16 May 2012, Gail’s trip log

Today we were in Togo – another culture shock. If anything, it was more so than Benin. We had been told it was even poorer, but in some ways it didn’t seem so. It is hard to judge since we saw and did totally different things today. We at least did not have to wait for the pilot and stand in a long line to get our tour ticket. As we got off the ship there were again colorful dancers and drummers, and there were even three men on very tall stilts – all very festive. Obviously these people are very glad to see tourists. Actually, some of the women in the streets with huge loads on their heads were not happy to be photographed – shouting and gesturing when they saw us doing it through the bus windows. But it was so fascinating that we didn’t stop. One lady walked by with a huge tray piled 2 layers high with raw eggs. Anyway, we got on our bus just a out 900 and off we went, with two tour guides, a driver and a security officer on board. Again, there was no air conditioning and no microphone on the bus. But the time we got back to the ship about 200 we were dripping wet. But with two very enthusiastic tour guides, we were able to hear more and get a real sense of the life of people here. About half the people in Togo believe in and actively practice voodoo. The practice of voodoo began in the Togo and Benin areas and was carried to the West Indies by the slaves. Togo, like Benin, had a very active slave trade, as did all of this “slave coast” area. Togo was originally colonized by Germany, who started to develop it into Togoland in the 19th century. Germany lost it in WWI to France (Benin) and England (Togo). They gained their independence in 1990 and are obviously still struggling, but are proud of their efforts. Their biggest problem is a lack of resources, which are in Ghana, and trade routes, which are in Benin and Ghana. Our first stop was the National Museum, and then we walked to the Independence Square nearby. Then we drove through a street market along the Ghana border – many, many market stalls selling everything. Next we drove back to the city along the waterfront and watched a long line of fisher men pulling an a large net. We drove around the port city of Lome and saw lots of street markets and vendors everywhere. Our next to final stop was at the fetish market – an outdoor market where you can buy voodoo ingredients, like dried alligators, animal skins or heads of all types, bones of all types, and so on. It was very interesting, but we didn’t buy anything. Our final stop was at the fishing harbor to see the local fishing boats. The short drive back to the ship took 45 minutes – traffic was totally gridlocked on dirt roads. After a brief lunch we stripped off all of our stuff and after waiting 20 minutes for a washer did a load of laundry. Early dinner on the buffet. Ghana tomorrow and then three sea days.

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