I wind my way past Atakpamé, then high in the mountains at Badou I turn onto a small road and find my way to Akloa, and the waterfalls there known as Tomégbé or Cascade d’Akloa. With ten friendly locals directing it’s easy to find the Auberge de la Cascade (Guesthouse of the waterfall). The owner is extremely friendly and welcomes me in, and is happy to have me camp inside the compound for a couple of dollars.
Quickly the negotiations for a guide start – tons of men in town saw me driving in and have run over in an attempt to be my guide. I explain countless times I really enjoy walking in the mountains alone, and really just want to go for a walk. They insist I will never find the falls alone, and I tell them I’m not really bothered, it will be a nice walk all the same. After paying the “community access fee” to be allowed to walk to the falls I set off on my own, to the disbelief of all present.
It takes me all of two minutes to spot the well-worn trail, and when it turns uphill along a small creek I know I’m onto something. It’s a pleasant walk through the jungle for about 35 minutes to the actual falls, which are enormous and impressive. The huge pool at the bottom is begging me to swim, and all the people gathered there get a real kick out of me going into the deep water and jumping off the lower falls. Few people in Africa can swim, and most are terrified of water that is over their head.
They are all so friendly and happy to meet me they insist of multiple rounds of photos – even with me in my underwear. When I continue taking photos of the falls everyone present wants to pose and then see their photo on the screen of my camera. Of course, they all have cell phones and take multiple pictures of their own.
When I return to the Auberge a couple of hours later nobody can believe I found the falls, and seem shocked when I say “I found a river and walked up it”.
In the evening the owner of the Auberge and I wander through town, chatting to locals and talking in dept about life in Togo vs life in Canada. It’s great to go into such detail, and he’s interested to here that everyone works 40 hours a week, 48 weeks a year, basically for their entire life. In Togo they work like mad to grow food, but when there is no rain there is nothing to do. So they work hard for three months then do nothing for the other nine. It’s always great to see hordes and hordes of men aged 20-45 sitting around drinking beer at 11am on a Tuesday morning – in fact, every morning. They have plenty of food and water, and no way to earn money, so they just enjoy their lives.
Once again, I’m sure we have a lot to learn from these people.