Feb 23 2010

Ghana pics…

Same again, Ghana pics have been uploaded on the Ghana diary post…


Feb 21 2010

Ghana – diary 2010-01-23 to 2010-02-17

2010-01-23

It was an early wake up call this morning. We had over 800kms to cover in order for us to get to Accra. It was going to be another long day on the road. The road was exceptionally good but it was only single lane traffic which always slows things down. We also had a little problem with the diesel situation. There was no diesel in Bolgatanga or in any of the villages and towns 130kms beyond that. Joe was running low and we needed some juice soon or else we would have to resort to the back up fuel in the jerry cans. We eventually reached Tamale and were exceptionally happy to find that Shell had a good stock of diesel. We filled up the main tank as well as putting a little extra into the spare tank. We also stocked up on some Fanmilk frozen juice and milkshake. Fanmilk is something of a phenomenon in Ghana. It comes in frozen sachets and is sold by boys on bicycles with a big refrigeration box on the front of it. They are delicious and come in a variety of flavours…Fan Chocco, Fan Yoghurt, Fan Vanilla Ice Cream, Fan Pop (Pineapple flavour) and Tampico (Citrus Juice). It brought relief to the hot day of driving that lay ahead of us.

One of the most remarkable differences we had noticed between Burkina and Ghana was the change in vegetation. Ghana is lush and green with an exceptional amount of tropical fruit trees. (Unfortunately all of this greenness is accompanied by the uncomfortable humidity.) The surrounding plains are covered in grass and trees whereas Burkina was slightly more barren and not as humid.

Christianity is very prominent in Ghana and is present everywhere the eye can see. Most shops and businesses have used some sort of religious connotation in the name of their establishment. Some of the names of the shops we saw were called ‘God is King Cement Shop’ and ‘Love and Peace Guest House’. One of the things that did confuse us was the lettering on the back of a petrol tanker. It had bold lettering saying ‘Highly Inflammable – No smoking’. A bit of a blunder if you ask me.

The driving in Ghana has been some of the worst we have experienced in West Africa. Crazy drivers overtake at any given moment and expect the oncoming traffic to career out of their way. We have had many cringe moments where we close our eyes (well me at least, Kirk has to have his open so to avoid any collisions) because it is so scary seeing how reckless these motorists are.

We made it safely to Kumasi, the regional capital of the Ashanti Region. The traffic was a nightmare; the streets were crammed with cars, mopeds, pedestrians, trucks and bicycles. It was quite an experience trying to push our way through the traffic to get on the right road to take us to Lake Bosumtwi, the place we would be spending our 2nd night in Ghana. We happened to get a little lost in Kumasi town centre as there are a series of roundabouts that have absolutely no road signs indicating which direction to head to. Fortunately English is the spoken language and with a few queries about the direction to the lake we were on our way again. Joe and Christine had managed to get themselves stuck amongst some taxis which were at a complete standstill. They managed to manoeuvre their vehicle over the centre island and turned in the right direction. Whilst we were waiting for them I met an 11 year old girl called Betsy. Betsy was selling sachets of water on the side of the street. Betsy approached the car and spoke in perfect English. She asked me to buy some water but we didn’t need any. She then asked me for some money to pay for her school fees. I again declined this but was interested in finding out a little more about this young girl. She told me that she sold water every day after school so that she could make enough money to pay the GCD 3.50 (£1.50) every term for school fees. She only makes GCD.50 a day and that is provided that she sells all of the sachets of water. I asked her what her mother and father did to help her and she said that they didn’t work and that some of the money she makes is put towards keeping the family fed and watered. This of course is not an ideal situation for any person to be in and made my heart melt. Child labour is a problem in Ghana and Betsy is one of the fortunate ones as she is allowed to go to school to possibly improve her standards of living at some stage in her life. She could even converse a little in French as that was the other language that they were taught in that region. After giving Betsy my contact details (perhaps she will e-mail me at some stage in her life) we were on the right road to Lake Bosumtwi. The road took us through some smaller villages and eventually onto a winding road which took us to the top of the crater and then right down to the middle. Some 35km south of Kumasi we had arrived at Ghana’s largest natural lake. It filled a crater 8km in diameter and was surrounded by steep hills rising to nearly 400meters. The slopes on the hills were covered in lush vegetation and the odd canopy tree would protrude from the dense vegetation giving evidence that once upon a time this used to be primary rain forest. The humidity was unbearable and we needed to adjust quickly if we were to get any sleep that night. We checked into the Rainbow Garden Village Guesthouse which was situated on the lake shore amongst a very beautiful tropical garden. The rooms were equipped with fans which was essential in these parts of the world. We prepared the last of our meat that we had brought all the way from Bobo and enjoyed medallions of fillet with green beans and salad. A shower was imperative before we climbed into bed and it was amazing just how dirty we had become from merely sitting in the car all day. I washed myself twice because I was horrified at the colour of the water that was still coming off my body when I had rinsed. My left ear was filthy from driving with the window open so that needed a good scrubbing too. All scrubbed up, clean and refreshed we rested our weary heads on our pillows and without wasting a moment were sound asleep.

