Ghana

From border to Accra

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The Ghanian border had a lot more infrastructure than Togo, the first sign of a higher standard of development.  However, this did not stretch to any more organization, and we again had to rely on loiterers to point us in the right direction. Speaking English again instead of our 20 word vocabulary of French certainly helped, especially when the boom guard insisted we pay the equivalent of R500 instead of the usual R100 to exit, claiming that we were “carrying goods” on our roofrack.

Stewart refused to pay the thinly veiled “bribe’, invited him to investigate what was under the covers. After a 2nd official intervened, only the R100 was paid, the border official actually made a joke of his attempt to charge more (an African border official with a sense of humour, what a change!), and  we were into Ghana. We stopped to buy a local cell phone number – MTN has a large presence here, as well as most of West Africa, and then drove westwards

One thing never seems to change in Africa, and that is the weird fact that often the roads are at their worst closest to the borders. Ghana proved no exception, and we made slow time for the first hour or so, dodging potholes, kamikaze taxi drivers and locals. Another thing immediately noticeable is the never ending stream of faith slogans EVERYWHERE, this unfortunately was a reminder of the “Christian/Holy” Nigeria we left behind, so admittedly there was a bit of unease.

 Roadside coffins!!Larry the roadside philosopher

Once the road had improved, we made good time to Accra, and marveled at the array of goods for sale on the side of the road. The most noticeable were the ornate coffins that were for sale everywhere. It seems the Ghanaians take their dead seriously and ensure that they are encased in everything ornate from dried flower inlays to pillars and gold. We had phone Edward Adeli, our contact at the Volunteer Corps, to advise him of when to expect us, but still managed to arrive an hour earlier than expected at the designated meeting point, just outside Accra. We were sure that he sighed a huge sigh of relief due to us finally arriving after all the drama.

 

From what we could see, Accra was relatively developed, the drive in to Accra reminding us of the area between Johannesburg and Pretoria. They even have a double lane motorway as you approach the city, and we spotted a shopping centre sporting familiar names such as Shoprite, Game, and even Woolworths! Annaliese nearly fainted and to her dismay we still have not been there.

 

Whilst waiting on the side of the road for Edward to arrive,   one of the locals introduced himself to us, and we proceed to have a wide ranging discussion about politics, marriage, economics and the meaning of life! Quite a step up in the education levels, Larry was a trained nurse, having studied for 5 years to qualify. Knowledgeable, articulate and humorous, it was refreshing to chat to him. He was adamant that marriage is like a journey and you have to be very well prepared before you start, so it takes a long time to finally get there. When Stewart suggested it is maybe time to start the journey as he might be tired of all the preparations, he threw his hands up in the air and commented to Annaliese “he is very funny, isn’t he!” We immediately decided that we just love their amazing sense of humour as well as their inquisitive nature. Every few minutes someone will walk up to you to find out who you actually are, what you are doing there and there will always be a joke at the end or at least a chuckle.

 

Edward and a friend eventually arrived, and we were immediately surprised at how young he looked. Only 27, Edward later told us how he and a group of friends had formed the Volunteer Corps to assist less privileged countrymen in Ghana. For guys still in their 20s, we found this to be incredible, as their attitude is that they are so fortunate to live in a city, to have jobs and to have amenities, that it is their duty and pleasure to give to the less fortunate. We were so happy to realize that they were exactly as we hoped they would be and nothing like the huge NGO’s /International volunteer org that have become such a joke in Africa. Here are a group of young guys that took the initiative, got organized and started working. They need all the support they can get and we will make sure that all the details are on our website for all to see and support.

 

 Brown and his sister preparing Fu Fu

Edward took us to meet “Brown”, a fellow director of the Volunteer Corps, and our host for the few days we would be in Accra before we left for the village where we would be doing volunteer work for the next 3 weeks. Brown put us up in his house just outside Accra, making us feel at home. That night we went out with Edward and his friends, who have given themselves the nickname “The Star Boys”, we assume named after the local beer, “Star”. We had an enjoyable night   debating many topics, including the merits of various international Football stars, world politics, the aims and achievements of the Volunteer Corps, and the merits and demerits of chicken versus guinea fowl as a meal!! We were informed that they even have white guinea fowl and rejected Annaliese’s comment that they might be albino! We were treated to all types of meat whilst the beer flowed one more peppery and spiced with chilli than the next……..A will have a difficult 3 weeks food wise, that is for sure.

