Togoville, Togo, December 8 - 10, 2007

Trip Start Sep 19, 2007
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Trip End Jan 05, 2008


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Monday, December 10, 2007

From the hill country of Togo's interior we traveled quickly towards the coast and passed through Lome, Togo's seedy and chaotic capital, without stopping as dusk approached.  Our stop for the next several nights was a short distance east of Lome at Auberge du Lac, a campement with some bungalows on the shore of Lake Togo at a place named Agbodrafo.  The lakeside camping spot was already eerily dark when we arrived, and its appeal only became apparent with the following morning's light. 
The reason behind our stop at Agbodrafo was Togoville, the village on the other side of the lake from which the nation takes its name.  The once politically important town is now somewhat of a backwater, but its current appeal lies in its role as an important center of the Voodoo religion with a flourishing fetish market.  Lake Togo, the freshwater body of water between our camp and Togoville, is still clean and shallow enough to be navigated by pole-pushed pirogues, our method of transportation to the town.  Our boat's two drivers or pushers or whatever it would be appropriate to call them informed us that the ride across the lake could take anywhere up to a maximum of 55 minutes depending on wind conditions.  They apparently didn't take into account the number or physical size of our group members, though, since we shattered their record for slowest trip ever by an impressive 20 minutes.  Throughout the rides back and forth I couldn't help but worry about the boat capsizing, partly because of its seeming instability and partly because some such events had taken place in my recent dreams, dreams that at some gut level I feared might be premonitions of actual events.  Thus, I was ready to punch Richard when he decided to create some mischief by rocking the boat.  Nevertheless we made it across and back safely. 
Unfortunately for us the Voodoo fetish market in Togoville was nearly devoid of activity on Sunday, and rest of the town's sights were a bit underwhelming.  James found a "guide" (if you could call him that) who spoke little English and ushered us around town pointing at the various voodoo sights and shrines and repeatedly providing the following in depth analysis:  "Voodoo - very interesting!"  I figured out for myself that the carved stone figures with breasts must be the female shrines while those with carved penises must be the male ones.  It really wasn't too hard. 
Our other tour stops included the town's impressive Catholic church, the village chief's audience hall and throne (although the chief himself was nowhere to be seen), and a "Voodoo House" where a ceremony that seemed to be something similar to a baptism was taking place for a very young infant.  At each spot and several others along the way we were asked for additional contributions or donations, counter to our expectation that these admissions were all included in the negotiated tour price.  My song from the Dogon trek came to mind again:  "Everywhere I go, people want a cadeau......." 
Out last stop was at a partially-covered outdoor plaza where it seemed like a big party was taking place.  The crowd was mostly women, many with young children in tow or strapped to their backs and all clad in colorful and nearly identical dresses.  They seemed quite happy as groups among them broke out in spontaneous-seeming song and dance.  Meanwhile, several ladies sitting near the entrance looked like they were selling raffle tickets.  Our group all sat on a bench at the far end of the open space and watched the mysterious festivities.  Janice, a member of our group from Canada who spoke fluent French, started asking around and discovered that the party was a funeral.  Wow, this was an even more happening send off than an Irish wake.  It wasn't long until we got asked again for donations for the memory of the deceased and the well-being of his family. 
For the rest of that day and the day that followed there was little to do but laze around on the beach at Agbodrafo and go for a dip in Lake Togo.  A set of circumstances I'll describe further in my Lome blog entry resulted in us unexpectedly spending an extra day at Auberge du Lac before continuing on to Benin.
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