Back into GMT we arrived in Togo earlier than we left Benin. As informed by the French embassy we could buy our visas on the border and as we waited for our 7 day visas to be processed I watched with amazement the number of back handers that were being passed to the police.
The coastline here is beautiful and the road runs parallel with, an in sight of the beach for the entire width of the country - about 56 km. We passed a man on a motorbike carrying a live duck by its wings. It is so good to see the sea again and we went in search of an ideal campspot on the beach. We found it at Hotel Ramatou which had excellent facilities contrary to what it says in our guide book. It was really cheap and the loo and washing facilities were the best in ages. We camped next to the sea whilst having a relaxing afternoon - of chores. Before we started this trip we expected to have leisurely evenings and had anticipated sipping wine whilst watching the sun set. The reality is quite different. You get woken at 4am by the chickens, have a day of driving, cooking, eating, shopping, viewing and fending off locals followed by an evening of cooking, eating, planning, maintenance and fending off a different set of locals. It goes dark at 6.30pm and it's not safe to drive at night - potholes and African vehicles without lights in streets without lights create quite a hazard. You have to find somewhere to camp by 5pm then get dinner started pretty smartish so you can eat before it's dark when you get infested by flying things around the lights. The other problem is the mornings - you cannot faff around if there are jobs to be done. It takes about one and a half hours to get up, have breakfast, get ready, put the tent away and house in order, etc etc. Campsites are usually about an hour's drive out of town and the shops shut at 11.30am until 2.30pm. If you are not careful, by the time you get to the shops they have already closed.
We were up early to find out flight information from Lome as we had heard it is cheaper to fly from Lome rather than Accra in Ghana. Gasp, horror - the single flights to Cape Town are £500 each. Having got our balance back we said we would think about it. Flying to Jo'burg and then taking a bus or train to CT will save about £240 which looks like a good option. We hope that SAA (South African Airlines) can come up with a good deal in Accra if we buy the ticket to CT then an open ticket from CT to London. Otherwise swinging our handbags near the station is looking likely! (Only joking - but crispy aromatic duck will no longer be on the menu). One thing that we established for sure if that the flights are apparently full and getting a standby as we had hoped for is not very likely.
Drove on towards Kpalime and then up the hill towards Kluto. The road was built at the beginning of the century by the Germans who had colonised this area. You can spot European influence everywhere. Indeed, they are the only buildings that aren't falling down. This is spectacular countryside and is "famous!" for Togo's butterfly collection. Kpalime, Atakpame and Badou form the areas "cocoa triangle" - an area of vast coffee, cocoa, avocado, banana and citrus fruit production. Mont Kluto has stunning views over Togo and over Ghana to the west. You can supposedly see Lake Volta (Ghana) but I thought that a number of mountains rather blocked the view.
That night the locals came over for dinner - all of them, and all uninvited! You try and scoff your tuck with 20 observers and they don't go away. They just look at you. They don't have anything else to do. It is the same everywhere - they are bored people.
Visited Badou briefly en route to Aloko falls - Togo's best waterfalls. The "obligatory" guide latched himself on to us and took us on a 30 minute, each way, trek to the falls. The waterfall was ok but of most interest to us were the avocado and cocoa trees along the way. Cocoa grows in pods of about 10cm x 5cm. When you cut a pod open there are around 40 cocoa beans surrounded by moist cotton wool type stuff. You remove the bean, suck on the juice in the cotton wool which is beautiful then leave the bean in the sun for three days to dry. Then you grind the bean into cocoa powder. The cocoa is actually purple - the same colour as the wrappers used by Cadburys. So, it is likely that the cocoa bean which goes into your chocolate bar has been sucked by an African!
Saw a woman carrying a sewing machine on her head.
There really isn't an awful lot to do in Togo if you cannot speak the lingo. Also the excitement at nearing anglophone Ghana was a further incentive to hop across the border. We only spent about three full days in Togo but we really enjoyed it and the people were very nice (particularly after Benin). On the route out of town the local children thought it would be funny to create roadblocks using pieces of vine. We stopped at the first one - annoying little so and so's, then drove straight through the rest. It was then that Andrew said he used to play a similar game with his brother James when they were small. They would stand on opposite sides of a road and move in unison pretending that they had a rope in their hands and forced cars to slow down!
The final policeman before the border failed miserably in his attempt to get payment or a pressie for stamping our passports. Oh he looked dreadful - red eyes and gums. He therefore attempted to delay us by conducting a vehicle search. As always, when he was certain he was getting nothing he sent us on our way. For the last time: "Allez-y".
|Rummaging in the undergrowth||Punda in stunning mountain scenery||Top road to the top. Built by the Germans||The road touches some beautiful waterfalls||Some of the obstacles on the way to the Aloko Falls|
|Made it !||Our guide at the bottom of the falls||The scenery on the way back from the falls|
Haven't a clue about local dishes but we did pass a pizza restaurant.
|Ramatou Hotel||N: 06.09.068 E: 01.18.109|
|Kluto||Possible to camp at the mountain top||N: 06.57.519 E: 00.34.488|
|Badou||(Aloko falls) via Atakpame|
It seems that the best places to visit are in the south. We did not go up north but if it compares to Benin then there is little point in going there as there is little to see and nothing to do apart from drive for two days.
Fuel is very very cheap.