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


Dispatch 12 - Togoville


Aneho-LOME (45km, 28mi)  An opportunity to take a side trip to Togoville or the beach.
Points of interest:  Bauida, Traditional religion shrines in Togoville.

  Aneho, Togo, drive up breakfast Aneho, Togo, drive up breakfastConsistent with other towns in the region, Aneho offered few options for breakfast.  Omelet table that were sometimes available in the past were no where to be found.  One option was porridge.  The porridge seller offered drive up serve.  Buyers were arriving by motorcycle, bought a back of porridge and then drove away -- you could bring your own container or have it delivered in a plastic bag.

Aneho, Togo, country roadAneho, Togo, country road, roadside flowersLeaving Aneho, the road traffic was light, the secondary roads were paved and in good repair and the air was fresh -- even if a little saturated with water. Overall it is a delightful combination of qualities for going out to learn about the world.

Aneho, Togo, crucifix at the intersectionSouthern Togo has a long and strong tradition of practicing traditional religion, but this is being challenged with a new campaign for the hearts and minds of the people; larger than life-size crucifixes are sprouting up at major intersections along the country roads inland from Aneho.

This is clearly an agricultural area.  Many of the farms looked much larger than are typical in the forest belt along the coast.  The large farms in this area are planted in cassava / manioc and corn /maize.

Aneho, Togo, casava farm Aneho, Togo, casava farm Aneho, Togo, corn field

Vogan, Togo, bicyclist bring goods to the marketVogan, Togo, Women head carry goods to the marketLong before we ever saw a town it was clear from the traffic on the road that we were approaching a town preparing for a market day.  The photos are biased towards bicycles and don't fairly represent the number of loads and the variety of goods being head carried in to stock the stalls.

Vogan, Togo, bicyclist bring goods to the market Vogan, Togo, bicyclist bring goods to the market Vogan, Togo, bicyclist bring goods to the market

As we came into town, it was clear that it was market day in Vogan.

 Vogan, Togo, bicyclist bring goods to the market Vogan, Togo, bicyclist bring goods to the market Vogan, Togo, market day

Togoville, monument to Togolese-German friendshipTogoville, Togo, street sceneWe had another leg to ride to reach Togoville.  As you enter Togoville from the north there is a monument to Togolese-German friendship.  It has an African and a Europen on the back of a dove with its wings raised.  Historically, Togoland is significant as it was the site of the signing of a treaty between the German explorer Gustav Nachtigal and Chief Mlapa III in 1884, establishing a German Protectorate and conveying colonial power and privilege to the Germans. Togoville was the initial German colonial capital.  The town's hotel is name after Herr Nachitgal.

Togoville, Togo, from Lake Togo showing CathedralIf you approach Togoville from the south you will see that it is bordered by a long lake, Lake Togo.  ("Togo" is an Ewe (pronounced Ev'hé) word meaning "lake" or "lagoon," so Lake Togo is redundant.} Since 1884, Togoland and later just Togo became synonymous for the entire region under colonial control -- never mind that there are almost no natural lakes in the rest of the country.

[Most tourist arrive from the lake side and they don't have a universally good time in Togoville; useless guides, extravagant prices, surprise charges, hustles and hassles are a common welcome at the lake shore.]

Togoville, statue of elder instructing boyMy favorite piece of art in town is an elder and boy facing each other -- perhaps a father and son.  The older man is traditional dressed, sitting on a traditional stool and holding a traditional staff, with a look of wisdom.  The boy is western dressed and sitting on western chair backwards, being hip, but attentive.  The sculpture prompts the African proverb "When an elder dies it is like a library burning down."

