Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jan 26 - Into Burkina Faso

Being on cook group I was up around 6:00 and we were ready to roll out around 8:00. Bad news though, a bypass hose on the heater burst and Dave had to traipse all over town to get some parts welded at a small machine shop. We went in on our way out of town and said a mass thank you for their service. People in Ghana are very formal. I think it is left over from the British days.

We got on our way around 10:30 and were at the border into Burkina Faso about an hour later. The border was in the middle of Paga. First we had to check out of Ghana, then go and get our Burkina Faso visa, then transfer some money through the money sharks waiting outside the police station, then finally, after doing another group "thank you" to the police, head across the border around 5. We sat outside the police station and made our lunch, which we shared with some of the border officials. They loved it!! So now we are in Burkina Faso. Same sort of scenery, little villages with round mud brick huts, and sun baked ground with goats, and now donkeys, running all over. Mosques are becoming more prominent in all of the little villages. We headed straight north to Ougadougou, the capital about 200 km maybe. We also had the usual police/army checks, but at one of the checks we were given two armed guards to travel with us. Apparently there had been a highjacking earlier that day, and I guess tourists and other groups were being made to travel with armed guards. The only thing that bothered us was there was not any way of really telling if these guys were police, militia, or legit, or if in fact they were the bandits and they were going to pull their guns on us. So, it was a tense half hour's drive through a very deserted part of the countryside. However, we got to the next check point, and off they got. It got a little busier after that and soon we were entering Ougadougou.

Our hotel The OK Hotel, is quite nice and we upgraded to quite a quaint little room. I think it is about 54EU. For the first time in Africa, we have hot water! Funny though, it is too hot and one of the guys came down with a scalded leg. We met in the bar and a group of us decided to go to a restaurant called Le Jardin Ammitie - something like that!! We got out to the main road after walking through the truck stop that separates the hotel from the main road. Wow, are there trucks, masses and masses of them; most overloaded. In fact one vehicle was so overloaded it was lying up against another vehicle and would have fallen over if the load hadn't had something to rest against. We grabbed two cabs and got in. Well, our cab wouldn't start, so eventually we have about 4 guys out there pushing it down the road to jump start it. Then we were off. You are never sure if the drivers really understand you, or know where you are going, but you always set off with them confidently telling you they do!! The restaurant was quite an interesting place. Just like an outdoor garden with tables, and a stage. There was a guy on stilts entertaining the patrons, then some bands came on. The food was awful though, and it wasn't very busy and we agreed a bit of a rip off!! Ray and I left after that although the others went on to new adventures in the nightclubs and a reggae bar.

This morning we had a nice relaxed hot shower and were down for breakfast around 9. Decided to go to see some skulptures out of town. I am not very good with museums, and also we weren't sure they were open it being Sunday - which we later found out they were not. I had read about the sculpture site at Laongo where each year foreign artists are invited to come and do some sculptures in the granite rocks that abound in the area. It was really unique with some quite interesting skulptures done by people around the world, including Canada. They mostly depicted life in Burkina.

When we arrived, we were a little alarmed to see a trotro drive past with 2 armed guards on the roof, along with some other people and their luggage. But apart from a few jokes about bandits didn't really think anything more of it. We had come a rather long way on a rather deserted road to get there. When we were ready to go, our taxi had a flat tyre so had to wait till that got fixed and then we were on our way....back down the rather deserted road. Arrived safely in town and stopped at an ATM. Taxi wouldn't Ray and Jamie got out and started pushing. I think this caused quite a stir as everyone seemed to be getting a good chuckle from it. Got the car going though and soon we were back at the hotel. Shortly after, I walked into the bar and Dave our leader came up to me and said that he had heard that we had headed into the "red zone" in the afternoon and seemed quite alarmed that we would have done so. So, I guess maybe we should have been a little more cognizant as to where we are because we were heading close to the Mali border. Anyway, that explained the armed guards; fortunately we are safe, and will be a little more cautious in future!!

We are looking forward to some more culinary experiences tonight which I can probably tell you about tomorrow as we don't leave here till around 10:30 a.m.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Jan 24- Bolgatanga


We had fun on the way up to Bolatanga on Thursday. Drove the road back from Mole to the main road without stopping - road is prone to hold ups!! However, we made it safely!! We did make one stop in Larabanga to see the Moslem Mosque which was built about 600 years ago by the Arabs. You will see from the pictures that it is quite a unique shape. We were grabbed by a young kid who acted as our tour guide and then of course asked for money at the end. That seems to be the story up here in Northern Ghana. Everyone is asking for money. Or, if you have something they like, they just ask for it!! It is a little annoying, because you can't give to everyone who asks you, and then to give them anything is only encouraging them  to do that and thus being an irresponsible tourist.

The little villages along the road are the round baked mud brick homes with thatched rooves. The country is sun baked straw grass with small straggly trees about 10 feet high. Savannah woodland  - stretches for miles and miles. Yesterday we saw a whole strip that was burning. They say it is controlled burning, but if that is controlled, I am surprised. You could see the red flames in the distance with long plumes of black smoke on the horizon.

Stopped to shop in Tamale for cook group we went into the market area. Neat lanes winding through stalls of fresh meat, cow faces with horns; all the women are so much fun and although English is not quite as good, they still manage to banter with you!

Arrived in Bolgatanga -  a town of about 70,000 in Northern Ghana - around 5 and found a great spot to camp in the grounds of the Comme Ci Comme Ca Hotel. Set up camp and sat down for a beer. We were quickly joined by the Ghana Police and had a really nice conversation with them. They were amazed at our efficiency in setting up the tents, the cook table, and all the chairs. They said their people would never be able to work together like that! They were an IT group doing some work at the station up here. Nice guys and of course they asked for our emails. Couldn't refuse the police could we?

