Discover the Secrets of Togo!
Tucked into the Gold Coast of West Africa is the Vermont-sized country called Togo. This “slice of African life” is the perfect place for the adventure-seeker searching for the REAL Africa. So put down your purses and briefcases and prepare to unlock a few of the secrets of Togo!
After passing through airport customs, taxi procurement could be a traveler’s first lesson in bargaining. Be sure to ask within the airport what the going rate to your accommodations should be. Taxi trips within most of the capital city of Lome should incur a standard rate, with increases only for the outer-most limits of the city.
The Grande Marche (market) is the focal point of business in Lome. Any household product and most foods are for sale somewhere within the multi-level structure. Butchered meat and fresh fish, smoked fish and livestock, flowers, freshly baked bread, vegetables, spices and minerals for cooking abound on the ground floor. Local fabric and imported cloth as well as items for fetishes occupy the second level, and (mostly) second-hand clothing and shoes are on the third floor. Portions of the market operate every day, but Market Day is always Saturday.
Lome’s beautiful beachfront is lined with palms and small juke-box bars. Though the climate is tropical, swimming in the Gulf of Guinea is not recommended due to a very strong undertow. Evening visits to the beach should be avoided since petty crime in the area is a problem.
Visitors may also wish to visit Togo’s National Museum, the Voodoo Market, Lake Togo, the University of Lome, the 2 Fevrier Hotel – the city’s tallest building, and the artisan’s village of Togoville.
Independent travel northward in the country sometimes requires a lot of patience! Most locals consider “time” a luxuriously slow commodity. Tourists may desire to rent a vehicle with a local driver. Taxis travel at all hours up and down the single major highway reaching from Lome to Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta), its neighbor to the north. The cheapest (and most uncomfortable) form of travel is the “bache” – a small, foreign-made pickup truck with a wooden frame built over the truck bed. Passengers ride under the frame sitting on narrow wooden benches, while all the baggage (anything from live animals to motorcycles) is tied on the top of the frame.
Other cities and climates to visit within diversified Togo include:
*Kpalime, northwest of Lome, a beautiful city in the hills with Mt. Agou nearby.
*Kloto is famous for its craft center where locals create colorful batiks which depict scenes from African life.
*Atakpame, a major travel hub, located about one-quarter of the way up the country. A paved road carries tourists west on a winding mountain drive, arriving in Badou – a center of the cocoa trade. Taxi drivers know the “cascade” and will drive visitors the short distance to the village of Akloa. Leave the taxi where the road curves into Tomegbe, and find a child or young adult to guide you to the waterfall. The few francs you pay are well-worth the hike up the mountain to the crystal-clear waters falling into a pool where you may take a refreshing swim. Some people profess that these are healing waters. Along the trail through the cocoa grove forest, you will see colorful birds and butterflies, and remarkable insects.
*Lama Kara in the north is the home of the Kabye people. Fresh-water fishing, fields of yams, cotton, kapok, and peanuts provide a living. This region is more arid and less densely populated. Not far away in Sara Kawa, a monument marks the spot where former President Eyedema’s airplane crashed; he escaped unharmed.
*Keran National Park and Wildlife Reserve is in Naboulgou and is a popular focal point for tourists. Guided tours are available for viewing elephants, buffalo, antelope, monkeys, squirrels, and less frequently, lions and panthers. There is a hotel located near the park. Two other wildlife and nature reserves, Kamassi and Koue, are located near the border with Ghana in the Fazao Mountains west of Sotouboua.
Always observe what is happening around you. Traditions and customary life abound. Watch the women grinding corn or making foufou from plantains; buy some roasted corn or peanuts from the children on the street. Enjoy the freshly-baked bread in the market. This is all part of daily life in Togo.
At any time a visitor may stumble into a village where a ceremonial wedding dance or funeral is ongoing. The colorful traditions are not to be ignored, though it is wise to ask permission before intruding. The village chief is likely to invite you into his home for a drink of the local brew or the bottled Togolese beer. Don’t forget to pour a few drops onto his dirt floor to honor the ancestors!
This is a guest post by Tania Kidd who writes for Briefcases Direct, a website that offers luxury briefcases direct from the manufacturer. She is a former high school English teacher who has published her own dog-breed magazine for ten years. She served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo, West Africa, and has also traveled in Europe and Mexico. She makes her home in So. California.