NOTE that this was written on May 14th, 09 but we did not have internet access to post it sooner!
So Robin and I are in the Volta Region of Ghana! This region is located in the east and borders the country of Togo. It's host to the tallest montain in Ghana as well as a huge hydroelectic dam and the largest man made lake in the world (Lake Volta).
Prior to being here, we were in Kumasi for just around 1 week. We stayed at a place called the Guestline Lodge, which seemed to be owned by an indian family. The room we had was massive and we shared a bathroom with other guests on our floor.
In Kumasi, we met up with a guy that we had met a few weeks earlier. He and his wife were touring around Ghana with his mom's car and had told us to give him a call when we reached Kumasi – so we did just that. His family is from Ghana but he now lives in the UK with his wife. He comes home regularly to visit his family and is currently trying to set up business there. Anyways, this new friend(K-Williams) took us out on my birthday to a very good chinese restaurant in Kumasi. It was very much high class in comparison to the street joints and even compared to the restaurants in our guide book. It was good to eat some good MSG coated food and to talk about our families. After our meal and a few beers, we headed to the university to go check out some salsa dancing. I wasn't all that keen on it but figured that it might be an intersting experience. So we went and checked it out – and I mostly observed as I was not ready to make a fool of myself. You have to remember that we stuck out like sore thumbs being the only foreigners in the place. To add to things, I'm not exactly coordinated when it comes to dancing steps. Robin got a few dances in but I don't think that she was operating at 100% comfort. Who thought that there would be salsa dancing in west africa!
Also in Kumasi, we ran into some other travellers from Sweden and Iceland we had met a few weeks back. They had been vacationing for the past few weeks and now were going back to their volunteer postings in the northern part of the country.
Oh yeah, we went to the university swimming pool. I tell you it pays to have someone local tell you where to go and what to do. We met K-Williams there along with his cousins, brothers and friends. It was great to cool off in a swimming pool complete with diving platforms. The pool atmosphere was grea. It seems like Africans in general can't be anywhere without music blasting from some sound system. So by the poolside stood a stack of huge speakers and a DJ and with that instantly came the dancing!! Girls and guys were dancing everywhere on the diving platforms and on the poolside. It was pretty hilarious to see. Everyone was having a great time, it was a neat place to spend a Sunday afternoon! We probably stayed in the water for a good 3 hours. After they shut down the pool, they kept the poolside program rolling complete with....... freestyle rap battles!
So we left Kumasi last week Monday and took a tro-tro (local minivan taxis to everywhere and anywhere) to Atimpoku. This town is situated near the big hydroelectic damn of Akosombo just off of lake Volta. Again we did a bit of research before going there and had a few hotels to check out when we reached there. Being that we're on a tight budget, we checked out a few of the recommended spots from the guide books and from other travellers but in the end, we ended up asking local people where the budget accomodations were. At this point, Robin and I have come to an understanding that all we need when it comes to accomodations is a fairly clean bed and somewhere to shower after a full day of sweating (a fan also falls within those requirements but could be sacrificed). So we found something and settled in quite well. The following day, we decided we'd walk to the dam. We knew that the village of Akosombo was at least 10km from where we had set up shop so we figured we'd walk a good 10-15 kms to reach the dam. Well we walked, visited a few hotels along the way to see what they were all about and then the sun hit us like a ton of bricks. To be honest with you guys, the heat is super strong here right now. Probably the hottest now since we've stepped foot in Africa. The rainy season is here but man, when it's not raining, it's scorching hot here. I can guarantee you that if we're walking around at 8AM, we're sweating- and that is sure to carry on through until at least 6-7PM every day. It's truly is nuts. So we walked, reached Akosombo, got a few peanuts, some sachets of “pure water” and then we carried on. We reached the dam by about noon and then from there we visited the very nice Volta Hotel and ate lunch. After lunch, we asked around to see if there were any beaches to swim at on the famous lake Volta. Unfortunately, swimming in the lake isn't made into a tourist attractio but one of the housecleaning staff from the Volta hotel said that we could possibly swim at a place called Maritime club. He instructed us to hire a taxi to take us there but Robin and I decided should be able to walk. So we headed off on a windy road wtih the sun firing in full as it was about 1PM by this time. We walked, took a few water breaks, stopped and picked some mangoes and then carried on. We reached this place called “Maritime” by about 3PM. This place was set up for swimming probably 10 years ago but now, the dock was non existant and only the columns that once supported the dock were present at this time. Anyways, we didn't let that stop us, we changed and dove right in. It was awesome to cool off after a long, hot walk. We drew a crowd (actually I think it was Robin) of interested Ghanians who were working just down the way. They must have thought it weird that foreigners would come and swim in their lake. After some swimming, we picked at some more mangoes with the security guard and loaded up our knapsack with quite a few of these juicy sweets. Robin's keener to eat oranges but the mangoes really get me excited. They are everywhere and people can't keep up with harvesting them. That's where I come in. After this, we ate at the Maritime restaurant some good local food. We ate a dish called “Red-Red” which is made from fried red plantains and beans prepared in a very tasty tomato sauce with lots of palm oil! The palm oil It's truly a wickedly delicious Ghanain dish!
