Apollo pays for our hotel and he is just about out of money. So, after the canoe ride back to the mainland, we save money by walking up the dusty road, in that hot African sun, to the main street. No taxis to be found on account of a taxi strike, protesting the police and their frequent stops to take bribes. Apollo explains that the police will not let you pass if you have a cracked windshield, or other issues which all cars have, unless you pay them. Furthermore, Apollo once drove a brand new taxi, nothing wrong with it, and the police made him pay because he had no machete in the car, in the event of a fallen tree on the road.
After a long, sweat-soaked walk carrying backpacks, we hop onto scooters which weave in and out of traffic congestion through the capital city of Contonou. Even the locals avoid walking on the beach in this city, calling it a lawless area. We wait at a taxi stand, and the resourceful Apollo finds a driver willing to drive us to the city of Ouidah. (Thanks for scabs!)
I try to exchange dollars in a Ouidah bank, but nobody accepts US currency. Apollo exchanges the last of his Euros, and I find irony in spending over $500 (US) thus far, in one of the poorest countries. My tab with Apollo is still growing. Time to eat some Kpete’, which is blood of goat sauce, with boiled goat, fried goat, and Gui, sometimes called Akassa, a grit-like muffin made from maize. Then, we check out some sites.
The Shrine to the Python is only about sixteen-years old. This town of Ouidah is home to the annual Voodoo festival, held on January 10th, ever since the government officially declared Voodoo a religion. People flock to this festival from all over.
In the Shrine, about 50 pythons lounge on the cool cement, and are offered only water. They are let out at night to feed, an always make their way back to the shrine. Once on a while, if they get lost in somebody’s house, the occupant will carry the python back to his shrine. I must mention again that pythons do not bite, and the belief is that if you kill a python, you will also die.
The Voodoo community gives land to the Portuguese to build a Catholic Church. Just another example of how different religions can get along with each other. Even Catholics around these parts practice some form of Voodoo. But, the Muslims do not. Apollo explains that the Muslims have their own form of mystic called “Malam.” Either way, in these parts, pythons rule.