Benin Travel Stories, Page 3

Benin Clean Water

Benin Clean Water
Boukombe Benin West Africa
Sunday, October 1, 2006

It is strange to suddenly become such a student of travel, I was getting lackadaisical in my travel, and I can see it now. Interestingly enough, I would say that Africa is easy to travel, I am thinking, then why am I learning so much. I suppose the daily French Lesson give me an ever-acute sense of learning. Then I am in nature or closer to nature in my travels, I am not in the sterile, cities of Asia, I am not walking on asphalt, tiles, or bricks, I am walking on gravel and clay.

Today, I am learning again about water, I am very comfortable with drinking the water here, it appears and feels excellent. I guess the thoughts come down to how to carry water to my room, or why, or when, or where to collect water. There are three big blue maybe 55-gallon plastic drums that hold water in the main area and monitored by the many women of this hotel. I think the place is called the Chez Yatsin or something; it cost 2000 CFA and is the cheapest hotel I have used.

The girl Eloise gave me this exceptionally clean bucket, a small plastic dip bowl, and we filled my bucket. They use this half of a very large gourd to dip the water and I am walking back to my room with a heavy bucket of water.

Ok, I take dip showers many places on the planet, this is normal, what is different is there is not an unlimited supply of water in my room. I have a bucket full of water, and do not want to go retrieve another bucket, so I try to conserve water.

The bucket contains my.
1. Coffee water
2. Water to cook Rice.
3. Dip shower water.
4. Brush my teeth water.
5. Drinking water.
6. Wash my hands after eating mango water.
7. Wash my hands water.
8. After toilet water.

Ok, for instance, to brush my teeth, I want to rinse my toothbrush, and clean a little before I brush. I must take the small bowl that is my dipper already in the water, and pour water over my toothbrush. I then brush my teeth, I then spit the toothpaste where… normally I use the toilet, however the toilet is another story. I have a stall area that drains outside, to the outside, I spit is next to the drain hole. I want to swish some water around my mouth. Wait a minute, if I drink from the dipper, there will be toothpaste on the dipper. I therefore pour water from the dipper into one of my two glasses. I needed to rinse the coffee out of the glass before I did this. Ok, used a dipper, rinse the coffee, put the dirty coffee water in the same location as the toothpaste. Now I have a clean cup, I use the dipper to pour water into the clean up. I take some water and proceed to swish the toothpaste and do some type of not normal tooth brushing.

I now have a cup that needs cleaned of any possibility of toothpaste, so I need to pour water over the cup. I only have 2.5 gallons, I need to last all night, or somehow run around in the middle of the night, in the dark looking for water. The only need is a drink; I cannot use my last glass of drinking water.

Taking a dip shower will one day graduate to a full-blown tip, I am become the expert at dip showers. I have even learned how to use less water in Africa, maybe one gallon. It is about efficiency of rinsing, the problem is rinsing, not cleaning. I will save this for tip.

Ok, so conservation of water is my goal, and prioritizing how to use it, then the impossible task of keeping the water free of debris, contaminates, of particles.

Around I go and where I go I do not know. Ok, back to the beginning, if you are on the Amazon, I have been on the Amazon, and they will take a canoe out to the center and fill up jugs. This water has the least amount of turbidity in it.

Turbidity is the fancy word meaning the water looks muddy or full of particles. Ok this is fortunately not the big problem in West Africa, I have many sources of water and it is clear looking, that does not mean it is not full of something that will give me dysentery.

I am drinking about 90 percent public water sources, or paid to use the water sources. Today, I am drinking in Boukoumbe Benin water collected from probably a round deep well that goes down to the water table, I know of two, one is about 30 meters and the other is 40 meters, a long distance to pull up a bucket.

Then it goes in the big plastic 55-gallon blue barrel, sits, settles and hopefully remains clean. I am not paranoid, I will drink after about anyone, but I still like the perception of clean.

