Our first English speaking country in two months! It was awesome to cross the border from Burkina Faso and immediately be greeted by impeccable English. We were mesmerized by Mona and Colobus monkeys at the Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary, got lost in west Africa’s largest market in the Asante city of Kumasi, stalked elephants at Mole National Park, visited the UNESCO heritage slave castles of Elmina and Cape Coast where we were led on heart wrenching tours of the slaves’ last footsteps before making the harrowing transatlantic journey to the Americas, body surfed the waves at Saltpond and Kokrobite’s wonderful beaches, and explored Ghana’s capital city of Accra. All in all, a busy couple of weeks which we thoroughly enjoyed.
29 Dec: It was an early morning breakfast as we were crossing the border into Ghana today and had absolutely no idea how long it would take. After toast and watermelon, we packed up and were off, zipping through Bobo and heading straight towards Hamale, which was our border crossing town into Ghana. The road was smooth and we had a super easy and stress free crossing, taking all of one hour and setting the record for the fastest and smoothest border crossing. Once in Ghana, we could instantly feel the change as the predominant language is now English (yeah), and all the sign posts were no longer in French. Lunch was a quick stop of cucumber and tomato sandwiches (supplemented by a can of sardines), and then we loaded up for more driving towards our first stop in Ghana, the Mole National Park, just beyond the town of Wa. The road conditions worsened, so we didn’t make good time in the afternoon, contending with dust and heat. Everyone was covered from head to toe in red dust, making for dirty, grimy, and sticky bodies. Several of the villages we passed appeared quite lively, with a local festival taking place in two of them…how we wished we could stop for photos but we had to press on to make our bush camp before sunset. Poor Chris had a hell of a time finding an adequate place for us to camp for the night, as he kept scoping out various locations past the town of Wa, and rejecting them for various reasons. However, just as dusk fell, we found the perfect spot and Tim helped us set our tent since we were both on cook group this week (Tim wasn’t feeling well so he swapped with Robby). Our meal tonight was a noodle stir fry with scrambled eggs, and everyone pitched in to help us get ready. Sean chopped up the garlic into miniscule pieces, and Bree helped us stir the vegetables. Robby was preparing a pan of shrimp crackers which were a nice and different treat. Even though we pulled into our campsite late, the meal was ready in no time and our hungry group devoured it in mere minutes, ensuring no leftovers! Since breakfast tomorrow as another early one (0630), everyone pretty much called it an early night and all was quiet by 9:30 pm.
30 Dec: Breakfast was do it yourself eggs, watermelon and hard bread for toast. Mike told everyone he was feeling better, and we assumed that meant he was not going to continue on towards Accra by himself, but immediately after breakfast, he prepared a backpack for an overnight stay in Accra, and got ready to sign off the truck. Nancy obliged, and told him that we would drop him off in Wa, after he had the chance to exchange money into Cedi (1 Euro = 1.8 GH). There was a brief ATM stop where several members of our group took out money, but since we assumed we wouldn’t need any Cedi until Accra, we decided to wait to exchange our Euros. The drive to Mole National Park was fairly short, and we pulled up right at lunch time. Since we were preparing lunch, Lucky offered to erect our tent and he set it up on one of the raised platforms that the neighboring warthogs resided under. One of the female warthogs had three super cute piglets which trailed her with their tails standing straight up in the air. They were really adorably cute. Nancy advised us to leave the windows shut on the truck, and close off the beach since the monkeys would get in and wreck havoc if they got the opportunity. This made for sauna-like conditions on the truck. Nancy coordinated a 3:30 pm walk through Mole National Park for all of us, and we had to hurry to prepare lunch (deviled eggs, tomato and cucumber sandwiches). Closed toe shoes and long trousers were mandatory for all, so some of us put on proper footwear for the first time in months. We missed our flipflops already! The rangers at the park split our group into two, and we quickly realized that we had to lower our voices in the park, as the animals fled once they heard us trampling through the bush. Luckily for us, the rangers spotted an elephant, and one of the park rangers was really excited. We later found out they had good reason to be as this year had been one of the wettest on record, and the elephants normally hung out by the watering hole instead of foraging the forest for food. The park rangers had only spotted their first elephant three days ago (after several months of the elephants lying low), so they were in high spirits at spotting one for us this afternoon. After our hike through the park, we took showers (the water was lovely) and did some laundry before enjoying a dinner of risotto. We stayed up talking to the friendly village boys (Ozman, David and Marion) who spoke really good English and were extremely polite. One of them took a liking to Luke and followed him around like a puppy dog, holding his hand and getting really excited to see him. It was another early night with everyone tucking in around 9:30 pm.
