Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ghana 2017 - Day 15. Foiled!

I had the plan of going to Togo for the long weekend, so early in the morning I took the trotro to Madina, and at the station there took the long distance trotro to Aflao, at the Ghana-Togo border. It was a long ride, a little over 4 hours long, but I had the double advantage of been an Obruni and an older man, so I was given the sit in the front, by the window, so I had the chance of seeing the country in between slumbers. A pretty landscape that very much reminded of driving along the coast of Veracruz.

We got to Aflao around 11 am, and were immediately assaulted by a mob of coyotes who were eager on escorting us to Togo. I managed to liberate myself from that mob, and walked the couple of blocks to the border. There, once again, I was subject to a hundred voices assuring me that they were the perfect venue for getting me into Togo. I kept on until I was directed into a formal office, where I had to report I was leaving Ghana. Looked like an inefficient bureaucratic office, but an agent right away took my passport, gave me the exit form, and shepherded me through all the desks to collect stamps and approval nods. He finally called one of the money exchangers, who gave me 50,000 CFA in exchange for 400 GH¢ (I suspect I lost about US$ 25 in the exchange, but I needed Togo currency to pay for my visa).

Then I crossed the street to Togo immigration, where again a helpful agent gave the necessary form to request an on-arrival visa, and quickly went through the formalities. And then he started thumbing the pages of my passport, and with real concern me told me that I didn’t have two free pages in my passport. He patiently explained that the visa took a full page, and that the opposite page is where the arrival and departure seals had to be placed. He called his supervisor, who also so no way out of the bind. They even took my passport to the big boss, but there was really nothing even he could do. “Desole, Monsieur. C’set pa possible.” Rats! I had been foiled because I had not made sure there were enough free pages in my passport.

So I had to go back to Ghana Immigration, to report I was not leaving the country after all. A new round of consultation ensued, to see if there was a way to get me into Togo, but to no avail. The exchange man was once again called in, and he bought back the 50,000 CFA, but I only got 300 GH¢ (so he made another US$ 25 gain on the transaction). Once I got out another coyote assured me that he could get me in through the other port of entry. I was tempted, but at the end decided that pushing it was not worth the risk, and kept going until I found a restaurant where I could drown my sorrows with a cold beer and a tasty plate of fish and chips.

I once again scored a front seat by the window in the trotro to go back to Accra, where I arrived at 6 pm. It was a long day, and all I had to show for it was a sore butt. You just cannot win them all.

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