12-Mar-2002 -- My wife and I recently made a long road trip from Niamey south to Cotonou in Bénin and back north to Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. Included in my plans was the possibility of getting the first Confluence in Bénin, either 8N 2E or 11N 1E depending on the circumstances.
The first day was a marathon 15-hour trip from Niamey to Cotonou on fairly good roads most of the way. After a couple of days in Cotonou we again headed north, this time taking the westerly route. We stopped first in Bopa, a picturesque village on the shore of a large clear lake in southwestern Bénin, to visit the daughter of old friends serving in the Peace Corps. We left there about 10 a.m. and headed first west to Lokossa, then northeast to Abomey and Bohicon where we picked up the main north-south road until Dassa. There we turned west into what was for us unknown territory.
Near lunchtime we passed within a few hundred yards of 8N 2E, just north of the town of Savalou, but the territory was rather mountainous and difficult-looking, so because of time constraints I made a decision to press on towards the second possibility near the Bénin-Burkina border. Immediately the road conditions deteriorated and we were either on dirt or on detours through the bush where massive road-construction work was taking place. Progress was slow and difficult, compounded by the fact that service stations were few and far between, and the first couple that we saw either had no gasoline or broken pumps. We were running quite short of fuel by the time we stopped at a roadside stand and bought gas out of 20-litre clear glass wine bottles, strained through a piece of cloth!
My GPS told me that sunset on the Bénin side would be at around 6 p.m., and we were not making good progress. We reached the large northwestern town of Djougou around 4 p.m. and had a decision to make. We could either stop for the night in Natitingou, an entrance to the Pendjari game preserve that we knew had several hotels, or press on for the Burkina border. If we did the latter it would depend on where the border stops were located whether or not we would reach 11N 1E while it was still light enough to take photographs. As our luck was running a little slow we decided to stop for the night in Natitingou and were able to find room in a small French hotel tucked off to the west of town in a mango grove. It even had a swimming pool and air-conditioning, which was handy as the temperatures were running around 100° F (38° C) by this time, with a good amount of humidity, as evidenced by the puddles underneath our Suzuki's air-conditioner when we stopped. We ate a very nice fish supper outdoors by the pool before retiring early.
The next morning the good pavement we had enjoyed since Djougou stopped just outside of town and we were not to see any more until we crossed into Burkina. We immediately began to climb and the road began to wind around at 1500 to 1800 feet (450 to 550 m) elevation, which is pretty high for this part of West Africa. The scenery was quite impressive and we stopped in a couple of places to take pictures. In spite of our proximity to the game preserve we saw no wildlife other than a few baboons. We passed through a split in the rocks just outside the town of Tanguieta and from then on the road was level and straight.
By 9:30 we were abreast of the Confluence, which my basemap had shown to be just a few yards from the road. However, the road now seemed to have been reconstructed farther to the west, and we had to take what looked like the old highway just outside the town of Porga. This smaller road took us to within 500 metres of the Confluence and we left the Suzuki and hiked into, you guessed it, newly cleared farmland. Another non-scenic West African Confluence! We took a few shots and talked to a man on a bicycle who informed us that the language of the area was Bereba, and looked rather quizzical about our presence in his farming area. We did not try to explain! Just down the road we found the border stop where they stamped our passports for us, and we got back onto some good pavement, which was to last us all the way to Ouagadougou.