23 years ago, I left Togo delighted to see the back of it. Half a lifetime ago.
That time, I sold my XT and flew to Moscow on Aeroflot. I was sad to see my XT go – Yamaha’s single-cylinder, continent-wrecking beast which had taken me some 4,000 miles overland from Leicestershire and across the Sahara to a little-known West African country.
This time, I took what was supposed to be an easy route – via TAP airways from Lisbon to Lomé. This time, I left behind my XR – my iPhone which costs more than the average GDP per capita – the smartphone which I had piloted via Amsterdam and Lisbon airports to my final destination.
Many things happened in a short trip, and some of the things about Togo that I’d forgotten were the sounds.
The Sounds of Togo
- roosters. no matter what time of night, there’d be a rooster crowing
- hissing. people not snakes. The Togolese hiss at you to get your attention. It’s remarkably effective.
- sweeping. with twig brooms. The locals sweep loose red dirt from slightly firmer red dirt with twigs strapped together – the African Swiffer.
- horns. motorbikes and taxis not animals. A honk from a vehicle might mean, “I’m coming and will kill you if you don’t move.”, “I’ve only got 8 people in this 5 seater car so have more space to fit in paying passengers – would you like to go with us?”, “I’m overtaking this car which is overtaking a lorry which is overtaking a motorbike on a blind bend and I’m not sure if we’re all going to die. What do you think?” or anywhere in between
- “Yovo!”. meaning white-person. Mostly children in rural settings would yell this at me in a well-meaning way, followed by some laughing and waving.
- drums. people with drums. Some of them annoying middle-aged French tourists, but mostly people who live there and like a bit of drumming.