Good grief! I was so tired last night I went to bed at 8:30. The heat in Lome did me in. We got up just after 5:30 a.m. so we could be ready for our early morning start. No one was too peppy this morning! While we were waiting, the Captain made an announcement that we could not get into the port as a ship was occupying our space, and the port authorities would not let him use the tenders to take us in. Part of me was so happy that we didn’t have to do another sweaty day, and part of me was sad to miss the port. But before we had a chance to be happy or sad, the Captain went on to say that we would just be docking an hour later and then leaving an hour later. He is great…some other captains might have just sailed on.
Cotonou is the economic capital of Benin, as well as being the largest city, but Porto-Novo is the official capital. Cotonou was founded in 1830 to ease the crush of so many slaves passing through the other ports. In 1882, the French seized Ouidah and Cotonou and slavery was finally banned forever. In a single generation, the people of Benin quickly changed their ways, and went from being the most ruthless slavers to the best educated administrators and intellectuals in all of French West Africa.
Like many African countries, Benin gained its independence in 1960, and between 1960 and 1972, a succession of military coups brought about many changes in government. It has been an open democracy since the late 1980s.
The flag of Benin...
I loved the expression on his face...so gentle.
As we had the same bus as the day before, we knew we wanted one of those few seats where the window opened. Kathy and I made a dash for the bus. Today I could actually take some pictures without a dirty window in front of me, and get some air! This is the Congress Building which was designed by the Chinese. Quite distinctive! The President of Benin is elected and chooses his ministers to run the country.
The architecture on these buildings is very unique…
The children immediately swarmed you with their hands out asking for “un cadeau.” We were warned if we gave things to the children to make sure we had plenty or to do it discretely, otherwise the children start fighting with each other to get the items. We saw this happen when one of our group started handing out candy. Next thing the children were fighting and pushing until one of the men came and shooed them away.
They used gasoline to light the baskets on fire, often putting it in their mouths and blowing it into the fire.
Rich's Ganvie video...
An elderly lady pulled up next to us with baskets of greens and what looked like yams. Marceline quickly negotiated with her and filled two bags.
At one point we saw a car with its wheel completely bent and broken. Alain, our driver, wasn’t going to let that stop us. Without missing a beat, he just drove up onto the sidewalk and starting driving down it without even slowing down. We were either going to make it back by 5:30 or die in the attempt!
This person was trying to cut across the “median” and got hung up.
We now have four wonderful sea days before we get to Namibia…