Ok, you fill it with water; some loose junk settles to bottom, the top is cleaner; however, surface water is not as clean as under the surface. I sort of skim the top, dump it, and then go for the deeper pull of water. I fill up my own 4-gallon tub and there is sits. I know the tub is clean, because it is my tub; however, I am thinking, do I need to cover it to keep the water pure? I do not want lint particle, there is not many things in a backpack that is super clean, I guess some t-shirt would be best, but I only have five, not wanting to sacrifice. I leave it uncovered, then realize later, many thing fall from the sky, or from the ceiling, the fan is blowing, the air is moving, I need to stop this, I also cannot walk over or near, and what about the dippers, do I leave it in the water, the only clean place in the room is the water. I cannot sit the dipper down; it must be in the water. I have two cups, one is the dipper, the other is the drinking cup, I am going to go to three soon, they take up a lot of space if not stackable. The handle stop them from stacking, I will have to cut off a handle to go to three.

The bottom line of all this is you need one large container, then three cups, and a smaller but big container, that holds 2 gallons, then you can talk all the small things, and put in the big 4 gallon and boil it until all is sterilized enough for any normal camper. The 2 gallon container than is the super clean water reservoir, the big one it the cooker, and the water carrying system. The three cups are managed with care, and how do I clean a pot? I have a Dutch oven type cookers, cleaning is not simple.

I can say this with complete honesty, everyone drinks the water, it is not possible avoid drinking the water when you travel. All you can do is minimize the chances of somebody doing an outrageously dirty operation; to avoid normal water from the tap is about impossible.

The problem is cleaning the cups, the cooking utensils and keeping them clean before you eat or use.

I will dwell on this, I do not know if anyone can be clean enough in a camping condition to stay clean. I could by not moving, keep clean and unlimited amounts of tap water keep very clean.

I watched Sara the Peace Corps girl turn greenish and make a run for the toilet in here home. I wonder if she was packing, I am always, always packing toilet paper in my pocket. Only place I stop, is in the USA, I do not trust Europe, Asia and South America is a disaster, actually Africa is good inside the hotels, outside, same as anywhere, you need to be packing.

Sara and me ate some egg omelets, nothing in the eggs for me, I think there were tomatoes in hers.

I know my eggs were cooked hard and done, I am not sure the tomato in here was cooked. How long the tomato was sitting before being used is the question.

I really believe the bigger danger for travelers is the food, not the water; the water is minimally a problem. Food preparation is an incredibly dirty operation. I more or less eat packaged or one piece of food cooked well and never in any mixture, and nothing they would dip out of a container and pour on my rice of spaghetti.

If not hot, then it gets a pass, I must feel the cooked process, I do not buy cooked food waiting to be eaten, and the shelf life makes me weak. I know they keep them chickens until the next day; they do not throw them away…

I could dwell, talk, write about how to eat and stay healthy traveling, people love to eat, and I do not believe they can stop eating these goulashes, salad, conglomerations of foods. They also will have a delusory idea their good friend; the owner of the restaurant is clean.

Note the handle to the dipper is a problem, to share it; you need a handle that hangs out of the water. To shower, I need to be able to have soap on my hand, however not get soap into the water. There are dipper problems.

Benin Clean Water

No Transportation to Tanguieta Benin

No Transportation to Tanguieta Benin
Boukombe Benin West Africa
Sunday, October 1, 2006

Save it for another day, I wanted to travel north to Tanguieta; however, the gentleman that spoke good English says there is no public transportation form Boukombe to Tanguieta.

Now, I think he is saying, this is very difficult, you could be waiting for days to get from this village to that village and you are going to have to ride different from white men ride.

I like to ride in the cattle cars because I get a very personal tour of the villages, they are safe, extremely crowded, and I meet funky people. The time though it takes to go 50 Kilometers on a GREAT road is annoying. The NGO can do the same trip with the SUV-NGO 10 time faster. I am willing to bet you can travel Africa at a rate of about 50-50 mile or kilometers per hour with zero problem and probably easy. This is as fast as any Asia big bus would go.

Sand and huge washed out ruts, this is the problem. I think the motocross, big tired, knobby whatever dirty bikes is the ideal way to travel, it could go down and cow path.

A 4-wheel drive van would be cool, but too wide for cow paths. To really see Africa in this life and not ten lives, I think I would need to have a dirt bike. I seen this Summit Brand, I have seen a Yamaha Brand, I am not sure, the man said I can purchase for 400,000 Francs or about 800 US dollars.