2010-01-24

Accra was only 280km away, an easy drive to get to our refuge, the Holiday Inn. Christine and Joe had kindly arranged to stay in some luxury accommodation for the duration of our stay in Accra. We were also getting super excited at the prospect of the Accra Mall. It was rumoured to have a Game and a Shoprite. South African readers will now exactly why we were so excited, Game stocks everything you could dream of from groceries to camping goods, Christine and Joe were going to be in heaven and Christine would certainly be even more thrilled if she could get her hands on a mattress. Shoprite is like any Sainsbury’s supermarket and we were in desperate need of some luxuries and some basic restocking. Without hesitation we checked into the hotel, showered and got dolled up for our first mall experience in over 3 months. It was a real adventure! We were not disappointed. The mall was everything we had hoped for as we ran around smiling with glee and excitedly pointing out to each other that they had Yum Yum Peanut Butter and ‘oh look Jungle oats’ or ‘Aah! All Gold Tomato Sauce’. We were in shopper’s paradise! We did a lot of price checking and converting and were satisfied that the prices were not going to kill the budget. Shopping day would be Thursday afternoon, the afternoon before we departed for the coast. We all enjoyed an air-conditioned sleep after indulging in fried chicken and chips for dinner. I personally have not missed any of this awful food; Kirk on the other hand has been having KFC withdrawal since Marrakech so he was very keen to eat the closest thing that resembled KFC. We enjoyed our evening at the mall and enjoyed the comfort of a very cold air-conditioned room.

2010-01-25

Breakfast this morning was a dream. Anything your heart desired was up for grabs and bacon was at the top of the list. We hadn’t had bacon since Spain and had been dreaming about it since Mali. It was delicious. Our poor stomachs did not know what had hit them with masses and masses of oily greasy food being stuffed into them. We knew that this was a real treat and would not be repeated for quite some time so a little weight gain whilst we stayed at the Holiday Inn wouldn’t kill us. We left early in search of various embassies as our top priority was to get visas for Togo and the dreaded Nigeria. Togo was a piece of cake. We were told to return at 2pm to collect our passports as the visas would be ready. Why couldn’t all visa applications be so painless and effortless? Next stop Nigerian High Commission. We were pleasantly surprised at how easy the security guard at the gate made the visa application process sound. By the sounds of thing we would have our visas by Wednesday afternoon provided that all of our paperwork was in order. We took the forms away with us and would return the following day to make the application. With as much of the visa admin out of the way we went in search of Neil the mechanic at Pit Stop who has been an expat for 30 years. Joe and Christine wanted to chat to him about doing some work on their car in preparation for the rumoured bad roads in Nigeria and Cameroon. This proved to be a bit of a dead end as Neil seemed to have closed shop and although he was still doing a small amount of mechanic work he did not appear to be able to help us out. He did however allow us to camp in his yard for the night. We had unfortunately been unable to secure a booking at the Holiday Inn for Monday night as they were fully booked but we were booked in again for Tuesday through to Friday.

