I noticed a few years ago that the highest points in Togo and Ghana were located quite near to each other and located only 100 Km from both coastal capital cities of Lomé (Togo) and Accra (Ghana). After looking into the logistics in more detail, I decided that flying to Lomé would be my best option as the highest point is located near the town of Kpalime which can easily be reached directly on a main road from the capital of Lomé. The highest point in Ghana is a bit of a bizarre one though, They have an official high point called Mount Afadjato with a well maintained track which is very popular with tourists and I’m sure brings in a fair amount of revenue for the local area but looking at the maps of the area in more detail the “tourist” summit only reaches 587m From there the hills continue rising higher right onto the border with Togo where it reaches a maximum height of 905m. I can understand why the locals sell the tourist top as a high point as its easily reachable with a nice panoramic view. But it is the actual highest point in Ghana where I would be heading which is also located near to Kpalime in Togo so that town would be a perfect base for both high points.
I had been checking the price of the flights from the UK to Lomé every few months as I know several tricks that can substantially reduce the price of the flights on the carriers that fly this route. To reduce the price even further and specifically to avoid the scandalous £78 UK APD charge I flew to Lomé the capital city of Togo via Dublin. The Ryanair flight from Birmingham to Dublin was £5, This is a very easy way to reduce your flight price when flying long haul. (See my tips and tricks section for more money saving ideas).
An early morning flight from Dublin to Lisbon followed where the security on arrival looked at my ticket and asked me where Lomé was… I replied Togo and they just looked stumped as if I had said the moon. It was only a short layover and I had planned to buy a drink for the 5hr 30m flight to Lomé but €4 for a bottle of water was unacceptable so I just used the water fountain instead. I had a row of seats to myself for the entire flight along with a very useful USB port on my seat, so I was able to watch some tv shows on my phone (Not Going Out, a British comedy). After a comfortable flight we landed in Lomé 10 minutes later than planned but with just hand luggage I quickly made my way past the heat body scanning area. Gave them my yellow fever certificate which is required to enter Togo. (They no longer have an expiry date, so can be used indefinitely with no need to order a replacement certificate).
I then filled in my landing card and headed to the visa kiosk window. I didn’t need a passport photo despite printing several off just in case. I handed over €20 cash and was told to fill out a form, they took about 10 minutes to process the info and returned my passport. There were only a few of us in the queue but I can imagine it taking a great deal longer if busy.
I headed outside to use an ATM machine accompanied by a baggage guy despite just having hand luggage, I withdrew enough cash for a few days and the guy followed me to a taxi holding his hand out as I sat down. I waved my hand at him as he had been of no assistance and visibly not pleased he certainly made sure my taxi door was shut for me! The taxi ride to my hotel only took about 10 mins. But I thought it best as by now it was 22.00 otherwise I would have walked. On our arrival taxi driver followed me into my hotel to try and talk me into using him for future taxi journeys, but I was clear with him that he would not be required as I was going to be using bush taxi’s while in Togo. Bush taxis are just shared cars (usually overloaded but very cheap) they pick up and drop off people like a bus along many main roads.
My room was basic, but it had everything I needed for a much-needed sleep. I managed to buy a few litres of water from reception before heading to bed. I was woken several times throughout the night by heavy rain and thunder showers. The following morning, I was awoken again to the sound of very heavy rain hitting the tin roofs nearby. Then several loud bangs of thunder and all the lights went off… Thunder storms and a power cut, Not the best of starts to my trip especially as I needed to get to the rendezvous point to catch a bush taxi all the way to Kpalime and get to my hotel today at the very least. I was now thinking maybe having the taxi driver from last night take me to Kpalime might have been ideal after all. I waited for a few hours until the storm had calmed down a bit before heading to reception to check out. A young woman who spoke a little English asked if I needed a taxi. She arranged one to take me to Tokoin where there are frequent bush taxis to Kpalime that operate on the usual “won’t leave until full” policy. I also changed a few more Euros into West African CFA francs just in case there were no ATM machines in Kpalime.
The taxi soon turned up, it was still raining, and the road had turned into a muddy sandy slush. I knew Tokoin was not far from my maps but what I didn’t expect was how the main road ahead was totally flooded. I could see several cars attempting to drive down the road with water up to the headlights. My driver slowly continued, I lifted my feet up off the floor as the water level outside was now well above the bottom of the door. A few motorbikes rode/floated past, the water was nearly seat deep with the driver and passengers’ legs not visible through the sandy water. Crazy… We continued for about 500m before reaching a higher part of the road and picked up a more normal speed until we soon reached the bush taxi area.
