In early 2011 we found ourselves with two days in Lomé, passing through on our way to catch a flight to Ethiopia.
Our Lonely Planet West Africa guide didn’t exactly have a long list of ‘must dos’ in Lomé, but it did mention that a French expat couple ran a local travel company named 1001 Pistes (1001 Rough Tracks), which arranged trips, ranging from day trips in and around Lomé to longer camping trips to other parts of Togo. So, we contacted them by email before we arrived and on our first evening in Lomé found ourselves sitting down over a beer at our hotel with Loic and Paule from 1001 Pistes discussing our options for a day trip. It was decided that a trip to visit some local villages on the shore of Lake Togo, a short distance out of Lomé, was our best option.
Many people in Togo practice voodoo as their religion and as a way of life. The trip turned out to be a great opportunity to learn something of what this meant to them in reality, without the Hollywood special effects and mythology.
We visited a number of villages through the morning and into the early afternoon. Loic was well known to the villagers, having lived in Togo for over 20 years. Everywhere we went we were warmly welcomed. We met local dignitaries, including a chief’s wife (the chief was in Lomé for the day), and a local voodoo shaman and his three wives and many children.
Loic and the villagers explained to us what voodoo meant to them. Voodoo fetishes (symbols and objects of various kinds) were everywhere and they had a range of purposes and associated rituals.
We also visited a local school for orphans where the kids put on an impromptu song and dance show for us. We were asked the give a short talk about our home country, Australia, and in our case a special mention for our home state of Tasmania. We also tortured them with a less than melodious verse of Waltzing Matilda, which they politely applauded.
We watched people pounding manioc into flour and other food preparation tasks; we ate local fruits which grew in seeming abundance; visited the local jail (where the village council could send people who’d committed small scale crimes like stealing someone’s goat); and we took a multitude of photos as everyone was keen to have their photo taken. Loic takes copies of all photos taken back to the villages and distributes copies to the people in them.
In the mid afternoon we had a short boat trip in a canoe, a bit like a rough gondola, with a local chap poling like a gondolier, down a river and into Lake Togo. We then lunched by the lake on barbequed chicken and local fruits with a little cassis to wash it down.
As the sun set we made our way back to Lomé to end what had turned out to be a fantastic day, one of our best in 10 weeks in Africa.
Togo and Lomé had never figured as part of our original travel plans, and we really only ended up there by accident due to airlines routes, but we are pleased that we had the short time there that we did, and came away wishing we’d had time to see more of the country.
Loic and Paule from 1001 Pistes were great, so if you find yourself heading to Lomé for whatever reason, we’d thoroughly recommend them.