On Friday 25th we had a more relaxed morning then grabbed a cab to go off and do some "sightseeing". After about half an hour we finally had a quote to go to the Tongo Hills and the Tengzuk Shrines. I vaguely remembered reading about it in one of the travel books, but didn't really have any preconceived ideas. The lady at the hotel who had helped us get the cab took the phone number of the taxi driver.....just for safety reasons!!! We set off in the cab which smelled like a petrol spill at the gas station, and sounded like every screw in the chassis was loose resulting in loud bangs whenever we went over a bump. We went back south on the road to Tamale then turned off on to a dirt the making....I think it was so rutted from the rainy season that it was difficult to distinguish what was road and what was road-side. Fortunately our driver drove quite carefully; we weren't under any illusion that that was for our benefit, more likely to try and preserve his car for the next ride! We arrived at a strange collection of the hugest boulders of different shapes and colours; some pinkish, others more yellow, and yet others more black. Probably the result of some volcano in the pre-ages. In amongst all of the boulers we made out a round building and this turned out to be the Chief's Palace and it was one of the Chief's 115 kids who was showing us around. The group of people who lived in and around the palace seemed to still be practising their animist religion. Sacrifices of guinea fowl are made daily to the high priest and so fresh piles of feathers appear around all of the shrines. It was quite different, and we couldn't really understand it all, but I guess maybe something like the reed islands on Lake Titicaca. The Chief's little horse was very sweet and took to the gentle cooing in his ear as if he was starved of affection by nuzzling into me and hobbling around me while we were stopped under the sea. Then there was the shrine where you visited the priest - but, women had to go topless. I may be brave enough to bare my feet to rats in the Rat Temple in India, but there was no way I was going to bare my breast to the priest in Tongo no matter how good a life he might promise me for doing so.

Chatting with some of the girls on the truck we agree that there is a strong sexual element in the Ghanaian culture. There doesn't seem to be too much birth control going on - there are kids everywhere! Not sure what the AIDS rate is here....looking around everyone seems strong and healthy; there are lots of medical clinics around, and there is also a lot of "aid". But the men and women look strong and Africans move their bodies with an almost sensual fluidity. I am reading the book "Ama: |A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade:" by Manu Herbstein, which is all about a young girl who is captured for slavery and taken to Elmina Castle. The rapes and sexual abuse by the white man and the black alike are cruel and ferocious. Somehow, it is hard to get that concept out of one's mind. I suspect treatment of women is not that good.
One of our group had an unfortunate encounter with a motorbike today. She was standing talking to the local policeman when she was hit by a motor bike. She is OK, shaken though, and quite bruised. She will be sore tomorrow. Bad luck for the guy who hit her though. The police immediately impounded his bike, and despite the two girls trying hard to get the police to release the bike, it was a no go!
Tomorrow we move into Burkina Faso. We were good though! Didnt tell the police our route despite their cross interrogation!! I will be sad to leave Ghana, but many more adventures to look forward to.

I think we have Internet in BF, so should be in touch soon. 

January 22, 23 - Mole


We slept the night with the sound of the falls filling in the white noise, and woke to the sound of the cockerels in the morning around 6:30  a.m. Breakfast was a fruit mix of banana, pineapple and mango, toast with marmite, cornflakes, and coffee. Delicious! And, we were off before 8:30 a.m.  We drove into Kintampo and spent about an hour and a half there shopping in the market. Well, cook group did the shopping; we others just wandered around talking with the locals. We  met the crew from the local fire engine and were shown their brand new, highly polished bright red fire truck imported from the U.S.A.The crew are all trained in first aid, getting people out of crashed vehicles, and of course fighting the many fires in the town. They were so proud of their roles and their vehicle. Wouldn't give us a ride though!! One cook group got some guy who showed them all the good shopping spots and led them around the market but wouldn't accept anything for doing it. The other cook group (2 groups had to food shop - we are getting into Northern Ghana now and there is not much here) got in a taxi and travelled about 1 km to the meat shop to buy meat for dinner. We chatted and joked with another group of women and I manged to get a lovely shot of a woman carrying her baby - Ghana style. Then it was back in the truck and off again. The roads were paved and really good. Either a Japanese project or a Chinese project to finish a beautifully paved road to Tamale. We stopped for lunch around 12:30 - again just pulled off the road in a drive leading to a small farm. Temperature was about 41C so we are not freezing. Last night the temp got down to 18 and I was freezing in the tent - didn't have my sleeping bag only my sleepsheet. Ray got so cold he moved up to the truck to sleep around 1:00 p.m. The afternoon drive was more exciting on a bright yellow-brown dirt road complete with pot holes. But it was a lovely drive. We passed a number of villages with the beautifully round mud huts with thatched rooves, sleek white cows, large termite hills. The landscape changed from forest to more savannah woodland like scenery with scrub trees and bushes. A lot of the land is burned and we are trying to find out why: either to stop bush fires, prevent snakes, or burn rubbish. At least those are our ideas so far. Again we passed numerous police checks all of which were really friendly and waved us on our way. And then around 3:30 we pulled into Mole. Ray is really not too well so we upgraded to a room where we have electricity and running water. No Internet though!!

After we got the room, I changed and wanted to go down to the pool. I opened the door to be greeted by a number of baboons: big red bottomed males, females with babies on their back and teenagers. I was really alarmed, because someone had said to keep away from them, but they were in my path!! Anyway, Ray walked me halfway, and they didn't seem to bother me, so I got to the pool safely. Then a little further on I met a family of wart hogs. I've loaded some of the pictures and hope you enjoy them. I had a nice swim to cool down, and I sat with some of the group in the viewing area anxiously waiting for wild life to come to the big watering hole below the motel to drink. Nothing appeared, but we did get a lovely African sunset.

Next morning we were up early and set off on a 3 hour hike to see wildlife. The land is savannah woodland, and very dry. We are at the beginning of the dry season. We trekked for about 3 or 4 km following little paths around the watering hole. We were all excited to see two elephants. The first time we saw them they were at the far side of the watering hole, but when we had trekked all the way around suddenly we looked up and through the trees we saw the bum of one of them again!! It was a little scary, we were only about 25 feet away from them. The "armed" guide just clapped his hands and shooed it forward and we followed at a too close distance till the elephant slowly dropped down into the water and waded out and started to throw the water through his trunk. It was very exciting and very special. We also saw 3 types of buck, which of course are always pretty to see. There were some monkeys, but they were high up in the trees so we didn't get an awfully good view of them. Green monkeys I think he said. The birds were quite beautiful, especially the kingfishers. Anyway, it was a long trek, and of course it got hotter and hotter as the time wore on. Really exciting to be so close to wild elephants, but otherwise just a nice walk in the African Savannah. Came back and had breakfast, then I came to my room to upload pictures to the hard drive to back them up.
Hope we get a chance soon to upload this. Things are pretty wild up here, but we have seen some other tourists here in Mole. It is Ghana's largest provincial park. It was a game reserve in the 1950s but in 1971 it was turned into a park and the animals are protected. There are about 400 elephants, some leopard, and they are hoping in the future to be able to attract the lion back to this part of Africa. The park is about 4,577 square kilometers.