 

Edward advised us we would only be leaving Accra on Monday, and that he had arranged a mechanic to see to Stan only once we returned to Accra . So we decided use the time and see if we could get our Burkina Faso visas, which we managed with surprising ease, and then to head to the beach for the weekend. Acting on the advices of many travelers, we headed for a beach resort called Krokobite (pronounced “Croco beeter)  just 30km west of Accra.

 

 

Krokobite

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We left Accra obviously at the wrong time as we got stuck in the Friday afternoon traffic. The only option is to sit back, relax (and as Kathy would say pause and breathe) and enjoy the highway culture in Ghana, which can be like a movie. As in most African countries, you can do your monthly shopping on the side of the road but the difference here is the jovial attitude of the drivers, pedestrians and hawkers alike. We marveled at the special English being spoken here and struggled to get that “ho majo wa?” in fact means “how many do you want?’ and when asking for directions, “ small far” means not so far , but actually quite far.

When we finally found the road to Krokobite, we were sure we were wrong as it was one of the typical bad roads seemingly leading to nowhere. We finally reached some village with a tiny sign printing out the way to “Milly’s Backyard” where we were on our way to. Once we got the local goats out of the way, we arrived at the Rasta stronghold. If any of you have stayed at the backpackers at Coffee bay, Transkei, you’ll know the atmosphere.

 Krokobite crazy beach and Milly's Backyard

The only problem was that at this stage of the evening the “manager” was already as high as a kite and struggled to comprehend that we in fact needed a place to stay. Once, after about 10 minutes it dawned on him, he started moving forward in a drug induced stagger only to be frequently interrupted by full stops as he struggled to regain his balance and direction. He showed us a little hole of a room, with a single bed and when asked if we can camp, as that is what the Rough Guide says, he said “no way, no camping” despite the fact  we were standing next to a Landy similar to ours with the rooftop tent clearly in use. Well, we decided to give this up as a bad job and luckily found a stunning little chalet at “The Italian Place” next door. Thank goodness for that as we would have had a repeat of our Luanda experience if we stayed at Milly’s. Saturday night is party night and they have live reggae music till 3.

Our cottage at "The italian place and the dining room

Krokobite is one of the best known hang out spots for all overlanders and volunteer workers in Ghana, as well as a weekend hangout for the local Rastafarian community. You can just imagine that this is obviously a jolly place! We befriended Oliver from the UK who is doing volunteer teaching in Accra, as well as Andrew from the States who has been traveling Senegal, Morocco and Ghana for a few months. Whilst we were entertaining them with tales of our travels, we were joined by the owners of the Landy, Milan and Louise from Switzerland, who are doing the reverse of our trip (Well Milan is actually from New Zeeland and Louise from Sweden but they now live in Switzerland.) Check them out at www.touringafrica.ch.  Stewart even got out his rugby ball and rounded up enough people for a game of touch rugby on the beach.

 Milan, Louise, Andrew, Stew

                                                                                                                                                                          Buying a "Cora" from the locals

Once again we just loved to meet fellow travelers, as you realize that you are not the only crazy people around. Louise and Milan have been waiting for weeks to get first hand news about the rest of their trip down south. As the traveler bush telegraph already warned them about all the people getting stuck in Brazzaville, they were now seriously thinking of shipping the car to Cape Town to skip the Angolan visa struggle. It was great to swap stories and tips and we are happy to report that they will continue their trip overland just with a few little detours and hopefully a Zambian visa just to get into DRC. What these bloody officials make you do just to be able to do what we are here for in the first place….TO TRAVEL. I (Annaliese) am having a similar problem with my Moroccan visa as it seems impossible for a South African to get one if you are not applying in your country of residence!! So we will have to find a way to get the passport back to SA and then sent back to Accra as there is no way around Morocco!! Seems so silly as most other countries do not even need a visa to go to Morocco.

We had a stunning time in Krokobite and hope to come back here once we finished our stint in the bush. We loved the crazy beach and laid back atmosphere even if a bit touristy. At least we got pizzas here!