31 Dec: There was another option for a park walk at 0630 this morning, but since spotting the elephant yesterday was apparently a rarity, we opted to sleep in and save our 6 Cedi fee for a meal in Accra. The rest of the group got up for the hike, and we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of pineapple, watermelon, baked beans and chocolate spread for French bread (choco spread courtesy of Nancy) before tearing down our tent and getting ready to leave at 0930. The hikers didn’t have much time to eat and tear down before we pulled out of the park, with the Ghanian boys playing Dowelly and Luke a game of soccer before reluctantly bidding them farewell. Nancy had informed us that we would be spending New Years eve at a bushcamp near Tamale, which would be our final opportunity to get last minute beverages for this evenings festivities. The next two cook groups (Chris, Kendra and Katherine plus Nancy’s group + Luke) had to shop in Tamale, leaving us with 90 minutes to exchange funds (we changed 40 Euros and got 72 Cedi) and hang out with Lars in search of alcohol, which he eventually managed to obtain at a high end hotel. We quickly realized that Tamale had a strong muslim influence, and alcohol was not as readily available here as in Burkina Faso. From Tamale, Chris backtracked to the same exact spot we had lunch at (about 40 KM from Tamale) and here we set up for our New Years Eve festivities, erecting our tents a decent distance from the truck and finishing the foul bottle of rum that Robby still had from Senegal. Even Lucky was in the mood for partying tonight, as he whipped out a bottle of Tequila (Olmecca, which Robby promptly dubbed “Old Mecca”) and forced everyone to drink shots. The party was going strong by 7 pm, and Chris’ cookgroup prepared a yummy tomato and rice dish, topped with faux parmesan cheese. The IPOD shame night was Robby’s and afterwards, Chris’ IPOD kicked off the night of partying with our group playlist. Marie was the first chucky casualty, but by no means the last. Sean and Sara and Tim didn’t make it to the midnight countdown, but everyone else did, dancing and drinking their way into the New Year. After midnight, we must have gone to bed but we don’t remember the group visiting our tent and tearing it down with us in it! And afterwards, Lucky said they dog piled into our tent on top of us and had a conversation with Becky, although Robby was comatose. What a night…we both greeted 2011 with a bang.
1 Jan: Becky had a severe hangover in the morning, thanks to Lucky and his Olmecca Tequila! It was a rough morning, waiting out until the 10:30 am brunch. We supplemented the wait with a can of tuna and Lucky shared the bread and butter he had bought yesterday in Tamale for his New Years Day hangover cure. At 10:30, Nancy surprised the group with some spam (it was yum) and delicious pineapple and watermelon. Thankfully, there was no rush to do anything and we were able to leisurely tear down our tents and be on the road by noon, heading further south towards the Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary. We had one brief stop to get icecream (2 icecreams for 1 Cedi) before pulling into out campsite at around 5 pm. After setting up our tent, we took showers (the water felt great and it was awesome to get all the dirt off) and enjoyed dinner of pasta/egg/veges fried up on the wok. Afterwards, we finished doing a load of laundry, and hung it out to dry with the hopes that it would be partially dry by the morning.
2 Jan: After a blissful night of sleep, we woke up early to be ready for our 8 am walk through the Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary. Our tent was down and packed up first, and we had plenty of time to spare. Unluckily for everyone, the running water was not on, so we had to fill up the buckets from the garden hand pump. Our guide was on time, and he gave us a brief history of the monkey sanctuary, and how this region came to be one of the most densely populated monkey sanctuaries in west Africa. There are two species of monkeys that thrive here, with about 350 black and white Colobus monkeys, and about 700 Mona monkeys. Apparently, the monkeys have been protected since the late 1800s when the villagers decided to coexist peacefully with the monkeys, making hunting them illegal. The Mona monkeys are much more outgoing than their shy Colobus counterparts, and we walked into one of the villages to get an up close and personal view of the Mona monkeys. The sanctuary workers used to feed the monkeys until recently, as our guide explained that the monkeys had become so accustomed to being fed by humans that they resorted to stealing fruit carried by the ladies on their way to the market and terrorizing school kids who were bringing lunch to school. So, now the monkeys are left to fend for themselves, and we found them scurrying about the village trying to pilfer an easy meal. The tour was quite interesting, with it culminating in the monkey graveyard (apparently the monkeys go into the village to die and are buried with full honors with a white cloth draped around its coffin). After our visit to the sanctuary, we loaded up the truck and were on our way towards Kumasi, our next destination which is listed as a highlight Asante city. We had a brief lunch stop enroute (supplemented by our tuna and laughing cow cheese) and were in Kumasi by early afternoon. The city itself looked quite interesting, with west Africa’s largest market in full swing when we arrived. The hustle and bustle of the market looked promising, and we vowed to explore it on foot the next day. Our lodging was at the Presbyterian Guest House on Mission Road, which had a nice courtyard to camp and shower/toilet facilities. And power to recharge our batteries. After setting up our tents and charging some dead camera batteries, we decided to walk around town for a bit, hiking out to St Peter’s Cathedral and down towards the main central market. Since today was Sunday, most of the shops were closed, so we headed back to our campsite where cook group 2 (Bree, Lucky and Dowelly) were busy preparing our dinner of burgers for tonight. Dinner was excellent, with everyone overindulging with more than one burger as cook group had made plenty of leftovers. After dinner, a group of us decided to go out to a corner bar that was playing live music. It was a fun time for all, with some locals joining in the mix and tearing up the dance floor. Back at the campsite around 1 am, early morning shenanigans had ensued, with Marie and Katherine’s tent stuck up on the water tower. For some reason, a very drunk Matt managed to scramble up an upturned tub, hoist himself onto the first platform, toss the tent down and hurdle his very inebriated body to a safe landing from a height of over two meters, much to Lar’s chastising and chagrin. He was super lucky not to injure himself and everyone crashed shortly afterwards.
