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Lonely Planet West Africa

Andy G (Gadget),


Lonely Planet West Africa
Kandi Benin
Thursday, October 5, 2006

I use the Lonely Planet, have used Footprints in South America, used the Bradt Guide in Iraq, I think that is how you spell the name. I started with the Lonely Planet and maybe it and the Rough guide are the easy ones to trade or find while on the road. I am presently using a 1999 version of Lonely Planet West Africa, the only one I could find in Nepal and seven years old.

I say tough things about the guide, sometimes I despise there ideologies and opinions; however I do use the guide. I know how it works; therefore, it is quick for me.

I use one simple method of planning my trips. I make sure my passport is good, I have two ATM Cards, and I buy a plane ticket. Somewhere, normally before I enter a continent I try to buy a guidebook, however not necessary, and normally they are cheaper when I arrive. However, moreover, in Africa, there does not seem to be anyone, therefore, I needed to buy before I came.

I just do not know how to tell a person to figure out the ways of the road. A person can read everything, and still not be prepared to travel, they need to adapt to the local conditions. I have personally traveled with two people small distances in Africa, the Dutch Girl in Apam, Ghana and Sara the Peace Corps girl in Boukombe, Benin.

From both of the women, I heard and watch them
- PERFORM GUIDEBOOK -

The Dutch girl paid for her bag, to board a Mini-Bus in Ghana, and strange as it seems, I was sitting right next to here, had more bags and did not pay, did try to pay, was not asked. I boarded the bus and paid my normal fare.

She performed the Lonely Planet Guidebook recommendation on how to pay for bags. I learned from here also the Lonely Planet guides recommendation on how to pay for at the whole taxi, you multiply the number of places times the cost of one seat, therefore she knew more than I did and helped.

I have not once in West Africa from Cote d’Ivoire to here paid for my bags, I just refuse and get out, normally the price they want from a White Man is an insult, and I do not start at insult prices ever. I am more aggressive, type an alpha male then them, so easy for me to say and do.

Sara, from the Peace Corps from the USA was performing both the guidebook and the Peace Corps training. I cracked up when she said she,
- Reserved a Taxi Seat -

I have been trying to remember, I was pushing to understand if anyone besides the White, English speaking, not the French, however the English persons called them anything but Taxi. She asked some Benin man in Boukombe to say what he called them, and more or less said, what do you call a Brush Taxi, he said,
- Brush Taxi -

I think, maybe I am wrong, he for sure said the word,
- Brush -

However, I also know they may have problem saying the word bush and say brush, because of problem with the R. I kept calling the Auberge USA in Natitingou a Boom Boom hotel, and Sophi the manager kept repeating.
- Brrrrooom Brrrrooom -

She had trouble saying Boom.

I just checked the word, it is not a Brush, and it is a Bush Taxi. I do not read the guidebook closely, I read for what I need. Getting transportation is not a big problem for me, however, I still can learn from reading the guidebook, however I probably learn along the way more because I am too lazy or bored to read a guidebook from cover to cover.

Sara had the Bradt guide, she was going to show me something in it and then we forgot, I do not know if she has the LP also, however I saw many in the Peace Corps office in Natitingou.

She asked something about how I learned French, and I said something to the effect,
- I have no choice. -

Learning French here is confusion, I often know the French word and pronunciations better than the local does. French is a learned language, the language of business, however the second language to most. I said to Sara,
- I had his 12 year old girl in Ouidah I called the Professor. -
Commenting on the young girl,
- She was helping and correcting me for days, it was great. -

Sara says,
- This is unusual, normally a younger person will not correct and older person. -
(Repeating or saying either Peace Corps or the guides training.)

It was as if she did not believe, I went on, saying or explaining,
- This girl was great; she helped, corrected, and made me learn French. -

The Dutch girls of Cape Coast Ghana and Apam had less training and was more West Africa street smart, however Sara had already been in the country of Benin for two months and the other Dutch was at most seven weeks in Ghana.

I use a guidebook, think it is crazy to not use a guidebook, the cost of rooms itself pays for the guidebook easily. I could carry three here in Africa and they for sure would have saved me money on rooms. I would do the Bradts, probably a Routards, the Frenchie one and the Lonely Planet.

