This is a Guest Post by Salva Rguez.

BENIN.

1. To visit the Tamberma people. They live in the north, some in Benin, some in Togo, in a remote area that you can cross without a  visa. They have the most beautiful ‘mud house-castles’ of Africa. Really beautiful, the scenery too. And most of them are still animist, friendly, living in an old style without dressing sometimes. If you spend some time with them, they most likely will invite you to stay and sacrifice something to eat for you. It is a tradition, you are a guest, and they take seriously that honor.
Tamberma People. Flickr Photo Paul W Locke
2. The Vodoo ceremonies. Even the pretty scary side of this religion, ceremonies are shocking. I still remember a guy besides me getting white eyes and falling back like a plank; they told me he will arise within 3 days… Anyway, I would not recommend joining a ceremony in the night and in a remote place. Absolutely not.
Body parts from a white person are really appreciated, and I am not joking at all.
An ancinet practice originating in Benin.

3.Remoteness

The North of the country is remote, same as the almost twin brother, Togo.
Green scenery and traditional people. You can feel a lot of animist culture, despite the pressure from Christians and Muslims. Relax and enjoy the differences, they may dress in rags but many of them have gold in their heart.

4. The kings.

Benin is a country where kings still exist. They do not have legal power anymore, but they are spectacular, and highly respected by their people. As a traveler on a bike, and a westerner, you’ll get a lot of chances to be welcomed by them. They do have a throne!

Have a cold one after a long hot day in the saddle.

5. Beninouise beer.

Not a bad chance in this part of Africa. And at last, as in any other country in Africa, you will experience the countryside life: how life is when there is no money to spend, and even if you have it, there is not too much to do with it. How people behave, how they organize life and family, how they enjoy… you may be surprised.

 

BURKINA FASO.

1. The Mossi people in the north.

Very interesting, tribal, with strong scarifications and friendly.

2. The Lobi people in the south, bordering with Ghana and Ivory Coast.

Still pretty high percentage are animist, but you must leave the main roads. They have interesting ‘family-houses’ and lots of traditions and rituals. You can be stopped in the middle of nowhere by armed young boys dressed with nothing but feathers.
Lobi Woman. Flickr Photo by Dietmar Temps.

3. To see elephants for free.

There is an unfenced National Park  in the center with elephants. There is a river in the park, and it seems that the elephants cross it every afternoon. I cannot say that it will happen for sure, but I saw them. Just make sure the rangers do not see you, because there is a ‘lodge’ with a view over the river that makes money with this.
Here's your chance to get an up close view of an elephant. Photo courtesy National Geographic.

4. Experience the dark side of international aid.

The international community has created a big mess with NGOs giving and giving without any planning.
More than the half of the country’s budget comes from International aid, and everyday you will experience hundreds of children and adults asking you for money and gifts, just because you are westerner.

5. Learn about what is necessary and what is not.

It is pretty relaxing to travel on secundary roads, have a stop to drink local millet beer, or delicious lamp roasted in a rusty plank and served on cement paper… pretty poor and basic life, though relaxing.

Free of luxury necessities.

You do not get much more that basic food, water from pumps and bucket bath with a place to pitch your tent in the evening. And you will learn that they are happier with this ‘poor’ life, than most of your friends surrounded by expensive stuff.

I would not say that scenery is beautiful, but it is interesting. Mix of desert and savanna, with a lot of sand in places, but still trees.

Good country to realize how bloody lucky we, Westerners, are. May also good to open the mind to other realities.

About the Author

Salva was a teacher taking many holidays cycling trips all over the world.  One day he asked himself why he has to live three months a year the life he really wants to live all the time.
Since he did not find any suitable answer, he left for a bicycle  journey with no return ticket.  That was January 2006.
So far, he has cycled in Africa and Asia, made a treasure of hundreds of friends, had pretty good experiences, went through useful difficulties, opened his mind and heart, and learnt some new things.
He thinks he is ready to come back home now and see friends and family, share some things with them and maybe start a family.
But first he wants to try to cross America.


Benin and Burkina Faso: more reasons to cycle Africa

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