Warning – this post is NOT for you if you don’t want to see photos of decomposing animals
I arrived in Lome early and had a seamless border crossing in 20 minutes with no bribes. I have my ‘thank you sir’ and ‘how you doing my friend?’ chit chat down pat now and had no problem with immigration. Likewise I have my ‘in the zone’ face sorted so largely the moto-taxis and money changers don’t give me much more than cursory harassment.
I walked from the border to the hotel, it was only a km and then I started what was to become a love affair with Lome, or at least the food! I had a stonkingly good cheeseburger, which was the start of the best meals I had in West Africa. In the two days I was at the Belle Époque, I revelled in warm buttery croissants, homemade jam, proper espresso, outstanding pizza, homemade icecream, steak, chocolate mousse and a stunning vacherin with salted caramel sauce …. sigh, so good compared to the food in the last month!
There were lots of warnings about muggings and theft in and around Lome. I walked 15k in the first day and had no problems. The grand market was positively zen relative to others I have seen in the region! I also checked out the monument to independence and the national museum.
Lome is a city of mototaxis, and they are so cheap that normal taxis no longer exist. But all the guide books advise against using them – too dangerous. Normally I walk everywhere, but the fetish market wasn’t on the map and was at least 8k away and I wasn’t sure where it was. So, I took a deep breath and found a chap with a bike to take me there. He took my request to ‘Allez doucement’ (go slowly) as a challenge to go the wrong way down one way streets, cut off cars and go at high speed. Then he had the nerve to ask for my phone number when we arrived – so ‘we could keep in contact’
The Fetish market was small but well organised. By local standards they charge tourists a lot – about 8 euros including right to take photos, but on the upside there is no hassle and you can take as many photos as you like.
It wasn’t as gruesome as I expected and quite interesting to hear them describe what they do with the ingredients – making powders, potions and things to wash with. I don’t really like looking at dead animals, but I prefer it to the markets in Haiti where the animals were still alive and not well treated. Locals come too and I was heartened to see the vendors yelling at them as loudly as I feel like I get yelled at in the markets.
On the way back I carefully picked an older driver, who I hoped had reached this advanced age by driving sensibly and safely. I tipped him generously for driving slowly!
Time for another stroll along the beach to watch the fisherman pulling in their enormous nets (it takes at least 20 people to pull one in)…. and then off for some more food. Benin tomorrow!
Lome, Togo, December 18-20, 2016