Togo - Benin: People-to-People
Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours


Dispatch 4 - Kandé or Kanté


Bafilo‑KANTE (90km, 56mi) Start with a ride through a beautiful farming area. End with a nice descent
Points of interest: childhood home of the head of state, handicraft center, Mt. Defalo


Bafilo, Togo, morning school assembleThere isn't anything available for breakfast in Bafilo -- not even an omelet table -- so we set off straight away to Kara,Bafilo, Togo, sign for traditional healer 20 km down the road, in search of breakfast. Out early in the fresh air of the morning, we still didn't beat the students who were already gathering at the schools in front of the flag pole for morning assembly.  Most primary schools start the day with a flag raising ceremony, songs and announcements.  Several schools and numerous commercial signs are just a few of the indicators that the area between Bafilo and Kara is more densely populated and economically active.  Kara is the commercial center of the region.

Bafilo, Togo, sorghum crop Intensive riverside vegetable cultivation, Kara, TogoAgriculture had returned to the landscape as well.  The upland farmlands were being used for growing grain -- sorghum seemed to be the most dominate -- and the river bank was being used for intensive vegetable cultivation.

Intensive riverside vegetable cultivation, Kara, Togo Intensive riverside vegetable cultivation, Kara, Togo

Junction on the outskirts for Kara, Togo The highway by-passes the town of Kara so we only saw the outskirts.  This seems to be a relatively affluent town, with a lot of cars and motor-cyclesMotorcycles at junction on the outskirts for Kara, Togo constantly going to and fro. Historically some of Kara's affluence come from its long association with the Head of State.  President Gnassingbé Eyadéma (1967-2005) was born in Pya, in 1935, a few miles from here, and is a member of the Kabye ethnic group, which dominates this area.  He was succeeded by his son, Faure, which has helped maintain a connection to the national coffers.

Kara, Togo, traditional house in sorghum farmThe Kabye traditionally made there livelihood primarily through agriculture.  The architecture of their homesteads is typical of a lot of the Sahel; a clusters of round buildings with clay wall and thatched roofs.  The individual building have specific purposes, like sleeping, cooking, storage, etc. Given the color of the walls and texture of the roof, hamlets can be totally obscured when the millet is at its tallest, right before harvest time.

Linguistically the people of Sokodé, Bafilo, Kara, Niamtougou and Kande all speak closely related languages in the Niger-Congo Volta Area Group family, with origins in present day Ghana.

Fulani woman, Niamtougou, TogoFulani cattle, TogoNorth of Kara and Pya the climate generally becomes dryer and the population is more sparse.  In this area there are pocket that are primarily ethnically Fulani (a.k.a. Fulbe, Fula, Peul, Pula or Fulfuldeh).  Reserve and proud are typical adjectives applied to the Fulani.  Traditionally they are a pastoral people that can be found, with their animals, scattered over a large stretch of the grasslands ofFulani (a.k.a. Fulbe, Fula, Peul, Pula or Fulfuldeh) women, Togo West Africa.  As is traditional with the Cattle Crossing, Passage de Boeufs sign, TogoFulani, animal husbandry is the main economic activity. The local Fulani here also prepare cheese, "wagash", that they sell along the roadside.  The cheese is formed into mini-loafs that is about the size of a small hamburger bun.  The cheese itself is firm, creamy white, and the outside of the loaf is sometimes covered with a red-to-pink substance. Among the characteristics of Fulani cheese is it doesn't seem to need continuous refrigeration and, in fact, handles the heat fine. (In other areas the Fulani make a sun-dried cheese that can look like an irregular shaped matzo.)

 Fulani cheese, Togo Fulani cheese, Togo Buying Fulani cheese, Togo

Niamtougou, Togo, bicycle tour takes a break The next town on our sojourn was Niamtougou. Even at 11 a.m. it was time to take a break, drink, take nourishment and a siesta in the heat of the day.  A great stop in Niamtougou is the CodhaniNiamtougou, Togo, Codhani Handicap Cooperative Handicap Cooperative. The center has been operating since 1977. They trains and provides income generating opportunities for about 55 people with varying degrees of disabilities. They make fabrics items such as clothing, table cloths, bags, etc. with a variety of colorful patterns. 

Wondering into the neighborhoods of the town was also an enriching adventure.  It is a delightful town, with friendly people and plenty to tease the eye and mind.

Niamtougou, Togo, resting in the shade Niamtougou, Togo Niamtougou, Togo, granery and thatch

Bicycle touring in northern Togo near Kande Kande, Togo, bicycle tour takes a break in the shadeAs you travel further north in Togo there tends to be less woodland, more grassland and bigger vistas.  The exception can be villages, which tend to have trees around every house.  The combination of afternoon Kante, Togo, a view of the countrysidetemperature and lack of shade made afternoon travel more fatiguing.  As the sun got lower in the sky hills along the west side of the road started to cast shadows that we would pull up into to grab some fresh air, a drink and take in the "classical" African scenery of grassland savannah with scattered trees and backdrops of ragged ridgelines.

In the waning light of the afternoon, a local band set-up and practiced for an hour on the patio of the hotel in Kande. 

Kande, Togo, local musicians practice

The band members didn't seem to be particularly affected by the heat but they must have had some concerns about their amplifiers because they were provided with their own private fans.Kante, Togo, local band practices


 Next dispatch.



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