Deep in the heart of West Africa, Vodoun, or more familiarly, Voodoo is not only alive and well, but it is thriving.
Togo’s capital city of Lomé is the birthplace of the largest Voodoo market in the world – a kind of super supply store for fetishes, charms and anything else one might need for a ritual. The Akodessewa Fetish Market, or Marche des Feticheurs, is a place where you can find anything from leopard heads and human skulls to Voodoo priests who bless and create fetishes or predict the future and make medicines to heal whatever ails you.
Though many people think of Haiti as Voodoo’s biggest stronghold, the religion originated in West Africa. Vodoun is the official religion of neighboring Benin and is still the largest religion in the area, which is obvious given that the outdoor market’s location is in the heart of Togo’s capital. The Akodessewa Fetish Market is a mecca to local practitioners and they travel there from all over the African continent. Many believers view the Marche des Feticheurs as a kind of hospital or pharmacy – it is the place you go when you either cannot afford traditional treatment or traditional treatment has failed you. Here you can find talismans and charms good for treating everything from the flu or infertility to removing the blackest of curses.
In the practice of Voodoo every single creature is potent and divine, whether alive or dead, and in the Akodessewa Fetish Market you may find them all – monkeys, alligators, goats, leopards, gazelles, and many, many more – in various stages of decay and stacked up in macabre piles for blocks. The outdoor location doesn’t quite suppress the stench but at least the huge market is in the open air. It is a jarring place for tourists who are not used to the idea of animal sacrifice as part of worship or using pieces of the dead as talismans, but for locals who practice the religion, it is a treasure and a necessity.
When driving into Lomé I was surprised to see how well paved and lit up the roads were- apparently having a port that is also used by its neighboring countries is good business and the Togolese capital was thriving.
Walking around in the city itself was not that exciting, but in the outskirts there was the Worlds biggest fetish market that we visited called ****. The rest of the time we spent relaxing in the Coco Beach resort just a fifteen minute motorcycle taxi ride away.
For visa reasons the rest of the group had to stay in Lomé for a full week, but me and Travis had the Visa de Entente which allowed us to move freely between Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo and Niger so we decided to go off on a trip to Niamey while the others were waiting. Flying an airplane for the first time in West Africa, we also got to see the city from above with its 56kiloneters of beach coast.
When trying to exit Ghana on a tiny border crossing we were told that they did not issue visas at the border so we would have to turn around and drive down to the coastal road which would take a couple of days with our slow truck and the horrible roads along the border. Some of us had visas that expired that same day so going back was no option and our tour leader started talking to them for other options. The solution was to pay the border police around 200 euros to escort us to another border that could issue the visas. In other words we were nearly a full day in Togo without having a Togolese visa and when the sun starting to set we just had to make camp in the small town we were in. A guy said we could stay in his yard and took us in for the night without wanting anything in return.
The people we have met in Togo so far have been really friendly and even though French is the official language here it has been easier to talk to people as they would also learn some German in school since it used to be a German colony.
Along the Ghana-Togolese border most of the roads were just dirt tracks
After visiting a couple of beach towns in Ghana it was time to see one of the country’s natural beauties called the WLI Waterfalls. After a couple of days drive from Accra we had reached our destination which was laying directly on the border of Togo. Because it was on the borderland it was compulsory to go with a guide and we all paid about 10 euros each to get a local to accompany us the 5 hour hike to the upper waterfall.
The trail was steep and the temperature was high. We were all sweating and breaks to catch our breaths, but when we got to the top and saw how beautiful the falls were we agreed that it was all worth it. The falls were really high with a pool underneath it for a swim and a shower. Following the river we could also stand on the edge of the lower falls and look down. Lucas from our group wanted to see even more and decided to go further up the mountains. What he did not know was that the waterfall separated Ghana and Togo, so when he crossed it he was illegally in Togo and could have been arrested. Luckily there were no border guards there and he managed to get back to our group in Ghana right after the sunset.
I just discovered a genius way of displaying all posts on a Google Map using Map My Posts. The widget works with WordPress and can be downloaded from this page. It is really easy to install and simple for people to use. It simply groups your posts by country and add them to a clickable map like the one below:
I am also using a similar Wordpress widget called Map Route, which will be able to show you where I am going next:
[route height=”500″ width=”900″]