Combing The Borders Of West Africa In 6 Days
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Flying into a new country is bland and not so unadventurous; the process is pretty simple -Buy your ticket, pack your luggage, get to the airport, line up in an orderly queue, pass through security checks, wait to board and fly to your destination. When you get to your destination, the routine continues in similar order; you get your passport stamped by a uniformed official, then collect your suitcase and welcome to your new country! It’s a pretty standard procedure wherever you go in the world, and as such it is monotonous and one of the least memorable parts of your trip.
Crossing a border overland is a completely different experience (especially in Africa), a different story. Stopping at borders checks, changing money, buying roadside snacks, getting souvenirs- all these are perks of travelling by road. I picked West Africa since the ECOWAS passport gives the opportunity of crossing without a visa. The truth about travelling through the West African border is that it is memorable yet stressful. Most road travellers attest to the fact that their least favourite aspect of overland travel is, will say its crossing borders- but it’s quite an experience. Crossing the borders of West Africa as a Nigerian is always an eventful adventure. You need the right dose of patience to see through the bureaucratic border check processes, even though with your Ecowas passport travelling should be a lot easier. Most borders are almost always clustered; wearisome moments of long queues in hot, stuffy borders offices, brusque and impatient officials than the overenthusiastic touts and vendors. It’s a thrilling moment when you finally get to a border post, in a matter of a few metres you’re in a new country. Suddenly you’re fading into a different culture, a new language, and history. The idea of having to come down and walk right into a new country with your foot makes these trips memorable. Watching landscapes and scenery change slowly, experiencing each country bit by bit, standing in between two countries-all this gives that thingy feeling that makes flying feel so insipid and sudden, which takes something away from the beauty of entering another land.
My journey started in Lagos. Briefly is how I crossed four borders to get to Yamasoukro (Cote D’Ivoire) from Lagos. Through the journey, I covered 4 countries and more than 12 cities in 6 days (Lagos, Cotonou, Ouidah, Lome, Aflao, Accra, Takoradi, Cape Coast, Abidjan) totalling about 47 hours back and forth and a distance of 2500 km. I had two stopovers, one in Accra and another in Abidjan.
Border-crossing 1 —Seme Border (Nigeria-Benin)
There’s no much peculiarity in how border posts look – the disastrous road from Mile 2 to Seme border was the worst road throughout this trip, it’s a nightmare during the rainy season. A journey of 3 hours took us longer than 6 hours to cover. We arrived Seme border and everything went easy crossing on the Nigerian side and also on the Beninese side-we got our stamps without coming down from the bus. As a rule of thumb, always use the popular bus services that ply such routes. It makes border checks and other hassles easier; they handle all logistics on your behalf. Between Seme and Cotonou, we met several toll gates
Border-crossing 2 -Sekondji Border— (Benin-Togo)
Togo! Crossing the Togo border was a different experience. The drive to the border was fast, on arrival, the bus pulled into the border market, and we all came. Surrounded by the usual vendors and money changers, passengers had to walk through borders on their own, our luggage still in the bus’s trunk. The driver transits the border alone, and then meets the passengers on the other side. Casually strolling past Immigration, we were asked for our yellow cards; those without it paid extra charges.
Border-crossing 3— Aflao/Segbe Border (Togo-Ghana)
There are two borders into Ghana from Togo. One is through Aflao and the other is through Segbe. I have crossed using both borders at different times. The Segbe border is more relaxed than that of Aflao, though both are not too far from each other. Welcome to Ghana, the immigration officer welcomed us after a few checks. From Segbe to Accra is still another 3-4 hours journey. When you cross the Lome-Segbe/Aflao border between Ghana and Togo you go from signs in English to adverts and billboards in French, then the awful truth suddenly dawns on you- why didn’t I take French lessons serious in high school?
Border-crossing 4— Noe/Elubo Border (Ghana –Cote D’Ivoire)
I had a stopover in Accra. There were VIP buses from Accra going to Abidjan. Combing through the west coast side of Ghana, passing through Cape Coast, Takoradi and finally arriving at Elubo border takes about six hours. Francophone border officials are not the friendliest you will find along your travels, they get very irritated once you speak English and not French. At Elubo border, the bus stopped again for a thorough security check. Everyone comes down to open their luggage. These checks take about an hour before the journey continues. It takes about another 3hours to get to the Ivorian capital –Abidjan. In Abidjan, I rested for two nights before heading for the final destination Yamoussoukro.