Elephants, baboons and warthogs.....then the coast
Trip Start Jan 11, 2007
8Trip End Mar 04, 2007
Show trip route
Ghana gained its independence from Britain in March 1957 - it was the
first West African country to do so, and changed its name from the Gold
Coast to Ghana, the name of the firt great empire in West Africa, which
was famed for wealth and gold. The British heritage means we get to
hear a lot more English, but lose the great french bread.
After independence there were variou military takeovers etc, but, since 1992
Ghana has been a multiparty democracy with elections held every four
year, and is one of the few politically stable countries in the region.
However, the per-capita income (in 2002) was U$270, and Ghana is
classified by the UN as a low-income, food deficit country. Its
population of 21 million makes it one of the most densely populated
countries in West Africa. About 70% are Christian, and 15% Muslim. On a
local level, the church, the tribal chief or foreign NGO'S provide the
social safety net, rather than the government.
We have to be out of our room by 10am, so up early to make a trip into town before then.
the bus station, where we buy a ticket for the 1.30pm bus to Mole
National Park. As it's not too hot yet, we start walking the couple of
kms back to our room, but stop when we find an internet place, and
spend half an hour being thoroughly exasperated as don't even manage to
open one email. Are starting to supect people doing VOIP, or
downloading film etc are hogging all the bandwidth. Get a share taxi
back to our hotel, as running late and book out just on 10am. Pick up
another taxi and back to the bus station, but he makes it obvious he is
not a share taxi by taking us around to the back of the bus station,
and reversing right up to where the bus goes from. However, he still
only charges us 1,000 cedi, which is twice the going rate. We book our
bags into the left luggage room, and set off to explore more of the
town. On the outskirts of town can see the enormous stadium which
was donated by the Japanese. Looks more suitable for a world capital
holding the Olympics, rather than this rather ordinary regional
capital. Later find it is one of three stadiums being built for the
African Cup, we think next year. Wander the backstreets, seeing the
usual vendors, goats, very ordinary mosques, and now also very ordinary
churches. When the heat gets too much for us, we are helped by a young
boy to find an internet cafe for an hour of cool relaxation. There is
no such thing as a park to sit in around here. Every spot that looks
like it might have a bit of shade is occupied by something or someone.
Down to the bus station about midday, in plenty of time for our 1.30pm
bus, especially as it doesn't leave till 2.30! It's a hot wait, sitting
in the gutter with a bit of shade, but no cooling breeze at all. Occupy
ourselves by watching the antics on another bus. It looks like a city
bus, with poles and straps all down the middle for commuters to hold on
to, but is filling with what are obviously people from the countryside,
all brightly clad. There is some sort of commotion, with lots of
yelling, and when we enquire what is happening, are told that there is
a great group of people without tickets who want to get on. The bus
loader is just about having a heart attack as more and more people
clamber on, climbing over the sacks of rice etc that have already been
loaded. When the bus eventually gets away, much later, there is not a
spare inch of space anywhere.
In the meantime, our bus turns up, and we move closer to the door, which involves giving up our spot with a BIT of shade. However, it's another hot hour and a half before our bus
gets away, an hour late for no discernible reason. MP decide to do
another run for 800,000 of cedis at the ATM. Talk to a young Aussie
couple from Canberra/Melbourne, who are supposed to be on the crowded
bus, but decide to do something else, and are still there when we
We have tried to phone ahead to the park several times
without success, but talk to an American who has their new number, and
DP is using his phone just when the general move to board starts.
Moment of truth time arrives - DP into the bus to get 2 good seats,
while MP makes sure the bags are in. We are not in seat 18 and 19, but
the numbers on the seat are pretty chaotic, and have been changed at
least once. We had not been in a bus to date which strictly observed
seat numbering, so a bit surprised when a small woman with a baby asks,
in good English, but very rudely, to see our tickets. We ask to see
hers, but she has a combination of conviction and born-to-rule, so we
look about, see 17,18,19 right behind the driver, and a well-dressed
local in 17calling us. Changed reluctantly, but actually ended up with
a better view, and air through the driver's window.
Set off heading west, away from the main road, but use back streets to emerge on the
highway for the traditional fill-up with diesel. Reasonably good tar
road as far as Fufulso, where we turnoff the main road. Have talked to
Mr Hassein Salia, co-owner of the Larabanga village guest house, just
short of the park, and he says we can get a tro-tro from here to
Kumasi, on the way out, but it looks pretty quiet.
