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The Diary

Ykpa Dafo We enter Togo – 17 Feb. 2008

We get the impression that not many foreign cars cross this mountain border. A man in what was once a white vest rushes to his post - a small hut that overlooks the border barrier. He takes his place and adopts an official well-practised stance. He is very polite and inspects our passports very meticulously. He lingers on our Ghana visas, tipping his head from side to side contemplating his next move. Then, he takes the stamp to endorse the documents, at which point some intervention is required. I indicate to him that the visas for the country we are entering are two pages back. He nods, smiles and stamps the correct pages and visas, asking politely if that is ok.

At the customs further ahead, we find an older official, a bit grumpy this one and very determined to underline that he is the authority.
However, he has never seen a Carnet de Passage and judging by the nonplussed look on his face, it looks like he is having difficulty reading it. We slowly explain and show him how to fill it in and where to stamp it. He then asks us for a commission for his efforts. We acknowledge his sense of humour with a smile, a compliment and then we leave. Welcome to Togo.

Atomic pizza

We celebrate in Kapalime with a Togolese pizza cooked by locals. Very strange but nice. We sleep in the yard of the Grand Hotel yard and pay 5000 CDA between us.
GPS N6°53,300’E000°38,230’

Prospero’s butterflies – 18 Feb. 2008

In the village of Kluoto, there are the ruins of a castle, which can be visited after obtaining a government permit. From here, you can go on excursions into the forest to catch butterflies. This is not the right month for hunting, but we ask Prospero “Papillion”, a painter and an expert guide, to accompany us.

We do not see any more butterflies than we did at Wli waterfalls, but we meet a very interesting stick insect, which made the hours of walking well worth it.

This is our big catch

We visit a school and buy some beautiful paintings, painted by the students on a vegetable derived cotton. Once back in Italy, they will be on sale on our Elfo market stalls.

Lomé – 18 feb 2008

Heavy traffic, congestion, humidity and chaos. How we are missing yesterday’s fresh mountain breeze, now fading away in our memories. We are back in a different wild, among motorcycles, cars and street vendors. Yes, they’re back! You dare not stop for a minute or else! They are particularly rude here, interrupting you when you are in mid-conversation and demanding your undivided attention.
Francophone place, Peugeot has definitely worked well here in the past.
We send some postcards, go shopping at a Chinese shop and make our way to the beach where we spend the night… Chez Alice GPS N6°09,965’ E1°20,466’

We leave Togo – 19 Feb 2008

We decide to leave Togo sooner rather than later for a number of reasons.
Togo is a place that is isolated and cut-off from the rest of the world. Internet points are closed or disconnected. You cannot make a phone call outside this country (unless you use a satellite phone, which infringes Government controls). It is quite daunting, especially, because this is not a very settled place; it has been at war and governed by a dictatorship…
People are outwardly more aggressive, as we have found out when in traffic.
There are not many places of interest to visit.
March is the month when the rain starts to fall; particularly, in Cameroon, the roads will be blocked and this gives all the more reason to leave Togo and head for Benin. Within a short time, we are across the border.

Our impressions

We have spent little time in this country, and therefore it is difficult to weigh-up fairly. However, our first impressions are that it is typically underdeveloped. In particularly, it feels ill at ease. Recent violence has left the people embittered, disillusioned and rather hostile.

In three days, it is alarming, how many mad, unbalanced people we have seen and met.
There appears to be no sense of decency; people urinating on the streets with heedless indifference.
And finally… sign posts you’ll see around town…

Sign posts, curiosity and beer