Accra with Petra and Franco

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Imagine Sunday lunch on a lazy summer day in Cape Town, good company, good wine, brilliant food, balmy weather and a long table shared with family and friends……Sounds good and at this point in our lives, stuff that dreams are made of! Most amazing though ,is that we got all of that and more right here in Accra!!!

 

Petra, Franco, their daughters Bianca and Olivia and Petra’s mom together with Vicky, Dirk and family pulled out all the stops and provided a Sunday lunch that will keep our stomachs as well as souls fed for a long time. Thank you so much guys, it was one of those days that we will carry in our hearts forever.

 Olivia, Franco, Petra and Bianca.   Vicky and familysorry Dirk no pic of you

It was so good to hear Afrikaans, to talk about folks back home, to laugh about West Africa, to compare notes about experiences and just to feel the normality of  family life again. We realized how small this world is in that shared friends were discovered, I have only met Petra in Cape Town once and it turned out that her mother knows all my mothers family and that we are both fellow Namibians. The weirdest thing is that Mark told us about Vicky and Dirk and we decided to contact them when we came back from the bush and here they were, at Petra and Franco’s house. Thank you also to Vicky who offered to sort out my Moroccan visa. You guys will all be blessed in a big way.

 

So for the next 3 weeks we will be in the bush with no amenities, but we are sure the ointment for the soul provided by working with the orphans will more than make up for that.

 

Zack, you will be happy to know that your mom is no longer a bad version of Pamela Anderson, we did my hair AGAIN and it is now a bit tamer!!! 

Timber- Nkwanta

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No one will know where Timber-Nkwanta is, other than those who live or work there. But it could be anywhere in Africa, a small village, most of the people still subsistence farmers, with the village well being the only real concession to a more modern life.

We had signed up with The Volunteer Corps to assist with teaching and football coaching in an area of their choice, and on Monday we headed north from Accra to the village of Timber-Nkwanta. The Volunteer Corps have visited there before, and have started building a primary school to replace the open-air facilities currently used. The Volunteer Corps is a  NGO set up by  Edward Adeli and a  group of friends  living and working in Accra, none of them older than 30 or so, who have decided to give back to the wider community  of Ghana with their skills and time, as well as raising money for worthy projects. Many of them are students, and are certainly by no means well off by Western standards, but are happy to spend a considerable amount of time and effort in this work.

 The volunteers with Edward Adeli next to Stew and ifo the local Headman

 

We had decided to take Stan with us, to provide us with a home whilst we were there, and after we arrived we set up camp next to the basic four-walled unit being used as the Volunteer base. Besides the two of us, there were Edward, Ishmail,  Terry, Eric , Ebo,  Daniel and Tina from Accra who were there to continue building the school.

 Creating a soccer field!Bath time& Coach Stew
As the first of hopefully many international volunteers  The Volunteer Corps has brought to Ghana, the local Headman and the Elders had arranged a special ceremony to welcome us and the returning local volunteers to the village, and we were made to feel very welcome by everyone we came into contact with. The Headman was very grateful  to have them back again for the 3rd time, pointing out that many half-finished projects were testimony to other NGO’s that had not lasted long enough to finish their  initial projects.

"Home!"Homework time

Goats, chickens, a duck and her brood of ducklings, dogs, cats, and 1 000 000’s of bugs in all shapes and sizes were our immediate and constant companions throughout our stay here, joined by the village kids, any movement by us turned into a public spectacle.

We also had the eyes of the village on us, intrigued not only by us, but also Stan and all his gadgets and modcons that we take so for granted. Annaliese, who also helped out in the Kindergarten for those children too young for formal school, soon had her permanent hangers-on of children tailing behind her everywhere she went.

Seesta, A's shadow!Tina cooking supper, at least no spices on this!!

With only the well for “fresh” water, no running water or electricity, no amenities and constant unbearable heat , life is very basic here. Despite this, Tina managed to keep a constant supply of cooked food going. Unfortunately, most of the stews and sauces were typically spicy, and we struggled to get used to them, not to mention bush rat meat(apparently a delicacy), dried fish for breakfast and cow skin in the soup! As we wanted to try and fit in, we tried many of the local types of food, such as Banku (similar to putu-pap/sadza), Fufu, and of course the local speciality in the drink department, distilled palm wine! Loudly applauded by the volunteers, we had to join them in the celebrations every evening.

