We were not able to get our visas on Monday due to not having enough money or photos. So by the time we had arranged it, it was too late to get them that day but we could get them the next. No problem and so we bid farewell to the boys and wished them luck in Ghana, we would follow them the next day.
They then very kindly told us about a perfect bush camping spot they had found in amongst the rock, armed with GPS reference we headed there for the night. The spot was a very good one and so thank you to JW and Ludwig, to make it even better there was a huge pile of firewood there – collected by the boys – just waiting to be used. So we had a lovely time.
Tuesday morning and we took our time getting ready as only had to collect our visas at 1pm, did I mention we were in a lovely spot? Then into town, collected our visas and goodbye Burkina. They do have great roads though and it was such a pleasure not to be pothole dodging or being bounced about on corrugation. They have a toll system set up and the money obviously goes back into the road, one does not mind paying a toll when you are driving on the results.
On our way out of town I directed Simon up a one-way street – yes we were going the wrong way up – but there was no sign saying you could not go up the street. So we made a hasty about turn, doing a 3-point we felt a bump. Now where did that tree come from? But not a problem there is a spare tire mounted on the back to take the blow. It was only when we stopped at the petrol station to fill up that we noticed that the tire had taken the blow but also smashed the rear window. So we are presently driving around with the rear window taped up with a plastic bag and duct tape. So if Jenny is not falling apart we are breaking her ourselves.
Border crossing out of Burkina quick and efficient then onto Ghana where they were slower but it was easy. The moneychangers at the border were very friendly and once you agree to change money with one, the others are happy to leave you alone and just chat about stuff. The one guy was sweet as he was concerned that we had not changed enough – now don’t be cynical – he pointed out that at customs we would need a “leisure passage” like a temporary import document and that it was cheaper to pay it in Cedi (Ghana money) than dollars. Also the money we had changed was not enough to pay it – also true. So you see there are nice moneychangers in the world – we however did not need more money as we had a carnet de passage (temporary import document arranged by RAC – AA type organization for those in SA) so we did not need one.
The thing to mention about the Ghana border is that at 5:30 the police come out and lower their flag. At this point everyone in the area has to stop and stand to attention, they may not talk until the flag is lowered and a whistle is blown. Then everyone just carries on as normal. This is repeated at the customs office at 6:00, it is strange because suddenly everything goes quiet and everyone – even the beggars and little children- stop. Then the whistle and off they go.
It was quite late by the time we got through and so we just camped off the side of a road in a field. So 5:30 the next morning and we were off to go to Nakpanduri in the north east of Ghana. I had read about a campsite there that is on the top of the escarpment with an amazing view. Getting there we were disappointed to find out that the so-called campsite had no ablution facilities and only two rooms, both of which were occupied. At this point we had been bush camping for some time and just wanted a shower. So we are about to leave when we meet a Canadian volunteer called Gigi. She is teaching English at the local school. She was staying in one of the rooms and offered the use of her bathroom. It was a bucket wash but in privacy and you could really scrub and get clean. We were also able to do washing and so spent the morning talking to Gigi and doing the washing. Then she invited us to have dinner with her as she was cooking; well we never refuse food made by others. That afternoon we walked to a local drinking establishment, identified by the fact that the sides of the building are usually made of slats of wood and painted blue and white vertical stripes. There we spent some time trying all the Ghanaian beer. Ghana was the first country in West Africa to have a brewery and they make good beer.
Dinner was yam with a sauce made from local green leaves – don’t know from which plant – chilly and sardines. It was delicious considering the poor availability of food in this town. They have to go to neighbouring towns to get supplies as the town does not have much to buy, oh the joys of being a volunteer.
Well sorry to leave Gigi but have seen all that Nakpanduri has to offer and I am eager to get to Kumasi. The day is spent driving south through Ghana; we pass Gambaga, Walewale, Tamale where we filled up. Good thing too since the car takes 120liters of diesel and we put in 109.5 litres. We also found ice cream, that Simon sure knows how to treat a girl as the ice cream was followed by chocolate chip cookies. We have not had either for ages. Then back on the road, which is deteriorating as we head south, the roads further north were great but here they are bad enough to slow you down some. The landscape has changed to hills and valleys with lush green vegetation, lots more fruit and veg on offer at the stalls and we begin to see plantain – a Ghanaian staple food that looks like a huge banana but you cannot eat it raw. The towns are all similar looking with those that are buss stops being busier than others. The fuel stations are also unusual in that they are not branded but by the side of the road you will see a huge metal contained with a hand pump, the fuel is pumped into a glass bubble that measures the volume and then it is drained into the car, 4lites is the maximum the glass container takes. Not the quick way of doing it and so we avoid filling up here.
100km outside Kumasi and it is dark so we camp in the forest, fantastic and quiet despite being so close to the road. Once again this means that we have to be up early but we are not disturbed during the night and so get going early Friday morning after breakfast of bread – the bread here is sweet like brioche – and avocado.
Kumasi is a mad jumble of roads, cars and people, making it very hard to negotiate and find your way. The map just does not look the same as what you are seeing and so we end up in the taxi rank being told there is no way through and to turn around and go back. The Ghanaians are wonderful, friendly helpful people who are happy to help you out and don’t expect something in return. We find the campsite, an old Presbyterian mission house set on the side of a hill on a huge property. Here you can pick a spot and camp, eat at their little restaurant and it is central so you can walk anywhere you need to go. The whole area around the mission is owned by the Presbys as next door is the school, then the bookshop and on the opposite corner the church. Everywhere you look there is something with the word Presbyterian on it. The biggest welcome surprise was that they now have running water and showers, the guidebook – 2 years old – said there was none. We also had lunch there, something called Jollof rice, which is rice mixed with bits of vegetables, tomato paste and palm oil. It is absolutely delicious and we had no trouble finishing the huge plate they presented. Mine camp with fried fish and Simon had chicken. I have developed a liking for fried fish and have gotten over having the head on my plate. I can just imagine the look of confusion if I asked to have it removed. But no longer do I need to do this as I have become quite skilled at eating a whole fish off the bone.
