Togo - Empty Wildlife Reserves and Corrupt Police
Travel pictures from Togo
by Günther Eichhorn
In January/February 2012 I visited West Africa for a second time. This time I had booked a private three-week tour through Ghana, Togo, and Benin. The tour was organized by Blastours, a tour company in Ghana. They put together a really great itinerary, organized the driver with 4WD vehicle, and booked all the hotels. All the visits to the attractions were included in the tour package. They also helped with getting the visas for Ghana, Togo, and Benin. I enthusiastically endorse Blastours, they did a fantastic job in preparing and running the tour.
My tour guide and driver was Samuel Ametenwee. He was a great guide, very good at organizing things. For instance he managed to get our bumper welded and our airconditioner fixed on a Sunday afternoon. You can reach him through Elisamtours.
I entered Togo near Natchamba from Ghana. The border officials extorted 5000 CFA from my guide, in order to let us through. That was a regular experience in Togo. In one of the first villages we came through I walked through the local market. From there we continued to Kara for one of my two overnight stays in Togo. That afternoon we drove north to Sara Kawa to an animal park. According to my guide, this is the only park in Togo that has animals left. It belonged to the president of Togo and was therefore spared. All the animals in the other parks were killed during the political turmoil in the 1990's and early 2000's. As in Benin, the local guide in the park (and all the other local guides in Togo as well) spoke only French. That was a problem, since my French is very rudimentary, as was the French of my guide.
In Kara I tried to get money from an ATM, but none of them would accept my MasterCard. If you want to use an ATM in Togo, you need to have a Visa card. This was the same everywhere in West Africa (see Ghana).
The next morning we continued north towards the border with Benin. We had to do the border formalities in Kande, about one hour from the border. Again, the officials extorted money from us.
On the way to Benin we visited a Tata Somba village. The houses there have a distinct architecture. On the ground floor is a large room that holds livestock, etc. Part-way up the stairs is the kitchen. On the top of the house are rooms for sleeping. There are no regular windows, just small openings for shooting at enemies.
On the way back from Benin to Ghana we entered Togo near Aneho on the coastal road. Again, the border officials extorted money, this time even more than during the other border crossings.
From the border we drove a little inland to Togoville, with a nice church. Back to the coast roads, we then drove along the coast to Lomé, basically all the way across Togo. From Lomé we headed north to Kpalimé, where we stayed overnight.
The next day we headed west towards Ghana. On the way we stopped at a local village for a walking tour. The tour ended up being almost four hours long. It was interesting to see the local plant life, produce, etc.
Crossing the border into Ghana was the only time that the border officials didn't extort money. They were obviously very young and inexperienced, and not used to seeing tourists.
The hotel in Kara was very nice, including air conditioning and hot water. The food there was pretty good. The hotel in Kpalimé was a bit simpler, without hot water, but with air conditioning.
In Kpalimé I ate in a small local eatery. The food there was very inexpensive ($1.00). The local food is usually palm nut soup with some meat (beef, goat, chicken,or fish) and fufu or banku, eaten with your fingers. Fufu and banku are a sticky paste, served in a fist sized ball. They are made from manioc and plantain (fufu) or maize and millet (banku) by pounding the raw material in a big wooden mortar with a big wooden pole for what seems like hours.
To eat, you pinch off a small piece and use it to pick some meat out of the soup of to dunk it in the soup. My biggest problem with eating like that was that I always get the red sauce all over my beard . They always have a bowl of water on the table and a liquid soap dispenser to wash up before and after you eat.
The beer is (as in most parts of the world) German style lager beer. It is sold in 0.62 liter (>~ 2 pints) bottles. It is inexpensive, about $1 - $1.50 per bottle.
Along the coastal road, the road was very bad, and so was the traffic. In Lomé the traffic was also pretty heavy, but not as bad as in Accra or Kumasi. The road north from Lomé was paved. Large parts of it had been recently fixed, but the unfixed sections had really bad potholes. In the north, the roads around Kara were paved and in fairly good condition. The road from Kande to Benin was a dirt road. On that road the mounting brackets for the big cattle-guard bumper on our 4WD broke again. It was finally fixed in Natittingou in Benin.
The weather was the same as in Ghana and Benin. It was warm, around 30° C (86° F). It was very hazy, sometimes you could hardly see the sun because of haze, even though there were no clouds. This affected my pictures a lot, many of them seem to be very grayish. This is not a problem with the camera, it is a problem of the very strong haze that grays out everything. It did not rain while I was in Togo.
I was not long enough in Togo to have much contact with the local people. During the walk around the market on the first day, people seemed to be quite friendly.
As mentioned above, there was not much wildlife to see in Togo. Only one National Park seems to have anything of significance left. The African Buffaloes (Syncerus caffer) in that park were interesting. We drove towards a group of buffalo. Buffalo always stare at visitors. I have seen that on many occasions in Africa. In this case, one of the buffaloes did more than stare, he started advancing towards us and looked kind of threatening. We decided that it was best to back up the car, a charging buffalo can do quite some damage. The buffalo stopped advancing, but kept staring at us. The zebra, wildebeest, and ostriches in the park were imported, there were none left. The Kob (Kobus kob) are a small antelope that is frequently seen in the parks in the region. But they are frequently hunted for bush meat, so they are becoming rarer.
