Wednesday, April 22, 2009 2PM
For your information, it's Jerome writing. Robin has been doing a very nice job with these entries but I thought I'd give her a break. She's out on the beach reading her book as I write. We've been typing out our journal updates on our little laptop before going to the internet cafes. It saves us a bit of time and money at the cafes when we're already fighting with slow computers or sticky keyboards.
So since our last post from a few weeks back, a lot has happened. We are now in Ghana in a little fishing village called Butre, on the western coast. We arrived here on the evening of April 19th at about 8PM. We are staying at a really nice little resort called “The Hideout” (www.thehideout.com) in a dormitory/hostel style room. It's just Robin and I in the room for now but expect others to flock in as the weekend approches. It's by far the nicest beach I have ever been to in my entire life. The beach is very clean and the area is super quiet and very scenic. The beach is located in a little bay and is definately not overrun with hotels. The price is super reasonable in terms of accomodations (4.5 cedi/person/night in the dorms) and additionally the food is well priced. We are saving money(although we're not making any) in this little paradise.
So before I overload you with recent details about our current whereabouts, there is a period of time we spent in Cote d'Ivoire which we haven't really elaborated on. We spent 10 days in Cote d'Ivoire and that was also super fantastic. Before arriving, we were linked up with some awesome Ivoirians in Abidjan who really helped us out a great deal. Their names are Emmanuel and Sadia and we are ever so grateful to them, their families and their friends. These 2 guys run a project management firm in Cote d'Ivoire. We spent Easter with them and their families and friends in a small village just outside of Abidjan. It was nice to see how they spend time with them and eat some of their local foods. We had some Futu(plantains and cassava mashed to a paste), fish and chicken stews, rice, palm wine, coutoukou (palm based moonshine) and a few other treats. So that was our time with these guys. Other than that, these guys showed us how to get around, what we should expect to pay and even had us over for a meal.
Also in Abidjan, we spent a few days touring around the Youpougon and Treichville communities. Tasted some of the locally brewed beers (Tuborg, Flag, Bock), ate lots of chicken dishes, attieke (gratted cassava couscous) and lots of good french bread. The food was definately a highlight for me. There was lots of action on the streets with outdoor restaurants called maquis blasting music into the streets, excellent street foods and the people were really nice too. The place was very different in comparison to Liberia and was so much more advanced. The language barrier was a bit of an annoyance for Robin too I think. She is always up to asking people questions but was a little hindered to do so in that department.
So from Abidjan, we decided to slow things down a little. We decided to head east to a little beach town called Grand-Bassam. Our friends reccomended this area, so we decided to check it out for ourselves. We left on the morning of April 14th. First we took a taxi to the car park in Abidjan for Bassam. Then from there we hopped in a Peugeot 505 wagon and onwards to Bassam! When we arrived in Bassam, we asked people in the street for directions to a hotel listed in our guidebook (actually it's Karin's guidebook). We walked to our hotel with our packs, got the usual hassle from people wanting to carry our bags, lead us to the best hotels, or to be our tour guides. It's innevitable that this happens and we usually make the best of it. Either we strike up some really random conversations unrelated to the initial topic of discussion or we just appear tired and inresponsive. Either way, we've figured out not to jump at any offer until we at least get the facts. So we stayed in some older, cheaper beach huts for 2 nights. It was cheap and it was right on the beach! After 2 nights there, we upgrated(??) to something even cheaper but a bit cleaner and newer. This place was not on the beach and we were sweating like banchees in there (as Robin put it). Oh well, we had a good time nonetheless. We ate lots of french bread with an Ivoirian Nutella called ChocoNut ate some pineaples, mangoes, coconuts, avocadoes, peanuts, and kedjenou(fish or chicken tomato/vegetable soup served on rice). Again the food was fantastic.