Had a couple of interesting stories today. First thing in the morning, Ida, the Norwegian girl was standing at the campsite when the others saw one of the warthogs start towards her. No-one moved, no-one said anything, they all just stood transfixed and watch him trot across the campsite and head butt her in the thigh. Poor girl was shocked. He did break skin a little, but not seriously!! Then, later on, Jimmie, one of our tour leaders climbed up into the truck and came face to face with a baboon sitting on the table, stretched up to the string rack above the seats struggling to free an apple from the back of the rack. They both stared at each other and Jimmie couldn't figure out how it got it, but more importantly since he was blocking the entrance how it was going to get out. He managed to stop it eating the apple, but when it hissed at him he decided to back off and leave the door open. Eventually it wandered out. He thought the only way it could have gotten in was from underneath the truck when they had the panel off to do some repairs. Apparently the baboons did a reccy first thing in the morning, must have figured out the best way to get in, then this one came back on his own later!! Smart animals.

In the evening, I opened the door of our room on to the balcony at the back and came face to face with a little deer. She was so pretty and as astounded to see me as I was to see her. She just stared, and stared at me. I moved very slowly, and she just stayed there. You will recognize the picture. A very special moment of connection with a sleek, wild animal.

Jan 21 - Bosumtwe Lake, Asante Region


Sunday morning we had breakfast at the truck and set off from Kumasi for Bosumtwe Lake around 9:30 a.m. Kumasi is a big town and it took quite a while to go through it. Much of the same eclectic mix of business. I love it though. All of the people to watch,  and the sights are much more interesting than at home, and of course it is much more friendly. That is one of the differences between our Western world and Africa. Africa is all about community. Everything is done outside. Probably because the houses have only one or two rooms people tend to live outside whereas in our society we all go into our houses and close the doors. 
Not far out of Kumasi we headed into a mountainous region with huge bowls of jungle all around us, and narrow, one lane roads that were sometimes paved and sometimes not. We passed a resort "Paradise Resort” which had beautiful grounds at the end of the lake. Our driver "Dave the Hat" went in to enquire if we could camp in their grounds. We paid for 2 rooms at 170 cedis each for showers for the girls and boys,  and pitched our tents by the side of the lake. Once we were settled I set off with one of the girls to investigate. A few yards through the trees we came to a small village of about 800 inhabitants called “Abomo”. Lots of kids, chickens, stalls selling dried fish, young boys swimming in the water, fishermen, people trying to sell you food, bikinis, drinks, etc. When we started down the main street, we noted that the houses are now mainly made of baked mud brick. Life seems simpler here out of the big city. There was also an information centre where I learned that the lake was formed 1.07 million years ago by a meterorite. The crater is 11 km in diameter, and the explosion exceeded all of the nuclear resources on earth today. Consequently there are no rivers in or out. There are several fish including about 5 species of tilapia, one of which is indegenous to the area and it looks like a Siamese Fighting Fish. Lake is about 54 km walk around it and there are 22 lakeside villages. After this I came back to the resort we were staying in for lunch and then took Ray with me to show him the village and the Info Centre. On our way back we met some others from our group and stopped off at a beach pub where we watched the Ghana vs Congo game. There were huge cheers, and dancing, and much merriment when Ghana scored its two goals, and lots of boos when the Congo tied it up!! We have a football pool going on in the truck. I pulled Ethiopia, and Ray South Africa. Don't think Ethiopia stands much chance but then strange things happen sometimes. As well as the football there were a group of Africans making a video and we watched the make up artist/hairdresser doing their hair and putting on their lipstick, as well as a tiny little girl in a big puffy white dress with the finest arms and legs who sat and ate fufu and didn't spill any on her dress. She could only have been 2 1/2. On top of that were the four kittens running there was lots of action.

I was on cook group so had to come back to the camp site to start cooking around 5. Dinner worked quite well with the chicken stew and rice. Then we sat and chatted till bed time.

This morning I was up to make breakfast around 6:30 (there are 3 of us in the group and 5 groups). Then we left the resort to travel to lake Kintampo Water Falls. We left around 8:30, stopped for lunch around noon just outside of Kumasi, and arrived here at the Falls around 3:30. For lunch we made salad and egg sandwiches which was quite refreshing. We pulled in to some sort of check point. Couldn't figure out what the check point was for!! However, the guy kindly let us stop there and make our lunch. We shared it with him so he was delighted.  We set up the tents then went down to the waterfalls for a swim. Freezing......for a second or two. Fun, but very slippy underfoot! Then we walked back up and messed around at the campsite. One of the Africans fed the chickens which are running around scratching for food in the arid red ground. They came from all around the picnic area scurrying up to him for the food. The little chicks were all lined up right at the back of the flock looking dazed and unsure of what to do!! It was quite cute!
So far, we have been made to feel very welcome in Ghana and have had lots of interfacing with the local people at many different levels. We are hoping this friendliness continues, but are now heading into Muslim country, and need to be a little more cautious. For example: everyone asks us where we are going and we have freely told them. Now, we can't. We have to make something up, say we are going to Accra but we are advised not to say where we are going because word travels and we don't want the truck to be targetted.

Ray has been suffering from a cold for the past few days so hasn't been feeling too great. People say it is the harmattan. It is the season for colds, and coughs, etc. Hope he is better soon.

I think we have a long drive tomorrow. Not sure where we are headed. It will be a surprise!!

Jan 19, 20 - Kakum and Kumasi


On Friday morning we set off on our trek to Kumasi. Roads pretty good most of the way, a few with potholes, and some dirt, but nothing like what we experienced in the Volta Regionl. Of course, the fact that we were driving at a sedate pace could be an explanation.

