Originally, I had planned to take a shared taxi from Accra to Lomé, but when I found out my friend’s driver wouldn’t be doing anything during the day while he worked, I asked if he might be willing to drive me to the border…of course he would. He was paid by the day, so as long as we paid the gas he would be happy to. Certainly more comfortable than a couple of hours squished into a small space!
We got on the road just before 9am, and traffic really wasn’t all that bad. We stopped around an hour in at a toll, and I snapped this picture of a street vendor working the toll plaza:
About 30 minutes before the border, we stopped at the bridge over the lower Volta river to get some pictures:
Soon we were at the border, and the fun began. Step one was to get out of Ghana. My driver parked, locked the doors, and went into the immigration building to get the forms which needed to be completed. This avoided dealing with the “helpers” anxious to help you get the forms for a fee, and brought them back to the car for me to fill out. Once they were completed, we walked in the building together where the immigration people seemed to be on the lookout for a way to make a few extra dollars. No hassle, passed from officer to officer, but soon had the exit stamps and back to the car.
Drove a bit further, and parked outside the Togo immigration counter. It was an outdoor counter/shack with an awning over it, and my driver said he’d park right on the other side and wait for me. This was a bit more of an adventure, because everyone wanted to help me. I told all of them “Vous pouvez m’aider, mais jvais pas payer!” This usually got a laugh, and one nice guy actually was pretty helpful pointing out the steps to get through the maze and bureaucracy. 15,000 CFA later I had my visa on arrival stamped into my passport, an entry stamp, and that was it. There were a couple of chinese guys who spoke no french having a much, much more difficult time, and they didn’t speak much english either so I couldn’t even offer to help. I gave the guy who helped even after I told him I wouldn’t pay him 1,000 CFA for his help, and met my driver on the other side.
He had found me a Togolese taxi driver willing to take me the rest of the way to my hotel. Initially, he wanted 20,000 CFA to take me the 15 minute ride, which I negotiated down to 7,000 eventually. I thanked my friend’s driver, tipped him, and he was back to Accra. Once in the taxi to the hotel, I began the negotiation with my taxi driver. Ok, 7,000 to the hotel….if I go to the hotel, wait an hour and have lunch, and then ask you to drive me for two hours around town…what can we work out. 20,000? Ok, sounds good, and throw in the ride to the airport tomorrow and we’ll call it an even 25,000? Deal. Made my life MUCH easier, and gave a hardworking guy a job.
Got to the hotel, the Mercure Lomé Sarakawa, and checked in no problem. Back down to the lobby bar, where I grabbed a quick “lunch” of pain au chocolate, flag beer, and a local stew which was quite good. My driver was more like 90 minutes in getting me, but soon we were off to visit the Lomé voodoo fetish market. I’d heard about this place years ago and was really excited to see it.
When we pulled in, the local boss came up to the car, and my driver explained that I wanted a tour of the market. Ok, 5,000 CFA or 8,000 CFA and you can take all the photos you want. Sign me up for the photo tour! I’d been warned this place smelled terrible due to all the dead animal parts around, but honestly I barely noticed it.
The local people in the north of Togo and Benin are still be believers and practitioners of voodoo, and when something is wrong in their life they go and get the poultices to take care of their ills. Generally, the parts are purchased, ground into a fine powder, then the shaman cuts lines in the skin and rubs the powder in. Seriously. Not kidding. To start with, we had a leopard pelt, and heads of every sort of animal you could imagine:
That won’t do? Perhaps you need a dried lizard!
Or maybe some antelope horns?
Look! I have crocodile hides too!
…and more miscellaneous skulls!
Maybe a bunny rabbit or a squirrel meets your fancy?
Parts is parts!
Group of middle-aged French tourists who looks absolutely repulsed by the place:
After the voodoo market, our next task was to find a grocery store to find some supplies and post cards. My driver knew exactly where to go, and we even had no trouble finding postcards. This guy was well worth what I was paying him. Unfortunately the post office was already closed, so we would need to go mail them in the morning, but no problem. He gave me a brief tour by car around the downtown, before taking me back to the hotel.
A view off my room’s patio into the gardens/pool area of the hotel:
The pool at night:
…finally, a picture of the room. This was one level up from the basic room, and perfectly comfortable.
Ended up eating dinner at the hotel restaurant because I was exhausted, and was nice to have dinner al fresco, although there were cats everywhere and tons of mosquitos. Had a passable local stew and some ice cream along with a couple of beers before passing out early. It had been a long day, and I would be up early again in the morning to head to Niger!