The Twilight Zone of Lome Airport

lome airportThe airport is called S.A.L.T. and we first got a glimpse of its quirkiness with the immigration form. There is a photo of two ladies, one reaching with two fingers as if to pinch the other lady’s headscarf. I’m pinching myself for not taking a picture of it, personally. The other picture is of a woman grinning at an ATM, with a large image of what appears to be a stick shift from a manual transmission in the foreground.

The time for our flight back to Lisbon had arrived. We sailed through the Benin-Togo border in five times less the expected time.

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Bottle bouquet at the Benin border

We left at six pm; our flight was at 12:10 am. We arrived to discover that the flight had been changed to 10:35 pm. We still had time but not as much as we thought. It was about 8 pm. I still have absolutely no idea why I got no notification of this change.

I looked through my emails; no alerts. Just got lucky to arrive so early. Then we had to go through a baggage rearranging. They asked what was in my backpack. I said nothing but clothes. Just clothes? she said. Well, and souvenirs! I added. She took this seriously. WHAT souvenirs? Show me, she said. “Well, like this” I said, pulling out the Benin voodoo mask.

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This was a mistake. She took the mask from me and examined it, saying no, no. Both men on either side agreed with her. No, no. Call the chef-(boss in French). Nope, definitely not. I could hit somebody with it. Well, I say, I could hit anybody with anything technically. I demonstrate with my backpack. I accidentally hit Ryder because as always, he is standing super close to me. He starts to cry. The baggage man comes to comfort him, but will not relent. He will send the backpack under the hold so long as the mask is stashed in there, but I cannot have two backpacks and Ryder have one. This is the first time I’ve been told this. Normally I have a carry on and a personal item. He says I must combine them. I say that’s not possible because I’ve stuffed them to the brim. He says there is no problem with the weight, but there is a problem with the number. Ryder and I can only have two.

Determinedly I go over to the side. My red backpack never lets me down. It is the Mary Poppins of bags. I can put anything in there. What really happens is Ryder and I put on our hats, scarves, and jackets in the hot Togolese airport. I then fit his 2.5 kg superhero backpack into mine.

By the way, I ask, what is up with the time change? I had no idea that the flight moved to a different time. He said, You see, the issue is that they realized the airport closes at 11. So that’s why they had to move it to 10:30.

And then it’s time to go through security where our bags are weighed and combed through twice more. At the TAP Portugal security check, there is a sign. “One carry on and one personal item allowed,” it announced. Yes, that’s normal and what I expected in the first place. Why did they make us cut down to one bag only?

Once through security, I see a little shop selling souvenirs. Available are masks similar to mine.

The passport guy just told me this airport is open 24/7, Jacob told me.

Weird, I say, why did he tell me it closed at 11 pm, and it’s time to get on the airplane, where we learn our flight is to be only 20 minutes…the shortest flight we’ve ever taken….because it has a stop in Accra.

It appears that we are actually going to make it out of West Africa despite the twilight zone experiences of the airport.

I look out the window. Jacob and I agree: we know are flying out of Africa because there are almost no lights below us, let alone skyscrapers. It’s going to be a while until we are back to West Africa, but I’m already planning the next trip. The architecture of Mali and Burkina Faso’s music festival intrigue me, but I’m hoping I’ll pick up more French before I attempt that trip.

Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 377 awesome articles for us.

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