The car was quickly surrounded my drivers trying to get trade, I said Kpalime and “Deux places” I had watched a video by “Hobotraveler” on Youtube who recommended paying for two seats to make the journey more comfortable. As they squeeze two passengers alongside the driver in the front and four or five more in the back. So really, I only had the usual front seat but had paid not to share it with anyone! We soon set off but still had a few spaces, so we kept slowing down beeping the horn for 45 minutes asking random people if they needed a lift. I was getting soaked as the window was down more than up and it was pissing down albeit quite refreshing. As we would slow down children would wave so I would of course wave back to their amusement.
We were soon out of the city and making up some time on a good road until we hear the noise of a flat tyre. We pull over and the driver sorts it out, more kids waving and giggling. I noticed he also had to tighten the nuts up on the rear wheel, but he was happy, so we continued. A few people got out en route and we soon stopped again to pick up a group of school kids who the driver seemed to know. I could hear them saying blanc… blanc (White) as they got into the car. I turned around smiled and said bonjour, they smiled, said bonjour back and asked how I was and what I was doing there, GCSE French coming in handy again ha-ha. We pulled over a few km later to let the kids out and he tightened the wheels again. Kpalime was only 20km away by now but we pass a woman on the opposite side of the road with two massive bails of sticks. We come to a halt and reverse on the opposite side of the road 300m while I’m looking at the oncoming traffic. I get out and help the driver and woman put these bails on the roof rack of the car. They must weigh 70+ kg each.
We pass several police checks and the driver slows to say hi to lots of people before we finally make it to Kpalime. I tell him I will jump out here as its good for my hotel and pay him 5000 CFA instead of the 4000 CFA (£5.40/€6) which is the price for the two seats. Good price for 130+km despite taking over 3hr 30 mins.
I walked the 3 km to my hotel down a dusty dirty road with very dark clouds looming overhead. I was greeted by a friendly receptionist on arrival, but he spoke no English. I brought 2 big bottles of water and headed to my room to freshen up, I had planned to either head to one of the high points that afternoon time permitting or have a browse around Kpalime. I heard a tapping on the window and it started belting down again, I had little urge to get soaked but just hoped that the rain would pass over and clear for tomorrow as it had been forecast to be on and off all week. It continued to rain all afternoon and into the early evening. I headed to the outside restaurant just as the sun was setting as it had finally cleared up, but the mosquitoes had all decided to come out too, I retreated after a quick bite to eat and drink to my room. Nice relaxing evening but I really needed a good day tomorrow.
I woke up before my alarm, the sun was shining and although I also had most of the following day to head to one of the high points I decided to hit them both today. I just needed to find either a taxi which was my preference or a motorbike (Moto) to use to get me from my hotel in Kpalime to Mont Agou then back through Kpalime and to the Ghana border before returning to my hotel. I suppose it’s quite a lot to ask of someone looking back on it and a bit random especially as no one goes to that high point in Ghana and you need a visa to cross the border.
I had a stroke of luck as the owners of the hotel were in there as I was leaving and spoke English. An American man and his Austrian wife. I told them my plan and they called someone they knew with a Moto who they could negotiate a good price with. We chatted for 20 mins about politics, America, France and England. They personally know Arnold Schwarzenegger too which was interesting. A man appeared at the gate and came over, the owners told him my plan in French and I showed him my phone for the high points… They had agreed 6000 CFA (£8/€9) with him to take me to the security gate on Mont Agou where I needed to pay for a permit to go to the summit then to a village near the Ghana border and back.
It was agreed, I jumped on the back of the motorbike and we sped off along the dirt track and through Kpalime, we stopped to buy petrol off a young girl at the side of the street. The majority of children were working or assisting in Togo. Regarding the petrol, they have a small wooden box with old pop bottles on that they fill with petrol and sell to passing motorists usual Motos on the roadside before quickly refilling them from a large barrel with a funnel and selling again.
We stopped again before leaving town at a tyre place where he inflated the tyres then again at a shack where a man came out with a spanner and tightened and loosened a few springs and nuts. We passed many people on the roadside selling fruit, with children running across the road from the forest having gathered fresh fruit to sell. We stopped once more at the office at the bottom of Mont Agou as I had to pay for a permit to get access to the highest point past the security on the summit. My moto driver tried to negotiate and was I could tell he was getting frustrated that I had to pay them 5000 CFA yet he was only getting 6000CFA for the whole trip. I diffused the tension by showing him a 10,000 CFA note while paperwork was being sort and said I will be giving him 10,000 not the 6,000 we agreed. He smiles, and moral was back again. I really needed him onside as I knew the Ghana high point would not be straight forward.