We passed through what I call "typical Ghana countryside". This means a mixture of forest trees, some plantations of bananas and palm trees, small villages with unstructured layouts and colourful vendors selling everything under the sun. Lots of religious halls, chemical shops, and tons of merchandise of every description. And of course people going about their business and upon seeing the truck, stopping what they do and waving, shouting hello, and the big smiles that welcome you to Ghana. What did alarm me along the route was some of the little kids shouting "Give me money", "Give me one cedi", and "Give me something". However, in the towns I have never experienced this.

We stopped at the Kakum Forest Reserve. The forest apparently has leopards, monkeys, 500 species of butterflies, birds, and other animals, but I think you have to travel deep into the 350 square kilometres to see any of this. Of course we saw nothing except a few butterflies. We walked through the forest for about 45 minutes to the swinging bridges about 80/90 feet above the ground. We crossed about 9 of these; it was fun to see the forest from that position, but really wasn't anything least to Ray and I. Some of the group though were nervous of heights and had much more of an exciting experience. What I did enjoy though was the colourful lizzards. They .had beautiful: orange heads and  tails, and sleek black bodies. Then it was back in the truck and on to Kumasi.

We are staying in the Asante Presbyterian mission guest house which is a gated compound in the middle of Kumasi. Last night we went to Vic Baboos restaurant and ate Indian curry before retiring to bed fairly early.
Saturday morning we slept in, then went looking for somewhere to have breakfast. We experienced the same friendliness and Ray stopped and asked one of the shop keepers where there might be a restaurant. He suggested the Ghanian Sambra Restaurant. It was a good spot and we enjoyed a mushroom omelette, and a ham and cheese omelette with toast and coffee and tea. The bread here is fabulous. It is chunky and a little sweeter than our bread but has a hidden flavour that might be lemon, or a spice of some description. Haven't seen a brown bread. For lunch yesterday we bought some street food which was like a Cornish pasty but the vegetables, in the vegetarian version, and the meat in the meat version, were scarce! We also bought what looked like a corn cake. I suspect the pasties were made from corn meal. Very tasty, but totally filling and made your lips and teeth stick together like glue!! I also bought a small pineapple which washed this down nicely. When we were eating a little girl of about 3 or 4 came to visit. She was fascinated with us, but also a little nervous; kept coming up and staring and inching closer and closer and then getting totally freaked and running away only to be back again in a few moments. The kids are adorable. They are so innocent, have huge big eyes that stare you straight in the face, and wide smiles that melt your hearts.

After breakfast we walked around a bit then went to the Internet. Lightening fast, except when you wanted to use your own computer, which I did because all my photos and blog notes are on my netbook. In the end I copied it all on to a USB and got another hour using their computers. After that we came back to the Guest House as I had to meet my cook group to do the shopping for dinner, breakfast and lunch over the next day, I was standing waiting for Annie and Dave to come when I had this fabulous conversation with a couple staying in the Guesthouse. I can't for the life of me remember her name now, which is awful, but it was something like "Mercy", but it wasn't. Anyway, she was dressed for a funeral - they wear beautifl black and red  gowns fit for any sophisticated ball back home with a head piece, and are absolutely beautiful. I remarked that I knew that it must be a sad time for her, but she looked amazing. We chatted for a while about her son in Edmonton, and how she has visited Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal and been in the States many, many times. She was in education and I suspect at a fairly reasonable level. She told me that she was sorry that she hadn't met me sooner because she would have invited me to join her at the burial in the morning and at the funeral "Celebration of Life" that she was heading to. But she did invite me to the church service tomorrow morning which was also for the deceased. She said it would have been a great experience for me. I would have loved to go, but of course, because we leave at 9:30 tomorrow morning, I couldn't go. But it just goes to show the welcome that is extended to strangers.

Shopping in the market was fun too, but serious. We were after vegetables and had to strike a hard bargain to knock down the prices. It is actually quite expensive, not like South America and Asia. We had 150 cedis - one cedi is about 60 cents, to buy food for dinner, breakfast and lunch for 17 people. We ended up with 4 kg of chicken stew - 2 kg of frozen chicken breast was 20 cedis - carrots, onions, green peppers, something for flavour (have yet to find out what), rice, for dinner; cornflakes, bread, and mangoes for breakfast, and egg salad and lettuce/tomatoes/cucumber for lunch. I think we have about 7 cedis left!

We went back to Vic Baboos for dinner and are now back in our rooms. There was a power outage when we got back but the electricity has just this minute come onl  No air conditioning in our rooms, so it is a welcome relief to have the fan working again.

I don't think I have mentioned the group we are travelling with: 15 travellers plus 2 crew. I would say most are English, but there is one Aussie, 2 Americans, one Norwegian, and 2 Canadians, although I manage to cross the line to British at times!! We have a practising lawyer, a woman trained as a lawyer who is going to open up a yoga studio when she returns to England, a CA who is taking her MBA, a video film photographer,  a Norwegian teacher who also trains trotters, a girl who works with challenged kids, a guy who is  a financial planner and analyst who works with an America equity/venture capitalist, a girl who manages pubs, and a woman who works in development for an Africa NGO,  The glue is the sense of adventure and it is amazing how well the group has congealed.

I already uploaded most pictures for this post. If you are not a FB member, please let me know if you are able to see the pictures. I will try to do something else with pictures otherwise.

I hear it's cold back home, but I assure you it's not cold. It's actually very comfortable - have no idea what the temp is but it's great!!!

Take care, and send me comments. I am literally sharing with you day to day information, maybe not in the best grammar, but I hope everyone finds something of interest. It also serves as a memory bank for me!! If there is anything you would like to hear about that I am not including....let me know!