We set up our tents and took a stroll to the main street in search of some food. It was a pleasant atmosphere out and about albeit exceptionally hot and humid. We had our first taste of traditional Ghanaian food and we were in heaven once again. Christine, Kirk and I had Jollof rice with Beef sauce which was delicious. The Beef sauce was similar to a curry and was gobbled down in no time. Joe had the sausage version and he too thoroughly enjoyed his food. We sauntered back to our camping spot for the night and showered and made our way into our tents. It was hot…so hot that if you moved you would sweat. I have never been so uncomfortable before and to add to the heat we also had mosquitoes to contend with. This was not our idea of fun but we needed to get used to it because it is only going to get worse and worse the further south we drive.

2010-01-26

We tried to leave as early as possible. The restless night of sleep had not put any of us in a good mood and we were desperate to get back to the Holiday Inn. Kirk arranged with one of Neil’s workers to swap the bushes from the old stabilizer bar with the new bar because they were stronger. We left him to do that whilst we went to the Nigerian Embassy. We had filled in the forms and were ready to submit the application form. It was going to cost a lot of money so we wanted to ensure that we were guaranteed the visas. We were allowed in to see the consular. He was a very helpful man who gave us clear instructions. We needed to make various copies of our passports, carnet, travel insurance, international drivers licence etc. It was quite a substantial amount of paperwork but we had all of our ducks in a row and the application was accepted without any problems. We were so pleased and it felt almost too good to be true. We had heard so many rumours that the Nigerian visa would be so difficult to get and we really did not feel like travelling through Niger and Chad. With our applications in we made our way back to air conditioned bliss and checked into the hotel again. We enjoyed a swim in the pool and again got dressed to revisit the Accra Mall. There was a pizza special on where you got 2 pizzas for the price of one. Our cheese craving had not yet been satisfied so a pizza pig out was the call for the day. It was delicious ad we were not disappointed. We also managed to find some biltong and drywors in Shoprite…Kirk was in his element. The lack of all of this junk food for the last 3 months is probably the result of his awesome weight loss. We took our hot bodies back to the hotel and enjoyed a movie on DSTV (MNET) before hitting the hay. Ghana has so many things that are in South Africa that it was almost like being back home! MTN, Shoprite, Game, sunlight, biltong, drywors, DSTV and the Holiday Inn…What more could a homesick traveller ever ask for?

2010-01-27 to 2010-01-31 

The following days were filled with admin. I managed to actually enjoy the hotel’s facilities and enjoyed many hours in the swimming pool, lounging around the swimming pool and freezing in the air conditioned rooms whilst Joe, Kirk and Christine ran around Accra trying to sort out various different things. We collected our passports from the Nigerian embassy with approved visas and Joe managed to get new coils and tyres installed on his car. The improved suspension meant that the back was now sitting flush with the front and the new tyres gave extra height and the much needed support to tackle the treacherous roads to come.

We did manage to fit in a few hours of sightseeing before we bid farewell to lovely Accra and saw the old colonial buildings that were situated along the coast. The lighthouse was beautifully set on the beach overshadowing Fort James which is now being used as a prison. The fort used to be used for the trading of all sorts including slaves. There was a lot of history embedded in the buildings of the old parts of Accra.

Kirk and I were also in search of old computer fans. We were bracing ourselves for the heat that was going to greet us when we left the blissful hotel and in order to find some relief we were going to rig up these fans in the tent so that we could try to get some sleep. We successfully found a shop that socked old computer parts and the owner gladly sold us 3 fans for next to nothing. They draw less than an amp together so with all 3 running it would feel like our very own air conditioned hotel room.

We checked out of our hotel and said a sad goodbye to the staff at the Holiday Inn, Accra. The breakfasts were to die for and made our days so much more enjoyable, the swimming pool was an oasis in the stifling heat of Accra and the endless supply of hot water meant that we left feeling cleaner than we had felt in a long time…until we stepped into the hot humid heat of Accra. We started our journey to Dixcove where we were to spend 6 days on the beach at Green Turtle Lodge. We were super excited and drove the 4 hours to get to paradise. The most difficult part of the journey was getting out of Accra. The traffic is a nightmare but when we eventually got onto the open road we had the cool breeze from the ocean blowing in our faces and the beautiful scenery around us. Ghana is so tropical; palm trees line the coastline as well as pineapple and mango sellers.

