Cotonou – Africa’s Hotel California (You Can Never Leave)

It is widely known (and accepted) that in Africa, transportation works differently than in Europe or North America. Taxis are replaced by motorcycles. Minibuses and bush taxis leave when they’re full, not when you’re ready. Buses leave pretty much when the driver decide’ he’s wants to leave, even if it is a couple of hours later than the timetable shows. But , still, when you use a highly recommended bus company, you expect it to leave sometime. Maybe late. Maybe a day later. But it should leave sometime, right? Wrong.

After having spent far too much time in Cotonou, waiting for the Nigerien visa, we decided it was time to finally move towards the North of Benin. The plan was to ride up to Malanville near the border, stay there for one day, and then cross over to Niger. So we booked a ticket with InterCity Lines, a company highly recommended by both the Lonely Planet and other travellers.

At 6 a.m. on a Saturday, we get up, haul two motos to drive us and our huge backpacks a couple of miles to the Stade the L’Amitie bus terminal, and risk our lives getting there, because the moto drivers all seem to have a death wish. But when we get there, the bus isn’t there. It broke. It’s being fixed. They’re not sure when it will be done. Maybe tomorrow.

So we get another two motos, who again struggle with keeping the balance of carrying our heavy backpacks on their steering wheels, and go back to the missionary guesthouse. ”Can we please stay one more night?”

We decide to leave the next night. Sunday night comes along. At 10 p.m., we again flag down two motos to drive us back to the Stade the L’Amitie, again risking our lives getting there. And again, the bus isn’t there. This bus is also broken. But it’s coming. More and more people arrive, so we’re hopeful. It will leave this time. At 11 o’clock we’re impatient. At midnight we’re annoyed. At 1 a.m. we’re furious. At 2 a.m. we start thinking of alternate plans. At 3 a.m. we give up, and decide to go to Nigeria, instead. We leave on another moto just as the bus rolls in, 5 hours delayed.

We don’t care, our minds have been made up.


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