 
We taught English to classes 4-6 every morning, and then Annaliese helped out in the Kindergarten, whilst Stewart coached football every afternoon. Some of the young talent from the 40 or so youngsters that turned out there was clearly evident. Some of them immediately attracted nicknames for the style of their play, such as Samuel “Ronaldo” for his silky play down the left flank, Kwame “Essien” after Ghana’s local hero, and tough tackling Fred “Gartusso”. Ranging from ages 7 to 16, the enthusiasm was clearly evident, although Stewart’s rugby-style fitness training was a bit of a shock to their systems!

 How to choose a team out of so many hopefulls!!   

It is sad to see that malnutrition is mostly the cause for no stamina or strength which makes any endurance game difficult. Despite this, the soccer practices were hugely successful and it was a difficult task to choose only 2 teams. The final match between these two teams was the highlight of the week.

 
A bit of background of the schooling system will help explain the problems being faced in rural areas. We were impressed by the standard of education of the locals we met in Accra. It now turns out that all the guys in the Volunteer Corps actually attended private schools, hence their high level of education. The teachers in Ghana have to do a public service year in rural areas after qualification. Needless to say, they find the living conditions just as difficult as we did, add to that a small income and you have a recipe for disaster and non-attendance.

 

Due to the lack of proper teaching, most of the kids could not speak a word of English not to mention do or understand any other subjects. Unfortunately the teachers saw us being there as a golden opportunity to do even less and promptly decided it is best not to show up at all! What blew our minds however, was the fact that these kids turned up for school day after day and sat in the makeshift classrooms with no teacher present. The one class that Stewart taught had no teacher for 2 weeks!  The other thing is the willingness of these kids to learn. One of the little girls in the kindergarten could not draw a triangle and was immediately ridiculed by the rest. I (Annaliese) took her aside, sat her down and we did the exercise together over and over till she got it right. From that day, she did the same with all her work and persisted, sometimes throughout breaktime and after school till she got it right…..all this at the age of 5.

 One of the local stars we do hope he will be assisted and a little star!!!

As to be expected, it is only natural to fall in love with these amazing kids. One little girl, Angela (4), better known as “Siiiiesta” , arrived at our tent the first afternoon with her homework, made herself at home and never left our sides since. It was hilarious to be mimicked all the time, even down to paging through a magazine (kindly donated by Petra) brushing your teeth or getting dressed.

The villagers truly have nothing, but we were showered with gifts of local fruit, avo’s, some unknown local dishes and friendly smiles and “good morning’s”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final few days & farewell at Boti Falls

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As mentioned before, we applied for a number of positions all over the world to assist our dwindling finances due to the Ninja and Nigerian experiences! Before we left civilization, Stew arranged for his second telephonic interview for the German position to take place early Saturday morning. We were told that there was cell phone reception at the village, and as Ghana is 2 hours behind Germany time wise, we thought all will be fine as most villagers will still be busy in their huts so early in the morning.

What we did not know however, is that EVERYONE in the village are 7th Day Adventists AND their church day is Saturday!! To get reception, we had to walk up a little hill to where the makeshift school is and unfortunately this is also where the church service is held. We realized this pretty soon, for  as soon as we were settled into the one classroom with phone. Laptop and books, we were joined by half the population carrying brooms. Well, it is Saturday and the sandy, dusty “floor” had to be swept for church…..how  could we  not know this, on Saturday mornings people sweep gravel floors before the church service!!!

So, picture the scene (I do think that one day we will have to show these pics to the German employers), the only place we could then find, was a structure built up to about the height of Stew’s shoulders and covered with palm leaves that serve as a roof, infested with all kinds of bugs who were promptly joined by the goats and chickens who could now run free as the owners were sweeping the floor in our previous abode. This circus was intermittently joined by a few inquisitive locals who found our behaviour a bit strange as we were surrounded by books, a laptop and 2 cell phones!! What was the cherry on top, however, was the fact that we were literally bitten to pieces by some species of insect, we are talking 1000’s of bites appearing non stop over every exposed part of your body. As it was impossible for Stewart to stand up straight due to the low “roof” he cut a weird picture crawling around on the floor trying to get away from the insects whilst discussing German foreign policy and world economics on the phone!! Despite the comical surroundings which just got worse and worse as the animal noises were joined by church singing, Stewart did brilliantly and were told that the interview went well.