There is so much to tell you about this great town and I hope I do not bore you but here goes. Firstly Ghana is overtly Christian and there are signs of this everywhere from the variety of churches – more than there are people to fill them it seems – to the names of the businesses. Or favourites are Genesis 1:3 lighting and electrical; finger of God communication services and Jesus lives Rasta hair salon. I would say 90% of the businesses have a religious name. We spent the afternoon visiting the military museum; they do a guided tour that is very interesting with everything well displayed. The guide kept pointing out that the black soldiers had no shoes – apparently the British would not allow it, as when they met the blacks they had no shoes so they don’t need them. If a black man had shoes he had done a white man a great service and was rewarded by being given shoes to ear. This went on until independence; they were the first country in Africa to gain their independence too. Also in the fort – the museum is in the old British fort – is a safe that the found full of Ashanti gold. When the British had to leave after independence they only had 20 hours so what they did was leave the gold in the safe, put up a sign saying danger and then took the key. It was 91 years before the Ghanaians opened it to find out what was inside. Then it was off to the sword in the ground something like the sword in the stone story of Arthur. This sword was buried there by an Ashanti witch doctor, the same one who called the golden stool from the sky to crown the first king of the Ashanti. Before them they were just a collection of tribes, the story is that if the sword is pulled out it will mark the end of the Ashanti kingdom. Apparently a bloke with a bulldozer tried as did Muhammad Ali but now not allowed to try as they now understand the significance better and do not want the downfall of the kingdom. Every 42 days a priest comes to slaughter a goat and pour the blood and a bottle of schnapps around the sword. We asked the guy at the military museum if he had heard of Arthur but when we told him the story he did not believe us.
That night we met up with a girl called Anna whom is a Dutch student doing her PhD research on Coco in Ghana. New company is always welcome as is interesting conversation. We had dinner together and while out there was a massive rainstorm. So when we got back to Jenny we found our awning had been blown over the car – as we had not pegged it down – and the one arm was bent and loose. So we simply packed it away as best we could and went to bed. Saturday morning and we are up fixing the awning; I definitely married the right chap as he can fix things. So awning fixed and all we need is some small bolts to put it back in place. So we head out to the national cultural centre, Kumasi is one of the few towns in West Africa where you can do traditional sightseeing. We walk there and it is hot and humid and we are pouring with sweat by the time we get there. All along the road are handkerchief sellers and not because there is a flu epidemic. Here you need to carry one to wipe your face regularly. It is a big campus with little stalls spread out that you can visit. So you go to the drum makers shop and see them work, then the cane furniture makers, brass makers and so forth. We have a lovely time just walking around looking at things. We do not go into the museum as it looks small and we are tired. So after stopping for lunch we decide to visit the palace. We walk through the market to get there, now Kumasi has the biggest market per square acreage in West Africa. By the time we get half way through we are knackered and suddenly we don’t care to see the palace. Hailing a taxi we head back to the Presby and spend some time resting and rehydrating.
Then we bolt the awning back together and deal with some traders, we finally find a game we have been looking for and so we buy it. I have started taking my hair out of the braids as I just cannot get all the red dust out of it and the humidity is just making it to hot to wear. That night we sit and get to grips with our new game and eat more delicious Jollof rice and fish. Then another rainstorm chases us upstairs to balcony that has protective shutters and we do some reading. The Presby is an old mission and build in the colonial style of having a massive balcony that reaches right around the house made of wood. It is a wonderful building and has many spots to sit and visit of read on the couches.
Sunday morning and Simon and I are up at 6:30, we are attending the early morning service at the Presbyterian Church. The first bit is very serious with a lot of praying then everyone goes outside to bible study. There are benches and you join your group, ours being the English group. We spoke about acts and the early church and how it compares to the church today. Then back into the service and things are jollier with the singing of songs that are obvious favourites. Many of the songs are in the local language so we just clap and listen. The congregation has now doubled in size and after the service we get called to the front. Our two white faces stand out and they know we are visitors, so Simon gets to introduce us over the microphone. He is getting really good at this too, having had to do it every time we got to church as we are inevitable the visitors. Then afterwards a lady invites us to her home for lunch but we have to decline, as we need to be in Accra by evening. We have some food from a local stall, pounded millet and maize made into a runny porridge and called coco. With a healthy helping of ginger and some sugar, well that was my ginger intake for the year seen to. Then on the road and we are sorry to leave Kumasi as it is a great town and you could easily spend weeks there.
We arrive in Accra late afternoon and the traffic is easy to negotiate compared to Kumasi. Those lovely boys have sent us the GPS reading for Big Milly’s Back yard, the campsite in Accra and so we have no trouble finding it. It is 30km out of Accra and right on the beach with loads of palm trees. We meet up with the boys and exchange stories and info. They have done all the legwork and we can just enjoy the fruits of their labours. So now we know exactly where all the embassies are, how much they cost and in what order to get them, GPS reference points included. We have to get 3 visas here and so early tomorrow morning we will start but for now we can rest and enjoy the laid back atmosphere of Milly’s.