The road from here is reasonable quality gravel road, with corrugations, but it
shakes our bus around pretty badly. Road travels through dry deciduous
scrub, with the odd greener patch, some decent sized trees, big mango
trees near the villages. Villages tend to be mud brick, with thatched
or metal roofs,
some signs saying there have been some charitable population feeding
programs around here which gives you an idea of just how poor it was.
Pass through Damongo, which has a cluster of antenna towers, a big
hospital, and some commercial buildings. Stop here for half an hour,
possibly for a prayer time, and to let a lot of people out, and pay our
additional 5000 to carry on to the park. The bus leaves full, which
surprises us, as only one town between us and the National Park. It is
now getting dark, so proceed slowly, with not a lot of headlights, and
people and motorbikes on the road.
Larabanga is somewhere between a village and a small town. Stop in an intersection outside Salia Bros Guest House, expecting to discharge all the non-tourist passengers, and carry on, but we had not factored in African practices. There is a
giant fight outside the bus, with women's voices raised to screaming
pitch. Turns out that the bus delivers pre-ordered bread from town, and
less had been delivered than ordered, and no logical pro-rata sytem was
in place. Confusion not helped by conducting the bread audit by
torchlight, as electricity is blacked out. Additionally, the bus filled
up with locals, as it turns out, from the Park workers' village, where
there are 190 employees, and over 1000 kids.
Get to the park gates, pay 40,000 each to enter, plus 2000 for a still camera (22000 for a video).
Figured we were almost there, but then did the rounds of the park
village, dropping locals off before finally arriving at the Mole park
motel reception about 9.30pm, hot and tired.
Our phone booking had been successful, but we can only get two nights, we are rudely informed when we say maybe 3. Two is the minimum we want, so we cop it, order
our meal, then into the room for a quick tub and clothes wash.
Think we have no water in the room, as nothing comes out of the taps in
the flash bathroom, but notice two covered buckets under the sink. Have
a quick bucket shower, and go to the restaurant.
Find Richard and Adam are here, get some of the ground rules and info, but they are
involved in a card game with a big bunch of Peace Corp girls, so we
have our meal on the terrace, with lots of cold drinks. We can see that
the Lodge is on the edge of an escarpment, but even with the full moon,
can't see the plain below.
Later, Richard comes and talks to us, as it is his girlfriend's birthday, and he has just made a contorted phone call to her, standing on the "magic rock", with one leg in the air to get reception. Adam is still involved in the cards, as he fancies his
chances, but not necessarily at cards.
Get to bed at 11.30, late for us, with the alarm set for 6 for the morning game walk.
Monday 5 Feb - Mole National Park
Up at 6, and follow the vague intructions to find the ranger/guide' s
post. The Americans have been here before, so they lead the way. There
are the three Americans from the bus (a Peace Corp, and his visiting
father and brother), ourselves, an elderly American with a guide and
driver, and an Australian couple, John and Helen, with their driver,
Nanny, and a young Dutch couple also from the bus.
Rudi, the elderly American, wanted to drive, taking a group in his car, but
conceded that walking in the morning beats walking in the afternoon, so
we ended up with Rudi, his young, sloppily overweight guide from
Tamale, the Australians, and Nanny in our group. We had tried to get a
recommended guide, Zac, but there were undercurrents of politics,
rotation, sharing the work, and we ended up with DK, a competent guide,
but no expert at identifying and finding birds. At least, he had a big
After a delay sorting out appropriate footwear, we were given
the orientation lecture concerning safety with elephants, then headed
down towards the waterholes we could now plainly see close to the
No elephants in sight, but we can see a few antelopes,
called Kob. Hard to get close walking, but get some photos. We circle
right, across flat open ground, seeing more Kob, African Mahogany
trees, flush out an ant-lion (which can be found by the indentation in
the sand), check out an Aardvaak burrow, discuss use of such burrows by
non-digging animals. Look at rows of holes in a bank, which are the
nests of red-throated bee-eaters - get some good telephoto shots of
Crossing some watercourse country, we sight a lone warthog,
quite large, with wicked looking tusks, and are able to get quite
close. We are told they are pretty docile in this part of the park. We
follow a troop of baboons, and travel with them for some time. One is a
loner with a crippled rear end. Briefly sight some patash, or red
monkeys, then have a rest in an elevated shelter by the far waterhole.
