When we (Mary, Afia, Regina and Shika) saw the Go-Kart place (L’AfriKlub) on our way home last week, we knew we had to check it out before leaving Lome. With Shika leaving this Thursday, the plan was to go go-karting on either Monday night or Tuesday night as our Wednesday night was taken – barbecue party for Kailend Volunteers and team. So on Tuesday night, we arranged to go go-karting and then have pizza as we have not yet had anything outside the delicious homecook meals by Sylvina. We set off from the Kailend Volunteer House / Headquarters at Togo Deux Mille to Afrik Klub which was a 7 minute drive.
At L’AfriKlub, we saw a couple of people on the raceway. One racer had taken the racing pretty seriously as he kept going on and on at top speed. This sort of got those of us who do not know how to drive a little scared but we were determined to give it a shot. However we lost the excitement when we were informed of the charges (6000 CFA equivalent 44 Cedis) which was very affordable but we had to choose between pizza and go-karting. We finally settled on satisfying our rumbling stomach.
We went up the stairs to the rooftop and ordered a 30cm pizza (5000 CFA equivalent 36.50) with different toppings. We got the margherita, quart-fromage, cannibale and exotique (Hawaiian). We waited for our pizza over some coke, ice and lemon. Between 15 to 20 minutes, our pizza was served. You should have seen the excitement on our faces as the pizza smelled so good and the quart fromage which was served first looked so right with the thin crust. After saying grace, we dived into the quart fromage and each bite somewhat tasted better than the previous. Within 15 minutes, all four pizzas were gone.
And though we were not able to do what we wanted to do at L’AfriKlub, we have no regrets as the pizza made up for it. Kudos to the chef for making something so heavenly.
When I resigned from my job last year, the plan was to work with Kailend for a month as an intern. This was to give me the opportunity to help make a difference in my community, learn a new language as Kailend is in a French speaking country – Togo, spend some time with Ellen who will be moving to Cape town soon, connect with other volunteers around the world, gain more experience in my skill and well, indulge in my love for traveling. However things don’t always go as planned so I had to put this on hold till this year.
As I planned towards my trip, I informed a couple of friends with similar goals who decided to join me on my trip. So on Sunday – 16th April 2017, we made the 2-3 hour journey from Tema Motorway Roundabout to Lomé, Togo. The girls (Mary, Afia, Reggie) and I got a hired car (4 passenger) which charged 50 cedis per person and took us right to the border. This was so great as we had many luggages and weren’t prepared for the walk from the main station to the border as the trotro (bus) wouldn’t have brought us that close to the border. We however had to wait for the SASA Group who wanted to spend their Easter Sunday and Monday with Kailend to make an impact and learn more about the social enterprise.
Since the girls and I got to the border earlier, we had to wait for the others for nearly an hour as their bus stopped several times for passengers. While we waited however we got our passports stamped at a fee, made some enquiries and got in touch with the driver who had to pick us up. When the others finally got to the border, we assisted them with the formalities and then left for Sammy’s (executive director of Kailend) family house for a talk. Over there, we introduced ourselves and met Shika – a volunteer from UK who plans on assisting the social enterprise for the next two weeks.
After some laughter and familiarisation, we left for the volunteer house which is around the Airport / Trade Fair area in Lomé. At the house, we were met by the lovely Sylvina who is the housekeeper and chef. Then Sammy explained to us the mission and vision of Kailend and we made plans for the next day. But before sleeping, the girls and I decided to channel in our energy by playing some drums and dancing at the sitting room.
On Easter Monday, we woke up to delicious omelettes, tomato sauce and baguettes then had a little freestyling singing and dancing before setting off for the day’s job. We took a drive through town, and visited some of Kailend’s projects in Lomè starting with the Mama Charity Orphanage where we learnt the importance of not only looking out for ourselves but also for those who aren’t as privileged as us, assisting, encouraging, and praying with / for them.
Afterwards we went on a drive to the University of Lomè where Albert showed us around. Afterwards, we went back home to have a yummilicious meal then headed right back out to the Artisan market where we breathtaking paintings, carvings, bags, jewellery, clothes and souvenirs that depict the history, creativity and modernization of Togo and Africa. We were then sent to Sammy’s family house where we were privileged to watch a choreography, sing and dance, listen to a motivational speaker – Marie Ange and just chill. At that moment, the girls and I realised Togo is exactly where we should be at the moment. After a couple of hours, we had to leave for the volunteer house.
Upon getting back home, we had dinner and a meeting to encourage each other to be concerned about those around us and to help make a difference in our community. As the SASA group were living the next day, we had a little party at the Terrace where we all chilled, spoke about our dreams. This went on deep into the night. Friendships were made; minds were filled with new ideas and implementations; a family was created and love was shared.
