Ghana

GHANA 2011

Arriving in Ghana

After the usual paperwork, and many stamps, we entered Ghana. For the first time since we left Morocco we had to deal with computers and passport scanners again. For us, that was unusual. The language changed to English and everything was much more formal, organized and official. They even had fans and air-conditioning and there were no officers asleep under desks or on top of desks or outside with a large antique ledger under a tree. This was professional. Except for the carnet. No-one seems to know what to do with it, and after 20 minutes we found some-one who wanted to sign the carnet. By the way in Togo we left without getting the carnet signed because we became sick and tired being sent from one office to the next. No-one knew, customs said police and police said customs etc. The currency also changed. Since Mali we have been using CFA in the last four countries and today we changed over to Ghana Cedi. After a very warm humid night, we woke up to some rain, but by 8am the sun came out and with a humidity level of 95% it was very warm. In front of us on the beach were the local villagers busy with the night’s catch and pulling the boats onto the beach. All this was happening in front of us as we were having breakfast. Today we had lunch on the beach we believe our stomachs are starting to get used to the African food. Having said this, two hours after lunch Clary became ill, and this slowly progressed to being dizzy and nauseous. By 7pm Clary was in bed. During the night she was cold and hot and a few toilet stops but no diarrhea. Malaria is always in the back of our minds especially with all the wet weather we have had during the past week. We woke up that morning and Clary still felt unwell, so we decided to stay another day in Kokrobite doing nothing. While I went for a swim, Clary stayed in bed most of the day. By mid-afternoon Clary started to get better and came outside. During the day I spoke to locals on the beach and after our experience with the people in Togo and Benin, I have to say that our first impressions of Ghana people is that they are warm and friendly. Staying in Big Milly’s, it was obvious that the people around us were used to tourists. Nevertheless, they seem to be genuine people. Ghana is noted for kente weaving, wood carving, ceramics and metallurgy. Pottery making is done by women. We were also told that festivals are major events in Ghana. Festivals cover rights of passage, child birth, puberty, marriage and death. These celebrations are marked with traditional drumming, dancing and feasting. We hope to witness a festival while we are here in Ghana.

ACCRA

Clary felt perfect and by 6am we were out of bed, ready to leave for peak hour traffic to Accra. We have been told that in Accra there is a large western-style shopping mall (South African) including a large Shoprite supermarket. All going well, we will be downloading and sending the next update from here. We have been given the GPS co-ordinates of a European who runs a Land rover mechanical business in Accra. Hopefully we can find him, so we can give the truck a service. So, as we left the relative calm of our beach-camp, we found ourselves back in African traffic and 10km took us 2.5 hours. Imagine a 2-lane street that becomes 5 lanes and that does not include those who travel on the wrong side of the road and on the footpath. Police in Africa only seem to be interested in paperwork and not in anyone who doesn’t obey traffic rules or ignores a red traffic light. They seem to ignore overloaded cars, trucks and buses without windows and lights. We have even seen drivers sitting on the lap of the passenger. Road- side salesman constantly run next to your car trying to sell you phone-cards, toilet rolls, deodorizer, maps, posters, DVD, chickens, mice, baskets, food, lollies, fruit and vegetables, toothpaste, chemicals, mosquito spray, power adaptors, shoes, shirts, leather belts, fan belts, car parts including car windows, ironing boards, chewing gum, food, scales, cabinets, coat hangers, Viagra, Panadol – absolutely anything you can imagine. One way to get rid of road-side salesmen is to pick up your camera. Some get paranoid, but this is also funny to watch. Yes, this is Africa and we love it! Even when you are stopped at a police road block they do not leave you alone and compete with the other police officers how they rip us off. After a horror 3-hour drive, we arrived at Pit Stop. Hoping they would look after us as it was already 10am. Ian, the friendly English expat was helpful and friendly, and nothing seemed too much trouble to him. Perfect, and a place we would recommend when you need a service done in Ghana. He is a little hard to find but Tracks for Africa will get you there. Welding and the whole service done in 4hours. Try this in Europe or Australia without an appointment, or any dealer for that matter.