We arrived at Green Turtle Lodge quite late in the evening and bumped into Noel and Reka (www.nomad-adventure.com) who we had spent some time with in St. Louis, Senegal. It was great to catch up on their travels as they had taken the road less travelled and drove through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Cote D’Ivore and had arrived safely in Ghana the day before. We enjoyed an evening of guitar playing and were very happy that there was a cool breeze blowing off the ocean.

2010-02-01

Our first day at Green Turtle Lodge was a good one. The beach was beautiful and the sea was a turquoise blue. The location really gave meaning to the word ‘Paradise’…coconut trees all around us, pineapples a stone throw away and the prospect of eating fresh fish and crayfish every night was enough for us to start dreaming about staying here forever. We took a stroll to the neighbouring fishing village which was nestled in the cove at the end of the beach. Gigantic traditional fishing boats rested on the sand and in the lagoon after spending the morning pulling in their nets to bring home the catch of the day. We were in luck and secured 3 kgs of crayfish to cook on the BBQ that evening. With the crays in hand we strolled back to our campsite and started preparing for our scrummy dinner. Christine made a lovely tomato sauce with rice whilst I made a green salad with the fresh vegetables we had stocked up with in Accra. The crayfish was delicious. They were cooked to perfection and served with garlic butter. All of this cost less than £2.50 per head – what more could any seafood lover ask for?

2010-02-02 to 2010-02-05

Green Turtle Lodge is a beach-lover’s dream location. The sea was the perfect temperature and was the source of some great entertainment. The shore break was quite immense so it was always a laugh to see who would get dumped the worst trying to wade out to beyond the breakers. Once past the vicious waves we spent many hours bobbing about at backline catching the occasional wave that didn’t look like it would slam us into the sand.

Kirk was so eager to catch a fish and there looked to be some good prospects of fishing spots that could potentially allow him to catch that long anticipated King Fish. There was a point just to the West of the bay and it looked to be a popular fishing spot for many fishermen in their traditional boats. We took a stroll to investigate the accessibility to the rocks which meant walking through the fishing village to get there. Where there is a village there are children; children eager to be your friend. I had one little boy run at full speed towards me with his arms wide stretched to give me an enormous hug…not what you would normally expect. With a trail of children behind us we walked through a forest that was densely vegetated. The children were mumbling something about a castle which we couldn’t quite understand. Their English wasn’t quite as good as the older people so we continued our walk to the rocky point. We walked trough plantain fields and cassava crops until we stumbled upon an old rusty cannon. We were now putting 2 and 2 together and realised that the point must have once been the home to a fort. We continued into the dense vegetation and eventually came to the ruins of what must have been a castle or a fort. It was quite beautiful as to how the vegetation had taken over the structure and plants, vines and creepers had strangled the rocks that once made up the sturdy building. We explored it for a few minutes before being led off to some extremely tall coconut trees. It was a matter of second before one of the little boys has climbed to the top of the coconut tree and was throwing down green coconuts. He casually slid down to the bottom and began bashing the coconuts on a rock to crack it open; once they were successful the boys were delightedly drinking the coconut milk from the coconuts and kindly offering some to us. There was something quite primitive about their behaviour but one would assume this to be the case if you lived in a place that was so untouched by technology and relied solely on nature to provide for your basic needs. In the end it was decided that the fishing spot was ideal and that we would revisit it the following day to try our best to catch some fish.

 The following morning whilst sitting under the shade of the palm tree, we noticed a local fishing boat paddling quite close to the shoreline, one of the men jumped out and swam a rope to the shore, the boat was then paddled our towards backline whilst the remaining fishermen on the boat dropped a net into the sea. They turned the boat to the East and started to paddle back to the shore. A soon as it beached the fishermen jumped off the boat started pulling in the nets. It was quite an awesome activity to observe or if you are Kirk, get involved in! Kirk was pulling the nets in with the local fishermen along with some other campers at Green Turtle Lodge. It took an enormous amount of strength and men to get the net onto the beach. It was fun to inspect the catch with the fishermen. Apart from a fairly large amount of bait fish they managed to net a few angel fish, kingfish and a sand shark. With all the excitement over it was time for Kirk to chance his luck and throw his bait into the water. He decided to cast off the beach to see what was out there but all he managed to do was get dumped by the enormous shore break…very amusing to watch.

