What I did this Christmas

4 01 2008

The first shock travelling south was being in a traffic jam for the first time in several months. The scenery had gradually been getting increasingly lush, but the bus sitting in a queue of traffic caused by weight of motor traffic rather than goats or cattle was the first indication that things are different in the south. And then it rained that night. The first rain I’d seen for nearly two months, I will admit, freaked me out a bit. As for Kumasi* itself – well after nearly 3 months in Tamale Kumasi seemed a mad, crowded, bustling, frenetic, crazy sort of place, bizarrely lacking livestock in the streets (apart from a few hens, obviously). The next shock was ordering in a restaurant and not hearing “it is finished” (i.e. not available) for most of the items on the menu. I must admit that the combination of humidity, crowds and general sense of purposeful activity made Kumasi feel very alien.

From Kumasi I caught a tro-tro to Cape Coast. Tro-tros are privately run minibuses that typically don’t run to a timetable but leave when they are a bit more than full, often with livestock on the roof. They wouldn’t all pass the UK road safety rules, either for the condition of the vehicle or the number of passengers allowed. In all honesty none would and the guide book suggests you avoid them but they are cheap, convenient and colourful.

The coast of Ghana is well worth visiting. Cape Coast was the capital of Ghana until 1877 and has quite a few clearly colonial buildings in various states of disrepair. The castle was one of the main places that slaves were exported from Africa to the New World, and untold millions of people suffered unimaginably, wrenched from loved ones and familiar places, treated inhumanely – worse than cattle, and then condemned to cruel lives in faraway lands. The beauty of the building and location (a palm fringed tropical beach) seems inappropriate for a place not equalled in industrialised inhumanity and evil until the twentieth century.

Despite the cruel past the town is vibrant and interesting and even contains a good bookshop! The beaches are beautiful but strong currents make most of them unswimable. There are several international standard beach resorts that do have swimming beaches and these are great places if you’ve been living in northern Ghana for a while. The town of Elmina just west of Cape Coast is worth a day trip or two too.

For Christmas itself I travelled west to a hostel on a (swimmable) beach outside a tiny town called Butre. There I met up with 7 or 8 other volunteers and had a fabulous Christmas, one of my best I would say, largely due to the company. Swimming on a tropical beach helped. As did bacon for breakfast. And regular showers

New Year was back in Cape Coast, but this time with other volunteers, boogying the night away and losing my glasses and Swiss army knife. Fortunately I’ve a spare pair of glasses and have proper a tin opener now. Still it’s quite annoying.

And now I’m back in Tamale after spending all of yesterday on a bus from Accra. The dryness in the air is striking after being so close to the coast. In southern Ghana I had an itchy heat rash most of the time and was constantly bathed in sweat. On the downside I got back to find that no water had flowed over Christmas, I had looked forward to at least being able to flush my toilet. My landlord has had a plumber look at things and thinks there isn’t much he can do, so I will need to arrange a water tanker to pump deliver water. The landlord is delivering some water this afternoon so hopefully I’ll have enough to wash my clothes and flush the toilet over the weekend.

And then back to work on Monday.


*Guide book stuff: Kumasi is the capital of the Ashanti region and nation. It contains what may be the largest open market in West Africa as well as the Ashanti Palace and a rail link to Accra and Takoradi.




2 responses

11 01 2008

Hi Tim, sorry for the late reply, internet in my placement is rather unreliable. IDPM has a pretty good ICT from what I remember with quite a few research groups attached to it. As for Tamale, I miss the Star beers at giddipass and the pito, but here in Bangladesh they have rice wine to substitute for abertashie!
Enjoy the Africa Nations!

1 07 2009
Goodbye Ghana « Tim in Tamale

[…] St Patrick’s party, spending time in Salaga and with the old Salaga crew, possibly my best Christmas ever on the coast, dinner parties at the Peace Corps house with Kim, Fred and random Peace Corps vols, […]

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