benin, breakfastLokossa, Benin, breakfastTypically, the restaurant where we ate dinner was not open at breakfast -- and the restaurant that we found for breakfast hadn't been open at dinner. In the end all you need is one that has what you want. We were able to find out beloved omelets, baguettes and hot drinks, which seem to have enough staying power to get us most of the way to lunch, so life was good.

Addendum:
 

 Next dispatch.

 
 

 
     

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