Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Togo – we were finally back to the ocean. Finally a truly green side. We arrived relatively quickly in Togo with the jokes of the Burkina Faso border police and their Togolese colleagues about Hristo Stoichkov and Berbatov, who were the only association with Bulgaria :) First in North Africa, we were called “tubab”,  then we became" nassara, and here we had a new name - "Yovo’’ or  at least that was the way the Togolese people called the whites. The children were running after us and singing a song for Yovo: Yovo, Yovo, good day! How are you? Thanks!
Another noticeable difference between Burkina and here is that Muslim people here are fewer, so the bars became much more. In every village, no matter how small, there may have no bread, but there is at least one bar. People are used to drinking mostly the local beer and some local gin, made from palm trees and having the taste of our Bulgarian Rakia. (Liter costs about 1,50 Euro).

We immediately got picked by a shiny jeep to Dapaong- the first town 40km from the border. The man was the owner of a chain of pharmacies in the area and again with a personal driver. The good thing was that he knew English and played nice local music in the car. He left us at the entrance of the Dapaong at his pharmacy so we had to walk the whole way to the end of the town, which was not short at all. After a long wait a truck stopped and we had not even waved at him! Inside were three cute Togo people who did not even know French, but we got along perfectly with the international language of gestures and smiles. They left us 20-something kilometers before the town of Mango where we wanted to stay for the night. We made a fire and cooked wonderful rice and then watched the movie :) In the morning we took another truck to Mango and after rapid examination of the town and breakfast at a local restaurant, we continued. 

The road was narrow, with huge holes and mountainous areas with curves. There was almost no traffic, only motorcycles and trucks. The trucks were excessively old and broken and so overwhelmed, tied with luggage by any means, anywhere, inclined to one side, swooning just barely on a slope. In almost every mile we saw a broken truck on the road, sometimes overturned with spilled load around. Once we stopped near such an overturned truck and the driver came to chat with us. He said that he had been waiting for six days someone to come to the rescue.
- When will they come? - We asked him sympathetically.
- Not today – he replied
- What do you transport?
- Sesame. I drive it from Burkina to s port in Lomé. From there it goes to China.

strange sign

From Mango a Mercedes took us with a policeman and a civilian inside. They hardly spoke to us and took us to Kara, the city, near which there was a small mountain, where were thinking to go trekking for a few days. When we descended, however, the driver said: "Give me 5000 CFA.” We told him that we were hitchhikers and we were not told that we must pay. "This is Africa. Nothing is free"- they replied. We explained that all the way to here we never paid. They could not believe it. We told them that we publish pictures and stories on the Internet for the whole trip and if they could not believe it they could read. Then they asked us whether we take any money for it. "We do it for free", we answered. The policeman threatened us that if you didn’t pay he would take us to the police station. We told them: 'OK, let's go!” But they gave up and we left. The car was not a taxi and was not suppose to charge us. Here taxis are with yellow license numbers.
We bought food, filtered water and went up the hills. We walked for about 1-2 hours and it started getting dark. We managed after a long search to find a place for tent among the leveled gardens. The next day we bought papayas and bananas from the local people and continued climbing. We passed through several villages and nobody bothered us about anything. People just greeted us politely or invited us to drink their local beer and gin and eat with them. No one wanted "kado" or money, no one walked after us or tried to offer us anything. There was not even a camping or hotel in the mountains and the only food we found was fufu in the only restaurant in one of the villages. Fufu is a local dish that is made from inyam (a large vegetable that tastes like potato) which was beaten for hours with a wooden bat. It looks like raw dough and eaten with hands dipped into sauce. We ate and went to the top. We slept just below the top, but there was no place for a tent and we just lay on the sleeping mats outside. The view around was strange. The whole mountain was brown. There is a tradition to burn everything in the dry season to fertilize the soil and to clear dry grass. In all countries so far in Africa grass was burned (even in national parks).

Preparing fufu usually requires at least two persons

The next day we climbed the peak and returned to the village to eat fufu again. We were 20 km away from the town and we started to walk back. After an hour walking a pickup took us on the back of the truck because inside was filled with tomatoes. He dropped us in Kara, which was quite a big city and we had to walk hours to go and sleep outside the city. We found wonderful place to sleep on a large rock. The next morning after hours of waiting a car took us for 20 km. We ate fufu in the village where he left us and continued. After another long wait a pickup took us on the back again for the next city - Sokode. Riding at the back of a pickup is entertaining and refreshing. Along the way the driver stopped in a village to buy us some fufu and we ate again. This was the most common food here, and costing only about 0,15 Euro, although prepared with hard work and sweat.

