We are standing on top of a steep hill, looking down on the Ng’iresi village about an hour away from Arusha. Looking ahead, we can see the peak of Mount Meru. Joseph says that on a good day you can see Kilimanjaro.
I met Freddy a few months back when I was looking for a Nairobi-based guide to show me around town. We made contact, but it was only later that I finally had time to meet him in person. We make an appointment at the research institute compound where I’m staying, but the security guards won’t let him in. He calls me from the checkpoint where he has parked his dilapidated van. I walk to the gate and I can instantly spot him – a tall, muscular guy in his mid twenties, wearing jeans and a baseball cap. We say our hellos and I jump into his car under a disapproving gaze of the security guards.
It is 40 C in the shade and my T-shirt is drenched with sweat. I’m standing on a pristine, golden sand beach in Ouidah, Benin, a remote corner of West Africa rarely frequented by tourists.
I’m facing what is called the Gate of No Return, a massive sculpted gateway marking the final stretch of La Route des Esclaves, The Route of the Slaves. In front of me there is just the blueness of the Atlantic Ocean all the way to South America. Continue reading
It takes about an hour to drive from Cotonou to Ouidah, Benin’s voodoo capital. The tarmac road is dotted with tiny stalls selling petrol in plastic bottles – imported (or smuggled) by entrepreneurial Beninese from nearby Nigeria and sold at a fraction of the prices charged by official petrol stations.
About half way through, the tarmac road ends with a toll collection point after which, rather unexpectedly, it turns into a barely passable dirt track. On the side I see cars and motorbikes that got stuck in the moving sand. Luckily, thanks to the skills and sang froid of my driver Jules we manage to reach Ouidah in one piece.