A Travellerspoint blog

Togo

LOME - HANDICRAFTS AND THE FETISH MARKET

WARNING CONTENT MAY BE SENSITIVE FOR ANIMAL LOVERS

semi-overcast 34 °C
View Benin, Togo and Cote, Ivory on curlygirl's travel map.

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This is the end of our time with our guide. Nikki leaves tomorrow evening and so we are just resting at a hotel on the beach for the part of the day and all day on Tuesday.

On the drive back from Kpalime we had 10 police checks but didn’t pay at all. When we arrived in Lome we made two stops. The local handicraft market and the fetish market

The handicraft market has the most amazing woodwork but I am always leery of having it taken by customs and managing bringing it back. It is the typical foreign market where we are pestered to annoyance and as we walk we build a parade of people trying to sell us anything we looked at previously.

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The Fetish market was brilliant and bizarre all in one. Fetish doesn't mean quite the same thing here. Fetishes are more tailisman's amulets or healing tools used in traditional medicine. Animals provide an incredible source of healing and are a necessary part of staying healthy with good strength. They tell us the animals only arrive when they are dead but it is a hard sell given what we have seen on this trip. Plus, we saw two caged snakes and a cage of giant rats.

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After browsing, Nikki and I went for a fetish ceremony with the local voodoo priest. It was completely bizarre but I loved the experience. Alex went to the car because she couldn’t stand the smell or the sights, though she also found it fascinating. I ended up finding out I was lucky and got fetishes for love, improving my memory and for safe travels. Seems like it could be promising.

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We are looking forward to relaxing tomorrow but sad to see Nikki leave us. We have had the best time and to share it with two amazing, professional, kind, funny and accomplished woman who are also photographers has been the best!

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Wednesday, Alex and I head to Cote D’Ivoire for another week of adventures.

Posted by curlygirl 05:07 Archived in Togo Tagged togo lomé Comments (0)

THE ROAD TO KPALIME

BRIBES AND BATS

sunny 35 °C
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I will admit that after the extreme beauty, warm hospitality and endless photographic opportunities of Benin, Togo has been a bit of a disappointment. It is always interesting to see a new place but the difference in these two countries is significant.

We decide to come to Kpalime, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful areas. It has a completely different landscape with mountains, trees and lush vegetation. Certainly, deserving of its reputation. However, the drive was quite sad. In two hours, we were stopped at least 8 times by the police or army for bribes. Well, on some occasions we were not asked to pay, maybe because we, the tourists, were watching, but other times, the guide was asked to go to the back of the vehicle to pay. Once we had to get out and walk through the check point. It is not scary just sad. The guide had prepared us for this. The typical bribe is 500 – 1000 CFA so about $1-$2 dollars. We are told if you don’t pay, they search cars and delay you and in the end you pay any way.

Here, we have a really lovely hotel and it is very peaceful and owned by an Austrian lady so the food is decent, albeit very salty. Sadly, the promise of hot water turns out to be almost no water at all.

In the evening we walk through some mountain villages but they are most desolate and people not overly engaging. I get that to be honest. They must feel like they are in a fish bowl. But such a difference from Benin.

Of course, some are very friendly

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In the morning we visit the Sacred Bat Temple. This isn’t really a temple although they have a temple created in the treat for worship and sacrifice. Really it is a highly populated area of bats which is insane. Very cool to see.
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Posted by curlygirl 04:34 Archived in Togo Tagged togo kpalime Comments (0)

TOGO AND TOGOVILLE

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

sunny 39 °C
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There is absolutely no mistaking that we have entered a new country. It is amazing how different it is instantly.

Crossing borders is an experience and something I love and fear at the same time. This was no different. First, we have to go the Benin border to show our visa to leave the country. Next, we walk through no man’s land. This is the bridge over the river that is insanely busy with people selling everything from tissues to clothing. Chaotic yes, but still I rate it as calmer as than the Kenya and Tanzania border. Next, we go to the Togo border where I fill out the application and pay the equivalent of $25 dollars for the visa, which is double the price the Europeans have to pay, and get several stamps and a sticker in my passport. We move on to the final step where the guy kinda smirks, but is a slow as the sloth in Zootopia and watch him enter the information into a computer. Complete torture but hilarious at the same time. Suddenly, he changes his pleasant demeanor and yells at some people for not understanding the concept of lining up. In the end, we have visas and we are in Togo.

Immediately we see that people are more aggressive, bribes are common, corruption rampant, and people definitely do not like having their pictures taken. There is so much more garbage and we sense the poverty. We are all quiet as we are feeling the loss the warmth of Benin. But we are still happy and interested to understand the difference.

We have some car issues, we need juice for our rum and we need an alternative to peanut oil for Nikki who has a several peanut allergy. So, after arriving in Togoville, we send our driver back across the border while we tour the “city”.

We are shocked. Once the nation’s capital, it looks more like a village, with no shops, but a ton of Catholic churches in full swing with gospel music and graveyards all around. There is still plenty of voodoo with the village protector and the sacred trees wrapped in the colours of voodoo, black, red and white. There is a bustling market, that is open just two days a week. Wednesday, no money is exchanged, only trades. It is a tourist town, and a common stop on Togo tours, so we see more white people than in all the last 10 days, maybe 20, all French, but still there is almost nothing.

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We opt for a boat ride across the river to see the slave house. We are still on the coast where slaves were traded. The offer us the opportunity to go below the master’s bedroom and living room to where the slaves were kept and chained. I go below, and I crawl on my hands and knees through the sand to the small hole where they would enter. I barely fit. I consider the size of the average African man and I am completely overwhelmed. When I surface, full of dirt, I listen to how the slaves would scream and cry while the master would stamp his feet to have them shut up and, unable to contain the emotion any longer, I burst into tears. To believe that humans could be so horrible is unimaginable. I am overwhelmed and embarrassed as the guide comforts me.

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We return by boat and visit a village which is nothing like we have seen in Benin. There are people who engage and more that do not. Photography is difficult but we have to respect that as we are the outsiders looking in. After photographing one girl, her mother sees us and beats her with a broom. We are mortified and so we leave. There are more important things that getting the shot. We try to learn, understand and tell the story but not at any expense.

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We head back to our hotel which is quaint and isolated, without wifi, hot water, or air conditioning, but sits on the most beautiful lake. It is so peaceful and perfect. We wait 90 minutes, for our first meal since breakfast at 7am, (it appears the Togo diet maybe even more effective than the Benin diet). We eat on a wharf in the middle of the lake while drinking our bottle of Saint James rum and we are just in the moment, laughing and appreciating our lives, our opportunities and where we are today.

Welcome to Togo. Welcome to Togoville.

Posted by curlygirl 06:48 Archived in Togo Tagged togo togoville Comments (0)

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