Good photos of crocs out on the bank, then see an elephant in the
and by this time, it is full of elephants! Maximum counted was 21. The
pool is quite deep, enough for the elephants to fully submerge.
like outcrops of granite rock in a river. Walk around to the pump house
for a good look and photo, but have to move back when a straggler comes
in from our side.
Hot pull up the hill to the lodge. John, the Australian is concerned whether Rudi would make it without carking it (later find out he is 76). Up to the ranger' post to sign off, pay 15,000 a head, plus 10,000 for a cheap bottle of cold water from the
Back at the lodge, we breakfast as a group. Can't believe how cheeky Rudi's guide is. Talk at length to the Autralians, Helen and John. He is working for a big US mining company, so MP can relate to his situation. They are on one of their regular breaks,
checking out the country with a new, hired 4x4 and Nanny, the driver.
They seem to be enjoying the country. Talk travel, kids, diving,
retirement, while lazing in the pool.
amused by antics of baboons which come to visit, and can check out the
elephants in the waterhole below the patio.
Have lunch, and set up an afternoon game drive in a 4x4, then retire to the room for a
half-hour rest. No time to sleep, as out at 3 to get the car and guide.
Run into trouble, as the drivers do not want to have anything to do
with Rudi's guide, and there are too many for one car, not enough for
2. Given the impression we cannot use John and Helen' car, so front up
800,000 cedis between the four of us, with Rudi missing out, and pretty
shat, as driving was his idea in the morning.
At the Ranger post, create consternation by asking for Zac as a guide (he's been
recommended by a number of people), because we want to see birds.
Finally, the head ranger rings him up, but takes a while to answer, as
he is at prayer.
Our guide from the morning is pretty shat, but we have heard his "big" bird description when we asked for an identification, and don't want him.
Head out through the village at first, seeing the elephant with one broken tusk, which sometimes drinks from the lodge swimming pool,
warthogs grazing around and through the village. Entertaining incident
with a larger warthog chasing a small one around and around a tree in
the village. Zac uses the example of the hog kneeling to eat to show
why women kneel when presenting food to their man. Have quite a few
other analogies with the animal kingdom and the Moslem way of life, but
his scientific facts are all correct.
Look at the school, which is large, but run down, and see kapok trees.
Head out onto a maze of roads on the escarpment to look for birds.
There are a lot, and Zac is pretty good with his identification, and
spotting. The best spotting we do is down on the plain, in a good
watercourse. Good malacite kingfisher photo, and photo of a tiny blue
bird, plus see grey hornbill, Abyssinian roller, paradise wader (no
photo), hammerkop, double spur francolin, paradise ibis, red-cheeked
colten(?)blue, water plover, African jacana, black-back night heron,
grey heron, wool-neck stork, Western Grey plantain eater plus quite a
few others. See a lot of bushbuck, dark brown, striped like a bongo,
but very shy, so only get photo with foliage and trees. Also see
Back at the lodge, pay for 3 hours for Zac, plus give
him a 20,000 tip, but hammered for 1,200,000 for the car, as now told
the standard fee is for 2 hours, although we had been led to believe it
was for the afternoon. Caught again, but settle for 2 1/2 hours (the
actual time we were out) for 1,000,000 (500,000 our share).
Back at the lodge, Rudi isn't talking, but too bad. The staff call his guide
and driver "the naughty boys", and don't want anything to do with them.
We have our suspicions about the relationship. Find we cannot have
anything but beds in separate dorms tomorrow (there's a big contingent
of heavy hitters from various embassies arriving), so after dinner, we
accept John and Helen's generous offer of a lift to Tamale. It doesn't
save much money, but it does mean a reasonable start hour, instead of
4am, and a comfortable ride in congenial company. To bed about 10,
having not found time to do any washing. We've thoroughly enjoyed our
time at Mole. It definitely exceeded our expectations - more animal
sightings than we expected, and the lodge, with swimming pool, makes
for a very relaxing time. This is the first place we'd have liked to
spend some time just relaxing, so it's a shame it's booked out.
Tuesday 6 Feb Mole NP - Kumasi
Civilised starting hour of 7.30am breakfast. Out early, with our bags
packed, not wanting to hold up the show. Nanny packs them in while we
check out and order a modest breakfast.
Set out with John in front with Nanny driving, three of us in the back seat and the bags in the rear. Had a false start, travelling further into the park before doing
a u-turn, and finding the village. Got a mixed reception driving right
through the village, but found the way out ok.
