The First Visit to Togo - Yikpa


Andy and I stayed in Yikpa for a couple of weeks,during which we took a trip to the waterfalls, and traveled back to Lomé several times. We enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of of the people of Yikpa in general, and the Chief's family in particular. We stayed in the guest room in their compound, and the chief's cousin Lucie cooked for us. The chief's nephew, Dennis, and several other young men of the family, showed us around. In return, we helped out by driving the chief and other family members to Adéta and Kpalimé. And, of course, we had to buy the old men in the family once in a while a shot of sodabee, the local moonshine liquor.

Yikpa was a great, relaxing break from the endless hassles of travel. For days, we just hung out or hiked through the forests surrounding the village. We took a day-trip to the cascade de Yikpa, eventually. The village was actually comprised of three separate villages that were all part of the Canton de Yikpa, which in turn was part of the préfécture de Danyi. The first village, Yikpa Dzigbe, is the seat of the chief and his family, the second village is called Yikpa Dafo, and in the third, Yikpa Anyigbe, you can find a small market, a couple of bars, some Haussa vendors and the border post to Ghana. The narrow, beat up blacktop winds through the narrow valley and through the three villages, for roughly a Kilometer (0.6 miles) and ends shortly after the boom across the road, that indicates the Togolese border post.

At this point, Andy and I had very little money left. Catching snakes for a living was not going so well .... and Andy had not sold his truck. Also, the truck was starting to show signs of problems, and driving up and down the mountain roads was starting to take a heavy toll on the old vehicle. Finally, one night Andy woke up shivering uncontrollably with a high fever and a nasty headache. He was curled up in his sleeping bag, with several warm blankets on top, his teeth chattering, moaning from pain. We called the Old Man, the chief's uncle and patriarch of the family. He took one look at Andy and confirmed our suspicion: palu - malaria!



The World Health Organization estimates that yearly 300-500 million cases of malaria occur and more than 1 million people die of malaria.


All of Togo is malaria infested, but the south is especially high-risk, due to the year-round high humidity, which provides plenty of standing water for the anopheles mosquito to breed. Sleeping outside, often without mosquito nets, we were at very high risk of getting malaria, yet we weren't taking any prophylaxis. Basically we were asking for it ... the gamble was that when you got it, you had to take curative doses of malaria medication. But at this point we had no money, and we were a bit burned out as well. All along, Andy had had this plan, to sell his car and to get a plane ticket to Kenya, in order to meet a friend there, who owned a snake farm. Now, it had started to dawn on him that his plan was not going to work out, no matter how clever he thought his plan was.

Reluctantly, we decided to leave, and try to get back to Europe, somehow. And pronto. We checked into plane fares to Europe, and we found that there was no way we could afford flying from Lomé back to Germany. Too expensive. Not even Paris. We figured out that the fares from Niamey were considerably lower. And Air Algérie flies into Niger, but not Lomé. So we decided to pack our stuff and head back north, try to sell the truck, and try to get on a plane in Niamey. I packed a bag, but decided to leave my bicycle, and most of my stuff in Yikpa. I was committed to coming back and to either spend more time in Yikpa, or to continue my trip. But to continue, I had to get some more cash first. So we left Yikpa, and headed back north, hoping to figure out a way to get home.