So, first things first: Our car has arrived! Until now, to get anywhere, we’ve had to use the Embassy’s “motor pool”, and to be honest I don’t like the idea of calling someone up to come and take me somewhere. (There are taxis in Lome, but we were encouraged to avoid them, due to some problems with thefts.)
So, in many ways, our car arriving means FREEDOM. We can go places when we want, without worrying about tying up the duty driver for hours or anything else. So, yesterday (Sunday), we got together with our friends and went to the beach!
I’ve wanted to go there since getting here. Since before getting here. I’d studied up on the beaches of Lome, and knew that we had to avoid the (close-by, free, public) beaches due to the crime and the killer waves. (According to legend, the waves are strong enough that they once knocked someone over and broke their neck.) In contrast, the private beaches have restaurants, security, and a BIG set of rocks/concrete that break the waves and make them manageable. But, I was constantly told that it’s a long trip to the private beaches.
Well, our friends had already gone a few times, and they navigated. It probably took no more than 30 minutes to get there (the amount of time it takes to get anywhere back home), and then we were there. We paid the small fee to get in, and settled down for something to drink. As it is part of a “private beach”, you have to buy SOMETHING while you are there, or (supposedly) they’ll kick you out. It helped that the Teacher was hungry, so I enjoyed a coke while she ate.
The beach itself was glorious. The water was beautiful, the sand was perfect, and the temperature was pretty mild (for Togo).
However, there are definite signs you are still in Africa. The first sign is actually as you are driving in–there’s a baboon in a cage just across the street from the entrance to the beach. Fortunately, he wasn’t too excited as we came in, but I have it on good authority that his erection is half the size of his body.
More pleasant reminders included the really ripped guys practicing acrobatics, guys selling shells and statues, and stilt walkers.
And then there was the naked boy rolling around in the sand. Seriously, this little kid (probably around 6 years old) had gone swimming, then stripped off his bathing suit and started rolling around in the sand. Later, he washed off in the ocean again (still naked). Just kind of creepy.
For myself, I enjoy the ocean (and water in general), despite not being a strong swimmer, so I probably spent a few hours just playing in the salt water. Until one of the swimmers near me started waving for my attention to show me the jellyfish swimming about a foot from me.
At that point, I just about propelled myself out of the water! My friend is an amateur zoologist, and he rushed over to take a look at it. The other swimmers managed to get it ashore using their boogy boards and such. I am no expert in jellyfish, and while I know many are harmless, I was not going to take any risks. He said it looked like a “sea nettle,” though it seemed to only have one or two tentacles. (It probably lost the others, in my guess, coming over the rock barrier into the protected area.) So, it was dangerous, but not deadly.
It was another hour or so before I got back in the water.
But I eventually did, and stayed in until we got hungry. Then we all went up to the restaurant, and had dinner. I ordered the paella, because the waiter said it had mussels in it and by god it did and it was glorious. (The calamari was eh, the chicken was WAY overcooked, but mussels in the shell are always DIVINE.)
We’ll be going back. We’ll be taking my mother when she visits (so many, many months away.) And I’ll luxuriate in the salt water again.
Though I’ll be keeping a better eye out for damned jellyfish.