outdoor cinema...

Or: Saturday Night in Bugville.

We made a getaway from Lomé one weekend to the beautiful jungly hills just beyond Kpalime. The area is known for butterflies and coffee plantations. What could be more pleasant?

So we booked a room at the Auberge Nectar and settled in for some of that wonderful African hospitality.

In the afternoon we arranged to hire the compulsory companion from the local nature guide mafia, thinking we would take a short evening stroll (un petit balade) to see a nearby waterfall. "Only 45 minutes," according to Nestor, our youthful personal coach. "We will be back by 5:00".

We set out and began the "stroll" at a brisk pace. After about 15 minutes in the jungle humidity, it began to feel like a forced march. I was drenched with sweat and dehydrating rapidly. Oh well, no problem, good to get in a little exercise before returning for a cocktail on the veranda of the auberge.

The 45 minutes passed quickly. Then another 45 minutes. And after two hours of hiking the hill and dale of Kuma Kloto, still no waterfall.

We finally reached a point where Nestor announced, "Just 10 more minutes." The sun was already down and the light was growing faint. I was growing faint. The auberge seemed a distant memory.

Yet it seems our difficulties were only beginning. The trail began taking a steep descent. By steep I mean vertical. As in sheer drop, as in straight down. As in what the fuck! And each step downward required life-or-death care, trying desperately to find grip among the loose rock and gravelly marbles underfoot, grabbing hold of vines and roots and stinging nettles, clawing whatever soil or stone or bark we could manage to sink our broken fingernails into.

Good old Nestor, he was really having a laugh.

Finally we reached a point where I could barely glimpse a thread of water falling through the trees some way in the distance. I could just make out the waterfall, and it was already shrouded in gloom. Though I had shouldered my camera throughout the ordeal, there would be no way to make even one photograph in this light.

That's it. Enough. We had seen the waterfall, time to go back.

Nestor protested. Not much further, he encouraged.

Now, by that point, our opinion of Nestor had lost considerable altitude. "Hate", of course, is a strong word. Nevertheless, Teshka informed Nestor thoroughly and at length of all the ways he might engage himself in intercourse, and we turned around to leave without him.

The story of our return to the auberge that night, fighting thirst, fatigue, the harassments of Nestor and the hallucinations of darkness, is surely one of the greatest epics of human endurance never to be told.

Later, on the rooftop of the auberge that night, the staff erected a white sheet between two poles next to a bright incandescent light. This would be our evening entertainment. All the winged and buzzing creatures of the night, assembled and on display for our viewing pleasure.

Kuma Kloto, Republic of Togo, May 2009.

Rolleicord Va, Neopan 400.