 The days were filled with a lot of sitting around, swimming, reading and relaxing. It was the perfect setting to do so and one felt obliged to do nothing more than this. We managed to make it back to the rocks for Kirk to chance his luck with some fishing and I can happily say that he did albeit it a very small one! He hooked a tiny rockcod which, had it been bigger would have made for delicious eating, so we were fishless again but not short of food. We had steak in the fridge which would go down a treat. Kirk along with Joe and Etienne (a French overlander) arranged to go fishing on a local boat the following morning. According to the boys, it was quite an experience. The heat was one thing to contend with but the constant wobbling and swaying of the local dugout boat was enough to make one of the locals seasick. Christine and I waited patiently for our men to return; it is quite daunting not knowing when your loved one would return or if he would return. The local boats have nothing that resembles a life jacket or a 2 way radio. We did not stress about it too much though knowing that the weather was calm and that the local fishermen did not stray too far away from the shore. It was however a relief to see Kirk, Joe and Etienne walking up the beach with what looked to be a fish, no make that 2! We were having fish for dinner at last. When the question came to who had caught the fish, the boys shrugged their shoulders and told us that the local fish did not like the technology that the foreigners had in the form of fishing tackle. The locals had caught two king mackerel with a hand line and a piece of sugar cane – not even bait. The boys were in disbelief and were feeling rather despondent about their morning of ‘fishing’. At least they had the experience to relish for many years.

 Joe and Christine left a day before us and headed back to Accra to tie up a few bits and bobs, Kirk and I on the other hand had one more night in paradise and we had 2 lovely fish to cook on the BBQ. I made some coconut curry rice whilst Kirk dolled up the fish with tomatoes, onions and chillies, wrapped them in tinfoil and cooked them to perfection. It was a lovely evening with 13 people joining us for a seafood BBQ. The company was great and many new friendships were formed. Green Turtle Lodge was definitely a great place to meet likeminded travellers who had and were experiencing similar things to us.

 We left Green Turtle the following morning. Packing up in the incredible humidity was not a heap of fun but we didn’t allow it to ruin the wonderful 6 days that we had enjoyed on the beach. We were going to take a slow drive back towards Accra where we would meet up with Joe and Christine on Saturday morning. Fridays appeared to be a very bad day to drive on the Ghanaian roads, every policeman and his dog was out on the roads trying to accumulate as much money as possible for the weekend. We came around a corner and were flagged down by an officer who proceeded to shove the speed gun into our faces showing us that we had been caught doing 84km in a 50km zone. Kirk immediately asked when the gun had been serviced because he ‘designed’ them in England and he knows that they need to be serviced regularly in order for them to give an accurate reading. The policemen were having none of it and told Kirk straight away that they are serviced at the right time. Anyway, to cut a long story short, Kirk managed to sweet talk himself out of a fine and court appearance and ended up settling the ‘speeding’ dispute in a gentleman fashion by paying the policeman GCD1 (50 pence) to buy a coke.  We were sent on our way and pulled into Kokrobite where we would spend the night at a campsite called Big Milly’s Backyard.

 Big Milly’s is apparently a favourite with overlanders however we were only travellers of this kind. The chalets and rooms were fully booked and crammed with a youthful crowed. We ordered our dinner for that evening and went for a stroll to suss out what Kokrobite was all about. The beach was a disappointment when compared to the paradise we had been at for the past 6 days. But the people were friendly and it was a different experience all together. The heat had not diminished in any sense and both Kirk and I were sweltering in the humidity. We had a cold bucket shower and cooled off under the shade of the numerous palm trees. Dinner was a lovely experience. They had a drumming and dance group that kept us entertained whilst we ate our chicken satay and red snapper with a plate full of accompaniments which certainly filled the gap. The music and dancing was a spectacular show and I was in awe of the local dancers who moved as if in a trance and had beads of sweat running off their bodies. I could barely move it was so hot and here these people were jumping around getting themselves very hot yet they did not seem the least bit bothered by it. We went to bed listening to the sound of the bongo drums.