I can probably purchase a normal street bike type moto taxi for less than 200 dollars that would make it through one country. I could purchase inside the country and dump it on the way out. No big paper problems to use or have, I am thinking about how many pieces of papers is necessary to get a bike across a border. It is amazing how difficult it could be and how long it could take.

Let me think… Moto what is my Moto goal?
My goal is to go from Boukombe to Tanguieta, stop and see a few villages and peruse Benin.

Sometimes my being a cheap hobo looking for solutions causes me to not see the obvious.

There are some very short distances in Benin, which could take a ridiculously long time to travel. It could take me four hours to go 30 US Miles.

The distance between Boukombe and Tanguieta is less than 35 miles. There are two not cheap options, but cheap for Europe… hehehe, it I was traveling by train in Europe about the same.

4-5 people in Bush Taxi a.k.a. Cattle Car
If I paid for the whole car between Natitingou and Boukombe, it would cost me 1500 times five or about 7500 CFA, this is about 15-17 US dollars.

The Moto Taxis the Motorcycles offered me the first price of 6000 CFA, but how to I carry two large bags on a moto for 50 Kilometers. The distance between Natitingou and Boukombe is 50 Kilometers or very close in real road miles.

Therefore I could get two of them and go for 12000 or 25 US Dollars for 50 Kilometers.

This was asking price, so maybe I get two for 8000, or more than a car, the 6000 seems very high, but to get a passenger back would be a problem and there do not also serve as trucks. The cattle cars haul a lot of cattle or weight.
My thought it to just pay my way to Tanguieta, skip Natitingou and go for Bantia, then over to Kandi. This trip is not common and would get me into the last final phases of Benin with just a few more dollars… OR NOT…

I am paying 2000 for my room, and normal pay is 8000 in Benin or maybe 6000, I was lucky in Natitingou and paid 4000.

The cost of rooms can offset the cost of transportation. I think 90 percent of the roads I can go fast enough to use the normal cattle car, I hate calling them bush taxis, and there is no bush here. They have cut down every bush or brush and burned it for fuel. There is dense grass…

I will do a check today, how much to go from here to Tanguieta if I pay for the taxi, no stopping. Rent a car, that does not normally rent to white people; they do this for many locals though.

I think for less than 25 US dollars, which is a lot cheaper than buying a motorcycle I can pay my way to the tough spots and go-fast enough to go beyond a crawl.

Note, in the book Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux he often or most of the time commissioned a driver. This makes two things possible, stopping and taking a photo and to go faster. The problem is danger, the danger of being robbed greatly increases if I grab the car the day before. If I get the car the same day, not a big risk, but if the driver has time, can tell his buddies, then they can get together, ambush me. He needs a days notice for that, and I do not give anyone a day’s notice of me traveling down isolated roads.

One probably he had, was a driver got outside of the city and wanted to double the price, normal between a rock and hard place mentality of all under-developed stupid normal countries. The bully mentality, if I can get away with it, I will do it.

No Transportation to Tanguieta Benin

Boukombe Boukoumbe Benin

Boukombe Boukoumbe Benin
Boukombe Benin West Africa
Sunday, October 1, 2006

I am going at 10:30 with a Peace Corps Volunteer; to see what I think is called a Tata. It is the typical home around the village of Boukombe or Boukombe Benin. I have seen it spelled two ways, and both were government signs…. Hehehe

The name is not so important, and for sure Boukombe is NOT Somba. It is a more modern Christian - Islamic Village and with lot of beer for sale in the many Buvettes.

Maybe it the Betamaribe or Tamberma ethnic groups

- Among the best known of the traditional western savanna arts are those of the Dogon, Bambara, Mossi, Bobo, and Tamberma. These groups live in the dry, grassy plains of the West African interior. The Dogon are one of the most isolated of these peoples. -

What is happening, is as you go north in Benin or Togo or Ghana or whatever the land goes from more or less a wet dense grass or jungle to a more dry, yet rainy season type land area. This may be called a Savanna; however, this is over-simplified and depends on water, and elevations and such.

There is the word Jungle or Brush, Bush, or whatever, there is not much Jungle to be seen as the lumber industry has cut most of the trees, and 95 percent of cooking is down by cutting the trees and making charcoal.

