That was the question I was left asking myself. My passport had been stamped out of Ghana and now at the Togolese border post I had a problem. Obtaining the visa I needed to enter  was not going to be such a simple procedure. It wasn’t helping matters that the burly officer on duty refused to accept my handshake nor look me in the eye as he stood chewing and spitting a stick of cane sugar. A nice welcome back into Francophone Africa.

If I wanted a visa I would have to take an overpriced taxi and be unnecessarily escorted at great cost to a town inside Togo. Where this town was and how long it would take before coming back to the border post (where I would unhappily be leaving my bicycle an hour before sunset) I couldn’t ascertain. The officer-in-charge merely shouted “Do you want the visa or not” and had no time for my pathetic questions in French. So I decided to go back to the Ghana post, where I’d made friends with the welcoming and polite guards, and explain I didn’t want to cross this border and grease the hands of the idiot on the other side.

I would be curious to know what a Frenchman’s experience of travelling through west Africa is. Does he get shouted at, interrogated and treated with zero respect when entering an Anglophone country, where his proficiency in English is somewhat basic, and then get warmly welcomed with utmost courtesy when entering Francophone Africa where he can be confident and fluent in conversation? I wonder. I’m coming to the conclusion (I’d reached it a long time ago) that Anglophone Africa is basically a lot friendlier than the Francophone part, at least when it comes to matters of officialdom. Perhaps this sounds bias coming from England. I need a neutral party to chip-in here.

I discussed all this later that evening after pitching my tent in a dis-used room of the immigration office. Dickson, the officer-in-charge, agreed that I should continue the next day to the town of Shia, where he believed the Togolese were issuing visas on the border. Had he wanted to he was within his means to fine me for remaining in Ghana beyond the 30-day stay, but thankfully the press cuttings about the journey and my remarks about hospitality and kindness in his country steered the conversation away from my passport.

The border town of Shia didn’t look all that far away on my map, but what should only have been a 50km journey ended up being closer to 100km. The map totally failed me again and the instructions and directions from local Ghanians along the way were equally as inaccurate and misleading. At least I was seeing a bit more of what has been Ghana’s most scenic region.

Wli Waterfall

Eastern Ghana


School girls at break

Pineapple stop

By the time I’d reached Shia and explained myself to immigration the day was getting on. They too could have issued a fine, but agreed to let me spend another night within Ghana and cross into Togo the next morning. If only all border officials were as understanding as these ones.

Double exit stamp

As it turned out the Togolese visa is not issued on the border here either, but 5 kms away. I was given a motorcycle escort by the Ghanians to smooth the way. No money was exchanged, other than paying for the visa, but the Ghanian officer-in-charge will now be donning matching waterproof jacket and trousers when on patrol in the rain. I needed a good excuse to off-load these clothes I haven’t worn since Morocco and this seemed like a good time.

My visa here in Togo is only valid for seven days. A short time, but the country is tiny and I’m less than 100km away from crossing into Benin, a country that claims voodoo as it’s national religion. A Sunday service there might be one with a difference.