Yesterday we drove from Ada in eastern Ghana up through the Volta Region to cross into Togo at a place called Shia. Imagine the most isolated, backwater border crossing, down the roughest, most unused road, managed by a host of people who are so starved for human companionship they will not stamp your passport until you have engaged them in conversation for a good 10 minutes, and you will have gained some insight into our day today.
The first (of several) policeman at the Togolese crossing was the most interesting. He had been a participant in Canada World Youth twenty years ago and spent a couple of months in Trois Rivieres. He was convinced that Quebecois were not as nice as people from other Canadian provinces, an impression I tried very hard to disabuse him of. Despite the numerous stops required to traverse the border (two on the Ghanaian exit and four on the Togo entrance) the only unpleasant part was at Ghana Immigration. Certainly the most overstaffed border post I have ever seen. There were five people (women) behind the counter and two men, not in uniform but clearly in charge, standing in front of the counter that gave the impression they were travellers. After having the women go through our passport the two men subjected us to what can only be called interrogation, grilling us about the last time we entered Ghana, how long we had been in Ghana, where we were going, At the end the person in charge said it would not be possible for us to cross there, rather we would have to go to the next post, which was the main Aflao crossing now two hours drive away. This was clearly an effort for a bribe but he did not know that I don’t pay bribes. We just held our ground, we had made small talk with the other staff and I think they could see he was being unreasonable and after a time he after a time he instructed one of the women to stamp our passports. I am sure this will not be the last time we have to play this game but so far I can still say I have never paid a bribe.
As officious as this individual was, to his credit he at least cited a reason to prevent our crossing that was somewhat plausible – the condition of the road. He said the road was very bad and would need a “very strong car” to make it. Because we had a 4×4 it was a bit easier to dismantle the immigration official arguments. There was no road at all, only a mud track that wound through streams and tall grass, clearly they were not encouraging people to cross there.
A very long and rainy 9 km after the border, most of which had to be done in 2nd gear because of the abominable condition of the road, we arrive into the back entrance of Kpalime (the K is silent, the e is not) in the heart of Togo’s hilly coffee/cocoa country and a centre for those seeking to escape the heat along the coast. By the time we got there it was after five so we decided to find a place there for the night. We went to the Geyser (pronounced, we learn, geezer in French) a quiet place within the town boundary and equipped with a pool. It had stopped raining and for CFA 5,000 (CAD 10) they let us set up the rooftop tent in the garden and we had beer and salty but good Pork Dijonais for supper in their restaurant. The main evening event was the large flying termites that emerged while we were having dinner. Apparently this happens for a couple of days when there has been a lot of rain. There were thousands of them, so many the hotel staff went around and turned all the lights off. They carpeted the ground as we walked back to the Landy to climb up into our tent.