February 5th 2008
After one week of Voodoo ceremonies, beach and some relaxed digging around Ouidah, Abomey, Porto Novo and Benin, my friend Landry and me headed up north for Natitingou and Parakou.
Frequently we pass grotesquely deformed car wrecks at the side of the road and other reminders of how dangerous African roads can be...
But no road could possibly be too long or too treacherous, if ultimately it leads you to such a sweet old man as Mr. Theodore who upon viewing his dusty stack of records began to indulge in memories of girls he had danced with, bottles of Sodabi he had drunk and sadly also the many, many records he used to have but which with time got stolen from him on various parties while he was passed out in some corner on too much booze or getting busy with one of the ladies.
On the way back south we were in for a bad surprise.
We had hit the road early one Sunday morning and had left Parakou before dawn. About one hour into our day-long trip, we noticed a growing number of cars racing towards us at breakneck speed. They all had plastic envelopes with toll papers stuck to the inner side of the wind shields and big, black and yellow bumper sticker license plates. Often in a row of two or even three, they frequently forced us to hit the breaks and steer off the edge of the road in sheer terror. With every minute they became more and they approached us like a swarm of angry wasps. Things calmed down a bit after a toll booth had backed up all oncoming traffic. Waiting cars were lining up for at least 10 miles. Some drivers passed the backed up traffic by using our lane, flashing their lights to make us quit the road. Local police was obviously paid off and completely disregarded the entire madness.
Cotonou seems to be most favorite port for West African automobile importers. Mainly Nigerian companies buy whole ship loads of used cars from early 1970s construction trucks to all sorts of SUVs, 1980's VW Golfs or Mercedes limousines from last year. These cars then get transported in bizarrely huge convoys, driven by rented drivers, -rumor has it most of them on on drugs -across the border to Lagos in Nigeria or up north to Burkina Faso. What we had to face that morning must have been at least a couple of thousand cars. It was surreal. West African traffic is already a strange experience and the common disregard for one's own safety let alone the well-being of others as frequently displayed by bush taxi drivers is just baffling. But this was something else. This was African Kamikaze traffic on steroids. Some of these cars were wrecks and were being towed by other vehicles while going just as fast as everybody else. Some became wrecks on the way. We soon stopped counting the number of accidents we saw.
Anyway, we got back to Cotonou in good health and celebrated accordingly with pate mais, cow's feet in tomato sauce and plenty of ice cold Beninoise beer.
Here are some of the records that we brought back with us:
Mixes will be coming up shortly, click on images for better view!
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
February 5th 2008