The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

We Go to Togo, part 1

After Suzanne left to return to the states, Anna and I took a few days to visit Togo. 

Good-bye pictures with Natalie before Suzanne leaves 
The Togolese Republic, or Togo is the French speaking sliver of a country to the east of Ghana, accessible through the border town Aflao, where we spent the night after taking the TroTro from Tema.  What is it about border towns that make them such armpits, that seem to attract the worst in people?  We arrive near and the town is frantic busy with people grabbing at us everywhere.  Money changers, taxi drivers, scouts.

The first hotel we try is an upscale (for Aflao) hotel that we decided would be nice, but not exactly what we are looking for.  The next hotel turns out to be the kind you rent by the hour, and the men at “reception,”, turned us away suggesting we try to Thanks Hotel.  Thanks Hotel is the kind of place that was once really nice, thoughtfully designed and still maintained, to some extent, but the staff working there, obviously the manager was away.  Maybe they are used to having a different kind of clientele, ones from the micro-culture of NGOs that our friend Natalie writes about [click here], but we found it difficult to get change from our bill even when the restaurant was full and everyone else seemed to be receiving change.  It also had a funny set of notice to lodgers, including: 


As soon as we crossed the border the food changed, most noticeably the bread.  In Ghana the bread selection is T Bread, Sweet Bread, or Brown Bread each which have a unique to Ghana taste and pretty universal availability throughout Ghana.  Ten feet across the border and all we see are crusty baguettes. They are wonderful.

Togo, a former French Colony, and before WWI, German colony, was once known as the Pearl of West Africa.  In its capital Lome,  we see its former beauty in pristine (but empty) beaches, sweeping boulevards, and crumbling colonial infrastructure. 

This trip we have become much more adventurous in our trying of street food; Anna and I have eaten more these four weeks in Ghana than we did as a family for two years.  In Lome the new street food we tried was called JonBo, or so said the rasta man who cleared a place for us to sit.

JonBo – a deep fried sausage in a french roll topped with grilled onions and tomatoes.

A Visit to Togoville

We visited the old capital Togoville, on the northern side of Lake Togo.  Accessible by Taxi (2 hours) or by prough (20 minutes).  In 1884 Togoville's chief signed a treaty with Germany giving them ownership over the present day Togo (and part of modern day Ghana) in return for her protection.   Some years later, the Germans built a magnificent cathedral.  

In the 1970s, the Blessed Virgin was reportedly seen on Lake Togo, an event that attracted a visit from Pope John Paul II in the 1985.  We looked for Mary, but all we saw was the rain as we crossed the lake.  Look at brave Anna watching the boat being bailed out before we get in it. 

The German Cathedral, as seen from the boat.

The German Cathedral, outside with bell tower.
Inside the Cathedral 

Notice the Lion and Eagle at the top of the stained glass window.

These Bishop's seats reminded me of Ashanti Stools

The Viewing Platform built for Pope John Paul II
Shrine to the Virgin Mary

Togoville Town Tour

Well dug by the German's in 1910
Steps to a compound
Fetish, notice the offering on RHS of picture in baskets. 

Fetish Trees, LHS is the male. 
Fetish to the Fetish Trees
I guess our visit to Togoville really soured us to exploring any more of Togo.  It was a dreadful place where everyone’s focus seemed on ripping us off.  When the boat landed, they wanted to charge us 20 Euro each to tour the town.  Both in Ghana and Togo, people assumed we were German.  $46 to tour the town, I said, “lets get back in the boat.”  “Oh no, my friend. You stay.”  Some tense moments followed, “Your price is too much, I will not pay,” I say. “Lets go.”   It was misting outside, and soon the real rain would follow.  I’m thinking about the boat ride back, the waves, and this town which feels so unsafe to me.  I don’t know how you are, but when I get in unsafe places, or ones that feel unsafe, the fun, easy going Mr. Steve goes away, and the pain in the __________, ugly Steve comes out.  

Anna hates that person, and so I’ve got these hustlers keen on ripping the very last CFA from our pockets, I got the rain, and soon it will be an out and out downpour, we’re in a town far away, one we don’t speak the language of, I’ve got the 15 year old I’m trying to protect, who is doing her best to turn this situation around by being positive and upbeat, and these guys who set of the same alarm bells as a mugger.  I can’t see a way out of the situation, so I take a path of least resistance.

We take the town tour, but I only tip the guy, and really seemingly everyone else in the town, just to get out of that place.  If you are reading this blog and think that Togoville sounds like a fun place to go, think again.  It is an awful, terrible, evil place. 

On our way back, Anna and I process what went so terribly wrong, contrasting it with Ghana.  We’re also looking to exchange more money since this little trip cleans us out.  In Accra, there are those who very good naturedly try to separate you from your Cedis, but they do so in a more or less fun way, so even if it does happen, you don’t feel so bad about it.  But the further you get from Accra, the cheaper prices are and more easy-going people and prices seem to be.  Our Togo experience was just the opposite, the further we get from Lome, the more it felt like extortion, where the price we pay is for our safety. 


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