Stopped to look for the historic mosque at Larabanga. Found the abandoned tourist
information centre, then asked enough questions to get a guide to ride
with us. Found the place, signed the book and paid our 20,000 to see
the mosque. The mosque is true Sahel style, but has been sheathed in
cement render, and painted white.
quite attractive, with an interesting old baobab tree which self-seeded
on the grave of the first imam. Some heavy pressure applied for
donations to the school as well, which we succumbed to, but not sure if
donations were written up in the book.
in the car, we proceeded in comfort to the highway on the corrugated
road, hardly feeling it, and nicely cooled by the airconditioning.
Certainly diffferent to the trip in. No obvious transport at the
turnoff, so carry on towards Tamale, taking a "free range" loo stop at
the service station on the White Volta River, where the ferry calls in
once a week.
Take photos and bid farewell to John, Helen and Nanny in Tamale,
goes across to the bank, the minibus has filled, so have to wait for
the next to fill, which takes a couple of hours. Suck on Yogos and wait
in the shade, eventually being allowed in to reserve pretty good seats
just behind the driver. However, it isn't all good, as MP has to get up
each time someone wants to flap up the middle seat to get through.
It is better than our previous minibus, a bigger version of the
Mercedes minibus, but still wears thin. MP is suffering back pain from
one-cheek seating, and we don't get a lot of air through the driver's
window. We make pretty good time, particularly downhill, and beyond the
Black Volta, the country gets greener, with hills, and palm trees
There is still almost no river-bank life, but are starting to see fruit
trees, bananas, and the occasional National Forest of mainly dry
deciduous trees, evidence of a sawn timber trade.
Do a long stop (we think it is a prayer stop) at a service station at Kintampo, which
is a fair sized city, very busy along the highway. Very casual,
semi-private loo here, with provision for foot washing for prayer, and
little else. Buy more Yogos, and fruit juice to help with the heat,
back in to continue the ordeal.
This road is the main transport connection to the north of Ghana, and on to Burkina Faso, and Mali, but fortunately, most of the trucks have been parked on the roadside.
Beyond Kintampo, we start to see more on the road. We are also seeing a
lot of current and past accidents. One has a semi-trailer of tomatoes
on its side right across the road, with salvage operations for the
tomatoes just starting.
a semi of watermelons over the side in a gully, also with salvage. A
kilometer down the road we see a small boy with a watermellon under his
There are also smashed minibuses, vans, trucks, full-sized buses, so we are understandably a bit concerned.
We are making pretty good time, roughly 1 km/minute, so DP predicts a
7.15 arrival, just about when we see what looks like a fire ahead, but
it is just dust, where the road suddenly deteriorates to corrugations
and thick dust, just when we need it, with dark coming on, and almost
A new road is being constructed, and at times we
are back to one lane, with alternate traffic. We get a reasonable go,
but eventually the whole thing grinds to a halt where a truck is broken
down in a single lane section. Some urgers are leaving the main road
and going up the outside, and after our offsider checks out the cause
of the holdup, we follow suit and do OK until we meet a large truck
making an extra lane coming the other way. Lots of shouting and light
flicking, but he is made to get off the road, and we carry on.
The bad road lasts all the way into Kumasi proper, with heavy traffic
both ways. We can see that it is a large town, with hills, and large
roads. We are dropped off at what looks like a private depot, in a
commercial area, rather than a bus station, and we have no idea where
we are. The first two taxi drivers we try have no idea where the
Guestline Lodge is, and don't have much English. The third answers us
in clear, idiomatic English, says he know where it is, and wants 30k.
Seems a lot, but we are stuck, so take him. Set off fast, DP looking at
the map and trying to find landmarks. We seem to go an awful long way,
then he proudly announces - here we are - The Royal Park Hotel! It is a
flash looking, Chinese motif hotel, and we have no idea where it is,
not on map, no use as a reference. Ask at the hotel, but no luck, then
consult the map, and try to get him interested. Tried to direct him to
Vic Baboo's Restaurant, on Prempeth II road. Actually find the road,
but keeps going at high speed, have to stop him and direct him back to
the Railway Station, which he knows, and which is close enough to walk
from. Get back near the station, but not to it, but he has a sudden
inspiration, and we find our hotel. Outside the gate, have an argument
about the fare, he reckons it should be 90k, we offer 40, 10 extra
because of the trouble, even though he made the mistake. Hotel gateman
joins in the shouting match, we end up giving him 60, take it or leave
it. He is still arguing when we go inside.