Hard to find a dense forest or jungle.
Therefore, you sort of leave the Savannas of the south, formerly a Jungle and go to the Savannas of the north. The type of living or homes change as is normal and there are different types of homes.

Clay is abundant and trees become more difficult to find.

My Lonely Planet says the Somba people build their homes in the middle of the fields. This is correct, however, so does an Indiana Farmers build his home in the middle of the fields. In fact, almost every farmer on the planet builds their homes in the middle of their fields.

What is difficult for men to figure out is water. Water is what you need for a home, to have home spread out in Indiana, they were able to go less than say 50 feet down and hit water.

There is a deep well in Boukombe.

This well has a larger than normal bucket and two handles. A person will get on both side and crank the handles. This would probably be free water, I think.

There are water meters in Boukombe, Benin

Water meters or paying for Water, Gas, and Electricity is not fun for people, there are people that can afford to pay and others that cannot. The good part is the country by economy of scale gets paid, and can make the water cleaner. Control or stop people from drinking any and all water.

Taxes are the first problem a country needs to collect taxes to the infrastructure good. Difficult to do, collect taxes.

So the put a toll gate to build the road.
They put a meter to collect gas, electricity and water.

Then the fight it to keep people from stealing gas, electricity and water, the road is difficult to steal.

Africa is 10 times better at collecting the money for gas, water and electricity than the other 60 percent of underdeveloped countries. The problem with West Africa is getting the money from the fingers of the thug/ tyrants / warlord type government leaders. I think though there is a lot of hope here.

The problem is still who in their right mind would invest in Africa when the moment they do good, some leader, or bully will probably take or nationalize and big business. The history or oil wells all over the planet.

Tourism is a lousy form of money for people, seasonal, and fickle, not a great way to live.

Good small business that grows to large business is needed, and not doomed to stay small types, they need large employers that can pay taxes.

Back to the Somba, well all this comes down to in my opinion is water; a farmer will build in the middle of a field if they can have their own well. I did not see one home, I really saw clusters of homes on the way from Natitingou to Boukombe, not big cluster of 10, but small of five or less, and it is possible in each home there could be more than one family.

I need to do a body count.

Batammariba or Batamariba and Tamberma or Somba

I found a reference to the Batammariba people and their distinct architecture in the Encyclopedia.

- Farther east, among the linguistically related Tamberma of Togo, house architecture has reached an apex of beauty and symbolic complexity. The two-story earthen "castles" of these people serve not only as their homes but also as their fortresses, cathedrals, theaters, and cosmological diagrams. The name that these people call themselves, Batammariba, or the "people who are the architects," bears out the importance of architecture among this group. Like the Dogon village, each Tamberma house is said to be distinctly human. Accordingly, its outer surfaces are scarified with the same patterns that are incised on women. Appropriate body parts are also found in the house, for example, the door "mouth," the window "eyes," the grinding stone "teeth," and so on -

I believe this is describing the same Tata or Somba people homes that seems be found around the village of Boukoumbe or Boukoumbe Benin.

Tata Somba and all this… aagh. The quest for understanding is full of land mines. Every step I take explodes into another set of strings flying into the air and leading somewhere. I can grab on the threads and follow and it leads to somewhere that slowly dilutes into another subject or story.


We have to start somewhere, and so does a guidebook.

I am in Boukombe or Boukoumbe now; I made this map earlier trying to find a path.

I am trying to find the 300,000 Somba people my Encyclopedia says exist, they don not live in Boukombe; if there is more than 1000 around here it would be amazing.

Population Density Map of West Africa, as I search for the 300,000 Somba type people.

Names or ethnic groups maybe related:
Batammariba or Batamariba and Tamberma or Somba

Boukombe Boukoumbe Benin

Natitingou to Boukombe Transportation

Natitingou to Boukombe Transportation
Boukombe Benin West Africa
Saturday, September 30, 2006

About 50 kilometers, and cost 1500 CFA the ride to Boukombe was easy, the hard rocky clay road was incredibly smooth, the drive would shut the car off and coast down the hills, therefore took a little longer than under complete power.

I was in the normal Peugeot Cattle car.

I was in the passenger side of the front; all the Tata homes were on the driver’s side. For sure, I will get on the right side, as I think I need to return to Natitingou tomorrow for my journey now toward Kandi, Benin, up, and out of Benin to Niger.

