First impressions? My grade-school French is going to need a review.
In research for the trip, I saw it was referenced as ‘the Paris of Western Africa’ & I am beginning to see why. Things here are very French.
We arrived in a mini-bus from Accra to Alfoa, the town that is literally on the border. After you cross the border into Togo, you are immediately in the main city of Lome.
Now, the first thing we were told is ‘watch your bags & don’t trust anyone.” That is a little hard for us because of our lack of research – and the fact that we arrived at 10 p.m. at night. I had to ask someone, “um, where IS the border?”
We went to a hotel that I had heard about on the net. We got there, in the pouring rain, only to have the lady say “you didn’t make a reservation?”
Our answer, “people make reservations?”
We asked her to recommend another place for us to say in which she offered to draw a map and give us direction – IN BLOCKS.
Ghana is not on any sort of grid system. Asking for directions is the only way to find anything but the answer is never based on blocks, more on “turn at the purple building.” We were so overjoyed to be in a city with an actual grid to navigate our way through.
So, after walking in the rain for a while down the back streets of Lome (and getting turned down by another hotel), we found our way to our hotel. At a mere $15 a night. Awesome. Now I can afford more wine.
Unfortunately, that $15 came with a friend – a mouse. Raquel saw it one night and the front desk did not believe her. I’ve seen it lots and usually end up jumping on the bed like a crazy lady. I don’t want to share my room with a mouse. They said they would clean up the room and find the mouse. They have since done so and could not see the mouse. So now it is our roommate for life.
This is not our first experience with rodents on our trip. Other than the fact that boys sell rats on the side of the road for people to eat, when we were in stilt village, I saw a huge rat climb into one of the houses. We were approaching the village in canoes and I said “hey, look at that rat go into that person’s house.” Then Raquel turns to me and says, “that’s our hotel room.” Fantastic.
Our first few days in Lome have been pretty full of adventure: checking out the market, getting a feel for the people & of course, checking out the local bars. O, and the beach, which is right across from all the hotels.
At first glance, Togo is very different from Ghana. There are a lot fewer cars and WAY more motorbikes. Car taxis are even hard to come by since everyone uses motorbike taxis. Raquel is scared of the motorbike taxis so we have been sticking to the car taxis – which cost about 5 times the price. [a little bitter – what can I say, I’m a non-working student]
AND they have coffee here. Real coffee. When arriving in Ghana, I soon realized there is no coffee culture. A cup of coffee is actually powder Nescafe in water. Togo has a coffee culture which is major brownie points.
Yesterday, we went to the beach and I was pick-pocketed – my first time in all my travels. Luckily, I realized what was going on, hit my wallet out of their hands and proceeded to yell loudly and hit them– although it was in English so no one knew what was going on. In the end, I got my wallet back, made a huge scene and will now watch my bag closer.
That day at the beach, I also got a present: free French condoms. Before all of you start thinking dirty, I need to explain why this is special. In many of my trips abroad, I bring back local condoms that say funny things. It started in Ethiopia when there were condoms beside most of the hotel beds. I thought the packaging was funny (in an out-of-context-Ethiopian-way) so I took them. Then when I went to Scotland, I found “McDonald Condoms” that had a picture of a Scotsman in plaid boxers & talked about “Nessie the big one” (in reference to the Lockness monster).
Now these French condoms will join my collection from around the world. Some people collect postcards. I collect humorous condoms. (ps. Sorry Mom lol)
We also went on an adventure to Kpalimne. It was pretty uneventful except for the trespassing, arrest, bribes and worst tro-tro ride ever. But I won’t bore you with that story. Instead, here are some pictures:
Side note: Police like to hassle young, foreign travelers – they tend to get bribes that way. They don’t like it when you refuse to pay to have your passport returned to you. And I hate that fact. But that’s a story for another day.
Next Stop: Benin
I would also like to say that 90% of the time in these travels, I have NO IDEA what is going on. No french skills apparently.