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My African adventure

To go to TOGO

GHANA | Wednesday, 3 February 2010 | Views [523] | Comments [3]

Not having had our fill of being in a francophone country (Burkina), we decided to try another one and headed for Togo, which to the uninitiated is to the east of Ghana. I believe it's the smallest country in West Africa, comparable in size to England.

The border to Togo from Ghana is at a place called Aflao and it's considerably more chaotic than Paga. Money changers abound, as do young men who'll happily show you where to cross the border/how to complete the visa form/ where to change the money/ where to get a shared taxi - even ( and especially) if you don't want them to!

The crossing was much quicker here and we were through in minutes - we soon booked into a rather pleasant guesthouse and ventured forth into Lome, capital of Togo. The city is right on the beach so a walk along the main drag is the beach walk - pretty cool, with palm trees along the way and a gentle sea breeze. We had a delicious Senegalese meal (as you do when you're in Togo!) and headed back to the guesthouse as we were so exhausted from all the travelling we'd been doing (no sympathy needed or expected!)

Certainly the Togolese appeared much friendlier and more helpful than the Burkinabes and didn't seem to be interested in ripping us off. We visited the Grand Marche which was indeed Grand then found a taxi to take us to the Marche des Feticheurs - Voodoo or Fetish Market. You see, we just can't keep away from these fetishists ...

Well this was definitely one of the main highlights of our travels. After haggling robustly with the guide, we were shown items on display on various stalls. A lot of animal skulls - elephant, buffalo, crocodile, monkey, baboon, dogs, cats. The guide explained that these are ground down into powder to "cure" ailments such as rheumatism and arthritis. There were also skeletons of chameleons, rotting bird carcasses and possibly the most expensive item on display - an elephant's foot. This, he explained, was hugely expensive because of its healing properties ( we couldn't understand who could possibly afford to buy this). He showed us some stones with holes in the centre ( they looked a bit like very large polo mints but made of stone), the holes of which had been put there via thunder. I have no idea what he was talking about at this point but nodded appreciatively! Still, the stones also - of course - had healing properties so were valuable too.

Our guide explained why all this was important and how they are ingredients of traditional medicine and religion. Apparently, an overwhelming majority of people in Togo still practice traditional "animist" religions and even Christian and Muslim minorities will often incorporate animist practices into their beliefs.

After our guided tour of the market, came the piece de resistance. We were lucky enough to meet the Chief Voodoo priest who showed us a number of different talismen in his little cave. He had charms for Safe Journeys, Love, Good Luck, Memory, Happy Home etc. Needless to say we were enchanted by his explanations and his conviction that these talismen work so we bought some ...

Kerstin and I had to put our talismen in a calibash, hold it in both hands and say our name three times. Mr Voodoo man then blessed the talismen and us to "seal" their effectiveness. Then the inevitable discussion about payment. In order to work out how much we should pay, he rolled four shells - in much the same way as you'd roll dice - and said we each owed 10,000 francs. This being way beyond our budget, we told him we only had 5,000 francs altogether so he rolled the shells again and surprise, surprise, the shells "said" that 5,000 francs was a fair price. So Kerstin said her name as she held her talismen in her cupped hands, and he blessed them by ringing a bell and saying a prayer and she was a happy bunny. My turn - and he wanted a further 5,000 francs so we explained patiently that actually we only had 5,000 francs in total so he rolled the shells once and said I could pay a further 2,000 only. We insisted we didn't have the funds so after another couple of rolls of the shells, they magically "said" that 5,000 for all our talismen was acceptable. I was similarly blessed and am the proud owner of some fascinating voodoo talismen - but I won't give away which ones I chose, as that will destroy the magic ...

The visit to this market fitted in very nicely with our previous visit to the fetish priest in Kumasi, so if really nice things start to happen to me, you'll know why!

I will promise to upload some pix to show you the animal skulls and the voodoo priest but please be patient as now that Kerstin has left, it'll take me longer to upload straight from the camera and not from the laptop.

Comments

1

HI Helen ! . Interesting reading again on Burkina Faso and Togo - certainly not the tourist destinations we read about in the travel supplements.. Great photos.
Went to Alisons 60th on Sat. lovely party She has left today for a month in Argentina - 2 weeks learning Spanish in B.A. and then travelling to Patagonia and glaciers etc. Such exciting friends I have ! Rose and Huw still havent left - maybe by Valentines Day - Ted and I will be joining them in Tunisia, but I dont think it will be before you are back.. Love xx

  Sue Feb 5, 2010 9:04 AM

2

Thought I'd just drop in and say 'hi'. You really seem to be having an amazing adventure and doing and seeing some great things. I loved your voodoo experiences and am waiting to hear that the charms have indeed worked.... Keep on having a great time.

Shelley, Ilan and Orly are all super-busy and enjoying life. Maya is thinking about doing a kindergarten teachers course. Ilan was just in freezing London on business, and Shelley in Italy for work just before that. Orly will be presenting a paper at the International Classics Confeence in July in - Newscastle on Tyne. I told her she'll need language lessons to understand the locals. And of course Yonatan is gorgeous, funny and veyr bright - 18 months old now.

Take care of yourself and loads of love, Madeleine

  Madeleine Feb 7, 2010 1:10 AM

3

Helen,

Your stories are fascinating as ever ... looking at the picture of the talisman with the message sealed by a plug reminded me of something I read somewhere, I can't remember where, about an old English tradition of whispering your secrets (probably about love) into a hole in a tree and then sealing it up. Cider with Rosie perhaps?

I've just got rid of my car (I hardly ever use it and when it failed its MOT it wasn't worth the money to fix it) so for the first time in 27 years I have no car ... feels very odd.

Colin

  Colin Altman Feb 16, 2010 9:47 AM

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