Friday, December 11, 2009

It Takes a Day to Travel

As per usual, Ortencia did all the work. I woke up to find her out buying credit for her phone and headed off to have my bucket shower (hot water was ready for me!). The thing about bucket showers is that you have that limited amount of cleaning that you can do. With my long hair, bucket showers certainly presented a problem. First off, conditioning wasn't an option, because getting both shampoo and conditioner out of that much hair took too much water. Shaving also required that I skip washing my hair in order to have enough water for my legs.

We had lots of chores to get done - packing while waiting for our clothes to dry, burning the garbage, doing dishes, and then all the sudden, we had to leave in a huge rush. Ortencia was told there was a trou-trou leaving right away for Atokome, but naturally, after we rushed, it turned out that it was going nowhere fast. While we were waiting, the door of one of the vans fell off. After some discussion and waiting around (I cannot stress enough how much waiting is involved in any and all travel in Togo - in Ghana too, though less so), we decided to take motos out to the junction and hope that perhaps there would be more cars there. And there weren't. We were even passed by the trou-trou from the village passed us by.

So, there we were, hanging out at the junction. Sitting, wandering around, eating unpasteurized cheese, the only kind of cheese in Togo and made by herders, and finally, we ended up in a very crowded and incredibly shitty, broken-down vehicle. At one point, though, it seemed that we had passed the van from the village that had passed us once, now broken down. And then we, too, broke down. It was a nice pee stop, and I have to say, if you're going to pee at the side of the road, it's all about wearing a skirt. Finally, we made it to town, passing at one point over a bridge that was half collapsed - not a reassuring sight, as Ortencia had told me many times about the eleven bridges that had collapsed the previous year. The infrastructure of Togo was largely constructed by the Germans - and since the French had been the last colonial power, that demonstrates just how run down it all is.

Maas met us at the station and we went for a pee break while he found us a car - a much more comfortable travel option. We were also able to pass trou-trous - some loaded with so many goods on the roof, it made the van twice as tall. We even passed a truck with a goat on the top, not attached in any way, just up there, riding along. We made lots of stops to buy things for various passengers, such as a giant bag of charcoal. We were travelling on the one paved road, so we were making really good time, though at one point we had to take a big detour around one of those collapsed bridges - which involved driving over a bridge that seemed on the verge of collapse next.

When we hit the outskirts of Lome, where the trou-trou dropped us off, it was dark and it was impossible to find a taxi to take us to the hostel at a decent rate. No one would bargain at all with us. But, finally, we arrived at Mami's and went out to have Coke and bread as a substitute for dinner. Back in Lome - and on my way home.

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