Anyways, so after a few days near the dam, we headed for the capital city of the Volta Region- Ho. We found some really cheap accomodations there and so we figured we'd explore the area a bit and use this hotel as our base. Yesterday we boarded an old Kia pickup truck outfitted with a homemade canopy and 2 bench seats along the sides of the box. This truck took us to the neighnouring town for a really sweet hike on Mt. Adaklu. We paid the tourist fee at the village there and then some kids took us to the top. We had a young girl for the first section and then from another village, 2 young 9 & 11 year old boys took us up barefoot to the very steep summit. They stopped to pick some bananas, mangoes, and hot peppers for us too. There were a few ropes to help us climb over some of the steeper, slicker rocks and man was it hot. The view from the top was really incredible as the land below is relatively flat. Our two young guides were pretty cool kids and we rewarded them with some biscuits and some small money. Just like kids in Tanzania, biscuits are a huge hit here with everyone. Anyways, it was a fun hike and from here we hope to do a few more. We are to visit some waterfalls also in the coming days. We're looking forward to some more swimming as it always means that we can escape the heat momentarily.
Robin and I miss home but are really digging the freedom to travel whenever and wherever we please. We're not rushing to anywhere either so that's been pretty cool. We've been searching to rent bikes here also. Haven't come across too many but it could be fun to get around on.
It's been really cheap to share accomodations between Robin and I. Food continues to be cheap and really tasty also. Eating lots of rice and oily, fishy, spicy sauces served to us in small plastic bags. They use plastic bags for everything.
We're also feeling great and to our luck, no malaria. We've spoken to so many other foreigners who have contracted malaria but still nothing on our front. It's not that we havent been bitten by mosquitoes either. The mosquitoes here are quite small compared to the canadian varieties. They're a lot stealthier too and don't buzz around as much it seems. I could go on for hours describing their behaviours but i'll stop here.
It's 9am and Robin and I just had a huge mango feast. We hiked to the Wli waterfalls yesterday. We stumbled upon a few mango trees. Rob and I couldn't resist the urge to fill up our backpacks knowing fully that we will probably not have the opportunity to do this in a very long time. These mangoes are nothing compared to the ones you can buy in our supermarkets (and they're free – all you need to do is to get here). Picture us in the west African jungle. Me waving a stick at these bright orange mangoes and Robin standing directly below to catch the fruits before they can hit the ground. It would make for a pretty hilarious picture.
We are now in Ho Hoe (about 1.5hr drive north of Ho) and arrived here on Saturday May 16th. We did this hike yesterday morning. We had payed to hike without a guide to the lower falls but were somewhat dissapointed with how easy these falls were to get to. So we decided we'd hike to the upper falls after talking to a group who had just been there. So we begin our climb towards the waterfalls. After no more than 10 minutes of walking, we're sweating profusively to the point that our feet are slipping in our sandals. To say the least, it made the steep trech up a bit challenging... but we got there! The waterfalls were great. We were able to swim at the base of both the lower and upper falls. They were chilly but nothing compared to the waterfalls in Canada and they were so refreshing as we usually are always hot.
Things are still going really well, and we both feel very fortunate to have this backpacking experience. Our 4 month journey in West Africa ends June 8th when we fly to London, England. We still have about 3 weeks left in Ghana and we plan to head to Accra in the next few days which we are looking forward to and should be an experience in itself.
Hope everyone back home is doing well and that the weather is warming up for you.
Lots of Love
Robin and Jerome