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Thursday, May 3

Ghana - Moles, Turtles, Castles

Brett:  Burkina exit Customs was at Ouessa and easy – the guys were very friendly and checked out our blog on their smartphones. The Burkina Immigration was at Hamale and also very straightforward. Ghana Customs, Immigration and Vaccination Check were also at Hamale – they did everything in parallel to save time and each person was very welcoming, asking us about the trip and telling us they hope we enjoy the Ghanian tourist attractions. It was very relaxed, but then being between two nice countries I guess it was never going to be difficult. The Ghana visa is valid for entry for 3 months, and we were right at the end of that window when we entered, but they stamped us in for 60 days (when we left Ghana we had to explain the subtlety as they thought we had overstayed our visa).
The roads in northern Ghana were a mix of reasonable dirt and new tar roads. We passed through Wa and tried to buy a SIM card, but they had run out and their computers weren’t working so everyone had gone home. We reached Mole National Park after a long day of driving. Entry was $10 for us and $10 for the car (not dependent on length of stay). The public campsite ($5pppn) is very good and right near the Mole Hotel – if you camp you get to use the hotel pool – essential between 9am and 6pm when it is too hot to do anything else. The restaurant at the hotel is pretty good too. The campsite has stunning views over the savannah and there were plenty of buck and warthogs walking past our tent and making noises in the night (we think something bigger too, but couldn’t see it). Mary was feeling ill from the heat in the morning, so I joined the guided walk alone. It was more difficult to see game than many other parks because the vegetation is very thick and green (and there just is less game too), but we did get closer to wild elephants than I have ever been on foot. The rest of the day was spent alternating between sweating like crazy outside the pool and sweating slightly less in it…
Mary: We left Mole the following day after another morning walk. The roads to Kumasi were fairly good, but too long in the car again - the police checkpoints either waved us through or just told us to enjoy our stay. We kept seeing signs for businesses based on religious themes – it seems that Ghanians are quite a religious bunch. Some of our favourites included:
“Ask God Barber Shop” (please God, I’m begging you, I really need a haircut!)
“God help us Drinking Bar”
“Jesus is coming soon Discount Store” (is that why we’re getting a discount??)
“Prince of Peace Printing Presses” – try saying that one ten times fast
And some not religiously themed but equally bizarre, like the “Dreamworld Experimental School”……errrrm, would you send your kids there?! Seriously?? As well as loads more…
We reached Kumasi and got lost, ending up driving straight into the main taxi/bus rank, which is famously busy and chaotic. We eventually made it out and took another turn straight into the market (apparently the biggest in West Africa) at sunset – it was absolute bedlam and probably would have felt hectic if we weren’t somewhat seasoned. It took us 2 more hours to get through the traffic and find the Presbyterian Guest House just a few kms away – the roads don’t make any sense at all. We camped in the parking lot near the back ($8), which was really peaceful. After a much needed shower, we walked to Vic Baboo’s and filled up on Indian Curry and several thick milkshakes. In the morning we headed to the same area in search of a supermarket, but the streets were absolutely heaving and it was difficult to find parking. The supermarkets had very little but we stocked up on essentials like 2 minute noodles and cooldrinks, as well as some sweet, dense looking bread (which we never actually ate – it just looked hideous, nothing like the beautiful baguettes in all the french speaking countries). Again our search for a sim card was thwarted by computer problems at the shop – no internet for a while!
The Kumasi market is very interesting and seems to spread a few km into the surrounding parts of the city, probably one of the most hectic seething masses of humanity we have found on our trip, but fascinating to walk round. After a bit of people-watching we decided we wanted to get to the beach – pronto, so headed towards the coast. The 200km from Kumasi to Tarkwa were shocking – badly potholed, heavy traffic and many recent accidents, but the forest scenery was brilliant when you got a chance to look around. One of the bushes at the bottom of the front shock disintegrated after 50,000km and we could feel it knocking on every pothole. At 4:50pm, we stumbled across a Toyota Garage in Tarkwa - the first we have seen in many countries and totally unexpected, as it was on the near side of town so it seemed more like it just appeared from nowhere out of the forest! The guys were fantastic – they found a replacement bush from another model and worked their magic to make it fit, staying an hour after closing time and enthusiastically asking about our trip. It cost $5 in the end and they wouldn’t even accept some beers as a thank you for staying late to help. By this time it was starting to get dark, but we pushed on anyway, desperate to get to the beach. Fortunately the roads improved and emptied out, until the last 25kms or so, where we were threading our way along narrow roads through tiny candle-lit villages and then onto the rough, bumpy track out to Green Turtle.