I might just say a quick word about the "war in Mali". Mali is an amazing country. Poor but beautiful. The people are not strong, and I understand that is why Al Quaeda has stirred up the Moslem issue. They see a "weak link" and make a move. We understand from the locals in Ghana that the Malians don't want an autocratic Muslim government and that the French came in at their request. Of course, we are watching the situation carefully.....especially our tour leaders. We are heading up in to some Muslim countries and are not quite sure what to expect,  but we are hoping that the situation does not spread. So far, our major concerns are hold ups. Unlikely, but we have security and tactics in place. We have driven through a number of police checks, but so far they have all been very friendly, and waved us on our way without coming on board

Take care....and we will too!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

January 16 and 17 - Breanu Resort and the Forts

January 16,17,18 - Breanu and The Forts

See pictures at

We left Accra around 9:30 a.m. after a somewhat weak shower, and a somewhat weak breakfast. But what did we expect. Not a hotel any of us would recommend. And certainly not good value for money. But, it was in a great location, the people were very pleasant, and the atmosphere provided some interesting observation, i.e. the Liberians and the water pipes. Our drive was similar to the drive out of Accra when we went up to Amedzofe.

Ghana electrifies the senses. As you wander through the streets and drive through the city, you notice the gentle scent of bad eggs permeating the atmosphere. This alternates with the scent of rotten fish, exhaust fumes that you would expect from an unserviced engine, and the "green bin". Our eyes are mesmirized with the business of the cities and towns. It is an array of disorder. None of the buildings are symmetrical, none of them are located in a particular pattern, and none of them are similar in any way. They are big new modern building, mixed with block, stucco or tin houses, mixed with one room booths made out of wood or metal or anything else you can think of. Colour abounds, reds, yellows, greens, blues, oranges; the large umbrellas that cover the barrows, or tables from which people sell their goods; the awnings that cover the larger one room shops, and the goods that range from umbrellas, to brooms and brushes, to cell phones. All of this is held together by the people in their typical cloths, jazzy pants, and robes. I just can't explain it all to you in any meaningful way. I will have to work on it. There is so much to take in, you just can't take your eyes of it I think though that people are part of what make Ghana. They are the warmest people in the world. As we drive by in our truck, the children, the adults, and the older folks, will look and stare and you can feel their surprise in what they see. Then they look up, and see a bus full of white people, and the smile quickly spreads over their faces, or they turn to their friend and point us out and then the friends smiles, and then you get the waves, and the gestures, and the hellos. When you walk amongst them, they naturally smile and say hello. The tiny children run up and hug your legs. The slightly older children come up to you and say hello; and the older girls, although more reserved, are delighted when you smile at them, and maybe wave. The teenage boys are probably the most reserved. Everyone waves. It is the most natural action in the world. I remember once talking to John Aird, a former Lt. Governor of Ontario, about the adaptation from Lt Governor back to lawyer. He said the hardest thing was not to automatically wave at people. I think I may feel like this when I come home. And finally, there are the sounds. As you pass by either on foot or in the truck, you hear laughter, you hear animated conversations, and you hear the chatter of the horns. It's not the loud consistent sound of the horns in India, but the gentle chatter of people saying "I'm here"; "do you need a taxi ride", "I'm right behind you", "I'm passing you". The politeness of the people is inherent. Even on the roads. People stop to let you pass, drivers stop to allow vehicles to turn left, and drivers stop or slow down to let other drivers move around the roads. They even stop for pedestrians, similar to Vancouver, certainly not Toronto where you become a human target when you cross a road. Everyone says "hello", and "good bye"; and "please" and "thank you". It truly is an amazing environment. The sad part is we are missing out by not experiencing it, but if it becomes a popular tourist site, it will be spoiled. The balance is critical, but I think the country, with the right rulers, has a bright future.

Anyway, so that was the scene for most of the journey. We stopped in a town for lunch, and experienced all of this on foot as we wandered slowly down one side of the market main street chatting with the sellers, examining goods, and avoiding the cars! Goods are in excessive supply. The stands and booths and shops are jammed with everything under the sun. But it's not cheap. I would say things are not a ton cheaper than Canada. Probably fresh produce is cheaper, but generally there are not huge differences. Not as huge say as in Asia.

We arrived at the Breanu Resort between Winneba and Cape Coast around 3 and set up our tents ....on the beach! It is beautful. We are camped in amongst the coconut palms, carefully placed, we hope, so that any falling coconuts won't hit us. The ocean is about 25 feet from my feet....that is from high tide. We can hear the pounding of the rollers dumping into the sand, and smell the salt in the air. It is idyllic, romantic, exhiliarating. We cooked dinner and ate around the truck then wandered over to the thatched open air bar for a night cap and then a perfect sleep by the side of the sea.

Today, we were up early, showered, and off to Cape Coast Fort by 9:00 a.m. The fort was amazing but it's story is one of cruelty and sadness. It was of course, a slave fort, as were most of the numerous forts that are built along the West African coast. Many of the slaves resulted from the tribal wars. The losers would be sold by the winners to the slave merchants and then housed in the forts often up to 3 months to await shipment to their destination. A quarter of all slaves sold went to Brazil and the rest to America, the Caribbean and I guess ultimately Europe. We saw the slave dungeons, male and female, we saw the passages they took to the boats, and the door of no return. The conditions were cruel. No facilities, no light, no room. Food they had to fight for and some water. Many escaped. Many died. The women were raped by the whites; made pregnant and punished for it, and put in solitary imprisonment if they fought it. Awful, awful, times. The ironical part is that much of this is still being played out today in Ghana with the enslavement of woment for prostitution. Someone suggested that we shouldn't condemn the Africans because much of what they do they learned from the whites. This certainly seems true in some respects.

We had lunch in a local restaurant on the beach. Beans and a sandwich. I have to mention the fruit. It is wonderful. Mango, banana, guava, oranges to die for, advocados. Bliss.

After Cape Coast, we drove a little further down the coast to Elmina Fort. it was built by the Portuguese who lived there for 185 years, then taken over by the Dutch who lived there for 200+ years, and finally the British who lived there for 85 years. A very interesting, but terribly sad, history, identical to that of the Cape Coast Fort. While we waited for the others to finish at Elmina, Ray and I walked over the bridge, through the market, and up the steep road to another castle which was not restored. Walked around that. I think we disturbed a few people's quiet biffy. The goats were amazing. They are tiny and pretty.....oh, oh.....Cathy thinks I have a "goat addiction".....maybe I do!!! They are cute Cath, you would love them!! Tiny compared to the PEI goats though!! Then it was back in the truck and home to our beach front tent!!

