Hey guys, so, it has been a while. But, hey, I was on vacation, what do ya expect, anyways...it sounds like it's time for a West African Adventure...so read on below
Hello all hope you are swell.
Out here things are real good. This weekend I went to the Volta Region a province in the far east, extending about ¾ of the of Ghana- Togolese border (the far north is the upper east region), dominated by the massive Volta Lake.
We left on Saturday morning, I was meeting my friends who had spent the night near the madina old road, so finding them was a challenge, I took 3 tro tros and had to back track a lot, but I finally made it. So our tro loaded up (along with the passengers we also had a giant freezer) and took off. This ride was more than a little insane.
We were about 30 kms outside of Tema, a city about 25km east of Accra, when we started to come upon a tro tro moving slower than us. No big deal, but we were still some ways back, a 3.5 ton Hyundai truck passed us, and the started to pass the tro tro in front of us, right after this a Nissan pickup passed us, and also proceeded to pass the Hyundai 3.5 ton, and the tro tro at the same time.
We were coming up on a hill and these clowns were going 3 wide, but never mind they all managed to make it back to the right side of the road. No sooner had we climbed this hill than we saw the Nissan Pickup truck on it’s roof, no less, in the middle of the road, the driver of the tro slammed on the brakes, and the tro tro came to a halt.
The pickup had been fully laden with all sorts of junk which had now spread out all over the road, meanwhile it was blocking a good portion of the road itself. (the truck was sideways relative to the road if that makes any sense) (Perpendicular) Noone could pass, so everyone got out of the tro tros and started running towards the accident, I didn’t know what they were going to do, but it turned out it was to right the truck so first we flipped it onto it’s side, then back onto it’s wheels, and we pushed it to the side of the road.
Soon we picked up all the junk and we were on our way again. The driver of the pickup was all bloody but he was A) not missing any limbs and B) talking on a mobile phone, so I guess he lived to see another day.
Eventually we finally got to Ho, the regional capital in one piece, alighted from the tro tro and went to visit one of our friends uncle. That was okay, they had a large house, and a lot of livestock. They even had a monkey, and a 2cv
By then it was the late afternoon and so we went out to see the annual yam festival, there was a huge procession, it was kinda cool, someone tried to pickpocket me, this time I only had 2 cents on me, and they managed to get one cent, so it was more comical than anything. At any rate we went and ate some chicken and rice, and just relaxed for the rest of the night.
The next morning we went early to get a Hohoe tro tro from Ho. That was a pleasant drive, I got the front seat, there were very few other cars on the road, and it wound a way through the hills, a very scenic drive.
I should mention one of my travel companions was a royal pain, he was a wuss, he was from Belgium, so I guess it’s to be expected since European men are not as manly as North Americans,
(EDIT:...I wrote this in 2008 when I was young and dumb...I apologize to Europeans for this stereotyping!!)
He insisted on putting his backpack on the ground in the tro tro because it was “too heavy” for his lap, so I had no leg room, whenever I travel with him he does this, so I always end up with no leg room and of course for him it doesn’t matter cause he’s about 5’6” meanwhile my legs go numb. Ugh.
At any rate we alighted at some tiny tiny village where he wanted to go to the monkey sanctuary, I didn’t really want to go, cause to be honest I thought it would suck. I was right. It was 5 kms down this smooth dirt track, which was okay, so we got there alright, then we went to it, they charged me a $5 admission fee which I thought was a bit steep, but at any rate we then walked through the forest.
We walked in this huge circle, and saw not one monkey. Then we went back to where we had commenced, someone told the guide that the monkeys had moved, so we went to where they were, but to be honest I don’t understand this obsession people have with monkeys. They just sat and made noise, and really I could’ve done without it. They were neat, and if I was just walking it would be cool to see one, but not worth driving down a 5 km dirt track and paying $3 for the ride and $5 for admission.
My travel companion the Belgian whose name was Quentin tried to bargain down the price, but I think all he managed to do was offend the host. The Ghanaian we were with ran into his cousin there at the sanctuary, which was a pretty random occurrence I must say.
The taxi driver who promised to come back for us, never came, so we had to wait, and wait and wait, and finally some guy had a tro tro which was actually fairly new, so we took it, but we had to pay 5 Ghana cedis between the 3 of us where as coming we only had to pay 3.
The Belgian was all up in arms, saying this was too much, but he refused to negotiate the price with the driver, where as me and the Ghanaian did. SO when he said it was too much, we said fine we will walk, that’s fine, but he didn’t want to walk, so we got into the tro tro anyways. So we got back to the “main” road, which was surfaced but was quite different from the roads in Accra with the constant traffic. There was maybe a car every 5 minutes. None of the tro tros that passed had any space on em, so finally someone picked us up in a station wagon.
We paid an exorbitant sum to get him to take us to the village of wli ($17) which was 6 miles down a dirt road. At any rate the drive was pleasant enough, and there were no other cars, so for once I didn’t think I was about to die. Once at Wli we were starving, there was only one restaurant in town so we decided to go there but the food was overpriced. So Quentin ate there but me and the Ghanaian went to go get us some “chop” (slang for local food). I guess I never mentioned it in any of my previous emails but “chop” is so incredibly cheap. Really I mean cheap. The road to wli is pictured below.
A normal man sized meal of Jollof rice, or banku (corn meal) with tilapia (soup) and a couple hunks of beef is 1 Ghana cedi or around 1.05 Canadian.
