The road to green heaven

The trip home consisted of various etapes. First there was the ride from Porto Novo to Cotonou. Chauffeur Nestor expertly wove through four lanes of traffic on a two lane road and was a true guide as I had a million questions about what I saw. All these new looking cars coming our way? Bought on the second hand car market outside Cotonou (voitures fatiguees d’Europe). The tired cars had been cleaned up and looked new and spiffy and were on their way to Nigeria where there is no port to import such things, at least not in bordering Yoruba land.

Then there are all the gasoline people, selling gasoline from rickety wooden platforms, bought cheaply in Nigeria. The gasoline is poured in and out of Whisky bottles, Coca-Cola bottles, water cooler bottles, anything that can hold the liquid and can be carried by a person across borders where no one is paying attention. The content of the bottles varies in color: from dark brown, deep orange, to the color of pee of a well hydrated person or a not so hydrated person. There are no gas stations on this stretch as no formal market could compete with the informal. This is how things work here.

Motorbikes are everywhere. They are the primary means of transport: taxis, haulers, movers. Whole families ride on such conveniences, toddlers squeezed between adults, babies like little cabooses dangling from mom’s back. I was too slow to pull my camera to catch a fisherman with a load of enormous (6 feet) rays draped over the back of his motorcycle.

The road is only 35 kilometer long and, like on the way up, it took us one and a half hour, a very entertaining one and a half hour I might say.

After a swift check-in with the ever so friendly Beninois I learned that the Air France plane was going to make an unscheduled stop in Niamey to pick up passengers who had been stranded for 24 hours. If that sounds like fun, it wasn’t, especially not for the families with 4 or five small children and babies who had been camping in the airport for all that time, run out of diapers and food and kids that were beyond tired.

Settling everyone into our plane took much longer than expected, both getting people in seats, especially moms with babies, and baggage in the hold. My seat mate was reseated to make way first for this mom and baby pair and then that one. In the end all the moms and babies were seated elsewhere and I had an empty chair instead of a crying baby next to me.

All the fuss delayed our departure, the serving of our dinner until 3:00 AM and our arrival at CDG until 8:30 AM as opposed to the promised 5:30 AM. At the gigantic CDG complex we were parked somewhere in the countryside, halfway to Paris, after a 20 minute taxi ride and then bussed back for another 20 minutes to terminal 2E where all the holiday makers of the world seemed to be converging. Needless to say I was not in a good mood. I barely made my connection.

Axel picked me up, we had lunch on the way home – lots of greens and freshness to make up for a week of yellow and white starch. The last mile I did on my bike, recuperated from the bike repair shop where it had been readied for our Cape Cod vacation.

Back home I parked my bike at our lusciously green vegetable garden, filled myself up with raspberries, fresh snow peas, beans, and then picked dinner: fresh eggplant, fresh beets, more beans and peas, an all-fresh-vegetable dinner. I am in heaven!

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July 2013
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