As I plan on staying for the next two months, I am looking forward to the adventure ahead of me; the friends I will make along the way; the possible business opportunities; the joy of learning a new language; indulging in my love for travel and most importantly living a mark in the world by making a difference in the life of a person in need.
I believe moving to Togo for a while is a really good best decision and intend on utilising this opportunity to the fullest.
Togo is my little sanctuary where I go to unwind and leaving for Ghana always makes me very emotional. So on Monday which was my last day, I stayed in my room half of the morning thinking about the things awaiting me in Ghana. To be honest, I was not happy about it. I did not want to come back home. I have such freedom and liberty in Togo that I did not want it to end.
The morning of my last night
When I finally dragged myself out of bed, El had already made breakfast – oats with honey, fried eggs, tea, baguette with butter and jam. She works from and she was hoarding the living room so I had breakfast on the balcony which did not have a spectacular view. But still something to reflect on and that was what I did. After breakfast, I stayed in my room reading some poems on her kindle and slept a bit.
The afternoon of my last night
The last time I was in Togo, I wanted to visit the Grande Marché but most shops at the market do not open on Sundays so I was not able to visit. So during my four days in Lomé, I added it to my itinerary. I needed to get some traditional prints and souvenirs for some friends and family. I told Ellen about it and she suggested the secondhand market with was closer to us and much cheaper. I remember I visited that market in 2006 and well, I did not mind revisiting memories from the past.
I could not go with Ellen though because she had to work. I had to go to with Olivia, one of the most interesting people I met in Togo. I was excited to go with Livi but the problem was; I speak basic French and she speaks basic English so communication was going to fun as hell. I remember telling El that Livi and I will have to resort to sign language. The Airport City where we live is not far from the Market but the 600 CFA the Cab driver charged was a bit on the low for me.
The second hand market is like Ghanaian Makola Market and Cantamanto merged together but with more parking space. We all know how noisy markets are but this noise was pleasant in my ears – rawness of the Togolese French. There was a big building where traders were selling their goods. The market is really an easy place to get lost so Livi took my Togo number just in case we got lost. We spent about three hours there searching for the specific items I needed and in good quality. I bought so many items from the market and they were all new.
Unlike the Ghanaian market where you can try on clothes before buying, some traders in the market refused to let you try on clothes with were alright. We later went in search for the black soap I fell in love with from my last visit and also some sheabutter El needed. When we left the market, I had gotten many stuff yet spent so little. I said this to Livi and she told me that many people cannot afford these stuffs, they are too expensive.
And before I forget, Livi and I did not resort to sign language. We understood each other very well.
The evening of my last night
El gets out of work after 7:00 pm so we decided to have dinner afterwards. We were not in the mood to cook that evening so we decided to go get something and dine in. we however did not know what to eat. After some thoughts, we settled on some Lebanese dishes. El told me about Le Phenicien restaurant which was a 30 minute drive who makes very good Lebanese meals. So we called Ali who had been in Togo for a while and knew almost everyone there. He ordered for our meals and offered to drive us there.
Le Phenicien restaurant is beautiful – the lobby has a bakery, icecream parlour and sitting area. There is an inner room for dining. When we got there, the owner came to greet us and El passed a comment about how we will get served quickly because the owner knows Ali. And she was so right. Within 10 minutes, our food was in our hand and we were leaving the restaurant. Ali and I however feasted on some icecream and also got some croissant for breakfast the next day.
The ride back home was convincing Ali to join us for dinner which he did. We even got him to write a poem for the very first time and I must say, he is a natural. After Ali left at 10:30pm, El and I just sat there and talked about our dreams, desires, weaknesses and the fact that I should move to Togo.
That night in my bed, I told myself that maybe, I should move to Togo.
When I saw Ellen’s photo at Lake Togo, I knew I had to visit. Lakes are not really my thing. I would choose the sea anytime but Ellen’s photo was really catchy so I added the Lake to my itinerary when I visited.
Lake Togo is on the route to Aného (a town in the southeast which was the first German capital of Togo in the 1880s). The Lake is about an hour drive from Airport City and since there is no traffic in Togo, the journey is really pleasant. We visited on a lazy Sunday afternoon and since it was already after 3:00 pm, we knew we wouldn’t stay longer like we would have liked. We asked the cab driver to wait for us. It would have been really silly to have him go all the way to Lomé and back. We were also not certain we could get a cab back home so we did not risk it.