3 Jan: Pancakes for breakfast! Cookgroup 2 is really spoiling us. Today was a really relaxed day, with no set agenda at all. We took morning showers, and decided to do a bit of laundry before heading out into town for a bit of sightseeing. Our first stop was to the Kumasi Fort (Ghana Armed Forces Museum) on Stewart Avenue, which showcased a collection of circa WWII weaponry from the East Africa and Asia campaigns. Since we could see many of the relics from outside the museum, we weren’t too keen on paying to visit, and opted to head directly towards the Cultural Center instead. There we ran into Tim who had already experienced quite the morning with a sudden trip and fall that required stitches at a local hospital. He seemed a bit shaken up but OK, so we left him to check out the small Prempeh II Jubilee Museum (entrance 3 GH Cedi). The museum was quite interesting, and our English speaking guide explained the significance of the Asante artifacts on display. Some of the more interesting pieces were the fake golden stool, which the Asante King deceived the British with in the nineteenth century when he was forced to hand over the most sacred of Asante treasures. The real one was hidden away and today resides in the Asantehene’s Palace and is only used for very special occasions. The other noteworthy display was an elephant-leather satchel said to contain the destruction of the Asante Empire if the bag were ever to be opened. No photographs were allowed inside the museum, so afterwards, we roamed around the rest of the Cultural Center complex and stumbled upon a workshop of an artist named Joel, who is disabled and paints with his mouth. We had no intentions of buying anything, but found that Joel’s work was quite beautiful and picked up a small painting for 15 Cedi. Lunch was next on our agenda, and we had planned on dining at Vic Baboo’s Café but upon entering, saw half of our group sitting there waiting for their meal. Not wanting to wait over an hour to be fed, we decided to get some cheap street meat, and ended up back at the restaurant where we had danced the night away. There, we were impressed by the cheap (3 Cedi) chicken and rice meals which were absolutely delicious. Fueled with a full belly, we were off to properly explore the central market, first making our way by the old train tracks where we met numerous friendly locals who wanted their photos taken. The hustle and bustle of west Africa’s largest market was overwhelming, with amazing sights, sounds, and smells around every corner. The market itself is absolutely massive, spilling over into the streets and in every nook and cranny for what feels like miles around. We sought a high lookout point to better take in and appreciate the sights before us, but it was quite difficult to get a proper vantage point. In the end, we just jumped into the middle of the cavernous market, getting lost amidst the dried fish, fruits and vegetables, clothing, shoe makers, fake gold jewelry sellers, chicken cages, shoe sellers, and all sorts of other eclectic stalls. Dizzy with sensory overload, we called it quits after about two hours of exploration and headed back to the Presbyterian Guest House where we heard that there was screaming fast internet to be had for 1.80 Cedi and hour. So we headed back up towards the Prempeh II Roundabout to a nearby supermarket where we stocked up on more cans of sardines and snacks, and headed to the Vodaphone building where just as promised, we had good, reliable internet. For dinner Pam, Norma and Frans, created a delicious chicken and vegetable soup, and seconds were had for all. After dinner, it was quiet time as some folks got caught up on their sleep or journals. We worked on our website and backed up photos before calling it an early night.
4 Jan: Breakfast in the garden of the Presbyterian Guest House consisted of French toast (eggy bread, yum) and delicious pineapple and watermelon. We were all packed up and ready to go by our 8 am departure, and drove from Kumasi towards Cape Coast straight away. The roads were decent and we were making good time until Chris inadvertently blew past a bridge toll guard and subsequently got chased down by an plainclothes policeman, who didn’t have any identification proving that he was a cop. After arguing fruitlessly that we didn’t see a toll sign and stating that unless the policeman had identification proving he was who he said he was, we wouldn’t pay the fee, Chris was eventually convinced it was a legitimate fee when a uniformed cop pulled up and told him to backtrack to pay the fee. Once we backtracked to the bridge, we all laughed out loud when we saw that the toll was a mere 1.50 Cedi, and we certainly used more fuel than that was worth in our backtrack to pay the toll and fine. The rest of the drive towards Cape Coast was smooth, and once we pulled into the parking lot of the Cape Coast Castle, cook group started preparing lunch for us. Roadside kid vendors immediately swarmed us, and everyone on the truck bought snacks from them consisting of fried plantains, spring rolls, ice-cream, peanuts, etc. The kids made brisk business catering to 25 hungry travelers! After lunch, we visited the 1979 dubbed UNESCO word heritage site Cape Coast Castle. This fort/castle was originally a Swedish, than a Danish, and finally an English Fort, serving as the British Gold Coast headquarters until 1876. The entry fee was 9 GH Cedi per person and 2 GH Cedi for a camera, and we were given free time to visit the museum first before our guided tour of the slave dungeons and the door of no return (where the slaves were loaded up onto the ships). It was sad walking on the very spot where such despicable history took place, and to our surprise, our guide was very even-handed about it, stating that it all happened in the past and should remain in the past, but never repeated in the future. The Obamas apparently visited this site about two years ago and our guide proudly pointed out a plaque commemorating their visit. From the castle, we could see Fort William in the distance and there were nice views of the fishing villages from the rampart walls. We had free time to revisit any sections we wanted to afterwards, and when we exited from the castle, were surprised to see Mike emerging from a taxi, grinning ear to ear and holding hands with a cute Ghanian girl! He looked happy, refreshed and laidback and Nancy reminded him where he had to be in a few days time so we could continue onwards on our expedition. Afterwards, we drove towards Saltpond and stayed at the excellent Relax-Abandze Beach Resort, which looked ritzy and out of our budget but the Scottish owner allowed us to set up our tents and coordinated a room for shower facilities for us. We could see the remains of Ft Amsterdam in the distance and plenty of fishing boats tucked away in one corner of the beach. After erecting our tent, we immediately hit the water for a refreshing ocean dip. After chatting with Norma and Pam, we lounged around until dinner which was a very nice chicken curry (courtesy of MJ, Sean and Lars). After dinner, we chatted around the dying camp fire before calling it a night.
