An Afternoon at the Wli Falls

by Jeremy Simons, Danyi NDigbe, 1976 - 1978

There are beautiful waterfalls in Togo. I once joked to some villagers that the one near NDigbe could be put to good use by damming it up and building a plastics factory. Soon a delegation of village elders was lined up outside of my house, with their sticks and their funny hats. They filed in gravely and after much formal greeting asked me in serious tones how soon the proposed factory would be in operation and whether my country would provide the necessary capital.

On another occasion Bill Hague, Marty Havlovic, and several female volunteers, who will remain unnamed, came to my house at Danyi N'Digbe on the Plateau. Maybe there were others, I'm not sure. We thought we would go to the Wli Falls.

A feature of the Plateau region is the abundance of waterfalls, especially during the rainy season. The mountain water is perfectly clean, and there are often satisfying places to swim at the bottom. I can think of three like this off the top of my head. One is at Badou, one at Yikpa, and the Wli falls are the third. The only catch with the Wli falls is that although the falls are in Togo, coming off the west side of the Plateau, the pool that the water falls into is in Ghana. Since there is no border crossing nearby the only practical way to visit is illegally.

We rode our beloved Yamaha Enduros to the village near the falls, and arranged to leave them at the home of someone there that one of us knew. Then we walked down the trail which led to the falls. The water made a spectacular cascade of over 100 feet into a large pool surrounded by grass and rocks. We lounged in the open area and waded and swam in the water. It was great to be cool.

I remember that four of us were lying in the grass on the bank, when suddenly there was shouting all around us. Some Ghanaian soldiers came running out from the forest. They were shouting and gesturing with their rifles. They were very serious, but the effect, for some reason, was comical. I thought that they might have come because they needed help. We just lay there as they continued to shout, but it became obvious that they were shouting at us and that they wanted to arrest us. Normally this would have been a frightening situation, but the Ghanaians were in such a state of hysteria that we had trouble taking them seriously. We sat there making wisecracks at them while they insisted that we get up and follow them to their station, where they would lock us up. This continued for a long time, but we eventually started to believe that they meant what they said as they kept pointing at us and jabbing us with their rifles. So off we went, single file, into the forest.

I wondered how they could be so angry when we were only about fifty feet inside of Ghana. As we walked down the trail I wondered whether the Marines would be sent to rescue us. By this time I was intimidated and silent, regretting our decision to make light of international boundaries for the sake of a swim. For some reason, however, the others decided that this was the time to take up a collection. It was an idea whose time had come, because in a few minutes these soldiers were laughing jovially with us and exchanging addresses so that we would be their pen-pals. When we came to a fork in the path they showed us the way back to the village, where our Yamahas were waiting. They left us promising to write and to come and visit.

In short, we were robbed, and we were irritated with the villagers who must have tipped them off. But we got off lightly, only having about 6,000 francs ($24) between us. Luckily we had kept back enough for beer, and so we set off, having lost our appetite for swimming, to search for BB.

(Thanks, Jeremy! Jeremy, by the way, is now a pastor at the Bryn Athyn Cathedral in Bryn Athyn, PA.)

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