Monday, May 24, 2010

Africa's Steamy Armpit

Arriving in Lome (pronounced Lowmay) on a moonless May night on a flight from northern Europe is a bit of a shock. It’s the sort of shock you would get if somebody crept up behind you and threw a hot, wet towel over your head. To say that Lome humid is like saying the Simpson Desert sometimes gets a little warm.

Lome is the capital city of Togo, a tiny sliver of a country wedged uncomfortably in West Africa’s steamy armpit between Ghana and Benin. I was there to join a Guerba Adventures Trans Sahara expedition across the Sahel and Sahara Desert to Tunis via Timbuktu. In a moment of youthful insanity I’d booked the trip for the hottest time of the year because I wanted to experience that part of Africa at its most extreme, but more of that in a later blog.

For now I was just relieved to be met by David, our guide who ushered me out of the teeming airport terminal to the specially modified four ton Bedford truck in which we would be making the journey along with thirteen other paying passengers who had already arrived and hopefully were occupying themselves back at the campsite by cooking my dinner.

There’s an old saying – “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” However, in this case it began with David having to round up several locals because our truck was blocked in by two battered Renault Fours, one six inches from the front bumper, the other six inches from the rear. Twenty minutes later, dripping with sweat and uttering profanities we’d bounced the Renaults far enough to allow David to Squeeze the big Bedford out.

The camp for that first night was set up on Lome beach and once I’d arrived and met my fellow travelers I discovered that they had indeed made my dinner and the woman who handed me my steaming plate of vegetable curry was my wife, though neither of us yet knew it.

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