 Interview time.....believe it this is where it was done!!!

This meant that we needed to be back in Accra as we needed internet connectivity as well as better cell phone reception. Furthermore, we needed to have Stan fixed properly once and for all, get visas for onward travel as if Stewart is successful, he have to  start in Kassel on the 1st September.

 The guys were very understanding as they followed our trials and tribulations on our website and were aware that our dwindling finances prevented us from doing the trip the way we originally planned. They decided to give us a farewell and 17 of us left in a typical African taxi for the day, packed to the roof with food, drink, pots and pans as well as drums and some typical Ghanian musical instruments. We were heading for Boti Falls, a local tourist attraction and weekend picnic area.

 Stunning Boti fallsSwimming despite "DANGER you can die" signs!

After many stops along the way, for ice and more food and drink, we arrived at the picnic site, which was dotted with cars, taxis and busses, each having a “Strand-style” picnic, complete with cooler boxes, blaring music and large volumes of alcohol. After a few drinks to quench the thirst – and believe me these local boys can get thirsty! -  we walked down the 250 steps or so down to the waterfall and pool below it. The river plunges in 2 steams 30 metres down into a plunge pool about 50 metres wide. Despite the warning signs about it being dangerous to swim, Stewart took the opportunity for a swim up to the waterfall, being cheered on by the rest of the group.

 Party time!! Chilli!!!!!!!!!!!Wow

After we returned from the waterfall, the serious part of the entertainment began. As many as 5 bottles of brandy, whiskey and vodka  were quickly consumed, as Tina again proving her culinary skills and cooking a meal of Banku and “soup” (the local word for a  spicy sauce). We were astonished by the amount of fresh chilies that were used in the soup, literally a plastic bag full!They call it peppers here and killed themselves laughing when we told them that we use maybe one for a meal of 8 people.

Before we left, we decided another swim was called for, and so we made our way down to the base of the waterfall, where other visitors joined Stewart in a swim out to the waterfall.  Eric had brought his ever-present drum down with him, and an impromptu music and dance session followed. Many of the other visitors, local and international, joined in. The naturalness, ease and warm hospitality of the Ghanians being ever present and making all feel at home and welcome to join in.

All the Vol corp'sFriends for life!!!

With the dancing and singing over, and the drink supply extinguished, we returned  to Timber-Nkwanta, many of the most boisterous  members of the party now strangely  quiet! We spent that evening chatting and relaxing, in preparation for departing in the morning. We learnt a lot about Ghana from our young friends who were all very well informed about local events. The one thing they all share is a tremendous sense of humour and enjoy laughing at the Ghanain way and at themselves. As they say, Ghanians are masters in conversation and can have discussions about everything for hours on end, only problem is that they never act. Well, maybe that is the “African way”

 Party and final farewell      Lunch !!

The next morning it took us about 2 hours to take down the camp and repack Stan, and after a tearful farewell, we drove back to Accra, realizing that the similarities between the people and problems of our beloved South Africa and those of Ghana are not so far apart.

 

 

 

Anomabo

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On arrival in Accra, we checked into a hotel and had our first  proper shower and ablutions in a week – how things we take for granted can suddenly become luxurious!

 Afterwards, we took a drive to the Accra Mall, complete with Shoprite, Mr Price, Game and a host of other local upmarket shops, and spent a leisurely afternoon there. Upon our return, we bumped into Peter, an American businessman who had spent 8 years living in Stellenbosch, and he insisted on taking us out to dinner. Together with his Ghanain business partner, we proceeded to put a large dent in his expense account, mainly due to the copious amount of wine we drank. At the price of R250 per bottle for second rate wine, the whole exercise seemed even more extravagant. Well the price we had to pay was a serious hangover either caused by the amount of wine or the traditional food at the chop bar we frequented.