Between them all, I could suss out the cheapest rooms. Traveling in West Africa and living in Hotels is a land mine situation of exploding budgets. The guidebook writers, were in cars mostly, they had a higher than normal backpacker budget and just did not look and would not sleep in the cheaper hotels. Cost was not the reason they chose a room.

However, if you can only afford 10 dollars a night, you take the room, whether you like it or not, and look for the best, under 10, this was not the feeling I get from the guides, they are going strictly Motel and not Hotel in the centers.

The Lonely Planet for West Africa should separate the hotels, this is one you can get a moto too, and walk to from easy. This one you
- NEED a car. -

I am in the Auberge La Rencontre in Kandi, Benin, there is two Motels pointed out, then they say, many readers recommended the,
- Auberge La Rencontre -

The spelled it wrong, and said,
- Recontre -

I put them both, in case someone searches in Google.com or Yahoo.com for the wrong spelling, not to point out, the guides are good at spelling, not a problem.

I went around and around with my ever-stupid Motorcycle Taxi yesterday, trying to have him take me a Hotel in the Centreville, he was vitamin deficit as normal, took me to one of the White Man hotels or Motels. I kept trying to say,
- Je voule promenade a ville -

I want to walk to the village, however he did not speak French for crap, and I finally got across the word.
- Centreville -

I have learned all these words from talking, not from the dictionary and class, I am not
- Performing Dictionary. -

I am saying or trying to say, what I have heard, therefore to get away from the Motels, I must say,
- Centreville. -

Alternatively, center of the Village, I also go a lot for Cyber Café and for Marche or the Internet Café and close to the Market.

I was cracking; the guidebook explained how the squat toilets of Africa were better than Hovering over the western styles. For sure, they did not stay in the shared toilet rooms, the telltale clue to the truth, or at least the person who wrote the introductions.

Ok, the LP is good, but for the Budget Traveler, the person who should be coming to West Africa as tourist, it is a problem. The cost of West Africa according to the guide is about 7000 to 15,000 CFA minimal per night. This is about 15 to 35 US dollars per night for hotel rooms.

I am not much better than the guide, I have too much money now, I am not willing and to do not want to fight the brain dead, vitamin deficit mentality of West Africa for 2-4 dollars, when I only stay one night, but if I was on my under 5 dollars at all cost budget of two years ago, I,
- would not be HERE. -

Ok, a person can easily live in West Africa for fewer than 10 Dollars per night US, - AVERAGE - but you must work, and I have TWO very large rocks, I carry about 40-50 Kilos or 80-100 Pounds of weight. Sara was commenting, why you carry so much,
- I do not walk. I take a Taxi, they are too cheap. -

I need my computer, I want my computer, it is my project, my friend and in the end, it has the Encyclopedia inside, I do not read the guide for facts on Benin, it is permeated with crap thinking of the guide writer and hearsay facts. Not true, hard facts, I want the hard facts, not that the Encyclopedia knows much about Africa, but better researchers than the guidebook, and stick to the facts better. I find the guidebooks are pushing a
- Pallode or Pailliode -
I am not sure how to spell it, but it says it with almost every hotel, and it tells you consistently how to drink, or where to find alcohol or the Buvettes. Sara did this, and so did Richard of the Peace Corps, they knew every bar in the city better than they could tell me how to talk with the locals. I am not sure they ever went or visited the great Marche in the Natitingou, however, the guidebook recommend drinking the Sorghum Beer and going to the Market in Boukombe, therefore she drank the beer and went to the Market. I personally think the market in Boukombe sucks, but I am not wanting to drink, and Boukombe arrived drunk.

Kandi has more alcohol than I can imagine, I wonder why, obviously the Islamic religion is growing in percentage here and there is not travelers. Africa drinks a lot, the men are lazy, make the women do all the work and sit around playing cards or board games while the women do all the work.

Sara did help on this read everything and take the training, told me about that men are not suppose to talk with the women. I talk with the women all the time, however in a way, she is correct; the men here do not talk with the women. I therefore have the market to myself, there are not many men in the market, and it is full of women. There is also a huge high-class low class, almost a CASTE system here, it is amazing who is selling the charcoal, and who is selling the Voodoo, strange in Natitingou, the animal skins and creepy stuff, I DO NOT KNOW, if it was Voodoo crap, I could not be bothered, nonetheless, the animal parts, and creepy stuff appears to be sold by the Islamic Men, not any local witch doctor types.. Hehehe

Why am I writing about the Guidebooks and performing the guidebooks. I suppose I am annoyed on how much I have to read between the lines and study to find the information. Normally it is in the guidebook, however you must read it cover to cover before you come.