I was in Togo only briefly, so my experience was somewhat limited. Unfortunately, the most lasting impression was the corruption on the borders. This really gave me a very bad opinion of the country.
|Women in typical long dresses. They carried their babies exclusively on their backs. I never saw a baby carriage. (590k)||Even young children would sometimes carry their siblings. (726k)||Woman in the market. (674k)||A couple of village children. (684k)||Smiling young lady. (631k)|
|Local village. (520k)||Local village. (638k)||Local settlement. This is a place for an extended family. The huts are clustered around a central court and don't have windows on the outside. They are connected by walls to keep intruders (both human and animal) out. (802k)||Local fortified house. These houses don't have outside windows, only small openings to shoot through. (577k)||The kitchen is located on the stairs to the top, about half way up. (320k)|
|This is a view of the first landing with the door to the stairs down in the back. (695k)||Top of such a house. People sleep either outside on the top, or in one of the rooms. (491k)||Storage bin on top of a house. They are covered with straw and have a straw lid. You reach them with the tree trunk stairs. (453k)||Free standing storage bins. (685k)||Storage platform to keep stuff away from foraging animals. (833k)|
|Mortar and pestle for pounding manioc. (931k)||I don't know what these are for. (705k)||Right next to a cleanly maintained house and yard is a garbage dump. (755k)||Street scene in local town. (519k)||Catholic church. (470k)|
|Small mosque. (506k)|
|Bad road conditions even in small towns. (506k)||Bad road conditions on paved road. (505k)||In the north there were lots of dirt roads. (581k)||As everywhere in Africa, cars are loaded to capacity (or more). (544k)||Loaded with people to capacity. (549k)|
|Local market. (610k)||Various grains for sale. (739k)||Market scene. (779k)||Market scene. (770k)||Chicken for sale in the market. (698k)|
|As usual, people carry their stuff on their head. (741k)||President Obama was always very popular in Africa. (641k)||Buying grain in the market. (696k)||Roadside vegetable stand. Most of the vegetables are sold locally from such stands. (508k)||Charcoal for sale along the road. (842k)|
|Bush meat for sale. I saw that frequently on this trip i Ghana, Togo, and Benin. Mostly they were small antelopes called grass cutters. But some of them looked more like rats. (488k)||Paintings for sale. I saw some fairly interesting looking paintings on this trip. (529k)||Brick factory. (613k)||Pounding manioc. They use a mortar made from a tree trunk and a big pole to vigorously pound the grain or cassava for quite a while to make a paste for fufu or banku. (507k)||Local restaurant. We were eating there, the guy on the left is my guide/driver Sam. (450k)|
|Advertising for hair stylist. I saw these very frequently. (548k)||Bathing in the river. (623k)||Doing laundry in the local brook. (818k)||The laundry is dried by hanging it on some bushes next to the brook. (558k)||Garbage right next to the market. Some areas were kept fairly clean, but there was always some garbage close by. (720k)|
|There is gold on the Gold Coast. They were digging for gold along the river. (664k)||Sign to encourage vaccinations. I saw similar signs for HIV/AIDS prevention, and for prevention of spousal abuse. (404k)|
|Coffee bush. (940k)||Cassava field before harvest. In the background are coconut palms. (665k)||Cassava field after harvest. (834k)||Cotton field. (578k)||Millet field. (671k)|
|Pineapple. (717k)||Banana. (773k)||Plantain. (606k)||Tropical pepper. It is dried and then roasted. (803k)||Cola nut. (504k)|
|Rubber tree. They are not utilized in this area, but they are used in Ghana. (477k)||Guinea fowl. (509k)||Goat. (676k)||Herd of cattle. They were blocking our way for 10 minutes while they crossed a bridge. (458k)||There were dogs around, but not all that ubiquitous as in some other countries. (619k)|
|Small waterfall in central Togo. (833k)||Fern growing in the moisture of the waterfall. (595k)||Amaryllis. (422k)||I forgot what this plant was called. (606k)||Yucca. These are a lot bigger than what you have in your living room, but they are the same plants. (688k)|
|Elephant Ear. I saw these plants a lot. (795k)||Fan palm. (617k)||Large Baobab (Adansonia digitata). (676k)||Large grasshopper. (464k)||Interesting flower, I don't know what plant it belongs to. (391k)|
|?? in flight. (345k)||Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea). (551k)||Male Ostrich (Struthio camelus). (553k)||Head of an ostrich. (423k)||Female Kob (Kobus kob). (610k)|
|Male Kob following a female. He had just rescued the female from being abducted by a rival male. (480k)||Female Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus). (526k)||Male Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus). (509k)||Dueling Waterbuck males. (515k)||Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros). (495k)|
|Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus). (570k)||Plains Zebra herd (Equus quagga). (653k)||Plains Zebra. (562k)||African Buffalo (Syncerus caffer), as usual staring at us. (467k)|
Togo - Empty Wildlife Reserves and Corrupt Police on guenther-eichhorn.com
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