LAKE VOLTA

By 2.30pm we left the workshop and at 8.15pm we arrived at Lake Volta 100km north of Accra. Nearly 6 hours to do 100km! The traffic was horrendous. The Chinese are building the roads, which were one large mud pool and no rules. Yes, I know I said I would never drive in the dark in Africa again, but we made it at 8.15pm after 2 hours driving in the dark competing with people, animals, potholes and cars, trucks and busses. We couldn’t help ourselves and we had another local dinner. Prawns with curry sauce and salad for 4.50AUD (E 3.25). A litre of Ghana beer was 2 AUD. Let’s hope no visits to the dunny tonight! Woke up to the usual rainforest sounds and a perfect blue sky and a view worthy of a post card. Our campsite was five meters from Lake Volta, the largest man-made lake in the world today, extending from the Akosombo Dam to the town of Yapei which is over 400km to the North. Driving in the dark last night we didn’t realize that we were driving in a rainforest, an area of rolling hills and waterfalls. Occupying the central part of Ghana, the Volta Basin covers about 45 percent of Ghana’s total land surface. With the construction of Lake Volta in the mid-1960s, much of the Afram Plains was submerged. Despite the construction of roads to connect communities displaced by the lake, road transportation in the region remains poor. Renewed efforts to improve communications, to enhance agricultural production, and to improve standards of living, began in earnest only in the mid-1980s. The lake is navigable from Akosombo through Yeji in the middle of the country. Hydroelectricity generated from Lake Volta supplies Ghana, Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast. We visited the Volta Dam and Lake Volta The Volta drains into the Gulf of Guinea. It has 3 main tributaries, the black white and red Volta. The river got its name from the republic Upper Volta before the country was renamed Burkina Faso in 1984. The rest of the day we lazed around the lake, enjoyed the scenery and had a few light refreshments at Aylos Bay Resort, which would you believe, lost its power during the night. Late night and we enjoyed our bush camp at the Volta River. Before going to the Western Part of Ghana we wanted to do some more shopping in Accra before heading back to the beaches. It will be our last opportunity to stock up on major supplies before we arrive in Senegal, three weeks from now.

ACCRA AGAIN

It took us 2.5 hours to get back to Accra (1 Hour to cover the last 10km), but then we arrived, and it looked like we had arrived back in Europe or Australia. There was a huge shopping centre and a tremendous Shop Rite (South African Supermarket.) The prices were high and no doubt we spent the equivalent of a Ghanaian two month’s salary on our supplies. Having replenished our stocks, it was back into the nightmare Ghana (Accra) traffic. We reached the outskirts of Accra after 3 hours (14km) and were now on our way to Anomabu. We couldn’t help wondering what all the police really do here as most cars have no lights, brakes, blinker or head lights; no one cares about the traffic rules, but they love to see your paperwork. While in Burkina Faso, Mali Benin and Togo we hardly saw any white people. Here in Ghana we have seen many NGO-UNICEF and volunteers. Except for Mark (the Aussie overland truck driver with his 18 passengers in Mali) we saw no-one until we arrived in Ghana.

SOUTHERN COAST

The coast line we followed today was stunning and we will be following this until we reach the Ivory Coast. Along the way we will visit a few colonial castles and today we will pass Fort Amsterdam. This fort has a perfect location and is visible from the main road overlooking Abanze Village. It was built by the Dutch in 1598. Next stop was Anomabu and we were told it has some of the best beaches in West Africa. We arrived in Anomabu, just missing a huge downpour. As it was getting late and the following day we want to visit some slave castles, we copped the 30 USD fee for one-night camping on the beach next to the resort. We reckon 30 USD is an absolute rip off. This is a 3-week salary for Ghanaian worker. Anyway, we needed electricity after 3 weeks without it and we had no choice. Hopefully after equalizing the batteries and 18 hours of charge, we will be okay for a few weeks. We also need to clean our solar system but unfortunately there is no water.