We had a buffet tongiht in the resort open air dining tent - it was good, a lot of seafood which I didn't eat, a mild chicken curry, rice, chips, and salad! It seems hard to find a "healthy" lunch or dinner unless you do it yourself by buying fruit in the market. The veg are mainly root veg - cassava, yams, sweet potatoes, carrots. The lettuce isn't too plentiful, and is always loaded with onions. Ugh. Also, although I am eating the lettuce, you always have to be careful because it is probably washed in unpurified water. Conditions are certainly not sanitary. Rivers are jammed with garbage; poo is evident in the hidden areas in the towns, and washing hands is not second nature, despite the TV warnings we have heard from the president's wife who was on TV the other night demonstrating how to wash hands properly. Also, adovcating houses with toilets and running water. Imagine if our prime minister's wife was to get on TV and advertize that!

We are now in our tent. Ray is asleep and I am writing this on my little netbook, in the dark, listening to the sound of the waves thrashing the beach. Tomorrow we head off for Kumasi around 8:00 in the morning. I think there is Internet there so I should be able to upload this, and hopefully some pictures. I hope you can see them on FB. If Alanna sends me instructions "how to"....I'll load them directly on my blog. Blogger has a new look, and the picture insert key didn't seem to include the option to upload from your computer. Can't believe it. Maybe I just couldn't find it amidst my frustration with the Internet.

Hope you are all well!! Thinking of you, and wishing you could experience this exciting place. Gretel: If you read this I could see you and Manfred here!! Next holiday maybe??

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Jan 15 - Cote d'Ivoire Visa and The Lost Arts of the Ga Culture - Coffin Art

You can see pictures at:

Met the group this morning and headed off to the Cote d'Ivoire Embassy for our visas. It all went very smoothly once we provided them with the correct papers. Had to wait a couple of hours for photos, hand prints, etc. We had quite a palava last night when we had to pay for the visas online. I started out doing both of them and then I forgot whose name i had put in and Ray had started doing his own. A bit of a muddle, but so far, we must have got it right as we are both approved as of this morning. But anything can happen!!

After a quick turnover in the hotel we grabbed a cab and headed out to see the coffin makers. Didn't really know where we were going but had a general direction. Caused some confusion in the taxis (a group of 6 of us went together in 2 taxes). Anyway, one of the girls spotted the coffins on the upper story of a building - so we turned around and headed back, paid off the driver and went on up. It was a really interesting afternoon. These carpenters make coffins I would suggest for the more wealthy clients in any shape requested. The only restriction to what we saw between the models on the floor and the pictures were were shown is your creativity. There were eagles, cars, trotros, sewing machines, airplanes, fish, fruit, cameras and anything else you could possibly imagine. Not only do they make full size coffins, but they also make mini ones for storing ashes in. Hope you enjoy some of the pictures from today. It was a really interesting experience. They seem to export all over the world we have a business card for Eric's Carpentry Shop if anyone is interested. Watching the tools they used was also a treat and I may have found a cause for some of my Dad's old planes and saws.

Tonight Ray and I are off to a Ghanaian restaurant - don't know if others are coming - and then we head out of Accra tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. Not sure what the Internet is going to be like. It has been really iffy in Accra. Also Sim Cards. Poor Ray has been trying all day to get one, but not sure what the problem is but he doesn't seem to have found one. So.....stay tuned for the next episode.

Jan 14 - Accra

You can see pictures at:

Met all of our truck group at 10 a.m. for a very brief meeting. After attending to boring stuff like money, and moving rooms, we set with four or five of our group to visit the Independance Arch. We walked for a distance from our hotel down the main street in the Osu district of Accra where we are staying. Oxford Street, as it is known, is a long market of stalls, shops, and street traders. The best artist in Ghana, the best paintings in Accra; "I give you for market in Canada". But the paintings don't have an artists name so I quietly explained that and put the "free" gift down among the pile of other paintings. All the people are very jolly, men and women trying to make a buck. They remember you so that they catch the second time you wander down too!! Handshakes are offered, polite greetings extended and it is just a riot of noises, taxis, cars,and trotros. But it is tremendous fun. The people are really good natured and there is a quiet sense of principal that tremours though the crowd.

We had intended to visit Osu Castle which now appears to be the seat of the Ghana Government. However, when we got to the area we were surrounded by military and helpful passersby who warned us against taking any pictures. We wandered through little lanes and small houses, children, animals, and still could not find our way to the beach. So, we kept walking. Eventually we got back on the main road and arrived at Independence Arch. Even here we were warned against taking pictures of the government buildings and were chased out of the Arch by an officious guard. The trouble is, nothing is marked. The gates are open, and of course we just wandered in. We ended up at the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Gardens. The moment is really beautiful, resembling the approach to the Taj with the water and beautiful sculptures in the ponds. The grave is inside a beautiful stone structure and all in all it is very impressive. Many of the flowering trees were in bloom adding more oranges and yellows to the scene. After our long walk, we caught a cab back to the hotel.\

In the evening, we had our first "group" dinner at Frankies on Oxford Street. It was quite European, but the food was OK.

I have been trying to get Red Red which is a typical Ghanaian dish I used to eat consisting of fufu (casavva), plantain, and beans. Otherwise the food has been a mixture of western/african food and quite tasty. Lunch we have just bought something to eat in the supermarket.

Jan 12 and 13 - Accra to Amedzofe

For pictures - see this link:

We set off on Saturday morning on our first adventure. Otabil arrived in his Mitsubishi SUV around 8:30 a.m. I had arranged this from Canada but the owner, whom we met on our first night, said the driver would bring us to see him before setting off to sort out the journey. Regardless, we headed out of Accra on the road to Aburi Botanical Gardens. In the early '60s I spent a number of trips there with my parents and the avenue of palm trees was vivid in my mind.

Much of the road on this first part of our journey was paved, but as with all the paved roads we have been on, round pot holes from the size of well tiles to the size of man holes appear at regular intervals. These alternate with rumble strips, broken segments of the paving, when there is paving, and rocks, bumps, and more holes when there is not, as well as obstrucions such as people, bikes, kids, animals, and other cars. I do recall seeing some speed signs, but whether or not they were kilometers or miles, I am not sure yet as from my back seat in the car where I sat with fingers clenched tightly on the seat and eyes glued like radar beams on the road ahead, I didn't have the time to glance at the speedometer.The desperate part of this, is that all of the holes, bumps, and instructions have to be avoided.