5 Jan: After being delinquent in our workouts, we made up for it today with a butt blaster exercise on the beach at 7:30 am. Unfortunately, it was impossible to see the laptop screen so it was a bit difficult to follow along. Also, getting an effective workout on the soft sand was tough, and we don’t think the workout was as effective as on a flat surface so we’ll see if our butts are sore tomorrow! Regardless, we sweated a ton (Nancy, Bree, Dowelly joined us) and were ready for breakfast at 8:30. The rest of the day was a relaxing, free beach day. We went swimming and boogie boarding in the ocean, met a ton of friendly locals kids and were given a tour of Abanze’s Ft Amsterdam in the distance. The fort’s care keeper, a kindly man named Philip told us that there was a 3 Cedi entry fee, but since we brought no money, we told him we’d be back tomorrow. The kids were funny, always trying to hold our hands and following us around like the pied piper. The local fisherman were hauling in their catch of the day from the boats at the sea shore, and it made for a decent photography session in the morning. Afterwards, we retreated from the strong rays of the sun by staying in the shade of Frans’ bungalow, and charged our electronics (thanks to his spare power outlet), and got caught up on photos and website stuff. For lunch, we ate off the truck (tuna and sardines sandwiches). Tonight, Ruth, Becky and Tim had cook group duties (the owner of the Relax-Abandze Beach Resort had her folks buy supplies from the market for us, getting our group lobster for cheap!) so their plan was to make lobster pasta for dinner. The best plans often go by the wayside and the cook group ended up with chicken fried rice to make instead as the lobster wouldn’t be available until tomorrow. The chicken portions were massive, and there were 15 pieces to cook, skin and shred to bits. The meal went down well, getting good reviews from everyone. Tomorrow was an excursion day to the Kakum National Park and Elmina Castle and we were scheduled to depart at 8 am.
6 Jan: Robby spent the night sleeping under the stars by the sea’s breeze, but awoke to several ant bites. Becky had cook group duties for breakfast and had to get up at 6 am to be ready by 6:30. Breakfast consisted of do it yourself eggs, toast and peanut butter. After breakfast, we loaded up on the truck for our drive to Kakum National Park, where our intention was to do the canopy walk. However, the entry fee had increased dramatically from just a year ago, where it was priced at 9 Cedis. This year, it was a whopping 30 Cedis, and none of us were willing to shell out almost 15 quid to walk a mere 350 meters in the canopy, so we abruptly pulled out of the parking lot and headed towards Elmina Castle instead. The sea resort of Elmina looked cool on the ride in, with posuban shrines (painted cement Asafo shrines that are rich in symbolism) adorning several of the houses. We pulled into the Elmina parking lot and paid 9 Cedis for entry and 2 Cedis for a camera fee. Our guide was excellent, far superior to the mediocre guide of Cape Coast Castle. It also helped that we had a guide dedicated solely to our group, and he patiently answered all of our questions and gave us a very good overview of the sub Saharan’s largest and oldest castle, and Africa’s oldest European building. Elmina was so named due to the European’s belief in this region possessing incredible resources of gold, hence “El Mina” (Portuguese for “the mine”). The fort is also known as the Castle of St George, and it served originally as the Portuguese headquarters in West Africa for over 150 years until it was captured by soldiers of the Dutch West Indies Company in 1637. The Dutch further fortified the fort and dramatically increased the slave trade, and in 1872, the fort again changed hands when the Dutch sold it to the British. After our tour, we had about 20 minutes to spare, so we ran over to Fort St. Jago, built by the Dutch in 1666 on an artificial hill opposite from Elmina. Fort St Jago which gave us a nice view of the colorful fishing boats of Elmina, and we were glad that we made the effort to venture over to it. After loading back on the truck, we were back at the campsite close to 1 pm where Becky, Tim and Ruth prepared lunch (leftover chicken fried rice, and lettuce, tomato and cucumber sandwiches). The afternoon was fairly relaxing, with a strong breeze picking up in the afternoon and lasting all evening. Tonight was IPOD shame night, and George’s IPOD had been selected. Goodie, Sara, and Matt prepared lobster for dinner, which was a big hit since everyone got 3 mini-lobsters (we would call them crawfish in the States but whatever, it was a nice and different treat from the norm). Nancy announced that we would be doing a group truck clean at 7:30 am so we decided to hold off on the IPOD night of shame until the morning.
7 Jan: We had to wake up early for breakfast and truck clean at the ungodly hour of 7:30 am. Nancy had broken the news to us the night before with the rationale that if we knocked it out before the day got too hot, we could have the rest of the day to relax. It made sense and we all got our various cleaning duties and the pots and pans crew headed down to the beach to scrub in the sand and as a result, had groups of tourists taking pictures of them! Never mind that Ft Amsterdam was looming nearby, as well as colorful fishing boats. Nope, the tourists wanted photos of the whiteys scrubbing pots and pans. Even the local village women heckled our group, probably giving them words of advice as the sight of men scrubbing pots and pans in the sand was a novel sight for them to behold! Everyone was sweaty and tired after truck clean, but at least everything was sparkling clean. A group of us decided to do a quick ab workout afterwards (heck, we were already hot and sweaty) followed by a quick laundry session before finally hitting the waves and taking it easy for the rest of the day. Since we had held out on ordering food the entire time, we decided to give in to burgers for lunch. Priced at 8 Cedi with a side order of fries, it was the cheapest meal on the menu. To our dismay, the burgers ran out so we opted for the chicken club sandwich which was OK. In retrospect, we should have just saved our money and eaten off the truck, but the thought of soggy cucumber/tomato sandwiches just weren’t super appealing. A post-lunch siesta ensued, followed by lots of reading and today was a blissful, relaxing day. Dinner tonight consisted of Hoff, Katherine and Kendra’s group and they made a chicken/corn/rice dish which went over well. It was a relatively early night tonight as everyone was tuckered out from partying the night before.
