Ghana to Togo

Trip Start Oct 01, 2002
Trip End Aug 08, 2005

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Monday, March 17, 2003

February 28th saw us leave Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and Will who was heading home to the Netherlands for a week. The border to Ghana was very pleasant and hassle free and we all dived into the first shop we saw eager to find familiar brands and to practise our English again. Yes, you could say that we were happy to find ourselves back on English speaking territory. British brands and cheap prices made us instantly warm to Ghana, so much so that the local shopkeeper almost adopted Sian as her sister. Following this came Sian's first experience of Ghana with a quest to find a toilet. The shopkeeper directed her to her friend's house who instantly flapped around insisting she clean the toilet first. Sian tried to convince her that it wasn't necessary but to no avail. However, it didn't stop there as they insisted on furnishing it with toilet paper first. Sian said she already had some but no, it was no use. Eventually after some considerable time, the lady of the house proudly presented her with two, wrinkled grubby looking sheets and announced "ah, now you can free yourself!". This is typical of Ghana, a very friendly country where they are eager to please.

We were heading for Tamale and stayed that night in a catholic mission, which served decent beer to the sound of church radio at full blast until the town's 10pm curfew came into force. In the morning, Alex (Australian Lonely Planet writer) left for Accra and we headed to Mole National Park and Game Reserve. Eight hours driving on pretty rough roads later and we arrived at a government run resort at the top of an escarpment overlooking a number of water holes. We walked down the cliff early the next morning, heading out for a trek into the park with a guide as the local kids and women collected water from the lake below, and then climbed back up the steep bank with the water balanced perfectly on their heads. At the lake there were three huge elephants on the far bank splashing around seemingly oblivious to us and the locals. We headed off across some pretty rough ground to find antelope, baboons and some great birds. We came to rest at the edge of a smaller watering hole, which was tranquil except for the occasional splash indicating a crocodile entering the water. Before long we were joined by three elephants on the opposite bank, who entered the water to cool down. Suddenly elephants started to arrive from all directions and started to play in the water in front of us, entwining their trunks and throwing water over themselves. Then the guide warned "ah, be careful they are coming very close to you from behind you". We briefly wondered what careful entailed with a small lake of crocs in front of you and several elephants right behind but chose not to dwell on this for long! They came so close and until they are this close, it is very hard to appreciate their size. Sian said she felt like she was in Jurassic Park looking at dinosaurs, honestly it was absolutely amazing and so much fun to watch them. We returned to the hotel to find the local Fire Brigade had arrived in a shiny new fire engine, but thankfully only to fill the swimming pool, which was very welcome. Later, Kev was challenged to an animal drawing competition with the local kids who were all very friendly and unlike the usual 'cadeau' requests, only really seemed interested in collecting address in the UK to write to.

On March 3rd, we took the road to Kumasi, the old colonial capital. The landscape turned to tropical rainforest with banana, mango and pineapple trees growing at the side of the road. The climate had turned significantly hotter and more humid, so a stop at some waterfalls for a dip and a powerful massage was very welcome. Kev navigated the truck into the town, straight into the centre of W. Africa's biggest street market at rush hour. The locals were amazed and gave us the most amazing welcome, it must have been the best we have had so far. They literally stopped in the streets and shouted, cheered and waved. Small children grabbed their friends and seemed to stare in awe before they managed to wave back, jawed still gaped open. Kumasi turned out to be a very relaxed city made up of modern and old wooden buildings with verandas and shutters and huge painted signs of British brands. The market really was massive with a railway running straight through the middle. Occasionally everything had to stop as a train moved out. Sian had a couple of dresses made in market, which caused some amusement for the locals and we spent the night eating sausages and drinking beer in a street bar listening to Barry White and the Bee Gees of all things. By the end of our couple of days there, we felt as though it was somewhere we could live, at least for a few years.

From there we headed to the Gold coast and to Busua, a beach resort full of gorgeous beaches, palm trees, wonderful surf and a ridiculously picture perfect desert island with two palm trees out in the bay. The locals were pulling in fishing nets and the only hustling was for freshly squeezed orange and pineapple juice. We took an interesting walk to an old colonial fort at the fishing town of Dixcove, where the locals were friendly (apart from when arguing over the day's catch of tuna and swordfish) and the old women still called any white men 'master'. A few days spent on a beautiful beach was hugely appreciated.

Following Busua, we visited Elmina and it's castle, the oldest and most historic centre for the colonial slave trade on the gold coast, a fascinating place, well preserved and wonderful to wander round. We enjoyed a pleasant stay at a beautiful lodge overhanging a crocodile pool surrounded by trees full of hundreds of birds. Kakum national park was next which has the world's biggest suspended walk-way through the upper canopies of the rainforest and although a little scary at times it was an excellent place to see the diversity of the plants, trees and butterflies.

Driving further East along the coast, Cape Coast had another excellent castle and wonderful museum telling the history of the area which we stopped at en route to Kokrobite, just outside Accra. Kokrobite has a backpackers resort on another palm fringed beach with wonderful food and long, hot, humid nights with the occasional tropical storm. We ventured into Accra to check out visas for Chad, Sudan and Ethiopia and had a very pleasant and very English lunch at the British Council offices. We stayed in Accra a couple of nights later and met Will at the hotel, who had spent the last 48 hours catching us up. We also endured a failed attempt at trying to send some of our collected treasures and artefacts home via the city's post office. Kev ventured out in the midday heat to get packing material and despite having numerous people's help and advice, returned an hour later empty handed. As with most African cities, Accra has everything but the things you actually need at that time.

We left for Ho in the West of Ghana and made a stop in Aksombo, at the hydro-electric dam of lake Volta. It's apparently the largest man made lake in the world for the area it covers, and so much like Scotland that it was strange, even down to the hawks hanging in the air above our heads. The next day, after negotiating our release from a hotel, and the truck's release from impoundment (long story), we travelled on to Ho Hoe, where after a half hour trek through gorgeous rainforest we arrived at the highest waterfalls in West Africa and the most painful power shower we have ever had. Entertained by some young boys drumming on upturned cans and surrounded high above by thousands of bats that cling to the rocks at the side of the falls, it was a spectacular place where you can apparently have bat for dinner, but instead we left for the Togo border and spent the night camping on the border town's football pitch.
Ghana has been a wonderful place full of the friendliest people that we have met so far and with the most varied, colourful and interesting places that you could imagine, it will definitely be on our list of countries to return to.

So now we are in Togo, the country of voodoo and other animist traditions. We arrived yesterday and already it is so different to Ghana.

Until next time,

Kev and Sian.
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