With the paperwork in hand we wound our way up the steep mountain road for many KM taking a few photos at nice panoramic view points along the way. Local people smiled and waved as we passed. There were white numbered stones every km and we were soon approaching the end of the road. I could see the security gate and a man just stood there. I walked over with the driver and gave him the documents, He smiled and said English… He said I support Liverpool. He told me to follow him and we walked around and through a small forested area before coming out onto the highest point. I could see the miniature trig pillar and went over to do my video as I knew from research it was the highest point. We continued walking around the summit area for a while, then headed to a view point with a large marker stone placed there by the Germans when they ruled Togoland as it was called then.
We headed back to the motorbike and I offered around some sweets which always goes down well. We freewheeled nearly all the way back down the winding road to the hut where I collected my permit before heading on the main road towards Kpalime. Past the hotel and we started climbing into the hills, the condition of the road deteriorated quite considerably, and the driver seemed unsure as to where we were heading. I dismounted and showed him my phone, pointed out the high point and the last village including the Ghanaian border, I could see being very near to the border was concerning him, but I reassured him and we continued, We stopped several times to reconfirm we were heading in the right direction with locals and my phone.
The road by now was a very rocky scrambly track making the ride very bumpy and I did think he was going to say enough is enough, but I persisted and was relieved when the high point was in sight. He asked what the village I was heading to is called… I replied no village, Highest point in Ghana and explained as best I could in French. 1 Km then we are there I said from the back of the bike, I said stop when we were where I wanted to be on the map and he looked at me. I pointed to the left to a very small trail leading into forest. I said highest point Ghana, I could see he finally understood and smiled. He told me to wait while he moved his bike off the track out of sight.
He returned 10 minutes later with a local man who must have knew and explained where I was heading better than I had. The moto driver indicated he wanted to accompany me, so we set off uphill through forests turning into hillsides with fantastic views. There was a man, Woman and their children tending to crops on the hillside and the driver spoke to them before pointing at me saying Ghana and they shook there heads and laughed. Yep, crazy white man wants to go to highest point in Ghana. We continued and found ourselves on the top of the hill although it was heavily forested. There was a marker stone on the top with a line down the middle, I said… This side is Ghana and this side is Togo while doing a dance to his amusement. I could see he was excited to be able to be in both Ghana and Togo at the same time. We took quite a few photos and videos before retracing our steps back down through the lovely countryside to the moto.
It was a lot easier on the way downhill and we made good time passing hamlets and villages we had passed on the way up, Blanc… Blanc… Blanc the kids were shouting so I just smiled and waved… Bizarrely they didn’t wave back like the kids in Kpalime did and every other time I’m in that situation. They just looked curiously ha-ha. We were soon back onto the better road and heading to back to the hotel, I dismounted and gave him the 10,000 CFA before heading to my room to relax and go through the photos and videos from the day’s fun.
I had a walk around Kpalime that evening although it rained heavily on and off and had a good sleep that evening knowing it was mission complete for both high points. I know I could relax the following day now as my flight wasn’t until 22.00 so all I needed to do was get back to Lomé and from there to the airport.
The following morning, I left the hotel after a good sleep and walked the 3km into Kpalime, The Austrian hotel owner had written me a note to assist in getting a taxi to Lomé. Within a minute of showing the first person the note I was in a bush taxi. Fantastic. The sweat was beading off me and I was the only one in there… Could be a long wait I thought although that’s no problem. The windscreen was heavily damaged, and I could hear a chicken being loaded into the boot of the car. A young man walked past and tried to sell me a toothbrush through the window, but I politely declined and ice cream yeah not a toothbrush though… a bit too random. After 45 minutes of waiting the car had filled up and we set off, but after 10 minutes we turned around to pick up the driver’s mom from Kpalime. She squeezed in the back, I was grateful I had paid for my two seats at the front again. We stopped a few times to buy fruit and water in pouches before another puncture. The driver didn’t mess about and it was sorted no problem. It seemed to take an age to get back to Lomé and I mentioned to him that I would be going to the airport, we agreed a price and after everyone else left the taxi we were heading to the airport.
I had 5 hours to kill in the airport but after contacting loved ones to let them know I was ok due to no WIFI over the last few days and having a nice local beer It was soon time to depart and head to Lisbon. We flew via Accra 25 min flight then waited for an hour for the aircraft to be cleaned, refuelled and new passengers. Got to Lisbon on time just about to board my flight to London when they announce that it has been delayed indefinitely. Jesus… I know what that means! Thankfully as it is the airlines Hub within an hour they have found us a replacement plane and we land in London just 45 minutes late… Phew!