Hikin' & Visitin' Caves

Trip Start Jun 21, 2012
Trip End Jul 21, 2012

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Flag of Ghana  , Volta Region,
Saturday, July 7, 2012

I normally don't go hikin' in Texas or elsewhere but since Mawusi, my interpreter, mentioned it and I thought it must be interestin' and adventurous. I intend to explore other places and not just to stay at the home-based.  Besides, I have a story to blog about...

What is Lipke Todome?  The name sure sounds odd.  At first glance, it looks like it says as 'Lip like to dome', eh.  Let me brief what Lipke Todome is!   It's in the village of the original town of Hohoe where Ewe villagers lived off in the caves, or they're known for ancestral caves.  They hid there and were chased by the rule of Chief.  For many years they lived in the caves on the border with Togo (the country next to Ghana) and near to the Wli Waterfalls. They fetched water from a small, local waterfall.  After years spent in hiding, they finally emerged from the caves and formed Likpe Todome", or "Sharping stones from under the mountain" because they came from the caves or "under the mountain." Dat's accordin' to one of travel blogs I read about.  Anyhoo, Mawusi said not one, but 6 caves to visit and hikin' is physically challengin', so I went for it!

We left our home-based early in the mawnin' so it won't be hot & sweaty when we get there.  Upon our arrival in Lipke Todome, the town was not as big as Hohoe.  The dirt road consisted of one small grocery shop which is half size of my classroom, a few huts, chickens, a cat,  and a tourist gatehouse.  The gatehouse held a few plastic seats for us to sit while the tour guide detailed the history of the town, how we get to the six caves, and safety.  The tour guide was a young man, probably a high skool kiddo but he looked physically fit, no doubt.  I expected him to wear hikin' boots but just a pair of sneakers.  It's good to note dat other volunteers didn't wear flip flops like they did at other places.  I had Puma sneakers, not Chaco sandals, when I wore 'em at Kakum Park.  The mountain didn't look tall, intimidatin', or too steep to climb but I didn't let the height fool me thinkin' the hike was as easy as pie. We paid $6 Cedi, or about three U.S. bucks.

We followed the tour guide & zigzagged through the village where it housed several huts n shacks along w/ a burnin' campfire.  Some villagers stood outside and stared at Yevu hikers.  I felt trespassin' but there was a worn path, so other hikers must have gone there thousands of times.  Maybe we're their entertainment to watch as there's not much goin' on in their village.  Out the corner of my right eye, I spotted a maternal dog w/ 8 or so puppies madly suckin' its udders.  Holy Moses!  Too many puppies and the mother didn't look healthy.  A depressin' sight.  Probably a dingo like the one in Australia.  When I turned my head back to the path, there was a stray puppy on my left side.  Gladly I didn't trip on it!  Clicked it w/ my Sony camera.

Back to the path combined of dirt n granite, it started climblin' upward, which I cudda handle it.  The altitude started to increase slowly but surely.  Some other volunteers were behind and stopped for a few minute break but I kept goin'.  One of the volunteers, who wuz a smoker, was way way way ahead of us.  No shittin'!  Mawusi, offered to carry my cross-body purse as my balance wuz off when I walked.  And besides it's pretty heavy:  a bottle of water, a tube of repellent, a camera, & whatnot. Probably saw me walkin' like a drunkard.  Or probably he feared for my trippin' over the cliff, eh!  It wuz a good thing dat I applied some 12-hour Ultrathon insect repellent cream, recommended by my travelin' nurse, 'cos there were a swarm of buzzin' mosquitoes.  My clothin' started to get soakin' as the altitude increased.  I'd feel the humidity weighin' down on me but it wuz not as hot as the bottom.  My deodorant didn't withstand enough to hold against perspiration.  We kept hikin' up until we stopped at the half way for a snapshot of town of Lipke Todome, as ya see in the picture.  Eventually everyone caught up at the spot and we proceeded to climb some more.  There were villagers comin' down & passin' us.  Women carried their baby on their back wrapped in a sheet around their breasts and waist.  I didn't see one stroller since I arrived in Ghana.  I rarely saw 'em carryin' it in their arms.  Ya can imagine how tough they are:  carryin' the baby and holdin' stuff on their head simultaneously.  When I saw 'em walkin' on the same trail toward us, the machetes were in their hand.  I kept a cool head and let 'em pass me.  Later, I told Mawusi dat I secretively prayed they won't attack me with the machetes, he roared a laughter.  He said Ghanaians (almost each of 'em, even children) have the machete to cut grass, plants, crops, or trees.  Mostly they live on the farm and in the village, so the machete is their tool as the gun is Americans' weapon.  I saw goats in Hohoe and now they're in the mountain, too.  Literally they’re everywhere ya go! One of 'em stopped & took a look at me.  It reminded me of Longhorn colors:  burnt orange & white! 