I needed to be on the driver’s side coming to Boucoumbe, and returning to Nattingou, I need to be on the passenger side of the front. This way most of the Tata or Somba homes will be out my window and I can take more photos.

Not that exciting, in fact, Boucombe could be a pass, not a big city, not much to see, and definitely, I was more in the flavor of Africa normal living behind the market in the Auberge USA in Natitingou Benin.

Natitingou to Boukombe Transportation

Boukombe Benin Hotel

Boukombe Benin Hotel
Boukombe or Boukoumbe Benin West Africa
Saturday, September 30, 2006

Chez Yatti
Pronounceded Chay Yattee
The real name may be Auberge Refuge.
10 Degrees 10.527 North
001 Degrees 06.567 East
That is GPS coordinates that leads back to the Chez.

Note, it is diagonally across from the typical Marche or Market that is on Sunday; however, the set up is always there. As you travel to Boukombe from Natitingou, as you enter the city well before you get to the main crossroad it is on your left, opposite the market.

2000 CFA Shared Bath and Toilet
I say I move hotels, I do not move cities. I am now in some made for backpackers, West Africa style, and no backpackers. No tourist, I think I am the only white person around, there is supposed to Laura from the Peace Corps in this village, have not seen her.

This may be the cheapest hotel I have encountered, however I have not tried to find the bottom. I am learning though, how to find the bottom or at least the best hotels for me. This one on road coming from Natitingou to Boukombe is ok, too far of walk to the city, however, I just cannot bear to pay 4000 for the Chez something and have them ignore until there is not tomorrow. I buy a home, a group, a people, a manager, I interview the family. Eloise the pregnant daughter is apathetic, but she is helpful, and better than an apathetic man. The decisive factor is here inside the compound is a Tata or Somba home mock up, and I can take some photos with little work.

I have a fan; they say 24-hour electricity, and a bucket of water, what more can I need.

Addendum: The place has been a real joy, I was able to enter the Tata and look around, although I was not able to take photos of the inside.

This is the outside, the owners may allow photos if you pay. I do not know, I did not push.

Sara and I set up a tour to go to the Tata and pay 2000 with the Chez Jacqueline, it never happened, and they to me just seem too apathetic to be considered dependable.

Eloise the girls in the Chez Tatti is 11 months pregnant, and is a delight, I tried my best to make her laugh, however they do not stick the smiles I made.

The whole family runs the Hotel and it seems to be all women and a few small boys, a pleasant place to associate, however the rooms are painted clay walls, and a good value in a 2000 CFA way.

Boukombe Benin Hotel

BENCHMARK Abidjan Ivory Coast

BENCHMARK Abidjan Ivory Coast

This is a location marker. I am in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Many problems, and a case of Malaria to deal with.

This will be out of order, but just a notification to readers of my location.

Africa Mosquitoes

Africa Mosquitoes
Natitingou Benin West Africa
Saturday, September 30, 2006

I carry a mosquito net with me always, if you need it one time per year, which is enough reason to carry. My first trip into you Europe I was eaten alive in Brugge Belgium, and then continually attacked by mosquitoes. I see Europe as very behind the USA in building designs; however, they also have a much longer history of buildings.

The history of buildings here in Africa is short also, therefore any building that is not colonial has very good windows and screens. The locals do not; however, there is the option for them to buy. Africa has been great for mosquitoes, probably the least amount of problems on the planet for hotels. 80 percent of the hotels have screens on the windows in West Africa.

About of Hotels or Rooms for tourist have screens to stop Mosquitoes
80 percent in West Africa.
3 percent in Asia.
20 percent in Europe
10 percent in South America
10 percent in Central America
3 percent in Mexico
95 percent in USA
65 percent in Caribbean
3 percent in India

Nonetheless, I carry a mosquito net, it is needed. I am using a mosquito net here in the Augerbe USA. Africa will also come and spray my room for mosquitoes. This is amazingly advanced; spraying is unusual and cost money. I pay more here also for a room; it does not matter that is not the reason.
The hotel I am in actually I think has some screens, it is my room that does not have screens. The fan in the middle of the room helps to drive the mosquitoes out, but not all. The real problem is some type of little hopping grasshopper like thing that enters when the light I on or moths. The come to the reading light.