The day before leaving Grand-Bassam, we had our clothes washed by a local girl. We had met her at the beach huts we had stayed at and she had said that she wanted to work for us. The only thing we could think of was to let her do our laundry for us. So she came at around 9AM the next day, we gave her our clothes and ½ of the money we had negotiated with her. We would pay her the remainder after everything was said and done. So she was okay with this, she went off and said she'd have things back to us by 2PM that same day. So 2PM came around, still no Virginie. We waited, and waited, and finally 2 hours had gone by. At this point, we were sure we had gotten ripped off. I rushed to where we had met her (which was the place she had told us that she worked at) and asked there for her. They told me that she was attending a funeral that day. So obviously she had made up an excuse to ditch work to do our laundry. So, okay, at least she was honest about her place of work, now where was she? So I went back to our hotel to find her there with Robin. Robin was trying to communicate with her as Virginie only spoke french. She was hungry so Robin had offered her a bananas and she just kept saying how hard she had worked and how hungry she was. But whatever, we had our clothes back!
So we left Bassam last Sunday morning (April 19th). From Bassam we took another Peugeot 505 to a town to the east called Aboisso. There we got into another 505 and headed to the border town. So we reached the border, walked across a bridge into Ghana and then found out that we needed visas to enter Ghana! Shoot! So we had a choice of either going back to the Ghanian Embassy in Abidjan or paying big money (to us). We had thought of going to the embassy weeks prior but just pushed it aside. We had figured that because we didn't need a visa to enter into Cote d'Ivoire or Sierra Leone from Liberia, that this would be the case again. Not so! Anyways, we ended up just paying the money and getting to a bus station where we were able to get a bus to Agona Junction. We were a little annoyed at this point as it seemed as though we had fought really hard not to get scammed. We would first pay our transportation fares (for either the cars or the bus) and then we'd have to bargain a price for our luggage. It got to be a bit tiring and we had to really take our time. It's kinda frustrating when there are 5 people in your face, touching you and your bags. Robin got her wrist watch snapped up and I was really paranoid that our bags were getting robbed. Luckily, only Robin's watch went missing.
We arrived at the Agona Junction at about 7ish and then had to find a car to take us to a little beachside hotel. As it was sunday, we could not get a bus to our destination. We jumped ina car and again our driver was working to scam us. We set a rate for an initial destination but ended up switching our destination as the driver was advising that the road was really bad. So upon our arrival, the driver had not given us a definitive rate but promised us that it would be no more than 1US dollar. Well he didn't really know the conversion rate from US to Ghanian Cedi and we weren't 100% sure either as we had just been introduced to the currency that same morning. Upon arrival he had come up with a price of about $16US and we told him there was absolutely no way this 15min. ride could cost this much. We gave him about $8US and he was on his way home a tad bit dissapointed. Don't mess with Robin and Jerome... $8US was still too much in Ghanian standards but whatever, at least we weren't entirely scammed and put up a fight.
So now that we're in Butre, Robin and I have been hanging out on the beach quite a bit. We have just started to run and have been swimming like little dolphins. The scenery is really awesome and we might stay here for a few more nights. We're meeting other travellers too which is a first for us since the beginning of our trip. Liberia and Ivory Coast didn't seem to get too many backpackers which is totally understandable. Ghana is way advanced when it comes to tourism. We've met some good people from Germany, UK, and the US and might meet up with them later in our travels.
Yesterday, we went into the bush and got a few jugs of palm wine. Its kind of interesting how it's collected. First, the palm tree is uprooted and is layed on the ground. Then all of the branches are hacked off and a kleenex box sized and shaped cavity is cut into the tree near the top where the branches were attached. From this cavity, a small hole is drilled into the other side of the tree. In this cavity accumulates fluid from the tree which drips through the drilled hole into a jug which is placed beneath the hole. From here, the liquid is collected until the tree becomes dry. It makes for a really sweet drink with probably a fairly low alcohol content. These guys who prep the trees and collect the liquid eventually distill the wine. It was quite the process and makes for quite a powerful concoction(like moonshine i think). That was kindof neat to see.
Anyways, thanks again for the nice emails. Robin and I are doing really well and having a really nice time. We are just now meeting other travellers and it's been pretty good to share experiences and to find out where we should head off to next. Anyways, hope you are all doing well. It's always good to hear stories of the happenings from back home so keep on writing. Take care all!
Jerome and Robin
Aissata- Merci vraiment pour les bons contact que tu nous as donne a Abidjan
Emmanuel (Manu) and Sadia- Merci pour votre generosite. Nous avonts vraiment apprecie tout!