Our royal treatment continued the next day with a meal prepared specially for us. Monica’s village family made sauce from a chicken that had been given to us for a gift. According to Monica, it was a wonderful dish which someone had worked hard to prepare. Unfortunately, Heidi and I weren’t hungry because Monica had made us an omelet for breakfast. This was followed by more rounds of visitations where we were presented with meat to eat and shots of beer or wine to drink.
All of this helped to fortify us for the bike ride ahead of us – or so I thought. It was time to leave Monica’s village. We had about a 45 minute bike ride to another village where Monica had arranged for a car and driver to meet us. Stupidly, I never thought to bring water with me on what I considered a short bike ride. About three quarters of the way I became nauseous and weak and could not continue riding. Fortunately, three young men from Monica’s village had accompanied us and got me some water from a near-by pump. My choice, now, was to drink possibly unsafe water or to shrivel up and die in the hot, African sun. I have never tasted such delicious water in my life. After a brief rest, I was ready to continue the ride and never had any adverse effects from that life-saving water.
For the next five days of our adventure, we enjoyed the luxury of an air-conditioned car and the services of a driver, Kwami. Our first night with car and driver we spent at a hotel with a full bath, air conditioning, a television and a pool. I don’t know where Kwami spent the night, perhaps in the car. The next morning we went to another village where we had been invited to a ceremony. Monica told us that it was a real privilege to be able to attend this ceremony. We were told it would be very interesting and different. What we were not told, was that it was not for the faint of heart.
We had the “privilege” of witnessing two rite-of-passage rituals. In the first ceremony young boys, about 12 or 13 years old, one at a time, chose a partner and took turns whipping each other 3 times. If the one being whipped didn’t cry, he passed the test and the whip was handed to him. The second ritual involved boys around 16 or 17 years of age clubbing each other. As far as I know, all the boys made it to the next level toward man-hood.
Another volunteer, Kristen, had accompanied us to the ceremony and invited us to spend the night with her in her village. She had a very nice 3 room house and cooked us a delicious meal. The next day we headed for Penjare National Park in Benin for our own self-guided safari. After nearly running out of gas, we made it to a hotel just outside the park where we would spend the night.
The drive through the park was grueling but interesting. We saw baboons, wart hogs, antelope, antelope-cheval, many colorful birds and three hippos swimming in the water. We were told, after our trip, that you should only drive through the park in a 4 wheel drive vehicle. Our leased car was a small Toyota Carina.
When the sun sets in Africa, it goes down quickly because of the proximity to the equator. We watched the sunset at 6:00 and had another 2 hours of driving ahead of us. It was a little frightening driving through the park in darkness, barely able to see the dirt road ahead of us. Relieved to finally see the gates to exit the park we noticed that they were closed. We were unaware that the park closed at 6:00. It took 40 minutes of flirting by the girls before the guards allowed us leave.
After another 2 hours of driving we arrived at the Ta-Ta Somba Hotel. (I love saying the name of that hotel.) Being so late the kitchen was closed but the owner/chef graciously made us ham and cheese sandwiches and dessert. It was so nice to have American food for a change. Tired but with full bellies, we went to bed.
(Still more to come.)
You can read parts 1, 2 and 3 here:
Part 1: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5960100/my_african_adventure_part_1.html?cat=16
Part 2: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5967590/_part_2_of_my_african_adventure_flying.html?cat=16
Part 3: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5980364/part_3_of_my_african_adventure_public.html?cat=16