I am taking down my mosquito net shortly, packing it away and leaving for Boukombe, Benin the area of Benin where the Somba people live in homes I think they are called Tatas.

Vitamin B Complex purchase in the Typical Markets, NOT in the pharmacies, cost was 300 Fran or about 60 cents US, cheap.

I took some vitamin B last night, about 3 tablets, and some other multivitamins, I then had trouble sleeping, however, and the no seem ums seem to stop attacking me. I had on repellent to stop them attacking my ankles, and then took a shower; I was thinking later, the no see ums have lightened up. However, I also know that Vitamin B something helps to make them avoid.

On the other hand, not being able to fall asleep is worst than the mosquitoes or no see ums. I can put on repellent and get under my mosquito net.

There is a pull string on the bottom of the net, it forces it to stay under the mattress.

This is a half tucked in system, I can use the larger part of bed during the daylight hours when there are few mosquitoes, and then crawl under the area at night, I need to work on this system though, not easy to pull the net tight at the seam. The problem is getting in and out of a bed with a mosquito net. The only furniture in the room is a bed, or one very hard chair for the desk. Normal room on the planet.

I have modified my mosquito net, trying to make it work better and easier. Mosquitoes are tricky; a net will not stop them if it is not tucked in under the bed. The flowing mosquito net of some movie is to me a wish, not reality. I am not sure, I do not see people tuck them in often, however the mosquitoes like me, and I need to work hard. What you eat, does influence whether mosquitoes attack.

Africa Mosquitoes

Traveler Backpack

Traveler Backpack
Natitingou Benin West Africa
Friday, September 29, 2006

Each continent is different, what is needed in one place is not necessarily needed in another. This causes problem, I need to either carry many extra gadgets, or become very good at purchasing them quickly. It is probably cheaper to purchase than to try to carry the weight onto planes, plus the bag because in danger of being stolen when I do not want to put on my back because it is too heavy.

I worked for the last hour trying to fine-tune my checklist of changes that need to be made to my backpacks, whereby I could manufacture what I would call the perfect traveler bag. Not for mountain climbing, a bag for planes, trains, airplanes and buses, and in Africa, the motorcycle taxi. This will be about number nine prototype. I do not think I will be going to prototype this time; I am going to make one, fit it together, and say let us go.

There are about 14 different component parts to the bag. This means that if you had 14 different sowing machines working, they could probably make one of the bags in about 15 minutes, or 14 x 15 minutes equals 210 Minutes or about 3.5 hours per bag, say four because it also needs assembled or have the entire component sown together.

Swapping out, this is the problem in 90 percent of the planet, maybe 95 percent; the goal of perfection is not perceivable. There are these exceptions, like what the h e l l, not a big deal. It is only a backpack, and the reason Switzerland can make the Swiss knife. Yes, it is only a knife, but it is one of the best.

Therefore, to do this, I need to make 14 separate components perfect. There is the idea within the mind of man, that he can do two or three or many things perfect at one time. Maybe, but not a normal man, this is the problem, the under-developed mind and country actually has more confidence that they are doing a good job than a made-perfect-country like German or Switzerland or whatnot.

A German will pound it to death, making small adjustments, a person from Nepal truly believe they did a good job also. It is the perception of perfect that has to be controlled. This is difficult, there are so many ways to shortcut a process, and how can I insure, if they shortcut something it is found. I more or less build into the bags a redundancy factor, if any one component fails; there is something that allows the bag to function. If a zipper breaks, I can still use the bag.

I am very happy, this is like building a house, but better, a house is big, not easily manageable. You cannot just make 10 prototypes of a home to come up with the perfect home, it is too expensive. There is a person that lives in a home, there is a person that uses the backpack, this person needs to have his or her personal needs met, in this lies the problems of satisfaction.

The second phase of the backpack is how to stock it with all the different gear that may be needed in different areas of planet. I am thinking of all the entry gate cities on the planet. How to have a person enter Abidjan, Cote d-Ivoire and quickly be outfitted with the needed supplies and gear at a value driven price.

I have an idea and a way, however covering the whole planet is not so easy.

Traveler Backpack