Let’s hope the electricity stays on. After we left Anomabu, our first stop was the town of Cape Coast. This town was one of the largest slave trading towns in Africa. We visited Cape Coast Castle which changed hands 5 times in 13 years. The castle also includes a museum. Along the whole Ghana coast there are forts and castles all built around the 17th century by Dutch, German, English, Swedes, French and Portuguese. Initially it was built for the storage of goods such as Ivory and spices. Later it became a prison for slaves ready to be sent overseas. Initially constructed as a small trading lodge in the 16th century, the building was subsequently altered and enlarged, becoming a substantial fort by 1627. It was later captured by the Swedes and named Fort Carlosberg; finally becoming a British possession in 1664 Cape Coast Castle, through which millions of slaves were shipped to the Caribbean and the United States, became the seat of the British colonial administration until 1877 when government offices moved to Christiansburg Castle in Accra. The cannons still face seaward, stirring the imagination to scenes of exploration, discovery and great tragedy. As we wander the ramparts of Cape Coast Castle in the salt air, the view is a visual feast. Traditional customs, the mending of nets and launching of painted fishing canoes, continue side-by-side with the new impromptu soccer games and the hustle and bustle of business. The buzz of commercial activity at fishing harbor made this stop most memorable. Enroute to Ko-Sa beach, we passed Elmina Castle the earliest known European structure in the tropics. Built in 1482 by the Portuguese during early world exploration, the castle was taken over by the Dutch in 1637, and remained under Dutch control for 274 years. Inside the vast fortification is the location of the first Catholic Church in Sub-Sahara Africa. The Castle’s damp, unlit dungeons served as horrific holding areas for the human cargo of the infamous slave trade. The horrors of the slave trade as well as a solemn, touching portrayal of the final journey of the Africans as they walked through the hellish dungeons into the awaiting ships that transported them to the Americas, made this a lasting experience and as we talk, genocide, massacres, and bloodbaths continue, and we wonder if we will never learn. Torrential rain. Thunder and lightning all night. But when we woke up it was dry, and the weather started to improve. We decided to stay a few more days in this perfect location right on the beach. We did some cleaning, re-inflated our tyres a little, had lunch on the beach and caught up on some work on the website. The mozzies are a real worry, but we survived. We had the whole beach to ourselves and sometimes a few locals selling coconuts, and local arts and craft. The average wage in Ghana is 2.50 AUD per day or 15AUD per week for a 6-day work week. It is amazing, but people survive on this money. Nol, Annelies, Patrick and Nicole run this beautiful resort for the last 4 years are very nice people and Ko-Sa Beach Resort is worth a visit if you are on the South West Coast of Ghana. Tomorrow we travel further west right to the border with Ivory Coast and will be visiting Bursua Beach and Axum. The day started off with a difficult starting truck? Not sure what the problem is, checked the oil and it looked very clear, (Only changed 1000KM ago?) Better check again tonight. After we said our good byes to Nol-Annelies-Patrick and Nicole, we had our next problem: stopped for speeding!!! 56km in a 50KM zone. Sir you must go to court on Wednesday and this will cost you 200 Cedi plus other costs! Yes, no worries when is the court case, tomorrow sir. No worries mate we will be there!! Unfortunately, the Ghanian copper had my license (STUPID ME); anyway, he then wanted 100CEDI to let me go, which came down to 50CEDI (the bastard). No wonder Africa will never get anywhere. It really pisses you off when you this happens when we in the West pour bucket loads of money into this place. After 2 perfect days on the beach in Ko-Sa this spoils your day. Anyway, that was until an hour later when we arrived at Paradise at Busua Beach, where we found a bush camp right on a wide white palm lined beach. Everything was forgotten. Lovely people living on 3 Cedi a day, fresh fish, and cold beer. We woke up to a glorious day. Busua Beach is an amazing stretch of beautiful sand and sea. It is in a semi-cove. Just a little over 1Km off-shore is a small island where you swim to if you were adventurous; alternatively, you charter a boat for a few dollars. Lazing on the beach, grease the truck, do the washing and drink cold beer. Life is a bitch. Today’s Ghanian newspaper states on the front page: ROAD CARNAGE 760 people killed in 3 months. Imagine if the police would no longer accept bribes from drivers without a license, (50% of the taxi’s drivers have no license) would check for brakes, lights, overloading of trucks and cars, maniac drivers driving on the wrong side of the road, drunk drivers etc., this revenue together with the revenue kept by corrupt officials in the government could fix the enormous potholes and between the 2 the road carnage would be reduced I think by 80%. The problem would be not many cars left on the road as the majority is un-roadworthy. Maybe Shell-Total etc. do not like this idea? Come 9PM the weather turned nasty with another huge storm and down pour. Time to have an early night. Rain and thunder all night, and the humidity would have been 100% and it was stinking hot. Thank Christ for our fans. A sweaty body makes it feel cool. Around midnight all power went. (Usual in Ghana) and by 4AM it got calm again.

