Arrival and Sabbath day in Ghana
Trip Start Apr 02, 2014
33Trip End May 07, 2014
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I repacked my bags in preparation for ongoing travel. I had checked with the desk to see if I could keep the room until 1:00 pm at no extra cost but the receptionist said they needed the room at 12:00. After checking out at noon and putting my luggage in storage, I had a quick bite of lunch.
The shuttle bus was supposed to leave at 1:30, but I had seen when Daniel left it was half an hour late. The one shuttle bus serves four hotels and the Ibis is at the bottom of the food chain, so to speak. My flight was at 3:20 on Emirates and they have a reputation for being on time, so after calculating times and a safety margin, I decided to take a taxi the airport. They are un-air-conditioned, but the drivers are "hungry" for a fare (and perhaps literally) so they will find a way to get you one there on time. We careened around and wove in and out of lanes while the driver laid on the horn all the way, so I arrived with plenty of time to spare.
The check-in agent asked me to weigh my carry-on bag and claimed it was too heavy by several kilos. I was only allowed 7 kg (about 17 pounds). “I can't let you board the plane like that” she said. And so it began. I complained that every airline for the last month had let me travel with it: Delta, Air France, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airways, Rwandair; I hoped a little service rivalry might soften her approach. No.
“You must move some things from your carryon into your suitcase”. I must jump through hoops. I moved a few things across from bag to bag and pulled out a couple of books and other items which I placed in the luggage cart. We weighed the carryon again. She deigned to allow this mortal pass on sufferance alone. As soon as I walked away, I put everything I could back into the carryon bag. It had been an exercise in near futility.
The flight boarded and left on time, it was actually a flight to Dubai with a stop in Accra, so it was quite empty on the 40 minute leg to Ghana.
On landing, African lethargy worked in my favor. People here have a habit of moving slowly when they can, a habit they learn from the heat and humidity. When the fasten seat-belt sign was turned off most of the passengers remained seated. Like the frantic westerner I was I was up with my carry-on bags in hand right away, so I walked up the empty aisles all the way to first class while others were slowly gathering their affairs.
This meant I was first in line for the health desk and immigration and was able to leave the airport in near-record time, by just before 5:00. Tom Clark and Leon and Reba Walker were waiting in the public arrival area. It was very good to see them all, good friends and respected colleagues of many years.
We caught up on our news as we walked to the parking lot. This was the first trip to sub-Saharan Africa for the Walkers, though they are among if not the most widely traveled in our organization having lived in the UK traveled frequently not only all over Latin America but also Australia and Oceania and Southern Africa too. Still this would be a bit of a voyage of discovery for them.
We arrived at a 5-seat crossover vehicle where the driver, a man whose services Tom has used for years, waited. We loaded my bags in on top of the others, and we got it for the drive to Elmina. The road has improved greatly over the past years, so under good traffic conditions the trip should take 2 to 2 and half hours. We hoped we might be there by about dark, since it’s much better not to be on the road at night. Our hope would not be realized. The roads a better, there is even a ring road around Accra now, but traffic has greatly worsened. It took close to an hour in lurching stop-and-go traffic to reach the official outskirts of Accra, and then the heavy traffic continued. An accident slowed things further. By the time we left greater Accra it was dark. Then we found that the driver either couldn’t see well in the dark or was extremely cautious, or some combination. Even when traffic was light, he would drive 40 km per hour (25 mph) and if we met oncoming traffic the speed dropped to 30 or 25. This was going to take a while…. The windshield began fogging up due to the air-conditioning, and there was something odd with the ventilation system which prevented the defroster from doing its job. A debate on what to do to allow the driver to see helped pass the time, which was dragging.
Tom called ahead to ask the hotel to keep the kitchen open for us, we should arrive about 9:30 or 10:00 pm. The hotel called back a minute later and read us the menu, what would we like to order. We decided on a chicken brochette and fries each, and hoped at least we wouldn’t go to sleep hungry.
The plodding speed continued, as other vehicles flew around us. The Walkers were surprised to see that roadside shops and left their wares out overnight. In most of Latin America they said, those items would all be gone my morning.
We finally and agonizingly pulled into the hotel at 9:20 pm, and would have kissed the ground had it not been for all the tropical maladies one could catch from doing so. Our bags were taken to our rooms, the air-conditioners were started to give the rooms a chance to cool, and we met at the restaurant for our chicken which was spicy and very good. We won’t stay up late.
Saturday morning we met for breakfast at 08:00. There were two families of French diplomatic corps, chatting away in French, already there when I arrived. We ordered eggs and toast and fruit and coffee and talked over the day that was starting. Three pastors and their wives were already at the hotel where we will hold the conference, but one was sick with a bad skin eruption of some kind. Those can be highly contagious, so we’ll need to be careful to avoid the risk of transmission.
My Review Of The Place I Stayed