There are three essential of travel.
- Transportation. -
- Hotels -
- Money -

Food is not, you can live a few days without food, and water is easy to find, unless you need to stay home because you only want purified. I do not think you can buy always-purified water in Africa; you would have to do this process yourself.

There are some major fears people have about Africa; the danger is minimal in the 5-6 country Visa Entente Group of West Africa, maybe the CFA group of countries.
- Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali. -
Mali and Ghana are not Visa Entente countries.

NOTE: Visa Touristique Entente did NOT work for Niger; I was required to buy a new 20,000 CFA Visa at the Border.

The countries that use the CFA are difficult to list, however this is where the brains all copy the other brains. They probably have Baguettes and sell Benets in the street.

I am sure people are Afraid of AIDS or SIDA, however that is just too stupid, you must decide to have sex to have a problem.

I think or suspect the two biggest reasons person do not travel in West Africa is,
- They do not want to ride in Bush Taxi -
This makes it impossibly expensive.

- They do not want to use a shared toilet -
This makes it more expensive.

I think you can travel West Africa and never share a toilet for less than 10 Dollars per night US. However, you will learn to like to clean the toilets also, in reality all toilets even in 5 star hotels need to be clean, they just look clean, they are not clean, even in the USA and Europe.

The Bush taxi, NOT called this. It is called TAXI. I have in two month never heard them call what I have taken all the way from Abidjan to here Kandi, almost Niger a Bush Taxi; it is a Taxi or Car… maybe. Voiture or TAXI is best.

Therefore to easily double the number of tourist in West Africa, beside all the Visa Headaches. I am pushing the Visa Entente Tour the loop of countries,
- Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali. -
It is Cote d’Ivoire, not Ivory Coast, but easy for me to type.

NOTE: Visa Touristique Entente did NOT work for Niger; I was required to buy a new 20,000 CFA Visa at the Border.

The art if traveling in West Africa is how to take one of these Peugeot Taxi cars and not suffer. If you can learn French enough, you just pay for the two front seats and have them to yourself. In fact, I have to be very careful of they will assume I am paying for both. I must say and repeat the price, I must be very careful with the taxi drivers, they will try to gouge it they get the chance.

We sat four across for about 150 Kilometers from Parakou to Kandi, this Yoga position has made my body hurt. The cost was 5 dollars, for the cost of 10 dollars; I could have avoided the Yoga lesson. I know me, I will only pay 5 dollars for this type of Yoga lesson, I would not pay more than one for a real one, but this type I am cheap, I pay local fare. However, there is a limit to crap, the problem is this, and you must make the decision before you enter the taxi or before it starts. We started with three and went to four in the front, too late.

The guide pushes the big buses and the train very stupidly, you will spend you whole life waiting for these types of transportations and for sure, you cannot see the countries on the list. To see them, you either need to have a car, motorcycle of take a group taxi.

I am leaning toward motorcycle, I feel safest in share public transportation and feel driving a private car is five times more dangerous than taking a group taxi. A motorcycle would even be more dangerous; however, Africa is safer than probably South America, and do not even think of comparing it to Mexico. However, if you will drive a car in Mexico, then Africa is easy and maybe safe in the Visa Entente Loop.

NOTE: Visa Touristique Entente did NOT work for Niger; I was required to buy a new 20,000 CFA Visa at the Border.

A good online guide would have a link every time it mentions taxi that would lead to how to take a group taxi. Paper severely stops the LP from always explaining a person does need to read from cover to cover before coming. I am sure some will read every post I make before they come…. Hehehe, I do not stay on travel of Africa good, so they probably are angry at me. I am a travel blog; not really, this is just an online diary.

Ooops, it is 6:25 in the morning, I need to pack and leave, and I always leave the door at no later than 7:15 to catch a group taxi. Today I go from Kandi to the border city of something called Man.. Spelling is hard.
- Malanville -


Lonely Planet West Africa

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