On Saturday mornings the roads are quieter because not as many people are travelling to work. Could have fooled me!! The streets were crammed with people selling, buying, talking, walking, waiting for a bus or a trotro or just simply watching other people. The women's dresses are bright yellows, green, orange, red bold patterns. There is an abundance of red pepper, mangoe, banana, coconuts, plantain, and other nuts, and vegetables that I don't know the names of. There are goods of every description for sale in the roadside markets, and in the wooden booths that fill in spaces between the aluminium, block or cement shops. Black women in their swinging skirts or dresses balance trays of drinks, sweets, food, cloth and merchandise on their heads and swarm the cars when they have to stop at traffic lights, much like the squeegy men in the Toronto streets, but more numerous and more energetically. Trotros, which are like minibusses that should hold maybe 15 people and actually hold about 25+, line the road side at the various collecting points along the route.

So, through all of this excitement and energy we zoomed our way through the streets of Accra out into the country. Here the scene calmed down. The little villages we passed through had lots of activity but not the freneticness of the city. Tiny one or two room houses built from block, sometimes covered with cement and painted, or wood, or mud bricks lined the roads.

About an hour later we arrived in Aburi ( We took a guided tour (Sandy - we looked for Alfred, but noone seemed to know him so we ended up with another younger guide). The trees in Aburi are amazing, mostly planted by visiting dignitaries from all over the world. The picture of the palm tree lined avenue is it's signature and known all over Ghana.

Then it was back in the car and off on our chase once again. After about another hour we arrived at Akosombo. This is advertized as one of the cleanest towns in Ghana. It is where the famous Akosombo dam ( is built. I was interested in going here because our friend Sandy lived there in the mid 1960s when her father worked with the Volta River Company to build the dam. We had lunch in the Afrikka Resort sitting on their outdoor deck by the side of the river Volta, then took a boat trip up the river to the dam. Although significant, the dam is much smaller than the Itaipo Dam in Brazil for example which produces about 14,000 kilowats of power or Churchill Falls which produces about 5,428 kw; in fact it is more comparable to the Manic 5 in Quecbec. The Volta Lake which resulted from the dam is the largest man made lake in the world. Pretty impressive.

After our little boat ride, we drove across the Adome Bridge and set off on some wild journey through the West African countryside to find Amedzofe. Our driver had never heard of the town and no idea of the route but fortunately, I had thrown a map into my knap sack, which we had bought in Vancouver, and that is what we relied on. Well, we went on some pretty rough roads, or maybe no roads, or tracks, and I don't quite know how we found the place or how we got there.....alive.....but we did. Imagine the space shuttle hurling through the sky and that will give you some idea of the speed we were driving - over ashphalted roads, dirt roads, and whatever, avoiding all of the conditions and obstructions in doing so. Then imagine the dodgems, only instead of avoiding other cars, imagine avoiding all the pot holes, people, animals, etc. mentioned before. The people walking along the side of the road must be used to it because they didn't flinch but elegantly swayed the hip and moved their arm across their bodies out of the way. How we didn't hit anything is a miracle. Oh, and I forgot to mention that at one stage we were flying along a sort of half ashphalted road with a large dirt area to one side when all of a sudden, we were in the middle of cars going the opposite direction on both our left and right. I guess they figured the ashpalt was too bumpy and the dirt was a better bet.

Then we hit the mountains with their switch back bends and narrow 1 1/2 lane roads. The climbs were amazing and we had beautiful forest views looking out over the tops of the beautiful African trees. And finally, around 6:30 p.m. we found the hill village of Amedzofe. As we entered the Village we found a sign advertising the Abraerica Guest House which we went to investigate and discovered it was on the old EP mission grounds. The Guest House had been renovated recently and was immaculate with 24 x 24" white tiles on the floors, and tiles on all the walls, with a quite acceptable double room with a beautiful bathroom. The building was perched on the hill side about 700 meters high with a view of all of the village stretching down into the valley below. But.....of course we are in Africa. So, no running water, not a drop....well I think Ray may have had some drops, but when it came my turn to shower, not a drop. Oh well. After dinner we crawled into our mosquito nets perched precariously on the double bed and went to sleep safe in the knowledge that we didn't have to bother about snakes, or mosquitos, or other bugs joining us.

Sunday morning and we were up early, climbed the tiled steps up the mountain side to the main building and breakfast. Then we set off to investigate the town. What an amazing spot. I would have loved to spend more time there - so anyone coming to Africa - plan on spending a couple of days at least here. It is the sort of place you could stay for a while and just become one of the locals. There are no cars anywhere in the village and therefore the roads are composed of dried mud gullies and mountains. Goats, sheep and chickens roam the town. The people greeted us with big smiles, hand-shakes, and waves as we roamed around the village. Most people speak English . There are many tribes here all speaking their own language and of course they don't understand each other. English is therefore the common language, and Twi the most common African language. Amedzofe has a German link as in ---- the Germans established a mission, and as well there is a large EP college. We drove up the hill into the compound of the school and were confronted by a polite gentleman who pointedly enquired what we were doing there. When we explained we were travelling, he welcomed us to the school with a big smile. You can look out from Amedzofe to see Mount Gemli and Tingro Gemli, one of the highest mountains in Ghana which is just over 700 meters. On the top of Mnt Gemli you can see a metal cross which was planted there by the Germans. Unfortunately we didn't have time to climb the mountain but the view would be stunning. The only thing marring the view is the haze. Harmattan has started and we have been warned that this will be a problem everywhere. It is the same sort of conditions we experienced in India and China. The other photographic problem I have discovered is that the black faces are washed out. Apparently, I should have an HD Multi Coated Variable Range Neutral Density Camera Fileter (Polaroid). The alternative is to make sure I have the sun shining in their faces, but of course with the haze that is difficult!

