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LocalBitcoins’ Motorcycle Trek Through Africa: Benin to Angola
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It had been a while since I last had correspondence with Borja and Elvis. Elvis had communicated once, which was posted by LocalBitcoins, but his latest journal of travels brought them through southwest countries in Africa eventually bringing them around 2,800 kilometers away from their final stop at Cape Town, South Africa. This time Elvis sent me an update.
Greetings from Angola!
It’s been a while since we shared our stories. We have had difficult days and are very tired and dealt with the lack of Internet. But I will share the experiences we’ve had in the last 6 countries.
Our last update was from Cotonou (Benin). We headed north in the next morning as we wanted to arrive in Nigeria. The shortest way was just beside Lagos, but we wanted to avoid some unpleasant experiences. We did an extra 400 km and got to know Benin.
We visited the Kings Royal Palaces in Abomey. There are 13 palaces in total and 2 available to visit. I was amazed to find quite a lot of canons and artifacts acquired through trades with the Portuguese.”
Most likely the palaces he walked through were the palaces of King Ghézo and King Glélé which were converted into the Historical Museum of Abomey.
Although these palaces were built from the mid 17th century to the late 19th century, they, with some assistance, have remained intact and preserved over time. Despite the fires of the late 19th century for resisting French occupation and natural degradation, several foreign countries and local artists and royal families have contributed to preserving this site. The importance of these palaces comes due to the lack of written history of the Kingdoms that reigned over two centuries. The only historical evidence of the conquests, wars, and rituals from this time are carved into the walls of the palace which sits on approximately just shy of 100 acres of land. Even the wars between France and the Kingdom of Dahomey which led to a catastrophic fire were documented in paintings displayed by the museum.
“After the visit, we drove north as many kilometers as we could. That night we slept in the back of a very important church, something like the Vatican of West Africa. We were very well received and the priest was very friendly.”
“Next day after a long and dusty ride we arrived in Nigeria, very small border and friendly police, quick pass but then the roads changed. We planned to drive another 200 KM, but there was no road so we managed another 60 km until we found a very small village and the friendly people invited us to sleep in the Primary School in one of the classroom[s]. We didn’t sleep much that night and by 5 AM we already had some curious children looking in.”
“We were amazed with Nigeria, a country that all the people told us not to get in, very friendly people and helpful. After managing all the non existing roads and arrived to the tarmac [paved roads], but it was worst then before, I had 4 punctures in 1 day.
But then things changed when we arrived to Abuja, the capital. It was like being in another country, quite developed and very rich people, completely the opposite of the rest of Nigeria.
We stayed 2 days as we needed to find tires. We met Francis the gym manager of the hotel, who also loves bikes. He helped us finding [new[ tires, showed us the city, and we had a few beers with him and his friends. The next day, they rode 60km with us.
We starting heading to Cameroon which took us a day. The following day, we crossed the border with no hassle, friendly police, and very friendly people, but the road conditions changed again. It was rainy season with no tarmac.”
“The landscape changed radically and we entered the jungle. There was 30 to 40 meters of very dense and beautiful trees.
After 2 days, we arrived to the more civilized region of Douala where we did our fourth bitcoin exchange. Thanks to our bitcoin contact in Mali, we were introduced to Dani who was interested in exchanging. Dani was kind and paid us bitcoin in advance as we had some technical problems. We made a good friend and spent the weekend ‘resting’.
It was time to go east and find some gorillas in Lobéké. We spent 2 days in the jungle and what an adventure that was. There was a heavy storm to make it a ‘bit better’.“
“As we were in the middle of nowhere, the closest bank was 400km away, and due [to] some [unexpected] expenses we didn’t predict we would run out of money. People told us the next bank was just 60km away. Not! There was no ATM and there was not even a bank. It was just a moneygram/western union agent. It was a pity we couldn’t trade in our bitcoins there.
We were stuck with no money, petrol, or food.
After a few hours, we managed to ask a friend in Spain to transfer some € and we managed to continue our journey. I also had to sell my watch in Congo as it was bank holiday and all the banks were closed. I somehow sold my watch while speaking French, which I don’t know well, and made a profit.
After the amazing Cameroon, we had to cross Congo and RDC quickly due to being late to arrive in Cape Town. But we managed to visit the Bonobos (monkeys) in Congo. We spent 2 days with them. Since the veterinarian was our friend, we had the opportunity to be very close and play with them, great 2 days!”
I always expected Borja and Elvis would need to use several African dialects or translators to navigate through 17 African countries. But they’ve mostly spoken in French until they arrived in Angola.
Angola is part of a group of Portuguese speaking countries called the Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa (Community of Portugese Language Countries) or CPLP. This community of countries meet bi-annually to discuss local and political issues their Portuguese speaking population face, and provide assistance to each other.
Borja is fluent in Portuguese and was relieved to return to familiar sounds and tastes.
“After speaking French through 11 countries we finally arrived in Angola. As a native speaker of Portuguese, things got easier for me and for our bellies. The food is amazing here just like my hometown.
It’s a beautiful country and there are such friendly people here. No corruption so far and lots of ATMs. Everyone is very helpful as well. After 4 days in Luanda with some friends, we are on the road again. Today we did 515 km to Lobito where we met a contact to do our fifth Bitcoin exchange, this time to Angolan Kwanzas. Another successful Bitcoin transaction!