There’s also guys who sell slightly more expensive barbequed meat kabobs everywhere in the country. And when I say slightly more expensive, I mean a kabob with maybe 5 small hunks of beef and 5 pieces of onion is 50 peswas (cents). For the same 50 cents you could also get my personal favorite which is a juicy bbq’d bratwurst sized sausage. So yeah, because this food is so incredibly cheap I never cook anything ever. Even if I wasn’t too lazy cook my own food, how could I cook a meal for a dollar? However just cause I’m lazy about cooking here doesn’t mean I’m turning into a vegetable, yesterday I did 208 pushups in an hour.
There was one chop bar and the woman said she had run out of fufu ( a different type of corn meal) but if we gave her some time she could make some for us. We said alright and she asked us what kind of meat we would like to have with it. We asked what she had and she said, well I have some beef, and some antelope.
This was the biggest no brainer ever in my life, deciding between beef and antelope. David didn’t even hesitate when he said antelope, she said it was going to take her an hour and a half to prepare it, we were cool with that cause it’s all Ghana time anyways. (In Africa time is certainly not money).
So we waited and waited, and after about 40 mins we went to check and lo and behold, there was the antelope she was about to carve up for us. Antelope is basically a small deer. So we waited another 40 minutes and our food was ready, it was so awesome. I’ve never even had venison before, but antelope must be just about as good because it was most excellent.
Really it was the best dollar fifty I ever spent. So after that thoroughly awesome meal, we commenced on hiking to the falls, which it is mandatory you take a guide. It was cool, though our guide was really friendly and people who are “very” friendly usually put me on guard cause they usually are trying to work some angle. But anyways this guy was the real deal, he took us up in the afternoon, the hike was easy (mostly cause us British Columbians are manly mountain men but the Ghanaian said he couldn’t feel his legs.
It wasn’t very steep, the woods were rather empty but the guide showed us mango trees, coffee trees, mahogany trees, pineapple bushes, (though I already know what a pineapple bush looks like from my time in Costa Rica) and all these things. We got to the lower waterfalls and I must say for you British Columbians, Shannon falls and the other one on highway 99 (I think Bridal falls?) (by black tusk) are much larger and more spectacular but this one was very nice nonetheless and the highlight of my trip to the volta region. Since the falls are small, (for some reason the estimates of the heights vary greatly by maybe a hundred metres for some reason? (Ghanaians are hopeless at directions and distances) but as far as my construction worker estimation abilities go I thought it looked to be 55-60M high. And the volume of water isn’t too large you can swim (or more accurately wade), right underneath the falls, when you get real close the mist is so intense. So we got back at about 6 15 went for a beer, bought one for our guide, who let us stay at his house for $2 a head overnight.
At the bar we met this isreali who was nuts. Really possibly the strangest most bizarre man I had ever met, I asked him what he did for a living, he said “freelance laughter yoga” I didn’t inquire further, but everything he said was weird like that.
Anyways the sleeping was basic but the building was sound, and had screens so for $2 that’s really all I expected. It got dark round 6 30, so after our beer we went back to the building, but really there was no electricity (power cut) and we were in a tiny village so we just went to bed at about 8, since there was nothing to do, aside from drinking more beer in the dark if I desired.
The next morning we went back to the falls and in the morning there were so so many butterflies it was actually rather insane. There were also a huge number of ants attacking a giant millipede, we had to run through cause those ants eat you alive if you wait around, painful but other than that they aren’t poisonous or anything. I tried a wild berry which the guide said was edible, it was bizarre, it really was so so so sweet, that you couldn’t really taste anything in your mouth afterwards, I mean hey it was ok.
Anyways we got up there I had a nice shower in the waterfall, and we went to depart.
We got our stuff from the hotel some guy said we had been charged the wrong price and all this but our guide would have none of it, and so that dude backed off. We tipped our guide about $2, and finally got onto a tro tro heading to Hohoe. I have a video of our ride, it was ridiculous, we barralled along a relatively okay dirt road at like 75 km/h. We were the first people on, so that part was alright, but the tro tro got so loaded up, it was kinda uncomfortable...
Here you can watch a video of said ride....
We had a total of 19 people in a 15 passenger tro (15 is a FULL vehicle), a ton of produce tied to the roof and we couldn’t close the rear hatch because there was so much junk in the back as well. But anyways fully laden we managed to get to Hohoe, and got off the tro tro. We went to get some chop which was some more fufu with some beef.
One of the guys from the tro tro recognized us and sat down with us, he was talking to us about his job. He worked for immigration. Basically he chases Togolese smugglers through the bush with a giant knife for snakes and a AK-47 which he didn’t have on him at the moment since he was off duty. He had his knife though, a giant machete, which he had come into town to get sharpened.
After lunch we got on a tro tro heading to
Accra, which was okay, there was little traffic, though we had to stop a couple of times, once for some woman who wanted to get something from a school which was along the road, and another time for the police checkpoint, which bizzarely we had to walk across, coming to Ho, we just passed through. So course cause I’m white I was the only guy the police questioned, they asked for my passport, I tried to explain immigration services had it, (which is the truth cause I’m getting a residence permit which should come tomorrow) anyways he kept asking me questions, until we got to why I was actually here in Ghana, I told him I was on foreign exchange at university Ghana Legon, then he just relaxed, and said, ‘oh, okay no problem”
Then we left, when we got to Tema there was a horrible traffic jam. So that anyways traffic jams here mean you make extra lanes, so that’s what happened, so on this two lane road there was about 5 lanes of traffic plus the cars who had taken a shortcut through a gas station (yes the traffic jam ran through the gas station) it was particularly entertaining when guys tried to fill up their tro’s, cars, trucks, whatever causing a massive amount of horn honks from those “just passing through” but now stuck behind people refueling. So eventually we got home, I was tired.
These next two weekends I won’t be going anywhere due to a large amount of work so news will be thin unless something interesting happened.
And thus ends another West African Adventure.