8 Jan: Even though breakfast didn’t officially start until 0800, everyone was up and ravenous by 0730. Breakfast consisted of “do it yourself” eggs and toast and afterwards, we broke down our tent and packed up for our trip towards Kokrobite Beach, about 30 KM from Accra. Today was Goodie and MJ’s last truck drive, so they both claimed the coveted beach position and enjoyed their last truck ride. We had a brief stop at a ShopRite where the next three cookgroups (Robby/Luke, Becky/Sara/Lucky and Norma/Katherine) had to go shopping for supplies. We quickly found out that our 50 Cedi didn’t go as far in the supermarket, with a puny selection of overpriced vegetables. Becky’s group did manage to buy some ice and frozen sausages, with the hopes of freezing them until her cook group rotation three nights from now! There was an English speaking pharmacy where Nancy recommended that we get our malaria treatment pills, and they were priced at a reasonable 12 Cedi (for a 3 day treatment). The only other highlight at the ShopRite were their amazing meat filled pies which everyone scooped up and devoured as a pre-lunch snack. The drive to Big Millie’s was straightforward, but we noticed to our dismay that there were so many signposts indicating what was NOT allowed, with restrictions on almost everything. The campsite is obviously popular with tourists, and this is the most touristy campsite we have experienced in over two months with Oasis. How we missed our last campsite already! There were numerous warnings not to bring anything of value to the beach, especially cameras as there had been quite a problem with previous Big Millie clients, so all of us were forewarned repeatedly. After finding out where we were allowed to erect our tents, we set them up and made a quick truck lunch of spinach, cucumber and tomato sandwiches before joining Lucky on the beach. The water was nice but the pounding waves relentless, so eventually we ended up on the beach watching the locals play soccer and observing the tourists trying on various clothing outfits which were strewn in big piles on the beach and were on offer from 3 – 8 Cedi. A bunch of us checked out the swim wear, with bikinis priced at 16 – 20 Cedi. Luke ended up with his first swim trunks of the trip for a reasonably priced 5 Cedi (after having first bought two pair of “happy pant daisy duke styled” swim trunks and had as a result been ridiculed by the entire truck, forcing him to return the merchandise). Robby and Luke had cook group duty tonight, with Mike still a no show, so a few folks helped them prepare a sausage/ramen noodle dinner which went down well. Big Millie’s was putting on a Reggae Night show which kicked off at 9:30 pm and lasting until around 2 am.
9 Jan: Awoke to a smelly (puke and sweat) tent filled with blood quenched mosquitoes. What a night and Robby was in the dog house to be sure. He had left a dribble of puke stains on his sleeping bag and on the tent flap, which was loudly and angrily announced by Becky to everyone’s glee over breakfast. Becky found out that Lar’s “Monkey Tang” was to blame, with Robby downing it like no tomorrow and forcing the girls out on the dance floor so he could do a pathetic, drunk fueled dance shuffle with them. Obviously, the girls resisted with all their might, but Robby was doggedly persistent. It was only when he charged Big Millie’s fence attempting to “find his tent” that Dowelly took pity on him and led him back to the tent, only to have Robby repeatedly head butt his way onto one of the tent flaps to no avail. Dowelly helped unzip the tent flap, only to have his reward of Robby letting a stinky one rip as thanks, whereupon Dowelly causally announced to Becky that “he’s all yours now”. Robby proclaimed he could not recall any of this, but there were numerous witnesses attesting to how rowdy he got last night. So the moral of the story is that Monkey Tang is off limits from here on out, or at least until Robby can handle his alcohol better. Last night’s performance is not one to be repeated! After breakfast, our only task was to head to the neighboring internet café where Nancy had precoordinated our group to get our passports and yellow fever records scanned, so we headed out that way in search of the elusive internet café (which oddly wasn’t labeled as such and was listed as a restaurant instead). All the computers were taken, so we waited a while before being able to hop on and check email and scan our Ghana visa page (it took 5 minutes per page!). Bree had coordinated for the group to attend a Manchester United vs Liverpool match at 12:30 today, so we hung out around Big Millie’s until lunch time, where we had cucumber and tomato sandwiches (supplemented by cans of tuna…yum). The football game was OK but the outcome was decided 60 seconds into the game on a penalty kick (Manchester 1 – Liverpool 0), with Liverpool the definite underdog. Poor Nancy got hurt on a hammock which snapped after she reclined on it…Chris had to head back from the game early to take her to the hospital to get checked out and we were told to stand by for our Nigeria Visa paperwork session scheduled for 5 pm today. We headed back after the game to get some beach time, while the rest of the group opted to stay for a second game. Becky had been eyeballing a new bikini from a beachside vendor, and ended up getting a black bikini for 18 Cedis, a fair price for the decent quality swimsuit. Our new cook groups were in effect starting tonight, so the new cook group 1 (Norma, Mike and Katherine) prepared a spaghetti bolognese with soy mince in lieu of meat…it was delicious and we had plenty for seconds. Great meal and what a way to kick off the new cook group rotations. After dinner, it was a quiet night as folks were recuperating from last night’s partying and prepping for tomorrow night’s “farewell MJ, Goodie and Jorge” party. Chris returned by 8:30 pm and walked us through the paperwork for our Nigerian visas, which we duly filled out and submitted along with our $130 fee (ouch).
