Day 7-9: Where we should have been all the time!

Trip Start Mar 31, 2006
Trip End Apr 15, 2006

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Where I stayed
Pacific Guesthouse

Flag of Ghana  ,
Sunday, April 9, 2006

I've travelled extensively in SE Asia, ventured into India and Sri Lanka and scratched the surface of twenty other countries around the globe, and I have to admit that at this point my first foray into Africa (excepting Morocco - does that count?) isn't blowing me away. Where are the smiles in the street, the waving children, the welcome? So far our stock greeting has been the relentless call of 'Obruni'; white man. It's not that it bothers me, but compare it with a Laotian or Indian welcome and you quickly know where you'd rather be. It's with an air of trepidation then, rather than excitement, that we end our coastal tour and set off for the eastern interior of the Volta Region. This involves us retracing our steps back through Accra and east towards Lake Volta and Hohoe. Instead of the tro-tro we somehow end up on a bus back to Accra. This is considered a more luxurious mode but I have to say I prefer the wind-in-my-hair experience of a tro-tro over the gentile stuffiness of the bus. The other advantage, I am soon to learn, is the tendency for buses to double as mobile pulpits as travelling preachers take advantage of a captive audience.
I've only touched on it briefly thus far but Ghana is one serious hotbed of God-bothering. As a confirmed atheist I tend to scoff at such unquestioning devotion to a higher power, and by that I mean to the self-serving promoters of organised religion, not the Big Cheese Himself. But maybe now and again it serves some general good. I think Ghana's brand of fire and brimstone evangelical bible thumping does at least consistently promote one clear message; the difference between right and wrong. In a country where education is limited, tribal customs contradictory and survival tough, some pretty big grey areas can develop, depending on your point of view. The hollering preachers try to put that right in the most basic of terms; if you do bad things, God will punish you. That can range from cursing your luck to ending up in the bad fire being poked for eternity with pointy sticks.
And so that's what forms the entertainment for the Cape Coast to Accra leg of the journey; a salivating missionary extracting hallelujahs and loose change from his flock as he peddles dubious medicinal remedies amidst his godly message of right and wrong. Some people would label him a charlatan. I couldn't possibly comment.
The second leg is a fairly uneventful 7-hour STC bus trip from Accra to Hohoe. It's an evening arrival so we disembark at dusk and are immediately pounced on by several competing taxi drivers. 'Here we go again', I think. But the tenacity of these chaps doesn't rival their city cousins and they soon drift away into the night more concerned with their internal feud than the travel-weary, spaced-out westerners.
This place feels different, more intimate. As if to prove the point our quick visit to the chemist leads to us piling into the chemist's sister's car; she's doing her rounds and insists that we accept a lift to our chosen hotel, the Pacific Guesthouse. Things are looking up! By the way I'm guessing 'Pacific' is a reference to peacefulness, not the ocean, which is seriously far away.
After checking in; good, clean, quiet and c190,000 for a room with bath, we head out for food. The Bradt Guide suggests Taste Lodge and I can happily confirm; beer cold, food good, still serving at 20.30hrs. Life saver!
The first morning in Volta region, awakening with a dawn stroll in the rising dust shimmer of Hohoe main street on Palm Sunday, with villagers singing as they sweep their yards, is a whole world away from the chaotic and occasionally hostile atmosphere of the coastal towns. And the beauty of the lush green landscape, which rises up to form a protective ring of hills around the area, is matched by the incredible friendliness of the villagers, whose instinctive greeting is 'welcome' and a big smile, rather than 'obruni'. I think we've come to the right place.
A wander around town reveals a slower, rural pace of life, endorsed by a hotter, dryer climate. Powdery orange dust is all pervasive. Comically, the practice of giving religious appellations to local businesses flourishes here too and we debate our favourites; Jesus is the Sweetest Thing Confectionaries, or God & Sons Telecommunications (the latter is wrong on so many levels I love it!).
During our stroll we bump into Francis, an 18-year old student studying IT and business studies in Accra, who is home for the holidays. He takes it upon himself to be our host (not guide), proudly shows us his home town, asks questions about western life, football, employment and generally ensures we're taken care of.  We tell him we're going to head to Wli Village to visit the waterfall, apparently the highest in Western Africa, and to stay for a few days. He quickly zooms about on his old bike and checks the various tro-tro pick-up spots, and with the most populous one located, makes sure we are given the local fare, although to be honest we've never had a problem in this regard. I ask what he thinks of the falls and he tells me he's never been. His primary school once organised a trip but he was ill and missed it. Well young Francis, ditch the bike, hop aboard and let's go exploring!
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