Ghana: from north to south

So the travel companions are back again. After a hectic period, they finally got out again at the beach.

This blog might have a different tone and style to it than earlier posts, since it is written by me (Rob). The beautiful photographs are still Lidewij’s, of course. Let’s see if I (and the followers of this blog) like this writing thing…

So it has been a while since there were any updates on the blog. We did a lot of travelling around Ghana, and when we finally reached a place to relax for a couple of days, it was so remote that there wasn’t any internet to speak of. While I’m writing this, we already left Ghana. So here is an update of our travels in Ghana over the last two weeks.

Meeting up with Lidewij

So I finally saw Lidewij again almost two weeks ago. The travel to the far north of Ghana went well, although, as it’s still Ghana, a lot of stuff didn’t exactly go as intended, but, as it’s still Ghana, in the end everything works out fine.

To start, the hotel did something wrong with my booking so the room I booked was full, which meant I got a free upgrade to their most luxurious room. The airline for the domestic flight did something wrong as well, and booked me on a later flight and upon showing that I really booked the 9:00 flight on my printed e-ticket, the woman of the check-in suggested that maybe my printer was broken. (that would be an interesting defect). But in the end they could change my booking… I’m really curious what happened there. And then the shuttle service from the airport to Bolgatanga that was supposed to be there, was not, but I got a lift from some nice people that also went that way. That’s what I like about Ghana: for some reason a lot of things go wrong all the time, but at the end everything still works out fine.

In Bolgatanga I finally saw Lidewij again and met her lovely host family. They were really great people. Because I was there the mother cooked an extra big meal with not just plantain or yam, but plantain AND yam. And the sauce that contained the ‘small small fish’, which I had to get used to. She even bought us juice, and arranged for 2 actual glasses so we could drink from a glass. And of course the only two real chairs in the house were also reserved for us. They were really kind and their hospitality was amazing.

Also I met all Lidewij’s colleagues, saw her office, explored the wonderful market, went to have a drink with a colleague of Lidewij at a ‘spot’, where apparently they only had 1 glass (‘but that one is already occupied’… we saw nobody with a glass there so I think even the 1 glass might have been a too positive representation of reality). And we went to the immigration office twice again (fourth time for Lidewij), since the person in charge was still not there to sign Lidewij’s visa extension. All in all I stayed in Bolga 2 nights, and It was a very nice place. It didn’t really have any actual sights, but the vibe was just very good.

On the road

From there we went travelling. We started with Mole national park. A park where a lot of elephants roam freely. It doesn’t have any of the big cats east and southern Africa are known for, but it also does not have the associated price tag of those parks, and there were really a lot of elephant, different types of antilopes, monkeys, warthogs and crocodiles.

From the hotel in Mole, you can look at the watering holes where the elephants congregate in the dry season, and we regularly saw whole herds of elephants taking a bath from the edge of the swimming pool they had there. It was wonderful.

Some elephants actually walked around on the grounds of the hotel, like here at the staff accommodation.

We also did both a walking, and a jeep safari. Did a canoe trip as well (saw a lot of kingfishers).

And in a village at the edge of the park is a Sudanese style mud and stick mosque, which is a beautiful sight. I would highly recommend it!

From there we spend a day in Tamale (not much to see, but also a quite relaxed city), to break the journey a bit, since travelling in Ghana can be exhausting. Especially the often unavoidable tro tro are not a lot of fun if you spent whole days in them, since they’re basically unairconditioned vans that are often filled with enough people that you’re just sitting shoulder to shoulder between a lot of sweaty people (yes, Ghana is also hot for Ghanaians), without any legroom to speak of. Lucky enough we’re small people…

From Tamale we travelled even further south to Kumasi. Kumasi is crazy…. It has the biggest open air market in the whole of Africa. The official area is 12 hectares, but all the roads around the market are covered with the overflow of the main market. It’s just so insanely hectic that in the end we did not even reach the main market. I’ve been in some pretty chaotic developing world cities, but this was just too much. Combine this with the fact that tro tro stations are often located on market’s in Ghana (don’t ask my why), and you have just a big mess of massive crowds of people, market stalls and completely gridlocked vehicles. We don’t even have a photograph of this, it was just unmanageable.

We visited some interesting museums in Kumasi though, most interesting was the old palace of the king of Kumasi. Kumasi is the heart of the Ashanti kingdom that once covered an area bigger than current day Ghana, and even though it’s much smaller nowadays, it’s still an important part of their cultural identity. However, since for no obvious reasons, photography was forbidden we also have no photo’s of this palace and the other museum we went to either. So the visual coverage of Kumasi is a bit meagre. Sorry for that.

Another inconvenient thing in Kumasi was that we were there on a Sunday. And except for the market area which was mayhem, the rest of Kumasi seemed to take Sunday rest seriously. Almost all the shops and chop bars (places to eat local food) were closed, and also the streets where practically deserted. It was as if all the inhabitant of the city decided to come together in the small area where the market was located. Because everything was closed we even just ate bread with chocolate paste for dinner. It was kind of weird.

All in all I thought Kumasi was an interesting place but it’s just a bit too much for me. The people were also a bit more pushy than up north, where people were clearly a lot more relaxed. Although I can imagine people not being very relaxed if they would have to live in Kumasi.

So after that we really needed some time to relax. We went to a nice lodge at the beach just outside of a little fishing village called Butre. It was really beautiful, the sea was calm enough to swim, you could just walk over the crazy, looks like it could collapse anytime, footbridge over the lagoon to the beautiful fishing village, relax a little (there was no internet either to be distracted by) and enjoy the good food.

Also, close to the lodge was a restaurant in a beautiful garden run by this Rasta guy that, at the moment, was helped out by this friendly older British hippy lady that lived there for a couple of months now. They cooked vegetarian indian dishes which where very tasty.

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