 2010-02-06 to 2010-02-07

 Another early morning start to avoid the Accra traffic but didn’t really seem to help in any respect. It was not yet past 7:30am and we were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic before we had even entered the city. We made our way slowly towards the Holiday Inn where we would meet up with Christine and Joe but before we did that we had Mvubu washed and visited the Accra Mall one last time before we set off for the Volta Region. We stocked up on some bread and some more biltong and visited the Holiday Inn’s air conditioned facilities one last time. We all bid farewell to Accra and made our way up north. The Volta region is very different to Accra. It is far more rural and desolate however the roads were not too bad and we got to the town of Hohoe just after lunch. We were in search of Wli Waterfall to offer some refuge from the unremitting humidity. We made camp in a place called Waterfall Lodge which was nestled on the outskirts of the Wli forest which was home to the waterfall. The Harmattan winds meant that the sky was dusty and we could just make out the upper falls from the garden we were camping in. We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon whilst we leisurely set up our tents and prepared dinner. Wli definitely provided us with some relief. For the first time in ages we all grabbed a jersey as the temperature plummeted after sunset to about 26 degrees! We even used a sleeping bag that night.

 The following morning we all enjoyed a little lie in as the temperature permitted us to do so. Joe had said the previous evening that he would walk to the top of the waterfall provided that he didn’t walk between 10am and 2pm; this went out of the window as we set off to see the falls bang on 10am. Luckily the pathway was shaded and cool all the way to the base of the waterfall. The walk was very beautiful and we saw many interesting things such as killer ants, cocoa beans, coffee beans, pineapples, plantain trees and an astonishing array of beautiful butterflies. I was clicking away with the camera desperate to capture as many photos to fill up my Geography resource folder. Waterfalls are quite distinct in the sound that they make as the water cascades down into the plunge pool below. It was a beautiful sight and quite refreshing as the spray provided us with some desperate relief of the sweat we had accumulated on the walk to the lower falls. Kirk was the only one brave enough to take the plunge and went for a shower beneath the powerful falls. We decided to attempt the 2 ½ hour trek to the top of the falls as we had done no exercise in a very long time. It was quite strenuous at times as the walk was uphill from the word go. The scenery was once again beautiful and the reward at the end of the road was spectacular. The upper falls cascaded down   into yet another plunge pool. This time I was brave enough to take the plunge with Kirk and enjoyed a freezing cold shower underneath the powerful falls. Completely chilled to the bone we enjoyed our sandwiches under the shade of the trees and prepared ourselves for the walk down. Joe and Christine had worn slip slops so we needed to be as careful as possible as we didn’t want to have any accidents. In the end, the only one who came close to an accident was me. No walk in the mountains is complete without Dale taking a tumble. No serious damage was done apart from me being a bit nervous for the rest of the walk down. All in all it was a good day out and we thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful scenery. We enjoyed a BBQ for dinner and a few rounds of UNO before settling into bed for yet another comfortable night’s sleep.

2010-02-08

We didn’t have much planned for the next 2 days apart from getting ourselves north to Bolgatanga to start our week with afrikids on the 11th so we had options, our first option was to drive for 4 hours to a National Park that was rumoured to have elephant, antelope and possibly leopard in it which we were quite keen to have a look at. We made our way slowly as the roads were not in the best condition. We said goodbye to the tar just outside of Hohoe and welcomed the potholed rain ruined roads that lay ahead of us. We stopped at various different police checks and they were adamant that the road was very bad and that we would take a very long time to get to Kyabobo National Park. We managed without any problems. You can take a Toyota Land Cruiser anywhere and Africa and you are guaranteed to get to your destination. There was a very narrow bridge that we had to cross which was quite hair raising but apart from that it was fairly straightforward, We signed in at the gate and went to the office to enquire about rates and what animals we could possibly see. The response to animals was possible antelope and a baboon if you are lucky. The receptionist also informed us that the National Park was more for activities such as hiking, tubing and swimming at prices you would cringe about. As foreigners we would pay GCD38 (€19) each. Kruger is cheaper and at least you are guaranteed to see game. We left disappointed and continued the drive north. The state of the roads meant that most people opted to take the main road through Kumasi between Accra and Bolga so we were in a fortunate position to not have many other vehicles on the road. We made it to Tamale where we found a cheap but cheerful place to sleep for the night. It offered clean accommodation with en-suite shower and toilet and they had a cheap restaurant on site which served burgers…we were delighted. Driving in the heat and on such roads does tend to make a person extremely tired so it was a matter of eat and sleep.