Green Turtle Lodge ($5) has one of the best beaches of the trip and is a really laid back spot, but on the second night our laptop was stolen from inside the car while we sat a short distance away. The laptop had been in a backpack on the back seat, so somebody would have to have opened the front door, unlocked the back door, and reached right across to get the rucksack out - someone had obviously seen us using the laptop and putting it back in that bag, as they ignored the camera, phone and kindle and went straight for the laptop. It is a really personal thing to lose and with it went our photos from Burkina Faso and Mole National Park. Fortunately Brett’s obsessive weekly backups saved the day and meant we didn’t lose all the photos from the trip. It could have happened anywhere though, and the owner Tom was a great help, going to the nearby village and announcing it on the local radio, offering a reward and spreading the word among the locals. We spent a few days hoping for the best but didn’t get it back.
Brett: From Green Turtle we moved to Cape Coast and Elmina, staying at Stumble Inn ($5), a pretty random campsite on a steep beach, which is looking a bit rundown. We went on the tourist trail and did the Cape Coast Castle tour ($6pp) which is very interesting and moving. The Castle was the departure point for many unfortunate slaves in the trans Atlantic slave trade.
Continuing on our beach-hop, we headed to Big Milly’s Backyard in Kokrobite, a big and fairly commercial backpackers, but a nice place for a night with good cocktails and food.
We took Accra’s newest motorway (locals say it saves 5h of sitting in traffic) to the new Accra Mall where we found a Shoprite with pronutro, chocolate instant pudding, butternuts (whoop whoop!), top deck and bug spray – all the essentials, really. The whole mall felt quite South African, with a Mr Price getting ready to open in a few weeks. Mary wanted to go searching for the famous coffin-makers near the suburb of Teshie, so we took a detour and got stuck in traffic for 2 hours, eventually finding one coffin shop (N5 34.958 W0 06.309)where the apprentice coffin maker let us take a look around. The coffins are absolutely great, colourful and elaborate, and our favourites included a giant camera, a lobster, and a mielie.  On the way out we were stopped by some cops trying to tell us that right hand vehicles are illegal in Ghana - we had had that one a few times and were thoroughly sick of it, responding pretty strongly that the car had been inspected at the border and passed by Customs. After a quick look at our Carnet they gave up and requested a gift instead, which we declined.
We left Accra late and didn’t get as far as we wanted. By the time we got to Atimpoku on the Volta River, we were knackered and the sun was nearly setting, so we pulled in to a hotel/campsite we saw some signs for - Aylos Bay ($10). It’s a great spot right on the river, with nice views and touristy boat rides. We were camped under a couple of mango trees and were bemused when they fell off the tree in huge numbers, sometimes a few mangoes in as many minutes, making loud thumping noises throughout the night. Less amusing when they started falling on a nearby metal shipping container, with a sound which pierced the night air like cymbals being bashed together. We continued through Hohoe to the Wli Waterfall Lodge ($7), which has friendly German owners and would make a great place to rest for a few days. We didn’t end up staying long as we wanted to get to Togo to organise our DRC visa before the weekend.
At the Wli/Klouto border, we had to swap back to our South African passports. On the Ghana side, immigration and Customs were fairly easy but they made a big deal about us having no Togo visa in our UK passports and told us that we couldn’t come back into Ghana if we were turned away from Togo because our Ghana visas were single entry only. The road to the Togo side is very steep, climbing 400m. The Togo immigration at the top of the hill was ok – no visa needed in our SA passports, but having the Ghana stamp in the UK passport confused things a bit. Customs was 5km past the border, where they refused to stamp the carnet and we instead got a laissez passer ($12).

3 comments:

  1. Good to see you are both well - love the coffins, and I'm missing the make-do repairs - I've just snapped the wash-wipe off (well someone has) - dashboard needs to come out - palaver. Keep blogging

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  2. Well written and amazing snap shots...!!!
    So we can say that Ghana is not only replete with the beauty of Nature but it also has luxurious hotels,places,parks and etc.Thing are going to be improve rapidly.
    Cheap Flights to Ghana

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  3. love your adventures through ghana, and how you've written about them. we stayed at green turtle, and loved it (we actually overlapped with you for one night, that's how we know of your blog). my jaw dropped about the laptop, and makes me think we should have locked our door more ofter (we were staying in a hut right by your truck).

    best of luck to you both on the remainder of your travels! what an amazing experience.

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