 Peter from US &  A typical shop name (like the wine/christian combo)

The next morning Stewart set off to the mechanic, who managed to not only give Stan a full service, but found the fault with and repaired the diff lock, which had not been working since Brazzaville, and even found the time for some rudimentary panelbeating to the damaged wheel arch, a legacy of the road from   Cameroon to Nigeria.

 During this time Stewart received  a call from Germany, offering him a job there as from the 1st of September. It was what we’d been hoping for, but the reality was a bit more frightening to both of us. Living in Germany for a year was certainly going to be another adventure – as was the fact that we were now going to drive there!

 
That afternoon we arranged for our Mali visas, and spent the evening in the welcome company of Petra and her family, where she loaned us the use of her washing machine  and tumble dryer to wash the last of our dirty clothing – THANK YOU PETRA!! Just amazing how the definition of “luxury” changes in Africa, luxury is having a toilet with a seat, ultra luxury means that it flushes, luxury means having a shower, ultra luxury means that it works and that the hand held shower actually produces hot water, luxury means having a place to do your washing by hand ULTRA luxury and instant bliss means having access to a machine.

 Anomabo resort   Elmina village

After handing in our visa applications the next morning, we had a few days before we could pick them up and leave for Burkina Faso, and so on the recommendation of Petra, we headed  west  for a 2 ½ hour drive  along the coast, where we booked into Anomabo Beach Resort, a series of chalets set among  hundreds of palm trees just off the beach, with a beautiful raised restaurant built overlooking the beach. A real tropical paradise if there is one!!! Contact them on 042 91562 or 021 221111.  They also offer camping and the price for a chalet that sleeps 2 is $38 per night during the week and $50 over the weekend. Well worth it as it is clean, great bathrooms and one of the few places that are actually on the beach.John the surf is waiting for you

 Anomabo  is only 10 km from the Cape Coast, the old British administrative centre of 19th century Ghana. Close by is the town of Elmina, which together with the Cape   Coast , have  fully preserved castles dating back 100s of years, testimony to the slave trade in the area before it was abolished  in the early 1800s.

 Ballerina Stewart. A very NB sign as Ghanians seem to think you can do it everywhere!

Before we visited the coastal castles, however, we visited Kakum National Park, about 35 km inland from  the Cape Coast.(Turn off at the first traffic light on the bypass) This National park is famous for its canopy walk, consisting of a series of narrow suspension walkways  built between 7 or 8 massive jungle trees, upwards of 40 metres above the ground.

 A guide threaded us through the forest path, giving us some historical information about the Park and the walkway. The canopy walk itself  was quite amazing, although the lack of animal and bird life in the canopy, testimony to the continued problem of poaching, was disappointing.

 Trying some of Ghana's biggest export cocoa, sweetElmina Castle

 

We then retraced our steps down to the coast and headed to the village of Elmina to see the castle, one of the well known slave trade landmarks, now a museum in rememberance of the slave trade.Originally built by the Portuguese in the early 1600s,  then taken over by the Dutch who used it for over 200 years  to protect  their trade routes, and as  a prison and market for the slaves shipped out of Ghana, and finally sold to Britain  after slavery was abolished and the Netherlands could no longer justify the expense of its occupation.

The castle and the oath the locals took to ensure such attrocities will never happen again

 

As an architectural site, the Castle, named St Georges castle by the British, is truly remarkable. However, with the informative and interesting tour guide spelling out its notorious history of slavery and subjugation, we left with a sense of sadness at the horrors fellow human beings inflicted on each other at that time. This was even more evident as our group consisted mostly of African-Americans who were visibly affected by the brutality of the history.

 Final walkway to the gate of no return. David of Black Star bookstore

We then visited the Castle at the Cape Coast, the English equivalent  of the Elmina castle during the slave trade, but as Stewart did not have the stomach  to revisit the horror of the slavery, we had a meal at a nearby restaurant, wandered through the quaint town of Cape Coast (discovering a magnificent bookshop, Black Star Bookstore -  as well as Global Mama's a “Fair Trade” clothing and  trinket store), and then headed back to Anomabo.

 

We spent the next day lazing on the beach, and replanning our route through Africa  and Europe so as to make it to Kassel in time for “work” (what a strange concept that has become!), before leaving for Accra the next morning.