Book in, can only get an A/C room with a bath for 230,000 settle for this, straight out for a feed. Nothing at our hotel, Vic Baboo's is a fair way away, and closes
at 9, and now nearly 10pm, so are directed by staff across to the
Tiawaah restaurant in the Fosua Hotel.
Find our way in and up the lift, find about a dozen people in the restaurant, all watching the Ghana v/s Nigeria football with great interest. Manage to get served a
very ordinary Chinese meal, view the antics of the staff when Ghana
wins 4 -1.
Back at the hotel, run into Richard and Adam, who are leaving for the coast tomorrow.
Do a wash at the hotel, use the A/C to cool the room, then get a welcome rest in a very strange 2-level double bed.
Wed 7 Feb Kumasi
First time for a while we have no imperatives, so take it easy in the
morning. Found we could cash T/Cs at Standard Chartered, cashed 200
Euros, only to get all the cash in 10,000cedi notes, too much for both
money belts. Discover banana lassi's at Vic Baboo's, do some medium
speed internet, talk to a Swiss couple. She has good English, and has
This is where our water-in-the-room trouble begins, not enough flow for a shower, but enough to fill a bottle for a bottle shower.
Thursday 8 Feb Kumasi
Out early, try to book bus for Friday, but have to settle for Saturday
midday. Don't have breakfast, and plunge into exploring Kumasi with a
walk down the commercial street to the markets at Kejetia, stopping on
the way for water and guava juice from a virtually empty supermarket.
The crush of pedestrians and workers carrying an immense variety of
goods on their heads, and on overloaded 4-wheel trolleys with no
brakes, was intense, and entering the labyrinth of passages past mainly
permanent stalls was a relief. This is the largest market we have seen
anywhere, but still divided into discrete areas correponding to trade
or products. Setting a course to the high ground on the far side, we
passed mainly through utensil sales before taking a leg into the food,
fish, cow's leg and hoofs area,
then the mounded corn flour area, the bulk dried milk section, then an unusual open area with tomatoes and fruit, then the bulk, truck-lot yam section,
This section was like a scaffolding of wood planks clinging to a steep bank, with shops doing sheet metal, leatherwork, shoe manufacture, in conditions like early industrial
revolution. Managed to get a small fraction of the photos we would
like, but reasonably representative.
We emerged near the landmark church behind the market, got another Yogo each, as now very hot. Took a photo of the locked-tight church grounds. Had trouble with our
orientation, heading for the National Cultural Centre, but find
ourselves a lot closer to the Manhiya Palace when we ask for
directions, so change tack, and head for the palace, actually finding
garbage bin for our Yogo wrappers outside it (garbage bins are a real
rarity around here - the ones we found actually stated who had donated
them!). The street are surprisingly clean, with no obvious garbage
heaps to add to. There seem to be a lot of heavy hitters in traditional
Ashanti togas, and an enquiry at the gate with a friendly soldier
convinces us that we will get to see nothing here. He directs us to the
Museum, at the rear, but we decide against the 40,000 entry, and get a
20,000 taxi to the Cultural Centre, which take us past the Zoo, which
has thousands of bats circling. We take a weird, bumpy shortcut, which
costs the driver 2000, cutting through some sort of massive vehicle
parking yard, to emerge at the Cultural Centre.
It is very much a work in progress, but eventually find the museum, which has historic
photos, drums, paraphenalia of Ashanti royalty. 20k each, plus a 10k
tip for the woman who mechanically recited the commentary on the
exhibits. No photos, but got a good shot outside of a cocoa tree, with
a calabash tree beside it, and lots of lizard shots.
Had a fair lunch of fish and chips at the restaurant, talking to the Swiss couple
from the hotel, then walked around the craft workshops, seeing some
interesting drum making, painting, lost wax brass casting, bead work,
but resisted the not-too insistent craftmen.
Walked through the complex to the main road and the zoo, 20k each to look at probably the
worst zoo we have ever seen. They are doing work on the enclosures,
Sydney Botanical Gardens.
snakes, weird aquatic tortoises, a metre long, spotted like a stingray.
Walk back to town through the massive minibus park, to take a break at
the hotel. Another drama with water back at the hotel, get our own
bucket, plus find the source of mosquitoes, a 50 mm gap at the top of
the A/C unit, so stuff it with the curtain.
