A West African Overland Trip travel blog

Wayside scenery - lush greenery

Wayside scenery - seen better days

Wayside scenery - poor car!

Wayside scenery - yam seller

Wayside scenery - if your house is too small, build around it

Kingsway Hotel

Kingsway Hotel

Kingsway Hotel

Presbyterian Guest House - building site

Presbyterian Guest House

Presbyterian Guest House

Presbyterian Guest House

It rained overnight, quite heavily. Fortunately, my tent has its flysheet built-in (I took my own tent – one of those 2-seconds-and-it’s-open-hurrah! type jobs), so I was alright, thanks Jack ... but nobody else was!

The forecast for rain had been zero, so thoughts of flysheets weren’t very prominent at bedding-down time, particularly after a few glasses of tasty, chilled red wine (“What!”, I hear you cry! Chilled?), and a delicious skinny dip in the sea.

So, in the morning, packing up tents and baggage was a right pain - everything was wet, which meant you got wet, and very muddy.

They say pride comes before a fall ... I really shouldn’t have crowed so much about my 2-seconds-tent-with-built-in-flysheet! Not for all the tea in China, not even when given expert advice and helpful directions from every onlooker and bystander, was I able to re-fold my tent into the minuscule cover it came in. Finally, in utter disgust, I admitted defeat and flung the muddied-nuisance into the back locker.

If the day was cooler because it had rained the night before, by the time I threw myself into my seat on the truck, my blood pressure certainly wasn’t! Oh, the joys of camping.

The journey to Kumasi [pronounced Koo-mar-see] was pleasant enough: the wayside scenery was lush; the construction industry noticeably active; the roadside hawkers abundant; and the litter unrelenting. (Notice a theme?) And, considering this is Africa, West Africa at that, the condition of the roads wasn’t bad. Not great - but, then, not too bad, either.

Making good time, we arrived in Kumasi ... and found Jason awaiting our arrival. Fortunately, all our passports were safe and sound, with the visas we needed for Burkina Faso and Guinea therein.

By making such good time and arriving early, we hoped to be able to visit Kejetia Market (aka Kumasi Central Market) – not only the largest outdoor market in Ghana; not only the largest outdoor market in West Africa; but also the largest outdoor market in the whole of the African continent, with over 45,000 stores and stalls! Wow, must be worth seeing!

But arriving in good time didn’t appear to make a scrap of difference as to whether we were able to go sightseeing or not. The Presbyterian Guest House had only 1 room available (they had let our rooms to other tourists who had arrived without booking!!!) and only space enough for 5 tents (as they had built over the area where the tents were usually placed!!!) – meaning 3 of us had to find accommodation elsewhere.

Poor Robert, the manager of the Presbyterian Guest House, was wretched by his staff’s mistake and tried desperately to find alternative accommodation. After 2 hours of waiting while many telephone calls were made, we headed in the direction of where Robert assured us there were rooms. We carted our luggage through people’s back gardens, plots with half erected buildings, and wasteland littered with the community’s trash, until we arrived at Big Daddy’s – a not-so-salubrious backpackers hostel.

As this is Africa, we really shouldn’t have expected anything else ... but, to Robert’s (though, not so much our) total dismay, the manager said the place was full! So we waited, hanging around another couple of hours while Robert telephoned yet more establishments trying to locate a bed for us for the night.

To his credit, he finally did ... but it must have been Ghana’s worst-ever has-been. It was truly dreadful! Throughout my travels I have stayed in some real lousy dives, but The Kingsway takes the biscuit! Nevertheless, beggars can’t be choosers and it was getting late. We needed a bed, however flea-bitten. With the promise that Robert would give us his very best rooms the next day when the Presbyterian Guest House had been vacated by those guests who had queue-jumped, we decided to stay the night at The Kingsway. (God help us!)

In its heyday it must have been quite comfortable, but anything resembling “past glory” had long since departed. Of The Kingsway, the website www.petitfute.uk.com says: “ideally located in downtown, facing Agricultural Bank, this hotel is the first hotel opened in the city [in 1925, I discovered]. Today, its typically Ghanaian style gives it a unique atmosphere. The rooms are very spacious, and the cheapest have a bathroom and joint toilet. Ask for a room with balcony, and enjoy panoramic views of Kumasi.”

Never again!

The next day we moved into the Presbyterian Guest House and, as promised, we did get some of the best rooms. Not only that, this part of the guest house was a new building and had excellent Wi Fi – yippee! After a shower and a thoroughly good scrub, instead of traipsing around dirty streets to see the sights, internet activities won hands-down.

So, there was no visit to Fort Kumasi, built in 1896; no visit to the Kumasi Hat Museum; no visit to any Royal Asante attraction (ie, the Kumasi National Cultural Centre, including the Prempeh II Jubilee Museum with Asante regalia; the Asantehene’s Palace, built in 1972; the Manhyia Palace, dating from 1925, now a museum); and no visit to St Peter’s Basilica ... all because I really and truly wanted to be (and to remain) clean!

Much love to you all xxx

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