Karl’s Chronicles Article 10 Ghana & Togo – A Landscape Shared
So far this journey has unveiled the historical epoch of self-determination, championed by Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president and his grand ambitions to modernize the country after ending colonial rule. Then we continued along the Gold Coast to understand a dark, tragic era that inflicted so much pain on Africa as a whole: slavery. We have learnt about the nations various foods and seen displays of vibrant creativity through the fingers of her artisans. From mighty elephants and graceful antelopes that inhabit Mole NP to a shortened but no less fascinating glide across Lake Volta on the cargo boat of the Yapei Queen. Recently we crossed the frenetic Aflao border, moving east into Togo and touching the surface with Voodoo at Lomes- Fetish Market.
Now, turning our backs on the palm-fringed Atlantic coastline, our route takes us inland towards the Plateau Region. Exploring some of Togo’s most beautiful and cinematic landscapes that stretch across to form the Volta Region in Ghana. Hugely beneficial as the countries agricultural centre, patched together with cocoa and coffee plantations growing alongside deep swathes of forest. Encouraged further by regular crops of banana, papaya, yam, manioc (cassava), palm, kola nuts, teak, mandarins and groundnuts. It appears whichever path you follow; you are usually overshadowed by head high millet or corn rustling like paper in the preliminary winds of a distant storm, a charcoal-black stain leaking across the sky and quickly gathering momentum. Ever-changing the expression and mood of the sky above.
An area of hills and mountains that puncture the landscape, richly covered in a rumpled cloth of marbled greens with a brown puddle of houses that marks the existence of a village. Hemmed in along the narrow troughs and in the opposite case of Kouma Konda and Kouma Tokpli, they cling like clams in the higher elevations of Mount Klouto. From the summit, you can see back across into Ghana and the silvery sheen of Lake Volta, 35km away. Mango and teak trees shade the villages, alongside the captivating wilderness of the Missahoho forest. As the rainy season continues, the vast amount of waterfalls here are at their most powerful. Plummeting over rocky ledges into small amphitheatres ringed by wise old trees, their trunks coiled by python styled creepers. As they climb above ferns and bright flowers that consume the forest floor. The Wli (pronounced Vlee) Falls in the Agumatsa Wildlife Sanctuary is Ghana’s tallest. It is reached by an hour-long path that regularly crosses the twisting river of the same name. Divided into upper and lower falls, the latter being the most accessible, drops over thirty metres. Nesting on the same jagged precipice just a few metres away are thousands upon thousands of bats. At twilight, the sky takes on a feeling of a pending invasion as the bats in a super aerial formation head out to hunt. Like aircraft, they glide across the inky sky, enlivened further when clouds absorb the fiery orange and vermilion of an incandescent sunset. The upper cascade is accessed by a five-hour-long circuit ascending beyond the steep confines of the forest and into open grasslands. From here the views are far and wide, only thwarted by more green mountains in the distance and from where Togo lays two kilometres to the east.
Some twenty kilometres from Wli is Liati Wote. A further scenic village, centrally sliced by a single straight road. From up high, the road appears like a brown zip, pulling the bush-green fabric together. Located at the base of the country’s highest mountain – Mount Afadjato (968m) which can be conquered by a short but relentless climb. Once at the summit, I was forced to take a decent rest to recover. Though I bluffed the guide with excuses of being intoxicated from the views, (actually from palm wine!) The village has established various community projects towards tourism, and aside from climbing Afadjato, one can continue onto Mount Aduadu that looms immediately behind. Another separate hike goes to two neighbouring mountains fused as ‘The Twin Peaks’ and higher still to the village of Kuma Bala (meaning the birth of the first child) which is actually in Togo. English switches to French, but the locals communicate in Ewe, from the principle ethnic group that resides on both sides of the frontier.
Tagbo is another falls, easily accessed from Liati Wote. A well-used farming trail passes towering Kapok trees, banana fields, cocoa and coffee, and like Wli, switching back and forth across a rock-strewn river. Both in Togo and Ghana, the forests are a haven for butterflies with over 500 recorded varieties. It seems that by every advancing step, one disturbs a butterfly into your vision. You can easily spend several days here exploring the countryside and longer if you’re into hiking.
Having had their land split by colonialism into two separate countries, the Ewe people have generally favoured a path towards reunification, which has caused relations between both governments to be occasionally acrimonious. The divide harks back to when the entire area, including present-day Togo, formed German – Togoland.