on the peak

along the road there are grilled squirrels and beavers
After Sokode a car with a Frenchman stopped. It turned out that there were 2 Frenchmen travelling together - Didier and Erwie. Didier riding in a car followed by Erwie on a motorbike. Or rather the car followed the motorbike. It turned out that they go to Lome, but the road was a lot and we can not take it the same day. We decided to stay with them and continue the morning. They were about 50 years old, but actually were just like us, slept in a tent and carried everything for camping. For the first time we met someone sleeping in the bushes like us, without campsite or hotel. Even people with campercars and equipment always wanted to sleep on campsite, as if it matters where you park your camper. Erwie was a photographer and was preparing an exhibition with photos from around the world. He said he need photos from Africa to complete all the continents. He would travel around three months alone with his bike across West Africa. Didier will leave after 2 weeks after selling his car. We came to Lomé and we stayed there with them one night. They showed us beautiful beaches in Lome and left us at a campsite 15 km away from the city. The campsite is held by an elderly German woman and was very well made. We slept only for 1,5 Euro per person (which the capital is very good) and there was even internet. To our surprise we saw there the Land Cruiser of Michael – the German, who drove us to Bamako! Unfortunately, Michael has left, only his car stayed here. We left our big backpacks and we took a just a little luggage to go to the highest mountains in Togo around Kpalime, near the border with Ghana.

even their heads are eaten on a spit

Usual morning in Lome - everyone is shitting on the beach. Walks are not very pleasant afterward.
On the more touristic beaches there is sign : "Shitting forbidden"

After a long walk out of the Lomé finally a luxury SUV took us to the end of the town. He was Togolese who lives in Paris. When we said that we came all the way from Bulgaria by hitch-hikig, he took 10,000 CFA and gave it to us. We didn’t want to accept, we said there is no need, but he kept repeating "I know, I know" and insisted. It was more than 15 euro! Happy and rich we continued our way. We took another SUV for several kilometers. He asked us whether we were in Senegal. He said that gave us a ride in Senegal and remembered us. Then he came from Senegal to here by airplane and now our paths meet again. This time we decided to take a photo together to remember. After that a pickup stopped and the man inside asked us a lot of questions before accepting us in his car: why we travel without money, what we fight for ... what is our profit from it…He turned out to be another pastor who invited us into his village. He wanted to show us the church, which he is building and to introduce us to his family. He knew English and was very interested to understand our purpose of traveling. He could not believe that nobody pays us for what we do and was constantly asking: "What is your profit from this" We explained to him that we enjoy travelling and that we do it for fun but for him to sleep outside and travel by hitch-hiking was big suffering. We explained again all our story to his assistant and he also could not believe. He was so impressed that gave 1000 francs! For one day two people gave us money... and this happened to us for the first time in Africa. Apparently people in Togo are generous and compassionate. After they invited us to the old church to pray. It was really strange experience. The pastor was singing loud and inoculating people, then we all sang and danced and suddenly everybody started to roar and shout random. They said this is to scare the devil away. In Africa there were many bad spirits and they need a loud praying, otherwise the devil would have settled there. We also shouted, sang and danced with everyone in general was great fun, but when they told us that we have to come to pray again at 4:00 in the morning we were not so enthusiastic. We explained that we don’t wake up before the sunrise and this is against the natural rhythm of life. They were quite demanding and we finally said we would try, but not promise anything. So they get up every morning at 4:00, go to church, singing and dancing for an hour or so and after they go back home and sleep again. We, of course, could not get up so early, despite the pastor’s attempt to wake us up. We almost went to bed at midnight and getting up at dark was at least unhealthy. We left in the morning and started walking toward the road, which was 5 km away. It turned out that the small village has several different evangelist churches. In Togo most people were Christians and had a variety of evangelical churches. Jesus was a star, they sold stickers and signs everywhere that said: Jesus loves you! Jesus is able! Jesus can set you free! and the like. Even Evgeny was often called Jesus here. After 10 minutes walking the dirt road, the SUV of the pastor came again and picked us. He said he could not leave us to walk like this so on the road and he drove us to the village. There we parted and we continued hitching the mountain. With another SUV and after a VW golf with 4 persons inside we reached the turn for Agou Peak-the highest peak in the Togo- 1000 m. There was, however, that there an entrance fee to the mountain-5500 francs (at 10 euros!). We left and decided to search for a different road to the mountain. We found a small path several hundred yards away. Soon we found ourselves in a jungle with all kinds of fruits - papaya, avocado, banana, mango ... They were not private, just grew everywhere in the forest. We ate 3 papayas right away. It was wonderful to pick fruits from trees and eat them. We even ate cocoa, which was very tasty. Paradoxically it was full of cocoa trees everywhere, but there was no chocolate. And in Europe there is chocolate everywhere, but no cocoa trees. We could not get enough of fresh fruit. After the desert and the Sahel this green mountain seemed a paradise. We went up the mountain through cute villages and small paths.

