Goodbye travels (part 2)

24 06 2009

You’ll have to forgive me if this post sounds a bit like it was written by the Ghana tourist board, but I’m writing this sitting inside a huge meteorite crater on the edge of a lake where it’s taboo to fish from boats so the local fishermen are paddling out perched on planks of wood. There’s no internet access so it won’t get published until I get back to Kumasi.

Lake Bosumtwi is an incredibly peaceful place, with the sound of the water lapping and insects chirping while the crater rim is swathed in tropical jungle. It’s nearly the end of my goodbye tour, tomorrow (Thursday) we go to Accra and we fly out on Friday, and I’ve been really impressed by how much there is to do and see in Ghana. Travelling has been reasonably easy, if not always totally comfortable, and the Ghanaians on the whole have been eager to help and direct. We have been hassled, but nowhere near as much as a pair of white people travelling in other poor countries might be. After four weeks of fairly continuous travelling I’m as much amazed by how much I’ve missed as how much I’ve seen.

This isn’t the first beautiful and peaceful spot we’ve found on our travels; there was Ada Foah on the mouth of the river Volta – a retreat for rich Accra residents (Accraians? Accraites?) with a Mediterranean feel sandwiched between a mangrove swamp lined lagoon and the palm fringed Atlantic bursting with bird and insect* life. A place where the wealthy water-skied while locals paddled dugout canoes. There was also Atimpoku, a small town clinging to the Volta river just below the Akisombo dam, where the river flows through a forested valley and under a fairly impressive bridge. I mentioned hans cottage, Kakum and Boti falls in my last post and there is a beauty (especially in the rainy season) to a lot of the other places we’ve been to.

We got to see a fair bit of lake Volta (apparently the largest man made lake in the world) from the ferry we caught that travelled the several hundred kilometres from the dam at Akisombo to the northern township of Yeji. The 26 hours took us through a remote area of Ghana and an incredibly spectacular lightning display. The lightning was followed by the predictable rain, but fortunately for us we’d got one of the very few cabins available. The rain showed how well our fellow travellers had chosen their patch on the deck to sleep. The small band of white people who’d chosen to sleep on the top deck to get the best view regretted their decision (and understood why the locals let them). The next day was hot and sunny so everyone dried off while the ferry stopped at tiny mud hut villages to load and unload.

Yeji was probably the smallest town we stayed in, but also possibly he noisiest. We arrived on the evening a local radio station was holding a dance competition in the main square, so hip-life music was being played at a deafening volume. To describe Yeji as a one horse town is probably overestimating the number of horses. It seemed to consist of just three streets and Rhona described the precarious dugout canoe out as the best thing about Yeji. The trip from Yeji to Tamale (via Salaga) was punctuated by the bus breaking down near a pretty little town that happened to be having it’s market day, complete with visiting Fulani tribesmen. The exoticism of the local market impressed the 3 Canadians and 3 Germans who’d also been on the ferry but may have given them a false idea of northern Ghana. It was probably the only time I’ve actually appreciated the bus breaking down here though.

The week or so we spent in the north gave me a chance to say some final farewells and for Rhona (a friend visiting from the UK) the chance to see some of what my life has been like here. Hopefully she was impressed by the pottery and arts centre in the little village of Sirigu and the beautiful decorated cathedral in Navrongo. Rhona loved Bolga’s colourful, noisy, busy (and searingly hot) market and in the evening we joined several volunteers on a “spot crawl” through Bolga that included a chance to drink the local brew “pito” in a traditional pito base.

I’ll admit there was a tear in my eye as I said goodbye to Tamale, Fred and my VSO life, and as I struggled with the various pieces of luggage I’m manhandling home (one because I’ll miss them and the other because the strap was hurting my shoulder). An early morning bus ride to Kumasi would have shown more of Ghana had I stayed awake (up late trying to get my suitcase to close) and was followed by a chaotic wander around Ghana’s busiest feeling city and the obligatory meal in Vic Baboo’s. On Saturday morning I’ll be back in Britain, with all this as fading memories.

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*Sadly the insect life in Ada Foah included the most aggressive and numerous mosquitoes we encountered on our trip as well as stunning dragonflies and butterflies.

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