CENTRAL GHANA

We left our perfect beach and started to head North again. Our destination today was Kakum National Park and the Monkey Sanctuary run by a Dutch Couple from Rotterdam. Just before we turned North from Cape Coast we saw our friendly corrupt police officers again. Once we turned North to Kakum National Park the road deteriorated again and the potholes became larger. It’s just a short cab ride from the Cape Coast turnoff but it all depends on how good you are in avoiding Police checkpoints. It depends on how good you are in negotiating with police (bribes) Today one wanted our camera?? Yes, mate I hand you my camera!!! (NOT) He probably not even has electricity at home to recharge the battery… (Then he might have, due to the many extra’s he gets). Once we reached The Monkey Sanctuary just before Kakum National Park we were welcomed by 2 Dutch people trying to make a living here by looking after endangered and orphan animals (Hunting is big business here as people have no money to buy food). Very friendly people and we admire them, and they even organized a 50% discount telling the rangers we were volunteers. The foreigner entre price of 30Cedi!! Locals pay 2 Cedi. Being foreigners (tourists) off course that means it’s expensive to take a tour. The forest and canopy walk were nice but nothing we could not see in Australia for FREE. The canopy walk consists of 7 rope bridges kept together with ladders to walk on. We are told that the Dutch donated (SNV) 1.5 Mil. Euro to do up all the rope bridges. Today the Euros have disappeared, and the bridges have not been upgraded. Luckily, we heard about this after the walk as it came to mind as we walked the rope bridges: imagine if this is maintained as well as the busses, cars and trucks in Ghana??? This especially comes to mind as the guides panic as too many people walk at once over the 200-meter-long bridges (MAX is 3), let me tell you not very comforting. For the sure-footed, it’s still a bit alarming as the V-shape made by the ropes tends to close in on your feet as you apply pressure. The swaying the bridges by the wind and the rain falling all made it a very interesting afternoon. After this we returned to Hans Botel where we set up camp not far from a lake full of crocodiles; they even invaded the BBQ area. WHAT A DAY!!!!! we wanted to make it to Kimtampo Falls today; we were given a short cut which would only be 28KM stretch of bad road? Yes, you guessed it we got lost, bogged, lost, bogged and lost again. After 9.5 hours we covered 155KM when we did see the bitumen (well a mixture of dirt, pothole and here and there some tar). The drive itself was beautiful, the villages pure Africa, the people nice, but the hills were red clay and that does not mix with rain; the roads were rutted and nothing on the side to stop you sliding off, as many cars and trucks did. Clary had her 7 colours (poop) today as she kept reminding me of the steep declines next to the road. Lucky, I had my tyres down as the bog holes and slippery hills made the driving very interesting.

