|Well that was definitely one of the easier trips I've had in Africa. My intention was to get up at 6am and try to be on the move by 7, that plan went astray when the locals decided to race motorbikes outside my hotel room all night. After an hour of snoozes I finally got going and took a taxi to the STC bus station for destinations to the east. The woman in the office in a typically Ghanaian maner told me that there was no bus, when I pointed to the timetable she just said that it wasn't going, Thank you! I don't know where the myth about Ghanaians being so friendly comes from, service generally comes with much more of a scowl than a smile.
I wrnt next door to the Tro-tro (minibus) station and here I got lucky, a brand new aircon bus was about to leave for the border. What I saw of the journey was quite scenic but after my sleepless night I slept for most of the 3 hour trip. The border crossing was very straightforward even though I didn't get my Togo visa in advance. The border is on the edge of Lome so I took a taxi to the hotel but I could have easily walked if I realised how close it was. By midday I was in a hotel with a nice room and thanks to the French influence had a very nice baguette sandwich for lunch.
I haven't seen much of Lome but it's somewhere that I doubt I'll forget for a long time. The Book says that there is no Benin Embassy in Togo but you can get a 2 day visa at the border for CFA10000 (STG11.50) and then get a 30 day extension in Cotonou for another CFA12500 which takes two days to process. Technically they are correct but one of the first things I spotted in Lome as a direction sign to the Benin Consulate not far from my hotel. On Wednesday morning I went to check it out and see if I could get the visa in advance. It was only a 1km walk but when I got into the consulate I had a severe case of perspiration incontinence, I keep a towel in my daypack (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) and tried to dry my face and hands with this but was fighting a losing battle. When I'd completed the form in duplicate it looked like Dennis the Menace's homework, I don't think it would have been any more embarrassing if I'd stood up and pee'd on it. What was worse was that after the receptionist had made a couple of changes and additions for me, I had to take it to the Consul myself. I stood dripping in her office while she asked me a few questions in French, the best I could do was nod or shake my head as seemed appropriate. After leaving the Consulate I tried to walk into the city centre but it was too hot and humid and I was leaving a river in my trail so I gave up and spent most of the rest of the day sat in front of the fan in my room. I did get to watch England lose to France in the French Ex-pat bar at the hotel that evening.
I had to pick my passport up at 4pm on Thursday so I decided to get out and about early before the heat got to me again but even at 9 in the morning I was perspiring so much I once again abandoned the expedition and retreated to the fan until 4pm came. Once again I showered the floor of the consul's office but emerged with a 14 day visa starting on Monday, the same day my Togo visa expires, for the same CFA10000 I would have paid for 2 days at the border. After a 3rd failed attempt to walk to town, I really needed to go to the bank, I started to seriously contemplate the possibility that I wasn't well and possibly had malaria. I was tring to check out other people, particularly Europeans to see how much they were sweating and realised that the UN could have charged me with a disproportionate use of pores, I was fighting 32C weather with 42C sweat. By Thursday night I had developed a headache and a stiff neck and decided that if I didn't feel any better by the morning I was going to hotfoot it back to Accra where there is a hospital which is used to dealing with foreigners but more importantly where they speak English.
On Friday morning I'd produced my own shroud of Turin or shroud of Lome where I'd left a wet imprint of where I'd been sleeping. I don't know what made me delay the decision but I decided to go and do some research on the internet. I nearly blacked out in the internet cafe and that was enough, I was going to Accra. It would have made a good comic scene if someone had videoed me packing as I dragged the fan around the room with me as I went. I picked my bag up to go and then realised that I wasn't certain I could make it back without collapsing. I went to the restaurant of the hotel and asked the Swiss owner's son if he knew where I could see a doctor or go to a hospital. He said that he had a doctor but it was best to go straight to the pharmacy and put me in his car and drove there. The pharmacist asked a few questions through the Swiss guy and prescribed a course of Coartem, apparently the latest and best antimalaria drug. I went to put the pack in my bag but they insisted that I took the first dose there and then, 4 tablets. I had to take 4 more after 8 hours then 4 in the morning and 4 in the evening for the next two days. Brilliantly he drove me to the bank too, when we got back to the hotel someone was doing gymnastics in my stomach so I had to eat something to settle the tablets down, I actually managed to finish a meal for the first time in days. Back in my room I lay down to let the drugs do their stuff, within about 2 hour I realised that I had stopped flowing with sweat and by the time I took the second dose that evening I felt conciderably better. It was like a black cloud had descended on me without me knowing and now the cloud was going I haden't realised that what it had felt like before. I had the 3rd dose this morning and I've walked to the internet cafe in town with only a slight gleam of perspiration, has someone turned the AC on in Lome? Without having had a blood test I'll never know for certain but as the Antimalaria drugs have cleared all the symptoms I guess I can add malaria to my list of tropical diseases alongside dysenty and giardia, I don't want to add any more.
Now I am going to say in Lome until Monday, I might get to see some of it now and I can get the World Service on my phone here for the weekends football.