10 Jan: After breakfast, a group of us decided that we would venture into Accra, just to check out Ghana’s capital city. We had coordinated a minivan through Big Millie’s and told to negotiate the price directly. Our driver initially quoted us 250 Cedis for a round trip fare, which came down to 150 Cedis right away. After serious negotiations, we managed to get the ride down to 75 Cedis for 20 people for a round trip which ended up being a bargain. The ride into Accra was smooth, taking us about 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach Rawlings Park/Makola Market where we coordinated a return pick up at 4 pm. Our group split up into our respective parties, with MJ, Goodie, Luke and Dowelly headed towards the Australian Embassy and DHL (where Luke had to pick up a package that Heleen had mailed from Belgium), while Sara and Sean went computer shopping. Our group consisted of Lars, Matt, Katherine, Chris, Ruth, Bree, and Lucky and we had no agenda for today except to do a bit of sightseeing. Robby was the map reader, and he led us from Rawlings Park towards Ussher Fort, built in the 17th Century by the Dutch. A caretaker offered us a tour of the fort for 3 Cedis each, and we decided to take him up on it since there weren’t really many highlights listed to see or do in Accra. The fort tour was cool, with our guide giving us a detailed briefing of the exhibits in the small museum. Afterwards, we headed over to the nearby lighthouse, but after the caretaker there tried to extort 5 Cedis each for entry (with the “fee” plummeting to 3 Cedis and eventually to 1 Cedi), we were all a bit turned off and decided to skip the lighthouse tour and get some street food instead. What a good call that ended up being, with delicious fried chicken and rice platters for only 2 Cedi each (yum). The afternoon was spent exploring Makola Market, where we bought a jar of homemade peanut butter for a bargain 5 Cedis. At one of the market stalls, we noticed grass eaters on a skewer, alongside furry, dried bats…how bizarre! Since we had about an hour to kill before our ride back to Kokrobite, we decided to get some beer at a café and shop for a grass mat (10 Cedi). The ride back to the resort was special, with our tro-tro (minibus) fanbelt breaking, causing it to overheat. So we took a break at a nearby bar and once the repairs were complete, got stuck in some horrendous traffic leading out from Accra. Our driver decided to take a short cut down a taxi alley (complete with a barrier…Goodie used his WMDs to lift the heavy barricade) but he incensed a taxi driver who flew into a rage and decided to blockade us by parking his taxi diagonally across the alley. One of his fellow taxi drivers came up behind us to effectively prevent us from backing up and escaping, and thus a faceoff ensued. We eventually got out of the taxi alley, but the cops who witnessed our short cut shenanigans were directing traffic on the main road, and they refused to allow our lane to proceed for the greater part of 30 minutes. Needless to say, it was a long ride home taking almost 3 hours from start to finish. The funny thing was that cook group 2 (Becky, Lucky and Sara) were all on the minivan so when we finally arrived to Kokrobite, a hungry George, Kendra, Tim, Frans and Chris were sitting around the campfire looking slightly dejected. Dinner was whipped up in a hurry, consisting of a fried rice with tomato and sausages…it was edible at least. After dinner, celebrations for the farewell party were under way, with a riotous night of vodka filled sharks (thanks Goodie and MJ), monkey tang, and ass slapping. The most memorable performance of the night went to MJ who did a left shoulder tackle of the Hoff and pummeled him into the ground. It was 3 am by the time we gave the campsite a break from our partying, getting some well deserved sleep.
11 Jan: Becky had to get up for cook group breakfast (toast, peanut butter…thanks Matt, and pineapple) but the turnout was fairly dismal with plenty of sore heads. Nancy showed up and was feeling better thanks to her painkillers, and we fried up leftovers for breakfast, which Ruth demolished when she showed up for breakfast. It was an easy morning as everyone recuperated. We took a quick dip in the ocean (awesome), did some laundry, and took a nap before heading to a nearby shack “Jah Lady Restaurant” where we had delicious chicken and rice meals for only 2 Cedi each. Afterwards, it was straight to the nearby internet café where we brought our laptops and were able to upload photos to facebook and to our website (yes, it actually worked!) so we uploaded content for a few hours before heading back to the campsite for an afternoon swim and shower. Dinner tonight was cook group 3 (Nancy, Ruth and Matt) and Hoff was busy at the bar getting preloaded for his anniversary night festivities with Ruthie (last count he was at 8 beers and counting). Since MJ and Goodie were leaving us soon, we gave them copies of our photos and grabbed a copy of their photos which we will eventually sort through one of these days! Dinner consisted of meager portions of bangers and mash supplemented by beans and it was an early night tonight after last night’s partying. Luke decided to join Mike for some partying in Accra and left after clearing it with Chris.
12 Jan: The Ghana songbirds were up early this morning (4:30 am) and boy were they loud! Breakfast was at 8 am, and we headed into the internet café straight away, trying to get all of our content for the trip online before lunch. Thankfully, the bandwidth was cooperating, and we managed to get everything for Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso uploaded. Which gave us peace of mind in the event that anything were to happen to our laptops or hard drive before we get to Cape Town, where our plan was to DHL a hard drive full of photos back home for safekeeping. Lunch was a repeat visit to Jah Lady where our chicken and rice lunches were ready for us. An afternoon dip in the ocean followed by a shower was in order, and Becky picked up a happy dress (tube top style and strapless) and a purse for 7 Cedis each. Getting caught up on trip notes was the priority before dinner, and we sat around chatting to Bree and Lucky. Luke and Mike were obviously having fun in Accra as they both decided to spend another night in the city.
