My housemate Salma Ait Hssayene always laughs at me when I tell her that "I had great intentions.... but..." This was one of those days. We had great intentions to leave Lome for Kpalime in the North of Togo by 11am....but....
So we left maybe around 1:30pm and arrived close to 4pm.. On the way we picked Yannick.....everyone Cediced Soundiata Keita speaks to on the phone is called Yannick, but this was a new one. I think his friendship strategy is that if you are called Yannick, you're in:-) Either that or it's a more common name than I thought. This particular Yannick runs Home Made Lomé..Cedric mentioned that he makes the best ragout....For those who do not have refined palates (Wakonyo Kimeria accuses me of this, saying she can't understand how I eat almost the same thing everyday) or those who are not well versed in the culinary arts (including me in that list....I had to ask Cedric what Ragout is once the camera stopped rolling. I guessed he wasn't saying that Yannick makes amazing pasta sauce (Ragu)......Ragout is a french dish of small pieces of meat with lots of vegetables.).
Between Yannick and me, we had enough turn up energy and a few spirits in our bags to make sure we were very entertaining co-drivers to Cedric. There was a cooking competition happening at Kpalime with lots of different Togolese food and drinks companies displaying their stuff. Me and Cedric left shortly thereafter with a fixer to get us to the waterfalls before dark.... Remember that in Togo the sun sets at 6pm.. basically if Cinderella was Togolese, her chariot would have turned into a pumpkin at 5:45pm....Bleehhh..I know Cinderella's curfew had nothing to do with sunset....Anyhooo....
So we get to the first waterfall in 30 minutes.. It's lovely, picturesque, heavenly...pick a word... But pictures speak louder than words. As we are exiting of course there is a guy who appears suddenly to say we need to pay him for our waterfall visit....fealty for the Lord of the Fall. A long debate ensues about "but why exactly do we have to pay you? Who are you if not the Togolese version of the rent-seeking troll under the bridge?" Anyway, a long, drawn out but not very spirited verbal back and forth goes on between him and my friend. "What exactly do you do here at the waterfall?" "I clean it. How dare you question my JD?" "Ok. Where is the JD and the explanation for why I need to pay you even though you have really served no purpose in our Waterfall visit?" "How dare you question me in this way? I will show you proof from my bag that I am indeed entitled to this payment...."
All this to say that there are always people in life trying to reap where they have not sowed.
Anyway...we finally quitted là-bas and continued with our fixer to this other waterfall that he assured us was 10 minutes away. 45 minutes later as our car struggled on this treacherous dirt road, he kept on saying we were 10 minutes away. 5:03pm we arrived at a point beyond which the car could not move. He then said we were 10 minutes walk away. We ended up with a new additional guide who could walk us there. That walk made me think of all the accidental mountain walks I've done. A few years back after a particularly grueling accidental mountain hike near the Uganda-Rwanda border looking to see mountain gorillas, I had vowed "No more mountains!"
Alas... Here I was again...dying as we went uphill and downhill this "10" minute hike trying to make sure to get to the waterfall and be back at the car before the darkness of 6pm. When we did get to the waterfalls, they were lovely, but I couldn't enjoy them fully without the nagging thoughts of how terrible my night vision is, how most of the route back to the car would be uphill i.e. death and hemaing (panting) galore. Suffice it to say, there were many moments on the trip back when I felt like saying "I'm fine, just leave me on this rock to nap a bit. I will catch up later" but my friend wouldn't let me. He held my hand and pulled me up most of the journey back to the car. We got to the car just a few minutes before complete darkness set in.
We went back to the cooking event and now it was a bash featuring Togolese band that plays a fusion of heavy metal, rap, traditional togolese sounds and rock. ARKA'N, afrika hard metal...It was a treat for my ears. We stayed for a few hours during which one of the stalls at this completely free food event fed everyone...for free. When I told Yannick about my surprise after getting all this food and being told it was free, he said "Togo is different." So from my 2 days here, I've concluded that Togolese people love to feed everyone for free.. I'm still trying to figure out the business model as I somewhat guiltily indulge in all this free food. Cedric on his part said, "This is food tasting" as I surprisingly looked at my very very full plate of food and wondered what a "food eating" would look like if this buffet was food tasting.
I got to reflect on this as I sipped on a few free sampler drinks in the next booth operated by a Togolese liquor company NeHo Likors...Yum ... But had I stayed there a few more hours, I might have become a zombie.. Those drinks were strong, but quite tasty. I need to try out their coconut flavour and chocolate-vanilla.
Having supported some local businesses for the day:-), we went to find accommodation for the night and then some food for my friend who had looked at me with amusement as i chowed down the food at the event saying "Ciku...this food is not that great." Maybe Konyo is right..maybe I really don't have a refined palate.