Out later to internet and more good drinks, but only fair food at Vic Baboo's. Much door
slamming in the middle of the night, DP asks for quiet down the hall.
Friday 9th Feb Kumasi
Having had the palace museum commentary described as exceptional by the
Swiss woman, we head first for the hat museum, by taxi, as the route
for predicting a share taxi was pretty difficult. Get out at the
correct roundabout on Ofino road, but cannot find the hotel with the
museum. Find we are actually in the famous motor spares region, where
you can buy spares for almost anything, in almost any condition. Take
an unwelcome photo of a large wooden platform, with a dozen or so large
diesel engines chained down to it. Surprising security for a ton of
metal. Walk through the backstreets, which have workshops, spare
engines, spare gearboxes, steering, springs, tail lights, electricals,
air conditioners. Traders seem to specialise in a certain part, rather
than a make or model. Follow the locals to find a path back to the main
road, see the right hotel name, but the hat Muesum is long gone,
together with the hotel restaurant. Get water and Yogos from a service
station, now identified as a good source of these, and get another taxi
to the Royal Palace. Less heavy hitters here today, work out from our
soldier of yesterday that you only get to go in if you have an audience
(except Sunday, which is a special general access day which only
happens every 42 days).
At the museum, pay our money, but get another woman guide, who has it all down pat, no real interest or animation. Exhibits are interesting enough, lifestyle of a king up to
the 1960's, some historic exhibits, photos, but not much different to
the cultural centre.
Walk back through the traffic chaos around the Kejetia Circle. Both suddenly stop, and exchange knowing glances - we'd just heard a CD playing, and it was the same haranging we'd had in the minibus - you can buy it, and have to listen to it more than once!!
Find it's called something like "Total Prayer" by a Nigerian called (we
think) Juliana Okah.
Internet for an hour to cool down, before having a good paneer at Vic Baboo's.
In the late pm, talk to an American girl who has spent the last 8 years
in the 3rd world, including some time in Rwanda. Invite her to come
with us to find the legendary Shell internet, supposed to be fast. Walk
through the bus depot to where we hope to find the hotel with the
longroadsouth.com landrover parked in it, which we can see from our
hotel. We met these people in Savare, in Mali.
The roads don't look anything like the map, large roads with no street life whatsoever.
It is coming on dark when we find the Shell Terminal, The Shell servo,
but no internet. Head back to where we think town is, but fully dark
now, with overcast and lots of lightning. MP figures we are down near
the railway, and eventually find some named streets which take us back
to familiar streets. Internet for an hour, just beating the rain, which
teems down, but eases off just as we get booted out at closing.
At Vic Baboo's, have another paneer, and good lime drinks in variable
sized glasses. Sitting next to the owners of the landrover. They are
able to report that the 2CV couple made it at least to Ouaga.
Also run into the young Dutch couple we saw at Mole NP.
Back at the hotel, can see a woman with a bucket watching us. Up in the
room, we find out why - a big puddle of water beside the bed. DP goes
down, brings the woman up, and she mops up. Can't see where the water
came from, but she knew, pointing out a missing trim strip from the
louvre sill. One would think it would be easier to replace the strip,
rather than go through this every time it rains! More bottle baths, to
bed for a fairly late start in the morning.
Sat 10 Feb Kumasi - Axim
Cornflake breakfast, pack the bags to be ready to move instantly. Get
E200 changed at a dealer. Text John and Helen, and get a phone call
back we can't really understand, then contact again, find that they are
in Kumasi, coming in, and will meet us at the rail station. Decide to
take a walk to the Fort while we wait, and, then, with a stroke of
inspiration, buy a Ghana sim card for 60k, with 40k credit, and the
vendor installs it for us. This enable us to go back to the rail
overpass and zero in on them, as they are on the other side. Eventually
spot them from the overpass, and meet at the vehicle. Back to the hotel
for a quick pack and palm off the bus tickets to a Pom couple who have
just bought ticket, but may be able to refund or on-sell them.
Repack the car, and off in style and comfort, taking the road to the
East of Kakum Nat Park, not the most obvious, with few towns, but Nanny
reckons it is the better. Start off with road construction, but turns
out a reasonable road, with increasingly green countryside, some
reasonably big rivers, and a few small towns. Phone ahead to confirm
accommodation at Axim, getting used to a good sim card.