13 Jan: Still no word on our Nigerian visas so Nancy had made an announcement that we would be here at least one more night as we’d check on the visas on Friday (tomorrow). So, having an extra day to kill in Kokrobite Beach wasn’t a hard task to accomplish as we figured we could take advantage of more internet time and ride the waves again, making for a pretty chill day. Since Accra marked the end of the 9 week tour and the beginning of the follow on tour to Cape Town, lunches were on us, and Nancy informed us that since bread was running low, we’d each be responsible for feeding ourselves for lunch. No biggie since Jah Lady kept us fed well for only 2 Cedi each. The power outlet by Goodie and MJ’s tent was in full demand this morning, as our power hungry needs were met with a series of daisy chained power cords. Everyone was catching up on some journal time and photo editing, making for quite the productive morning. We worked on some updates to our website before grabbing lunch and heading over to the internet café, where Bree and Lucky had spent the better part of their morning (including an hour long wait while the city wide power went off and they had to wait for the generator to kick on). Bree wanted a quick bathroom break before heading to Jah Lady’s for lunch, but after she disappeared for the better part of 20 minutes, a rescue party (Becky) was sent in after her to investigate what had happened…sure enough, the door handle to the bathroom had fallen off and she was unable to free herself from the locked bathroom. This was the second time she had been locked in the bathroom (the first time was at the long drops at Burkina Faso’s Cascades de Karfiguela campsite) so after this episode, it further reinforced that we should be especially leery of locking ourselves into dodgy African bathrooms lest we can’t escape! We had a productive 2 hours at the internet café, uploading the content we had on hand for Ghana before heading back to Big Milly’s for a dip in the ocean…pure bliss. Lucky and Bree had already been swimming for the better part of an hour so Bree bailed on us but Lucky stayed in, throwing the ball to us and enjoying the pounding from the waves. We told Lucky that his facebook photos of us in the surf had elicited numerous comments! Beachside vendors had laid out various items of clothing for sale, so Becky and Bree checked them out and Becky scored a nice purple top for 5 Cedis. Bree was on cookgroup with Kendra and Luke so she headed in while we sat around watching Dowelly organize his laptop (he copied all of “mad dog” Tanner’s music and Matt’s and Goodie’s stash of movies/tv shows). Dinner consisted of spaghetti fried up with egg, cabbage, and spam…yum although it was a bit work intensive and poor Kendra was slaving away over the fire. Tonight was George’s last night with the group so after dinner we said goodbye before relaxing around the campfire talking to Goodie and MJ (tonight was their last night with us as well). Before we knew it, midnight was upon us and the monkey tang had been upgraded to gorilla tang, and was flowing freely. We decided to call it a night which was a good idea, as everyone that stayed up later ended up spewing all around Big Milly’s campsite…poor Dowelly joined in the chucky club, as did MJ and Hof. It was a proper send off to two of our favorite members of the group.
14 Jan: After breakfast, it was a quick teardown of the camp before Nancy disputed several of Big Milly’s charges (a mandatory 2.5 Cedi per person charge for Reggae night when some members of our group weren’t even around to enjoy it, trash disposal fee, and extra tent fees) and our group was disparaged by one of the staff members as “the worst overland truck ever”. We were quite proud of that motto, but it reinforced that we needed to hurry up and pack out as we obviously had used up all of our goodwill at the campsite. It was goodbye tears as we reluctantly bid farewell to Goodie and MJ and wished them fun on the rest of their 8 month journey through Africa, South and Central America. We sure will miss them! We drove onward towards Accra, making our way towards the airport and beyond to the Accra mall where we had free time from 11:30 am to 3 pm, while Nancy and Chris checked on our Nigerian visas. Fingers crossed we can pick them up this afternoon and be on our way towards Togo! Robby’s cookgroup of Dowelly and Hoff had to go shopping at the Shoprite and we checked out the movies playing at the cinema but the price (16 Cedi for a matinee movie) put us off so we returned to Shoprite for some shopping, stocking up on South African made “Peaceful Sleep” bug juice, a whole roasted chicken (good value at 6 Cedi), some chips and juice. Our picnic lunch was shared with Luke and we were managed to score free wifi while roaming the mall (enabling us to briefly check gmail and facebook) before heading back to the truck at 3:15 pm where Nancy broke the news to us that the visas weren’t ready yet, and we’d have to spend the weekend in Accra. So we drove off looking for a suitable campsite, and ended up at High Spirit Guest House, located about 15 KM east of Accra near the town of Teshie. Chris did a phenomenal job guiding our truck into the tiny confines of the parking lot, and Hoff’s angels immediately got to work preparing dinner. Eventually we were given the go ahead to erect our tents in a neighboring plot of land (which we had to get to by a hole in the wooden fence line), and everyone sprayed on their DEET as the mosquitoes were out in full force tonight. Dinner was amazing, consisting of 7 cheese pasta with moist chicken morsels…seriously it must have been one of our best meals on the trip so far. How the boys managed to get 3 whole roasted chickens, goat cheese, and factor in breakfast and lunch while meeting their budget was amazing. We ate well and there were plenty of leftovers for breakfast. After staying up talking for a bit post dinner, we finally called it a night by 9:30 (Robby stayed up till 1 am on the balcony of High Spirit working on organizing his music).