 

We have no idea what lies ahead, all we know is that we have learned to let go and follow the path that we need to follow. The where and how will become clear as long as we open our spirits and listen, not only with our ears, but most importantly with our souls.

 
It is not always easy to let go of the past, but once you succeed, even in a small way, you open yourself to new experiences and make them your own, and they become your present. We have taken the first few steps on this journey and must continue to the end, wherever that will be. At times it is extremely hard, especially for me being an eternal home maker and always wanting to be part of my sons’ lives, but for now, this is the path I must follow.

 
We all have “giving up” moments in our journey (as per Paolo Coelho in “The Zahir”) and believe me; I had many on this trip. I also know I will have many more in the future, but what is important is to continue after that, to take what is good, start afresh and move forward.

 

We are looking forward in sharing the rest of our journey with you and value your loving support.

 

 

 

 

 

Tamale to the border

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We luckily left Accra at 5.30 in the morning as the road out of Accra to Kumasi is a nightmare at the moment due to roadworks. Once you get out of the madness of the city though, all is well and we enjoyed the nice soft landscapes of Ghana. One of the books we had  read describes Ghana as “Africa for beginners”, and rightly so, as Ghana is a kind country, developed, friendly and easy as long as you stay in the towns and cities, and not in the villages as we did! The country is overrun by aid workers (mostly female though who seem to meet and hook up with local guys fairly quickly) as well as tourists from all over the world, and in our opinion offers some of the best experiences Africa can offer.

 

Even though we had a great time here, it is now time to move on as we are ready to absorb all that the rest of the countries that we will still travel through, have to offer. We drove for 10 hours and spend the night in Tamale in the north.

 

Before we got there though, I (Annaliese) had to live up to Stewart’s opinion of my “fast” driving and for the first time on this whole trip, I was stopped for speeding….I am sure by the only camera in Ghana!! I think I was more surprised than the cop, who could not believe the right hand drive car and to top it all, a female driver! But all was well when I humbly apologized, promised to never do it again and we were send on our way with a “have a safe journey”

 Kumasi capital of the North  Shea trees, the seeds are used to make shea buttter , the stunning body cream.

The first difference you notice as you enter the Northern region is the amount of mosques as well as the increased amount of people of Islamic faith and “Arab” look. Also the vegetation is different and the amount of agriculture is noticeable. Interestingly this area is one of the few in Ghana which actually suffered due to political unrest based on ethnic conflict. This was in 1994,  the same time as the  Rwanda massacres and South African Elections, so it went unnoticed by the world, but at least 2000 people died and 150 000 were left homeless in refugee camps. This could be the reason for all the foreign aid at present, as the organic farming of mangoes as well as the produce of Shea butter is booming and clearly noticeable as you travel through the area. It seems all the political problems are sorted as well as confirmed by the locals we spoke to. Another interesting thing about Tamale is that Bafana Bafana was based here for the Africa Cup and therefore has a lot of local support!

 

Noticeable too are the amazing amount of cell phone towers everywhere. Reception is brilliant here and you can see the most primitive village with 2 or 3 towers surrounding it. What we do not get though, is that these villages do not have electricity so how they charge their phones, is a mystery to us.

 

We spend the night at TICCS Guesthouse (Tamale Institute for Cross Cultural Studies), cheap, basic accommodation for 16 cedi’s (about R150) for the night. You can also have supper at the local Island Bar if you are lucky enough to convince the waitress that you actually would love to eat and drink and not just sit there for the view!!

TICCS guesthouse in Tamale    Check the cell tower!!

After a nice breakfast for R40 (VERY cheap by West Africa standards) we tried to spend our last cedi’s at the petrol station, a bit difficult though as the conversation went as follows:

Stew: Good morning

Attendant: Good morning

Stew: Do you have diesel ?

Attendant: Yes we do

Stew: Can I have some?

Attendant: No

Stew: Why not

Attendant: We have lysou

Stew: LYSOU ? I do not understand…….

Attendant: We have lysou, go to the other petrol station!

 

Well, took us a few minutes to understand that “Lysou” means,” lights out”which in turn means “We have no electricity” !!!! Stupid stupid us

 

With those famous last words, we were on our way to Burkina Faso