The First Visit to Togo


In 1990, I arrived in Togo via Morocco, Algeria, Niger and Burkina Faso. I was traveling with my German buddy, Andy, and his dog. At the time we arrived in Togo, only a couple of sand vipers had survived from his original twelve snakes. We had heard about this French animal trader (more pics) who owns a place called "Toganim" in Lomé and so we headed straight south, in hopes of hawking the snakes and the truck for some hard cash.

Traveling north-south across Togo was quite fun in those days. The Route No.1 was in good shape and the landscape is beautiful. Although in those days there were just as many roadblocks in Togo as anywhere we had been, the police and even the military were polite, almost nice.

After we crossed into Togo, we stopped in Dapaong, to see if anyone wanted to buy the truck, and to have a couple of beers. The Togolese beer, Bière du Benin (BB), was considered the best beer in West Africa, and Dapaong was a great town for bar-hopping. We hung out for a while, had some beers and some discussions about the value of the truck, but left later, without luck. In Kara, we stopped for dinner, and found our way to the famous Le Château restaurant, which was owned by two German brothers, and which featured some favorites from the "old country" like Schnitzel, Rostbraten, Schweinshaxen and Zürcher Geschnetzeltes. We hung out with some Oncho pilots and a bunch of other Germans and shot a couple of rounds of pool.


After a long evening at the Chateau and left Kara in the dead of night. After a short drive, we turned off the highway, onto a dirt road. On the dirt road, we tuned off the headlights, so as to not attract any attention, and carefully rumbled along for another five Minutes, or so, through the pitch-dark night. Then we stopped, and went to sleep. At sunrise, I heard people shuffling around the truck, whispering, and the whoosh of brooms sweeping. I opened my eyes and was eye-to-eye with a ruminating billy goat. What the heck was going on? I looked around and saw that we were parked in the middle of a village, virtually in the front yard of a small, mud-brick house! A young girl was sweeping the ground, working her way carefully around the truck. The early risers of the village were all going about their business, but all very quietly! This was very odd, because usually the early risers in a Togolese village make as much noise as possible, so as to kick the others out of bed. So it seemed that they were trying not to disturb the strange foreigners who were sleeping in the truck (us!).

I had to laugh, and I kicked Andy to wake him up. He almost pissed himself laughing wen he saw where we had parked. People started gathering around the truck, and as soon as they saw that we were awake, they began talking to each other, yelling for the kids to go fetch water, banging the water pots around - all the usual morning noises.

We packed our stuff and hit the road, heading south. The highway was brand-new and we were rolling. South of Kara the road winds through some pretty mountains and past the Fazao game reserve. There was a lot of traffic on the highway. Semis were rolling along in either direction loaded with lumber, cement, bricks, etc; bush taxis of all sizes and shapes, from 60's Peugeot bâchées with 5 passengers in the cabin and 25 on the bed of the little truck to the brand-new Toyota Minivans that mainly served the long-distance routes. Dump trucks loaded with with people, sheep, goats, piles of maniok and corn were rumbling along, belching clouds of black diesel smoke, and occasionally the brand-new Toyota Landcruisers or Nissan Patrol of a government official or rich tourist would come flying along. The 400 KM (250 miles) drive from Kara to Lomé was not bad, and we got to Lomé that afternoon.