15 Jan: The owner of High Spirits is a nice guy named Robert and he apologized for the loud Reggae music that pounded until 3 am but said that Friday night typically is their biggest party night. Breakfast consisted of yummy leftovers and toast/peanut butter and honey, along with fresh bananas. It was filling and we pretty much an entire free (relaxing) day at our disposal to do whatever we wanted. We headed down to check out the beach scene after breakfast, and did an impromptu workout session with the owner’s free weights/jungle gym set up behind an unfinished building. Robert is obviously an avid body builder with an amazing physique. He selected Luke as his workout partner and they egged each other on by lifting heavy weights until Luke reached muscle failure. Since the beach was beckoning, we joined Bree and Lucky for a refreshing dip and played ball for over an hour until the waters chilled us and we had to get out to warm up in the sun. Lunch was tomato, cucumber and cabbage sandwiches which we supplemented by a can of tuna between the two of us. We are going to have to ration the tuna or else run out during the Congo and Angola crossing! After reading and napping the afternoon away, we headed back down to the beach for another ocean dip just before sunset, and thankfully when we returned, the running water had been restored to High Spirits, so fresh water showers could be taken. Everyone slathered on DEET as the mosquitoes emerged after sunset, and cook group 7 (Frans, Sean and Marie) prepared a chili dinner.
16 Jan: We had arranged for a fishing expedition for 5 people (Bree, Luke, and Dowelly) for 6 am this morning. Luke begged off on the trip at 6 am, so we headed down to the beach meeting point to wait for our boat. Unfortunately, it was a no show on the fisherman or the boat so at 7 am, Dowelly went back to the campground to drag Luke out of bed to see if he was interested now that he had an extra hour of sleep. At 7:30 am, the guy we coordinated with finally sauntered on the beach only to tell us “just wait”. He ended up blaming his late appearance and the lack of a fishing boat on the early morning rain shower, and we hung around their house waiting for the boat to show up. Luke eventually made it and all of a sudden, we were rushed out on a boat and motored a short distance off shore where it became obvious we weren’t going fishing at all since the nets weren’t cast. It was all a charade since we were told the fisherman had already gone out for that morning’s catch and we could join them in the afternoon at 2 pm. Since Dowelly and Robby had already coordinated payment of 35 Cedis the day before, we pretty much lost the money and everyone was out 7 Cedis each. What a scam! Well, we can safely say that none of us are interested in fishing anymore in Africa. Twice we have tried to coordinate a fishing trip and twice it has resulted in disaster so no third time a charm for us! The rest of the day was spent lazing around and chilling out, as we had plans to link up with the other Oasis Trans Africa truck (led by Andi and Grant). It was a one night overlap where we could get acquainted with each other and have a chance for an extra large party. Robert (owner of High Spirit) took it as an opportunity to coordinate for a local drum/dance group to put on an impromptu performance for us, and it actually went over quite well. We enjoyed meeting the folks from the other truck and felt that our truck measured well in comparison. They have some nice people but overall the group on our truck felt like the more fun crowd. Robby got drunk early on Dowelly’s rum as he had to chug it so often in an attempt to convince the other truck to imbibe in some, and he ended up seeking refuge early on one of Nala’s seat cushions. Eventually he was rescued, forced to throw up, and had a relatively early night in comparison to the rest of tonight’s partiers. We were surprised to find out that the other truck had never had truck parties and they are usually in bed by 9 pm, so tonight was a rarity and our truck did a fine job of initiating them into the Nala style party, with an indoctrination at the Tang Bar (complete with Tang quotes). Some of the quotes from Celebrity Tang Fans included: 1. Sir Trevor McDonald on Tang’s healing abilities…”When my son was ill I gave him Tang morning, noon and night and he recovered so much more quickly than using traditional medicine”, 2. Brad Pitt on Tang’s muscle building capabilities…”During the filming of fight club, originally called Tang Club, I nearly became addicted to Tang”, 3. The Apollo 13 crew on Tang…”If it wasn’t for Tang, we’d still be up there”, 4. Bill Clinton “I did not have Tang with that woman”, 5. “Can’t we all just Tang along” – John Lennon, and miscellaneous Tang Fact #65 “If you pour Tang on the moon’s surface, it will glow in the dark!” It was a great night.
17 Jan: The other Oasis truck had an early morning departure and were packed up and gone by the time we had our late breakfast of leftover hamburger patties at 8:30 am. We said goodbye to High Spirit and made our way to downtown Accra (the Accra Mall) to await the outcome on our Nigerian visas. Fingers crossed they come through today! Becky had cook group shopping for tonight’s dinner, and we signed up for truck guard (the 1:30 – 2:30 time slot) so that didn’t leave us much time to surf for free (we had found the mall’s only unsecured wifi zone) or do some last minute personal shopping. Lunch consisted of leftover potato salad and a whole roasted chicken, which actually was a bit too much meat between the two of us. By 3 pm, Nancy and Chris weren’t back yet so we all were hopeful that it meant they were successful in the quest for visas and sure enough, when they showed up a bit later, it was with a smile on their faces and visas in hand. Whoopee! We are finally leaving Ghana and on our way to Togo. We were all definitely ready to get the hell out of dodge so no tears were shed in leaving Accra. We drove all afternoon and Chris had a hell of a time finding a suitable bush camp site. By the time we found a construction site zone that was adequate for our night’s stay, it was already dark. Becky’s group prepared a chicken pasta that was heightened with a donated carton of Nancy’s wine…yum. Everyone crashed early tonight after last night’s festivities.