struggling for bananas

We met a rastaman who invited us into his house in the wild. There were two small mud buildings on a beautiful meadow with fruit, flowers and greenery. There were no other houses nearby and the mountain scenery was beautiful. We asked him how he settled there-should he buy land or he just come to stay. He said he just came and dwelt. It seemed simple and beautiful life, although we could not figure out how he makes a living. We lived there two days without doing anything, we ate fruit, made rice on the fire and play the djembe and guitar, which he had. We thought that we are in heaven, lying on the grass all day and watching the mountain. We fell asleep in the evening by the fire, no tent and no sleeping bags under the open sky. But every paradise has its hell. In the morning woke up with a lot of red spots, which grew itchy and awful lot. We were afraid that is from the local water, which seemed highly questionable. There is a disease here called bilharziya that you get by bathing in contaminated fresh water. Small worms enter under your skin and multiply in your blood and the first symptoms are a rash. The rasta convinced us that it is some small flys that bite in the morning. By afternoon the rash has decreased, although the whole night we felt intense itching. The next morning, however, there were more new red stops. We decided it was time to leave this paradise and we headed to the top. The rasta wanted to come with us. After several hours walking through villages and forests, we reached the top. However, there was a military base and it was not good for camping. We decided to go down to town and pass through the local hospital to see the rash. The rasta again insisted to come with us, although we tried to explain that hitching with 3 people will be difficult. Overall, he didn’t speak even good French and we hardly understood each other. He came with us to the road and when we started to hitch, he said: "Nooo, this is not taxi, you have to get a taxi." Again, we explained that we do not want taxi, we are travelling for free. Finally a Mercedes stopped and agreed to drive us to the city, which was pretty close. The rasta rode with us. We told him that this is how we travel all the time - by hitch-hiking.
- Do you know what is hitch-hiking - he asked the driver
- No – was the answer
People here had not heard of hitch-hiking (autostop). For them, if you wait on the road it means you want a taxi.
We drove into town and he left us right in front of the hospital.

Rasta flower in the rastaman's garden
one of the many bars

There we were told that it may be from the water, or from insects and they gave us some things about allergies, which didn’t help at all. We decided to go to the other mountains on the other side of town. The rasta again, however, wanted to come with us. We told him that we go to Ghana. "I Come" - he said. We told him that we are going to South Africa. “Ok, I'll come with you"again insisted. He wanted to be something like a guide explaining that we do not know the area and he should come with us. We told him that every day we are in a place that we don’t know and is not a problem for us ... he started getting really tedious and we did not know how to get rid of him. We bought him food all the time, we gave him one of our metal bottles, 2000 CFA ... but he still wanted “cado” (a gift) Finally he asked to give him our phone! Apparently this was another false rasta. Although initially he seemed so pure and true up there in the mountains, finally he showed that for him we are just yovos that shit money every day. With great relief we parted with him and went alone to the other mountains. We started to walk but unexpectedly a French elderly couple took us to a village in the mountains named Kumbakunda and from there went to a nearby waterfall. At the waterfall was another rastaman artist who painted with natural paints and was selling tickets for the waterfall. We asked him if we can sleep there. He was surprised and asked whether we are not afraid of the night, but finally he agreed. The waterfall was good for bathing there were wooden tables and benches and even fireplace for cooking. We stayed there for two days, enjoying the water, we cooked his rice on fire and ate fruits from the trees that the rasta was bringing from the forest. The rash passed and we felt great near the water all day. This rasta was a very good man, he showed us how he collect plants from the forest to prepare the paint, how he plays with bamboo sticks. Sometimes tourists came with a guide, made photos, bathed and continued. We found out that the border with Ghana is only 10 kilometers walk from the waterfall and we decided to walk up there and try to enter in Ghana. The road was very beautiful and green and the border was quite wild and empty. We explained to Togolese border policeman, that thwy might not let us in Ghana and the man agreed to let us back in Togo, if we return. The Ghanaian police didn’t let us without a visa and told us that we can enter only through Lome for 150 euros for 2 weeks! We decided to skip Ghana and returned to Togo. But the sky looked black and soon it started to rain. We left the second layer of the tent in the camp in Lomé and we had nowhere to hide from the rain. We decided to go back to the town and seek shelter. We arrived there after dark and did not know what to do. We went to a reggae bar that we knew from before and there the owner welcomed us as brothers. We ate together, buyed him a beer and explained that we have nowhere to sleep. He invited us into his home, which was across the street. We stayed at the bar in the evening we listened to reggae music and even exchanged some MP3s. Outside, the rain poured, the electricity stopped, but the woman, selling pate (local cassava meal) sat impassively at her little table outside in the rain, lit by gaslight. Even her child was there but she did not bother that they will get wet. If it was a Bulgarian child, his mother would have immediately shout "Go home! You will get cold " But they sat quietly at the rain and not even tryed to hide. A portion of cassava sauce cost about 0,15 EUR , we don’t know how much money they could make. It was a touching scene.

Expedit - the artist at the faterfall
fine place for camping

in the shop there is almost nothing, but a lot of alcohol

playing with the monkey in the camp in Lome

We put our tent in the house and the next day we decided to go back to Lome, because it could be raining again. We had not used the second layer of the tent for a long time, but here we were entering the rainy season and we would need it again.
We returned in the evening in Lome, rested for 2 days, washed our clothes and decided to go to Benin. The border was only 50-60 km from here. In the middle of the road we stopped at Lake Togo and spend a night there. The next morning we rode a SUV directly to Benin.