Travel Horror Stories: What do you do when you think you've been jazzed?

A visit to Ouidah Python temple had me in awe of the preservation of culture and history, as well as a bit frazzled.

A tourist carrying a snake at Temple des pythons [Black feelings]

One of the sites I visited was the Snake temple or Temple des Pythons in Ouidah, Benin.

While Porto-novo is regarded as the country's economic capital, Ouidah is recognised as the country's spiritual capital. In this town, pythons aren't feared but rather reverred and worshiped. The Temple des Pythons is a historical and modern symbolism and spiritual practice in Benin republic. It acts as a basilica for voodoo worshippers in West Africa and all over the world.

The temple is not difficult to locate and it is a very common tourist attraction, since it is along the slave route, or 'Route des Esclaves'. Entry fee is 2000 CFA per head plus 1000 CFA for a guided group tour.

Out of all my friends, I was the most excited and was ready to hold and touch as many snakes as possible. I had been longing for this trip for so long!

Eventually, we got inside and the tour began.

The temple is a small, clean and cozy compound, dotted with many sacred sections — some accessible to public and some not. The main temple has a small room of twelve square meters that houses about 50 adult royal pythons. There are also many shrines and holy grounds.

We were told about the dos and donts of visitors as well as indigenous people, the practices of the cult and the celebrations that are done in the shrine in honour of the voodoo religion. In a corner of the compound was an aged Iroko tree tied with white cloth and had different offerings in a hole at the bottom which acts as the mouth. The tree is said to be about 600 Years old and has the power to grant good wishes. Very close to the tree is a locked temple, which is said to be only for the chief priests and dedicated servants of the temple.

Around the temple were several other shrines, like the one for Oghun "god of iron", and small huts which were used for cleansing rites. There was also a large 300-year-old pot/cauldron turned over on the ground which was said to only be used during the voodoo festival annual celebrations on June 10th.

It was at this time that the guide gave us this information, I realised I had stepped on one of the "sacred areas", around the big pot which was adorned with remnants of offerings.

My mother's voice just kept ringing in my head. At that point it hit me that I didn't tell my family I was going to be in a whole different country! Nobody sent me here to come and carry snake o.

I quickly raised my hand to draw the guide's attention.

"I just stepped on this area here," I said, pointing to the pot. "Do I have to come for cleansing now?"

He assured me that it was completely harmless and went on to tell us about some other scary dos and donts of the temple which I highlighted.

Fast forward to the day before my final day in Benin Republic. By now, I had already visited 5 different towns in the country. The tourist attractions i saw include Voodoo Village, Tokpa market, Mangroves of Grand-Popo, Point of No Return, Slave Route, Python Temple and the many beaches.

Voodoo village, from the name, is a small quaint village highly influenced by voodoo. The village is accessible only by boat and has so many lovely things about it like: the women drying straw and making mats, the old castles built hundreds of years ago by the Portuguese, the trees with large coconuts which some men were kind enough to cut down some coconuts for us to drink from and eat (story for another day), and the many, many shrines in front of almost every house.

On the day before my final day, I was to go to Bab's Dock, which is a fancy restaurant on a dock only accessible by a speed boat ride through the mangroves, and explore some other beach (Fidjrosse I think). We couldn't eat at Bab's dock because the food menu was ridiculously expensive so we took drinks and planned to get food at one of the many restaurants at the beach.

Somewhere along the line, I developed an immense headache that basically rendered me incapable of doing anything. At the dock, I had to lie down on the dock for the most part while the others drank and conversed, and at the beach, I slept on my friend's laps while we waited for food.

I was already so sure I had been jazzed and was going to die in Benin! Honestly, what prayer did I not pray?! I couldn't share my fears with the others though.

Eventually, the food we had been waiting for finally came (bad customer service here by the way). AND IT WAS DELICIOUS!

Davido and Tekno were booming from the speakers and I soon realised that I was standing by the beach on barefeet, dancing the latest dance step (I think Shaku Shaku at the time).

Turns out it was just hunger.

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