Reasonably uneventful trip. See a lot of discrete areas of dead coco
palms, possibly ground-water related, and extensive rubber plantations
closer to Axim. The towns look pretty prosperous, but all transport
appears to be taxi. Turn off to Axim through some sort of taxation
barrier, follow some weather-beaten signs all the way to Axim Beach
Hotel. The road isn't all that flash, but the front gate and approach
to the hotel are first class. The hotel is on top of a bluff, with a
rocky beach to the right, and a long, sandy beach, backed with palms,
to the left.
restaurant for drinks, food, as available, and a couple of good swims,
in a surf that was too powerful to go out to catch waves, but clean and
gets a good local red-red and plantain, DP's barracuda a bit dry. Have
a few beers with John and Helen, talk for a while, then to bed pretty
early, as it has been a long day, and we will all go to the stilt
village early tomorrow. Waves are crashing below, sometimes very loud,
and DP doesn't get a lot of sleep.
Sunday 11 Feb Axim -Nzulezu stilt village
7am rise for 7.30 breakfast and 8 am departure for the stilt village.
Take a while to find the right road, as want to go close to the coast,
as indicated on the large scale map. Nanny has some experience here,
but mainly on the main road. Pass a wide river mouth, with fishing
village and salt pans. Villages/towns along this coast are reasonably
prosperous, with signs of former prosperity in the older, now decaying
buildings. See some good Christian signs, including one about Jesus
being the egg of my eye, but failed to find it for a photo on the way
At Beyin, the base for the stilt village visit, we pick up
the tab for the visit, the least we can do to pull our weight. Get a
guide, who stops for a pole and paddles on the way to a boardwalk which
take us out to a man-made canal leading across grasslands to jungle in
the distance. John gets the "honour" of the front seat, which involves
getting out and pushing when the boat grounds, plus a long paddle
across the lake.
When we enter the jungle,
interesting winding channel between trees and lagoons, with locals in
canoes setting out nets, and using boats for transport. They object to
photos, but we manage to get a few long shots. The lake is surprisingly
large, with the stilt village on the west side, at the end. The village
looks fairly small, because we are looking at the end of it.
Stop at the guest house first, small rooms with grotty, bare foam
mattresses. Have drinks, then walk the raffia boardwalks, through
housing, and a cute schoolroom. Can now see that the village is much
bigger than first appears, and has 450 people. Good photos, but few
with people in them. Can't work out why they don't want, but avoid
confrontation. The raffia is the frond stem of a palm, rounded one
side, flat on the back, up to 4m long, straight and strong. Talk to the
chief, contribute to the school, and head back, John once again poling,
pushing and paddling, MP baling, others just looking on.
Back at the park HQ, have coconut drinks, after a local shins up a palm and cut
them down. A bit of a con at 5000 each, but refreshing.
Walk to the new hotel next door, still being finished, for a look and a talk
with the English woman running it. She is married to an English
Ghanaian, and is finding problems coming to grips with the local graft
system. Her husband was jailed because he couldn't prove the two
children were his, even when backed up by the wife.
Look at a nearby fort before heading back. Take a coast road past Ankobra Beach
Hotel resort short of Axim, get some good views of the Axim town and
coast, then have to go back as the road peters out.
Have another swim back at the hotel, and snacks down at the beach restaurant, but the surf is still too heavy for surfing.
Another good red-red for dinner, another fairly early finish, about 9,
for a medium early start. We love this place, and tossed up staying
another night, but it's pretty isolated, and the offer of easy
transport and good company won.
Monday 12 Feb Axim - Cape Coast
Breakfast and on the road by 9, first stop at Takoradi-Secondi, where
we see another massive stadium being built for the African Cup, then,
hitting the coast, we observe a vacuum tanker discharging raw sewage
straight into the sea. Good photos of the fishing harbour, then on to
Elmina, which looks great, with lots of local fishing boats,
in the castle carpark, and walk across the bridge to get good photos of
the fishing harbour, and the castle,
Rendezvous with Didee, the Danish girl John and Helen helped at the
airport, then west to the Coconut Grove Beach resort, for a flash
lunch, a look at their pristine pool, and photos of locals pulling nets
in through the surf. Then head off to Cape Coast, where they drop us
right at the Oasis Beach Hotel, where we take more photos, say our
farewells to John and Helen, and get back to reality again.
Book into a cute enough round room, with bathroom and mossie net, but it is
pretty dark, and a bit dank.
and can even see it in the breaking waves. We won't be swimming here.
Where I stayed