In the late 19th century, Gustav Nachtigal produced a treaty with a local chief, slyly placing Togoland into a German protectorate. Implemented or at least privately encouraged by Bismark, who had previously declared Cameroon, a German colony five days before the British were due to arrive. Germany increased her drive for possession in the scramble for Africa, soon setting her telescopes on parts of East Africa. Germany commenced its policy of civilizing the population utilizing a poorly established education system which encouraged Christianity. Almost two decades on, Togoland was finally suppressed of retaliation using forced labour, political intrigue and chest-posturing manipulation to pistol start their manifesto. Britain and France already held a strong presence in West Africa during WWI and quickly broke through a weak German military to over-run her territory. German soldiers surrendered at Kamina in late August 1914. The defeat of Germany in Europe lost her, her overseas dominions. France and Britain divided Togoland from where the British amalgamated their third into present-day Ghana.
The town of Kpalime within the Plateau Region of Togo is an excellent place to base yourself for the outlying attractions. Kpalime has several banks with ATM’s that accept both MasterCard and Visa. Ecobank is one of the most reliable. If you have your own vehicle there a couple of large filling stations.
For accommodation: Hotel Domino, on the central roundabout, has large clean(slightly tired) fan or a/c rooms with attached cold water showers, set around a small garden. Prices start at 6000 CFA for a fan room. There is a small bar on site.
Hotel Le Geyser: www.hotelgeser.com mob: +228 24 41 04 67.
2km from town on the road to Mnt Klouto. Decent sized rooms set around a garden start at 15,000 CFA. There is a large swimming pool and a restaurant serving European and African cuisine.
Auberge Vakpo Guest House: www.vakpoguesthouse.com mob: +228 24 42 56 64. Based near the catholic church. The Auberge has spacious, clean rooms with attached bathrooms. A lovely well-attended garden and meals are available.
Kplaime Market: Tues & Sat. The largest in the area and popular with both Togolese and Ghanaian traders. Becomes more lively after 10:00 am — anything from fresh oranges to second-hand clothes, notepads to stock-cubes.
Shared taxis operate from the central station (gare routiere) to Lome for 2500 CFA. They are known as a taxi brousse (bush) or sept-place referring to seven places inside. They are regular cars, so seven people is a lot. Four in the back, two on the front passenger seat then the driver!
To go to Mnt Klouto which is 12 km away, you can take a zemidjan (motorbike) for a 1000CFA one way. There are hundreds in Kpalime and drivers will approach you. A taxi will cost around 3000CFA.
On Mnt Klouto, The Campement Klouto, a former German hospital, has been converted into a hotel. Simple rooms with attached bathroom start at 7000 CFA per night. There is an on-site restaurant (extensive menu but not much in stock) and a bar all set under teak and mango trees.
Guides can be hired for a day and half-day walks for around 10,000 CFA. They are extremely knowledgable about the various plants, their medical properties, and which ones emit colours used in local art. The Association d’Guides, located just after the police checkpoint where the road forks. They will find you at the Campement Klouto soon enough. The Kouma Tokpli waterfalls are a pleasant attraction with wooden picnic tables set around a forested pool. (1000CFA entry).
Wli is a small village established with several hotels accommodating from the popularity of the falls. You can eat at all of them or find some simple stalls serving kenkey, waachi (beans & rice) and fish at the central market.
Bigfoot Safari Lodge: www.bigfootsafarilodge.com mob: +233 020 81 80 500
Large bungalows set around a nice garden. Camping available at $10. Dormitory at $15. Single/double rooms $40/$50. WiFi and Air-con are available.
Waterfall Lodge at Wli: www.ghanacamping.com mob: +233 054 13 59 872
Views of the nearby hills as well as the falls themselves. Simple huts set in a nice garden roughly 300 metres from the falls office. 95Cd for a dorm bed, 2-4 bed chalet 105 cd upwards. Camping for 30cd is allowed between Wednesday and Sunday. On Tuesdays, no new arrivals are accepted.
Wli Tourist office: +233 020 25 72 400
Can organize guides here for various walks including the upper falls. The lower falls can be self-guided. Easy to find at the end of a side road fronted by lopsided wooden art shops and basic cafes.
Wli can be reached by tro-tro from Ho-Hoe which takes around 45 minutes from its central station called Fodome. 10cd.
Liati Wote; The guides association here operates a small guest-house at the opposite end of the village. Set amongst mango trees with a small on-site restaurant. The building was set to have a lick of paint shortly to spruce it up for the season. I camped in the grounds for 15cd per night. There are outside toilets and showers. I was informed that a few families could offer homestays, organized through the guides office.
Climbing Mnt Afadjato is 30cd
Climbing both Afadjatu and Aduadu together is 80cd
Twin Mountains is 50cd with an option to proceed onto Kuma Bala (Togo)
Tagbo Falls is 30cd
Palm wine and Gin tasting are roughly 30cd. Generally done in the afternoons, a days notice is needed and you reach the site by motorbike (5cd).
You can reach Liati Wote by the same tro-tro as Wli. It drops you at the junction 12 km from the village. You can pick up a motorbike from here for 10cd. Cars can access the road, but it is in a rough state. Motorcycles are much more apt in navigating the bumps and ruts.