Making Plans & Changing Plans…

Well, we’ve been in Cotonou a week, and it’s starting to feel like the Cotonou Documentary Project.

It’s been a week of ups and downs, and we’ve had to change our planned route, but we’re optimistic that we’ll hit the trail next week.

The good news is: we’ve got the motos rolling nicely, and they’re decked out in locally crafted racks and bags. We’ve been travelling all over town, soliciting the services of the craftsmen who abound in Benin. It’s amazing what you can get done here:

The welders craft luggage rucks to carry our equipment:



Christoph waits as the electrician fixes the turn signals on Guida’s bike:


And Guida waits as the mechanic adjusts the brakes on Christoph’s bike:


Unfortunately, we’ve also run into some unforeseeable obstacles. Al Qaeda of the Islamic Magreb has been getting rowdy in Niger, and they seized and killed two French men in the capital last week. The audacity of that attack was unprecedented, right in the heart of downtown Niamey. The rumor mill says that Al Qaeda is running low on cash, so they’re offering a bounty on French/American hostages to try and earn ransom. Can’t these guys just organize a bake sale or a camel wash?

In any case, that means we’ve had to pull the plug on Niger. We hate to do that, because Niger is rich in Fulani culture, especially the nomadic Woodabe clan that maintains one of the most traditional forms of Fulani life. But then again, we’re in no mood to be abducated.

The most frustrating challenge has been the Nigerian embassy. Although Guida can travel freely as a citizen of an ECOWAS country, Christoph needs a visa for each country. Prepared with all the required documents, we didn’t anticipate too many problems. However, one power-drunk Nigerian authority stopped us in our tracks. Despite having appropriate documentation, he said it’s his job to decide who does or doesn’t enter Nigeria, for the safety of the Nigerian people. On realizing that this man was stonewalling the visa, Christoph didn’t fail to point out the irony of him suggesting he was protecting Nigerians from American terrorists. History would suggest the opposite is more likely. The only reasonable alternative is for Christoph to get a visa in Washington DC, which, in fact, is not a reasonable alternative. So, we’re also forced to scratch Nigeria off our itinerary, and because the only route to Cameroon is through Niger or Nigeria, we can’t go their either.

Lest we despair, we’ve shifted our approach to the project. Rather than attempting to cover as much territory as possible, we will simply go where we are permitted, and where it’s safe. In doing so, we’ll take our time to visit communities in-depth without being rushed to traverse all of the Sahel. This strategy should keep us safe, and allow us to spend more time getting to know the folks we meet.

So, our new itinerary looks something like this:

Itiniraire Provisoire

We’ve run into some delays in getting license plates for the motorcycles, but we’re optimistic that we’ll hit the trail sometime next week.

So, stayed tuned and follow along when we head West. Thank you all for your letters of encouragement, and especially to those who recently purchased images. We couldn’t do it without you!

We. Can’t. Wait.


7 Responses to “Making Plans & Changing Plans…”

  1. Nora Kaitis says:

    Wow Christoph! Sounds so great 🙂

  2. Don says:

    Christoph, Good Luck, Be Safe and have Fun


  3. Jay says:

    Christoph – speak the truth – aren’t you just scouting for a new Giro stage?

    Hope the trip is incredible!

  4. Jan says:

    Oh Christof, je vous remercie beaucoup pour l’affichage de nous les détails de votre voyage. J’espère que vous partirez bientôt. Je vous souhaite beaucoup de succès et de vous faire découvrir mon dongarooroos nombreux dans votre aventure Fulani.

  5. Christoph says:

    Thanks for the comments! We really appreciate it.

    Yeah, Jay, we’re planning an expanded Giro for 2012. You’d better start training in a sauna.


  6. Good luck! Does this mean you’ve been driving a moto in Cotonou?? Impressive. 🙂

  7. Enjoyed looking through this, very good stuff, thankyou .