The hotel we chose at Lake Togo is called O Lodge Africa. It is something like a water / amusement park which was built with children in mind. It has activities that can be undertaken with children as well as adults. At the gate, we were asked to pay 5,000 cfa each to enable us have access to the swimming pools in the hotel. It seemed a bit pricey to me but after converting the money to Cedi, I realized it was alright. But then the question at the back of my mind was what if I do not want to get in the pool? Then it would mean I paid 5,000 cfa to go inside a hotel which is supposed to be a public place.
The hotel has been divided into three sections with bamboo walls separating each section; an open dining area; hotel rooms and a sitting area on the lake.
The first section has waterslides with two swimming pools and a playground. One of the pools is in the form of a tub and it is very shallow – just right for children.
The second one has a pool, sitting area with carpet grass, a bathroom behind it and dining area right opposite it. I realized the young adults preferred this area.
The third section has a pool right infront of the hotel rooms; close to the Lake and has a picturesque view so that was where we sat watching those on the boat rides and admiring nature.
Activities at the hotel
After a swim, we moved to the sitting area on the lake and ordered nems poulet as entrée and then followed with ham and cheese sandwich with pickles. Our bill was only 12, 250 cfa for such a delicious meal.
Our cab driver who waited for us for more than two hours charged us 10, 000 cfa which I find shocking up to today.
I fell in love with Togo when I visited in 2010 and the plan was to go there again but I never seem to have the time. So when my sister Ellen asked me to visit her, I felt my wanderlustful heart soaring. I will find any excuse to travel.
So on 6th December 2015, I left Tema for Togo by road. I had used the Aflao road several times and it is a 2 hour journey but the eagerness to see Ellen made the trip seem longer. At the border, I expected to be free of charges since I had the ECOWAS passport but that was not so. I had to pay some amounts in both countries.
I was to meet Ellen at the market so when I was approached by a helpful cab driver, I just decided to go with him. The journey from the border to the market however was less than 20 minutes so when he told me he will take 5000cfa, I was a bit unsure and bargained till he agreed to 4000cfa which I felt was a bit too much but what do I know, I was a foreigner who was desperate to see her friend so it was alright to me. Transportation in Togo is unlike Ghana where the streets are flooded with loading cabs, trotro and metro buses. In Togo, their source of transportation are cabs (a person to a cab) and a motorbike which is half the price of the cab.
At the market, Ellen was not at our rendezvous spot so I found a communication centre and called her but there was no answer. I tried several times till the owner of the little shop got angry and said he will not try anymore. I then started walking around the area like an impatient wanderer. While waiting, I took time to survey the area. So many people walking with their own agenda at the market. Very convincing traders trying to sell their products. The thick richness of the French language that surrounded me. I could feel the hint of romance in each sentence. I just sank into my surrounding till I was tapped on the shoulder by Ellen.
I remember telling Ellen that the first place I wanted to visit in Togo was the beach since I had observed from my previous visit how neat their beaches were. So we headed straight to the a hotel on the beach called Pure Plage. We were charged 2000cfa for transportation and it was farther than the border to market and that was when I knew I had been duped by the first cab driver.
The Pure Plage hotel is simple and beautiful. The architecture is African and unique. Their pool was really cool and there is free wifi for all customers. As a foodie, it was their menu that caught my attention. French people have a way of whetting your appetite with the way they serve their food. Meal was also affordable. Ranging from 2700cfa upwards. I had sandwich and salad which I am still wishing to have another bite. After a while, we went to Ellens place which is outskirts of Lomè. A hostel kept for volunteers. Partied at the Refuge where we had good pizza which was 2700cfa. Rumour had it that during the festive season, the town is not safe and Ellen’s trusted cab driver Salim had to use different routes to cover our tracks.
The next day which was Sunday, I had to leave because I had work the next day but I found myself stalling. As I sat on the rooftop painting my nails, I looked round the town. It is not really developed but has so much activity going on. There was singing in the church and in another house, there were Muslims praying. The beauty of diversity. Togolese take their faith very seriously. Most shops do not even open on Sundays so I could not shop at the market like I wanted to. When it was time to leave, another cab driver Christian took me round the city for more than 30 minutes. He showed me the house of the President and afterwards sent me to the border. He charged me 3000cfa and I could not help but remember how I was cheated earlier. I went through the same formalities paying amounts on both sides when it should have been free with the ECOWAS passport. I did not let it dim my love for travel though.
What you have to admire about Togolese is the fact that most of them know little bits of English which cannot be said about English speaking countries. I felt my French coming back to me after just a night in Togo. A native called Olivia confirmed that if I stay a month in Togo, I will be able to perfect their language.
My overall thoughts on Togo is everyone must visit. They are nice people, nice reception, good food, great beaches. Though they do not have much in the country, they make very good use of the little they have.
I have mad love for Togo and my next visit will be in March, I hope to visit Lake Togo and also the country side Pomè. I will certainly blog about my experience.