Our journey began early in the morning at 7.00am. We wanted to set out of Lagos early so that we could get to Ghana before night. Our first stop was at a petrol station to fill our tank to the brim, then we headed towards Badagry. It took us about two hours to get to Seme, which is the border between Nigeria and Benin Republic. The border was bustling with people, as travellers mingled with traders and hawkers. There was also a brisk trade in currency exchange going on, as people needed different currencies to trade between borders. Crossing the border was relatively smooth. We had to get some documents to take the car out of the country, then customs officials asked to check our luggage and made a few other checks and within thirty minutes, we passed through “no man’s land” (which is the small space between the two official borders) and crossed into Benin Republic.
The public riders wear a visibility vest to distinguish them from private riders. They also have a lane for bikes on their roads which is really useful, so they don’t run into the path of cars, like the riders do in Lagos. Apart from that, the only other notable difference was the French language. I could take a photo in Cotonou and if you didn’t know, you would not be able to tell that I was outside Nigeria.
We journeyed on, passing through Cotonou and driving towards the other side of the country. We passed a number of small towns and villages on the way. Our journey through Benin was relatively uneventful, we ate snacks we bought at the border and watched the countryside as we drove by. The next border we had to cross was the Benin-Togo border. Again, we had to go through the documentation checks, the driver had to fill out paperwork for the car and so on. While we were waiting, I started to take photos, but I was told that it was illegal to take photos at the border and if an official saw me, my camera would be seized! I promptly put my camera and snap-happy finger away until we had crossed into Togo. Here are some photos I managed to take:
Togo is quite a small country and it took us less than an hour to get across it. We drove mostly along the coastline and we could see the Atlantic ocean and the nice beaches.
We soon got to the Togo-Ghana border and again had to go through a time-consuming process of getting paperwork for the car, then customs checked our luggage again. Eventually we were clear to go and we got into the border town of Aflao. The road was a bit rough for a few miles but it was under constriction so we soon left the bad bit behind and enjoyed a smooth ride into Accra. We passed by several police and customs check points on the way, checking that we had the right documentations, and checking our luggage time and time again. I have to say though, that I thought the police in Ghana had a friendly attitude that Nigerian ones don’t have!
We took a short break before we entered into Accra, stopping at a filling station to stretch our feet and buy a few snacks from the small supermarket. My sister had an MTN sim card, and we had been told it would work in Ghana so we had loaded it with enough credit before we left home. We were glad and surprised to realise that it cost less to call Nigeria from Ghana, than making calls within Nigeria!
Around 7pm we got into Accra, just before it started getting dark. We drove past Accra Mall (the equivalent of Palms Mall in Lagos), the Presidential residence, a busy market (I can’t remember the name) and a few other places of interest. I noticed that the traffic was orderly, the streets of Accra were very clean, all the traffic lights worked, and there were very few bikes on the roads. We didn’t stop because we still had a journey of almost 130 kilometres to cover before we get to Elmina. Some photos of Accra:
We arrived at Elmina around 9pm, by this time it was already dark so we couldn't see much of the coastal town. We went straight to our hotel, where we checked in. We were given the family suite which was really nice. We all had a shower and ordered dinner from the restaurant. The menu was good – we had fried rice with a really nice chicken and vegetable stew, as well as beans and fried plantain. After dinner, my sisters and I started watching a Nollywood movie but before long, we turned it off and went to bed.
We left the resort with my dad’s friend who is a tour operator, to see the main attraction in this part of Ghana which is Elmina Castle. It’s one of the many forts built by the Portuguese when they first came to Africa to establish trade links. But in the 17th century it became a depot for the transatlantic slave trade and its dungeons housed many slaves captured from all over West Africa to be shipped to the Americas. (You can read more about the castle and it's history here).
I won't bore you with all the other grisly details that I saw and heard about during the tour of both castles, but its a trip I would recommend to everyone who wants to know more about Black history. At the end of that day, my sister mentioned that it made her appreciate the presidency of Barack Obama even more.
The rest of our holiday went well, the next day we visited Fort St. Jago before we left Elmina and went to Accra. We had fun in Accra, hanging out with two of our friends who took us to lunch, a short tour of the city and chilled out in a nice bar afterwards. By the time we got back to our hotel it was very late. And because we had to get up early in the morning, we decided to call it a night.
The next morning, we packed our stuff into the car and began the long drive back to Lagos. In all, it was a lovely experience and I would definitely visit Ghana again, but next time I'll fly!