Even our Russian maps did not show the tracks we were on? With our computer maps not showing any of the tracks we were driving on, and the GPS not showing any detail except showing the direct line to our destination, (cross road) we just hoped the track would keep veering towards our waypoint. If not, we would turn around and try the previous track. We were on our own in the jungle and unfortunately, we had no idea if the direction we were driving in had any large mountains or deep rivers to cross. Oh yes, and just before we got lost we also finished up on a railway bridge, but we figured it is better to follow this than cross a deep fast flowing river. As they say when in Rome…. we made it in one piece to the Presbyterian Church in Kumasi where they allowed us to camp in their grounds. Once we left Kumasi as we had a long day ahead of us to the Hippo Sanctuary at Wechiau. It took just over 1.5 hours to get out of Kumasi’s kamikaze traffic.

NORTHERN GHANA

After Techiman we turned North West. The idea was to straddle the border with Ivory Coast and try to enter, but due to the many problems the borders were closed. They seem to open and close at random. The Capital city of North West Ghana is WA, WA is the largest predominantly Islamic city in Ghana. The major ethnic groups are the Dagaba, Sisaala and Wala The Sisaala and Dagaba are mostly Christian and animist, while most Wala are Muslim. A distinctive feature of the region’s culture is the brewing of pito (pronounced PEE-toe) a sweet, mildly alcoholic beverage derived from millet. The pito is sold by the brewers in open air bars and drunk from calabashes. Cheap but warm. Our plan was to camp at the Wechiau Hippopotamus Sanctuary. Wechiau’s hippos are, of course, the primary attraction – but there is other wildlife in the Sanctuary they tell us. Upon arrival we were told the cost of the night would be 14 Cedi for camping, 14 Cedi for being in the park and 60 Cedi for the 2 of us to see the hippos!!! All up 88 Cedi’s ($62.00 AUD or 45 Euro). This is a monthly salary (IE like being charged 2000Euro for a day at National Park or 2000AUD to visit Cape York for a day). Guys you must be kidding me, no toilet and no water for a shower and we had to camp at least 1.5km away from the river. GOODBYE.

Shame we drove all this distance to get here, but we have seen so much wild life in East and South Africa we may as well bush camp on the other side of the river overlooking the park. (We are sick of filling the pockets of the bureaucrats and nothing ends up with the local people). In Wa where we could camp for free in the car park of a big hotel if we had dinner there. 3X1.5 litre of beer and a large meal we could not finish cost us 23Cedi in the best restaurant in town. From now on we are travelling the most remote corner of Ghana well away from the tourist areas. The roads are rough, and the people were friendly. We visited the local soccer derby. Ghana loves soccer. We decided against any more visits to wildlife parks as sadly most animals have been eaten by the local population and the animals left have gone deep into the forest. Both Mole and Kakum National park are classic examples. Ivory Coast unfortunately for us was not possible due to lots of conflict in the North West and East but who knows maybe next time

God Will Do Welding

Joy Spot Catering

Riches of Glory Guest House

God Is Good Electrical

The Lord Is My Shepherd Beauty Salon

Jesus Cares Carpentry Shop

No Jesus No Life Supermarket

Up Lord Engineering Shop

God’s Gift Dress Making

Dr. Jesus Fast Food

Jesus Power Provision Store

Let There Be Light Electricals

Allah Is The Answer Supermarket

God First Fast Food

Christ In You Barbering Shop

Lion of Judea Metal Works

Holy Ghost Power (Electrical

God is King Razor Wire and Furniture

God Will Provide Fitting Shop

Holy Ghost Workshop

Holy Child Circumcision

Virgin Kids and Junior High School

God’s Way Metal

God Peace Electrical and Construction

Jesus Is Evergreen Ltd

Ave Maria Beauty Shop

Holy Child Money Exchange Bureau

Try Jesus Digital Photo

Seek Jesus Key cutting Service

Thank U Jesus Fitting Shop

God Loves You Taxi