Visa business and a terrible accident in Togo (February-March 2014)


Just to make you guys jealous for a start – we are sitting at the moment right in front of a large waterhole filled with grunting hippos and the occasional elephant passing by for a drink at a temperature of about 35°C. We have the place completely for ourselves, enjoy an ice cold beer and will hopefully be able to spot many wild animals coming from their hidings in the shade to refresh themselves as soon as the sun gets lower.

But back to where stopped last time. From Wli we crossed at a tiny border post into Togo early in the morning. The Togolese police guy slowly appeared from his hut and unlocked the gate for us. Because he had so much natural authority he had no need to wear a uniform and instead showed off his large beer belly that sneaked out from under his once white shirt. When our details were filled into a large book as usual we could have a glance at the latest border activity. It turned out that there are on average 1,5 people crossing at Wli every day so we felt sorry for having caused an unusual amount of work right in the morning.

The drive from the border went through beautifully hilly countryside with some of Togo’s most scenic drives. We originally planned to stay for a few days here but the weekend was approaching and we wanted to get as many visas as possible done in Lomé before. On the way south we had an experience with one of Africa’s worst sides – its maniac traffic.

Driving on a perfect bitumen road at about 90kmph we saw ourselves confronted with an oncoming truck on our lane right after a curve. Once he realized that we were on collision course the driver of the truck swung hard right and crashed right into several motorbikes he was just overtaking. We could barely avoid hitting the bikers being thrown off their vehicles. The truck driver never slowed down and just kept going even though or exactly because he might have just killed several people. Once our Land Cruiser came to a halt we ran out without thinking trying to help in any way we could. Of the 5 motorbikes driving in a row 3 were hit and 4 people were lying on the ground covered in blood and badly injured. Luckily all of them were still more or less able to speak apart from a guy lying face down on the road who we thought dead at first. Thankfully even he eventually became conscious. We grabbed the first aid kit and while Jasmine started to patch up the worst wounds Fabian tried to find out where the next hospital might be. It turned out that there was one just a mile or so down the road so Fabian drove the injured two at a time there. When coming back to the scene of the accident after the second drive everything already looked like nothing ever happened. We were quickly thanked and then left to ourselves trying to put the last half an hour into perspective.

Most surprisingly to us was that nobody seemed shocked or angry about what had happened and especially the fact that the truck driver just took off. It seemed to be too common a thing to happen…

Nevertheless we managed to arrive in Togo’s capital Lomé in time to apply for the Congo Brazzaville visa. The embassy was kind of in the middle of nowhere reachable only over a rough dirt track strewn with rubbish and building debris. Marc & Doro who were a little bit ahead of us since Accra also appeared at the embassy and we were waiting together for about half an hour until we could retrieve our passports. From there we tried to locate the DRC embassy which was not the easiest thing in the world as people just sitting next to the place itself had never heard about it. But we managed and met the probably friendliest diplomatic representatives ever who figured out the necessary Togolese residency for us and told us to come back the following day.

The following days including the weekend were spent at Chez Alice run by an 80 year old Swiss lady who welcomes overlanders since many years. She had free Wi-Fi on offer so together with Marc & Doro as well as Richard we opened up the nerd table and spent days staring at our laptops and tablets updating blogs, writing e-mails and refining photos. Not much later Pepe & Alegria, who are traveling on a similar route to South Africa in a VW T4 van and had followed our blog for a while, joined us. After the weekend we managed to acquire our Gabon visas with next day processing and left for Benin the following day.

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