Togoville, Togo, shrines and altar for traditional Voodou religion Togoville, Togo, shrines and altar for traditional Voodou religionFor most tourist, the reason to come to Togoville is to see the Voodoo (also Voudou, Voudoun, Vodou) shrines, alters and icons, often simply called fetishes. The lumping together of so many different kinds of places and objects as "fetishes" raise the question of what is the difference between the three and which is which in Togoville.  So we grabbed some definitions off the Internet:

Togoville, Togo, shrines and altar for traditional Voodou religionTogoville, Togo, shrines and altar for traditional Voodou religionShrine: A holy or sacred place, which is dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, daemon or similar figure of awe and respect, at which they are venerated or worshipped. Shrines often contain idols, relics, or other such objects associated with the figure being venerated.

Togoville, Togo, shrines and altar for traditional Voodou religionAltar: Any structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices and votive offerings are made for religious purposes, or some other sacred place where ceremonies take place.

Icon: A representation of an personage or object, often something sacred as in a saint, angel or Christ.

Fetish: The attribution of religious or mystical qualities to inanimate objects.

Togoville, Togo, shrines and altar for traditional Voodou religionSo altars are often found in shrines and in on or around shrine and altars are objects that are one person's venerated figure is another person's fetish, and visa versa.Togoville, Togo, shrines and altar for traditional Voodou religion

In Voodoo there are male and female sacred spaces (shrines, altars and icon figures). Larger sacred spaces are overseen by a priest or priestess. Smaller sacred spaces may be the property of a family and attended to by that family.  Interestingly, female sculptures are covered with roofs and male sculptures are not -- left out in the beating sun.

Togoville, Togo, shrines and altar for traditional Voodou religion Togoville, Togo, shrines and altar for traditional Voodou religion Togoville, Togo, shrines and altar for traditional Voodou religion  

Togoville, Togo, German built CathedralTogoville, Togo, German built CathedralThe area around Togoville has long been one of the hearts of Voodoo.  Not to be out done, the Germans erected a large church, or Cathedral, in the center of town in 1910. The stained glass windows are beautiful, especially from inside.

In the early 1970's the Virgin Mary appeared here, prompting the building of a shrine and the Pope John Paul II to visit in August, 1985, on Apostolic Voyage 27 (he made a total of 104). During the visit the Pope is said to have prayed for the first time with animists and paid homage to a sacred snakes.  The boat he used to cross the lake is now considered sacred and sits on a pedestal.

Togoville, Togo, German built Cathedral  Togoville, Togo, German built Cathedral Togoville, Togo, German built Cathedral

Amidst the struggle for the heart and minds of the faithful that the tourist spend a lot of time parsing, there is normal life in Togoville; people carrying on there daily business, children looking for the next amusement in a non-electric environment -- sometimes it is a tourist -- people taking a bicycle ride, etc.

Togoville, Togo, street scene Togoville, Togo, street scene with children Togoville, Togo, street scene with girl bicyclist

Togoville, Togo, Lake Togo mass transitWe left left Togoville by the Lake Togo marine highway.

  Togoville, Togo, Lake Togo mass transit Togoville, Togo, Lake Togo, Bike Friday in canoe

Back on the coastal highway, even with the increased traffic a paved shoulder made travel relatively pleasant until we came to the outskirts of Lome. Prior to that our timing was good for accompanying some cheerful student bicycling from school to their homes.

Lome, Togo, students bicycling along coastal highway Lome, Togo, students bicycling along coastal highway Lome, Togo, students bicycling along coastal highway

The hell of riding into Lome didn't lend itself to photography. From the saddle, the coastal road into Lome is chaotically busy, dusty and smoky. While the shoulder disappears and the road become pocked with potholes, piles of loose sand and other hazards, cars, motorcycles and huge trucks whizzed by within inches. The only road passes through an industrial zone. The air, hazy with the sand, dust and dirt of the bigLome, Togo,  bicycling art along coastal highway industries, coated our clothes, faces, teeth, noses, and lungs with toxic residue.  Unless you are hardcore it is a little anti-climatic.

Before arriving in purgatory a cheerful art gallery had a piece of two-wheeled art in the yard that lifts the spirit.  It is much more representative of the journey.  Let this be the parting shot and memory.


 Next dispatch.



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