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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
I had planned to camp somewhere around Tiébélé, though after my experience there I hit the road and put down some miles hoping to clear my head. Right on dusk I arrive in the noisy border town of Bitou. This town shares a double border with both Ghana and Togo, making it twice as seedy as the average border town.
I camp in the parking lot of a hotel, which is great for security, nice and cheap, and gives me the chance to take a shower, fill up the water tank and generally clean up a few things around the Jeep.
In the morning the border on the Burkina side seems to consist of a huge roundish building, where all the doors on the sides lead to a different government branch (Police, Gendarmerie, Customs, etc.) all of whom I must visit. I make my way around, always urged on by helpful onlookers, gathering stamps and scraps of paper. I am strongly reminded of some of the crazier crossings in Central America where logic and reason are thrown out the window.
While still at the big round building I’m shocked to talk to Military guys wearing Togo uniforms who insist on a very through search of the Jeep before entering my details in the requisite ledger. I’m still very much in the first country, though somehow there are officials from the second country here.
That’s a first at a border crossing for me.
Two hundred yards after driving through the big barrier I find myself at another, and uniformed officers are quick to direct me where to park. No sooner have I closed the door than other officers insist I must park elsewhere. I do that, then am directed yet again to park in a different place.
For some reason this game is very common in West Africa – everyone wants to tell me where to park, and seems to enjoy changing their mind as soon as I have done it. I think it’s a power game, they enjoy telling the white man what to do. I’m always smiling and happy to do it, and based on their reactions this spoils their fun.
In the immigration shack I buy a visa from the friendly talkative guy, and it’s hilarious to watch him glue it into my passport using the same kind of glue stick I had in elementary school. He takes pride in his work, and even uses three different coloured pens to sign and date the visa. Togo is one of the few countries where I can simply buy a visa at the border, and I wonder why more countries don’t allow this. They all say they want to promote tourism, but seem to take no action in that direction.
Customs, just down the way – and requiring two new parking locations – is very quick and friendly, and 5,000CFA (almost $10) nets me a temporary import permit for the Jeep for a month.
I buy a couple of apples off a friendly lady on the side of the road, and with that, I drive into African country number ten.
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