Climbed, dragged, hiked, strolled, trekked, & trudged until we reached at the site where the swing from the tree awaited us. I didn't see any of caves there.  We waited until other volunteers arrived before another set of hikin' began.  I grabbed the sturdy rope and hopped onto the stick where I sat on.  Asked the tour guide to push me.  He held the rope at the bottom under my booty, started to sprint, & pushed me 'till I went higher.  Yes, yes, yes!  I felt coolness sweepin' me, aaah.  I don't remember when the last time I swung & it sure felt nostalgic.  The volunteer kept takin' pictures of me while I wuz swingin'.  I saw the pictures dat didn't show me, showed half of me, or only end of my hair.  Ha!  We relaxed under the tree while others took their turn to swing.  Muwasi naturally climbed the tree & rested on the branch.  There were some sittin’ flat stones for me to sit.  I really liked the background where ferns were standin’ up, not from the stems.

The tour guide reminded us about the safety when we were about to begin hikin’ again.  He said we’ll see the first cave out of 6 caves.  I thought the safety wuz to walk slowly, or not to trip over, but when we got there, I’d see what he meant!  Gettin’ to the first was no big deal.  We just moved a few feet upward.  We entered the cave, which was not as big as the ones I visited like Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown, TX and Longhorn Cavern State Park in Burnet, TX.  It wuz small & its capacity wuz good for about 10 people.  I imagined myself inside the ancestral cave as one of villagers escapin’ from the rule of Chief.  The cave #2 took a physical challenge:  we had to climb the ladder to get onto the rocky cliff.  It wuz difficult to climb onto protrudin’ rocks out of the cliff ‘cos they’re not big enough to step onto, and we had to hold ‘em steadily, or we’d fall off.   We entered the cave #2 and it was dark.  We sat together and waited for somebody to take pictures of us.  The camera flash helped seein’ us where we sat.  Carefully we went down where we came from.    Goin’ to the next cave, we had to carefully go down on the slippery descent.  We were in the dense rainforest and there were some vines where we’d grab and hold ‘em while we climbed down.  Some times when there were no rope or vine, I had to squat and lean toward the ground to keep myself balance.  There were a few times where I tripped when I didn’t see the roots at the bottom. Camouflage, as ya call it.  One time when I tripped, I ran downward without stop to one of the volunteers ‘till she stopped me.  Whew!  There was not a flat ground where we’d easily walk.  Mostly we had to go down & up slowly, climb down & up carefully, use our hands to grab vines n ropes, squat, lean onto, and balance ourselves when we stepped on fallen trees while our tour guide and Mawusi had no trouble gettin’ there before us in no time.  Of course, they were there to assist us and showed us where and how to get there.  After all, they grew up climbin’ & hikin’.  I’m grateful to have Mawusi along ‘cos he did more beyond his code of ethics as an interpreter.  Not only he interpreted for me, but he went on several trips w/ me and helped makin’ bargains at the market.  We got our hands and butts dirty & wet, as shown in the pictures.  I enjoyed the kind of adventure and I didn’t have the experience.  It wuz fun!   The fifth cave wuz the most exciting one.  The tour guide warned us there’re bats inside the cave.  Some volunteers told me dat they cudda hear the sound. Squawking… The cave was beneath, dark, n cool so I cudda not see any bats below.  Ya have to go down to the cave with a provided ladder.  Yikes!  The tour guide had a flashlight and some volunteers used their phones for light.  Austin, my hometown, has millions of Mexican bats comin’ to Austin every spring and leavin’ for south in late fall.  I’m accustomed to seein’ ‘em but I hadn’t encountered ‘em at a close range.  The tour guide told us they won’t bite, so I went w/ my guts takin’ his word.  I cudda easily smell guano as I stepped down…strongly.  Just like the odor in Austin.  I stayed close to the tour guide as he knew better than us where to guide.  We had to squat ‘cos the ceiling wuz low, or our head would get nasty.  When all volunteers (except one who didn’t want to join us) got to the bottom, we moved an inch by inch to where the bats were squawkin’.  I cudda feel ‘em passin’ by me.  They barely touched me!  The lights were flashin’ upon ‘em and I wuz seein’ ‘em hangin’ upside down & flyin’ around.  What a thrillin’ sight!  We remained there & took pictures of ‘em w/ many flashin’ lights.   I wuz about to feel weary after visiting the 5 caves w/ all physical work out.  One more cave to go!  It wuz up in the mountain where we had to reach near the cliff.  We had to lean onto the wall of the mountain steadily, or we’d slide down to nowhere.  The canopy covered us & it wuz pretty dark to zigzag through the rainforest.  After visitin’ the last cave, the tour guide told us to follow the path to the same site where the swing was.  It looked like we had hiked up & down around n under the mountain from the beginning to the end.  I believe it took us about 4 hours in total.  I cudda imagine the ancestors survived there as the caves were their homes.   Back to the swing site, we collapsed and sat on the group not carin’ to get our booty dirty anymore.  We were SO exhausted and didn’t have any energy left.  We just sat & enjoyed the view of the mountain.  Beautiful scene.  When we headed back to the awaitin’ van, it started raining hard.  I meant rainin’ cats & dogs!  We didn’t have an umbrella nor a raincoat, and arriving at the van took us about an hour.  We were soaked and my Puma sneakers were heavily filled w/ the water.  It wuz pretty slippery, so we cudda not hurry up.  When I arrived at the gate house, I didn’t see anybody else there.  The volunteers must have stayed up in the mountain waitin’ for the rain to stop.  I waited for about half hour and they arrived eventually.  We laughed and took ourselves pictures.  It sure felt great after all the endurance we bore!

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