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January 10, 2013 / samwilson60

Taxis and embassies in Lomé

The next day was a confusing initiation into the Togolese taxi system and we’re still not sure we got the full/genuine story, but after a few different drivers and some debate about prices and directions, we made it to the Nigerian’s last-known address. As always, they were nowhere to be seen, and as we were already a little sceptical about what they’d offer if we even found them, we decided to check out the Congolese first – admiring the giant roundabout nativity scene and signing along to I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas en route (even more incongruous than the previous night’s fondue).

Outside the DRC embassy (exactly where it was supposed to be despite the unlikely area), we were approached by a young guy who instantly offered us his card – apparently the embassy’s electrician, handyman and visa-issuer, a veritably one-man band. He was very friendly and genuine, listening patiently to our story and apparently fully understanding both our situation and our confusion. He had an answer for everything and could issue us with whatever visa we wanted (one to six months, single or multiple entry). Not only that but instead of pinning down a start date, we could just put down the month in which we planned to enter and have 30 days from whenever we turned up at the border. In all our research and experience, this was unheard of. There had to be a catch and predictably it was our residency. As so often, we had to be Togolese residents in order to be issued visas here in Togo. Unlike elsewhere, this posed our friend no problem – for a very reasonable fee, he would run off and get us our residency permits right away, so that he could issue our visas the next day. Incredible.

We had one last half-hearted attempt at finding the Nigerians, but again struggled with taxi fares and differing opinions on where we should go, so called it a day and headed back out of town to Chez Alice. The next morning, with more reliable info from Chez Alice, time to kill before our midday appointment with the Congolese and the promise of bona fide Togolese residency papers, we finally located the Nigerians – conveniently housed opposite the Toyota dealership. Toyota didn’t have any of the filters we were after but did sort us out with a couple of gearbox fill plugs and guarded the Tinker Beast while we hopped over the road to the embassy. Miraculously, as Togolese residents (almost), we were ushered in through security and presented with a very amenable lady who seemed completely unfazed by our previous visa mishaps. We would need a letter of invitation so could do nothing here and now, but if we came back with this she would issue us brand-new, 30-day visas, valid from whenever we wanted and ready to pick up within 24 hours. Not ideal by any stretch, but a solution nonetheless! We’d already resigned ourselves to paying for a second lot of Nigerian visas, and although to come back to Lomé after Christmas would bump up the price further still, if the Nigerians in Cotonou couldn’t or wouldn’t give us what we needed, we knew we’d have time to come back to Togo and sort ourselves out here.

This was plenty for now – tomorrow Sam-Sam would arrive in Benin and although physically not far away, we were still in the wrong country and after the previous border day we were preparing ourselves for a long, frustrating crossing. By the time we’d been back to the DRC embassy (once again, a pleasure and very efficient), it was too late in the day to think about borders, so we headed back for one last night Chez Alice, where we were joined by the Swedish couple we’d met at Big Milly’s and their self-drive ‘tour group’. We spent the evening sharing stories and cooking up a yam and egg-based storm, then had an early night in preparation for Benin.

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