 2010-02-09

 With only 120km to drive to reach Bolgatanga we thought it a good idea to try to sort out a few bits of admin whilst in Tamale. Our gas canister had run out so we needed to find a gas depot that would be able to fill the tank using the correct adapter. The problem was that there didn’t seem to be any gas in Tamale but we did manage to get our hands on an adapter. With the morning gone we took a slow drive to Bolgatanga where we met Joe and Christine at the Travellers Inn for the mandatory omelette sandwich for lunch. The travellers Inn was where we had our first breakfast in Ghana when we came in from Burkina so it was good to be back. After Lunch we made our way to the Afrikids office where we met the team. It was great to be able to put a face to a name and meet the people we had been e-mailing over the last few weeks. We were shown to Mama Laadi’s Guest House where we would stay for the duration of our stay in Bolgatanga and week with Afrikids.

 2010-02-10 to 2010-02-17

 Our time with Afrikids was jam packed with visits to current operations which were both interesting and very humbling experiences. I am going to keep it brief because Kirk has said that he would like to sum up the week in his own little blog entry. We were given the opportunity to interact with many members of the Upper East Region that Afrikids is involved with. As a teacher it was disheartening to see some of the conditions that the children have to learn in. Many of the schools are ill equipped and do not so much as even have a desk and chair per pupil. The teacher to pupil ratio is dire; an example of one of the schools was 6 qualified teachers to about 750 pupils. In Ghana it is compulsory to complete a year of community service after your degree so the government places these untrained teachers into schools and expects the teachers and the headmaster to ‘train’ these graduates in 6 weeks so that they can teach the pupils. To add to this the teachers have very few resources which makes their job increasingly difficult. The children on the whole are delightful. They are respectful and seem very keen to learn. It is heartbreaking to walk around and see an unsupervised classroom of about 50 pupils sitting around idle because they do not have a teacher to teach them. Another highlight for me was visiting Mama Laadi’s Foster Home. The children living there range between the ages of 2 ½ to 19 years old. They were a delightful bunch of children who were ecstatic to interact with us and they all showed tremendous interest in the photographs of our trip with some of the older boys asking questions about Accra and the sights that we managed to take pictures of. Before we left Mama Laadi’s one of the boys asked Kirk if he owned the Mvubu. When Kirk said he did the boy asked what a person needs to do in order to be the owner of a car like that. Kirk gave them some good advice and we left with heavy hearts.

 The members of the Afrikids team were so hospitable and made us feel like part of the family. We shared many meals out in the field with the guys, which included copious amounts of fried yams, cosi (a mashed black eyed bean fritter) and plantains with some very spicy sauce and pepper. It was good to get to know them on a personal level and we even managed to meet Ray’s lovely wife Edna with whom we enjoyed a traditional Ghanaian dinner of BBQ Guineafowl, Kenke (steamed maize balls) and tomato and chilli sauce. We finished off the meal with delicious cashew nut apples which tasted like something I have never tasted before. The texture of the fruit was similar to that of a nectarine and guava with the colouring of the former. We will certainly have our eyes peeled for more of those.

We were also in the fortunate position to have some time to get some clothes made. Material shopping was lots of fun and saw Kirk getting material for a shirt and me getting material for a dress, skirt and tablecloth. We were put in touch with Dianne, a young lady who had recently graduated from Operation Fresh Start and was a qualified seamstress. She did a fantastic job and Chrsitine and I are both the proud owners of some swanky dresses and some smart skirts.

 We bade farewell to the team and promised to return in the future. Kirk and I were so impressed with the work that they are doing and we had made some good friends in the duration of the week that we have every reason to visit again.

 We made our way to the Border post so that we could enter our 8th African country, Togo.

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