11th of September – 19th of September 2019:
Abrupt, the asphalt road changed into a narrow, dirty road and only after some kilometers, we reached the immigration office on the Togolese side. Togo is the first country since a long time, where we get the visa on the border. The visa is only valid for seven days, but at least we did not have to go to an embassy in Accra and therefore save a lot of money. Therefore, we skipped Accra and all the stress in the capital.
With the new visa in our passports, we cycled the remaining distance until Kpalimé. The road looked like a patchwork rug and we had to go around the pieces of asphalt using slalom. In the city, we searched for the “Cycling Project” and the people welcomed us warmly. We met Abdou, the founder of the club, with the help of Warmshowers.
During our search for a restaurant, we met a Togolese man who lived 25 years in Germany and has a family there. Since two years, he is back in Togo and therefore fled from the stressful work life in Europe.
The recommended restaurant was excellent and apart from breakfast, we ate all meals there. The different sauces were delicious and therefore we could not eat somewhere else.
Abdou’s Cycling Project supports kids with bicycles, schoolbooks and even pays for the school fee, if they achieve good grades in school. In addition, he shows them how to ride a bike and organizes races in the region.
Mahdi, a Tunisian traveler, who travels through Africa since more than a year, stayed at the same time at Abdous place and we exchanged our experiences.
To buy data from the Togolese provider, one has to dig deep into his pocket. Randomly, we heard about a family who got a router. There, we could use the internet for the whole day paying only 20 Eurocents. Therefore, we sat several hours on water canisters in a dark, stuffy room.
Since more than a year, we are in contact with an Italian touring cyclist. He started in Italy and has South Africa as his destination too. In Togo, our paths finally crossed and we had nice conversations about our experiences in the region and our further plans. In addition, we discussed possible solutions for the problem with the Nigerian Visa.
We left Ivan, Abdou and the relaxed atmosphere of the cycling club and continued towards the capital. On the way down into the lowlands, we passed the highest mountain of Togo, which hardly reaches 1’000 m. Due to the high fees to visit the summit; we just cycled to the first village, to see the view from there. The terrain got extremely flat in comparison to the last days in Ghana and many times, we spotted car wracks next to the road.
The narrow road led us quickly into Lomé, the largest city in Togo. Close to the center, Noah and his family welcomed us warmly. Mehdi, whom we met in Kpalimé gave us the contact of Noah. Since not that long, he is a member of Couchsurfing and received us as his second guests only.
Firstly, we urgently had to prolong our visa, since it was already our last day. With the bicycle, we reached the office quickly and had to fill out the application form, together with dozens of other people. Several times, we had to stand in line to get everything right. Finally, they told us that we could pick up the passport the next day.
Without any problems, we got our visa and therefore more relaxed. The visa for Benin was rather easy and one can apply online and pay by credit card. For once, it was easy and without a lot of hassle.
In addition, we wanted to visit the embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo; to see i fit was possible to obtain the visa there. An official employee told us immediately it was not possible to apply for the visa without a residence permit. Luckily, the ambassador entered the room during our discussion and said he would like to help us. The next obstacle was that he had to state our exact date of arrival, since we had to fix a date for the one-month visa to start.
The next day, we organized all necessary copies, thought about an ideal date and went back to the embassy. We wanted to pay the official fees, when the employee who made the visas suddenly said that he needs some more money, since it normally takes much longer to finish the visa and we do not have all required documents. We bargained in a typical African way until we arrived at an express fee (bribe) of 15 Euros. When we went back to pick up the visa the next day, he informed us that there is a small problem. Apparently, the visa is only valid three months after being issued and our planned arrival was only in five months. Therefore, he wrote a date of issue in November and hoped for us that nobody at the border would check according to our passport when we actually were in Togo.
The predominantly friendly official gave us the recommendation to apply for a residence permit, so there would be less questions at the border and to increase our chances for the successful border crossing. In the last weeks, we read that border police rejected travelers at exactly this border, since they did not issue the visa in their home country. Actually, it is obligatory to issue all the visas for DRC in the home country. Because of the length of our journey, this was not possible and to fly home only for the visa would be excessively expensive.
Next, we cycled to the police headquarters with the copy of our passports and the Togolese visa. A helpful woman assisted us when filling out the forms. The process was short and the officers told us to pick up the documents the next day.
The initial plan was to relax a bit in Lomé, but the various visits to all the embassies, distributed all over town, made us exhaustingly fall into bed in the evenings. Our biggest problem child was still Nigeria. Our already third visit at the Nigerian embassy in Lomé did not result in anything. They did not accept our residence certificate, since there was apparently another one. We gave everything and spoke to half of the staff at the embassy, but it did not help at all. At the end, the security threw us out of the embassy, due to our shorts and everybody was amused because we complained loudly that we only have shorts with us.
On the way back, we visited the unspectacular city center, the lively «grande marché» and the beautiful city beach. Lomé seems more like a small town, is rather quiet and decent, in comparison to previous African city with more than one million inhabitants.
Abdou gave us the phone number of his cycling friend and we met him at his house. He could replace Fabians broken bottle holder and Adrian’s impeller. It took more than two hours tedious work to replace all the spokes. Luckily, Edem was the captain of the Togolese national cycling team and therefore knew exactly what he was doing.
Noah showed us a barbecue place, where we ate a piece of meat for the first time in weeks. Normally, we happily abstained from eating meat, since one has to search for quite some time to find meat besides all the bones.
Besides, our host family owned a little restaurant since a couple of weeks and there we ate some French fries, salad and spaghetti for a change.