We dragged ourselves away from Amedzofe with the promise of seeing the Mona Monkeys at Tafi Atome about a 45 minute drive through the hills. This is a community project which was started back in 1993. There was a lot of hunting of the monkeys for food and the population of Mona Monkeys was depleting. The area was granted a huge tract of forest and it was all organized by a Canadian chap called John Mason. Back in 1993 there were about 100 monkeys, now they reckon there are between 300 and 400. The monkeys play freely in the forest. They live in families and are very territorial. They are soooo sweet; they play constantly swinging from branch to branch and sometimes you are sure they are going to fall, but they manage somehow to grab the branch and hang on. The forest has been planted with fruits and berries to sustain them through different seasons, and water is provided during the dry season. We offered them bananas. They were very coy and took a little bit of cajoing, but eventually they would jump on your arm, hold onto your fingers and strip the skin of the banana and elegantly eat it. The "clutch" was gentle, and you had to keep very still and quiet so as not to frighten them; then as soon as they had come, they disappeared. It was an exciting morning. The village of Tafi Atome is set up with a simple guest house so it would be possible to stay there. Once again, wandering through the town people were friendly, and welcoming.

After Tafi Atome, we had a 2 hour drive, again through the mountains towards Toga, to the Wli Falls - the highest in West Africa - around 255 feet. We hiked for 45 minutes through the forest, over 9 bridges of various log, concrete and timber depending what hadn't been washed away by the rains. The lower falls were stunning and then we took a 20 minute hike straight up the mountain side to a view point for the Upper Falls. We badly wanted to do the whole hike up to the falls but once again time was short. It would have been quite a hike. Not sure how it would compare to the Grouse Grind but I suspect probably it would equal or exceed it. It is about an hour and a half's climb straight up, then around the bowl to the top of the falls. Stunning.

We left Wli around 4 p.m in our Mitsubishi race car and made it over the challenging roads to arrive back in Accra around 7:15.

We ate dinner at the hotel, met some of the people from our trip, and headed to bed around 1:00 p.m.

So.......the bad news is I can't figure out how to upload pictures - so I have uploaded them to FaceBook. Here is a URL you can access them at without a FB page.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Journey

We are now in WA and I have managed to upload my initial blogs. The first part is a little "administrative"....and captures our trials and tribulations getting here, so you may find it a little boring. But promise more interesting stuff after ....!
January 7

On January 9 we head out to West Africa. My stomach is full of butterflies. Hopefully we have made all the appropriate preparations and won't have any "organizational" problems getting there. There are a myriad of things that can "hang you up" on a trip. First, is making sure your passport expires 6 months after the last day of the trip. Sadly, we learn this through one of our good friends' unfortunate circumstances. Secondly, we may be refused access to a specific country if we don't have the correct medical information, i.e. a yellow fever certificate, as well as insufficient pages in our passport. Allow 2 per country! Also passport photos -- again two per country. On top of that we require valid visas. No problem you say! But, when you get the visas you need to make sure they don't expire before you get to the country you are going to. Some countries issue 60 day visas, some 3 month visas, and yet again some 6 month visas. Depending when you will be in that country, you may have to go for the more expensive visa to ensure it does not expire before you enter and exit the specific country. Try fitting that in with a visit to the States before you go, and you realize why people resort to tranquilizers before they travel - it's not the flight that causes the sinking fear in your gut but getting your passports back from one country, in time to send it and receive it back from the next country.

As if that wasn't enough. Have you considered the struggle to find appropriate emergency medical insurance?Have you read the Insurance Policy and understand the terms and conditions of your coverage. For example: one wrong answer and your whole insurance is null and void. Drastic!! I think we are lulled into a sense of false security when we complete a medical form and pay extortionate amounts for our health insurance. Don't be. Check around. Read the policy. Read the questions carefully - very carefully. Don't accept them at face value. Go to someone who is knowledgeable about travel insurance. The CAA representatives are not. Speak out when you find something unfair. I had the CAA annual plan which I got at the beginning of October. I was told all I had to do before I left for Africa was come into the CAA offices and pay the top-up fee for the appropriate number of days over 30, i.e. 23. No problem. I arrived there on Saturday afternoon only to find out that they have initiated a questionnaire to be completed for the top-up, and the questions are very different. Result - I didn't appear to be eligible for the extra insurance coverage. Panic slowly crept into every muscle in my body as the realization sunk in. I wouldn't be able to go to Africa. The representative was very helpful and said she would phone first thing on Monday morning and get back to me by 11:00 a.m. By the time I reached the car, I knew I couldn't wait until Monday morning. I needed to buy some last minute toileteries, and pack. I needed to know right away whether or not I was going. As we ran some other errands my mind grew darker and darker and by the time I got home my body was loaded with worry and it felt as if I was in the middle of a very dark storm. Ray came to the rescue. He called his buddy who is in the insurance business and by Saturday evening I had insurance. I have to admit to only a very quiet contentment when I was able to go back to the CAA on Monday morning and thank them for their help but I would not need their coverage. Of course they came back and said it would be no problem, I could get coverage but at an extra cost. There are times when a market economy means many extra burdens placed on citizens.

But, I think we are ready. Everything is in place, and we are ready to leave.

Tuesday Jan 8 - p.m.

Check-in.......The on-line check in does not recognize our reference number! Step one - call CheapOAir the booking agent. They put Ray on hold - he holds for 40 minutes and hangs up and calls back. He holds for another 20 minutes to get an agent. Discovers the flights have been changed. Agent needs to 'investigate". Ray frantically searches the web for other flights and finds an appropriate one through Expedia. Agent comes back and says the return flight has been cancelled but he can give us a flight on Mar 2 - one day later - so we accept, but still can't check in. CheapOAir says they can't help we will have to call United. By now we are wondering if CheapOAir is reputable. Could we have been so stupid to be scammed??? Call United. It is an automated line. Give them our details. They recognize the reference number, confirm all flights, but now we are swimming across the Atlantic from Brussels to get to Newark to get our flight to Toronto. Nothing more we can do. Need to get to the Airport early to sort it all out. So, the night before we are due to go, we think we have a flight, but are not sure. Nice!!!

Wednesday Jan 9

We are up early and ready for Cathie when she arrives to drive to the airport. House all wrapped up, and off we go. Get to the airport 3 hours ahead of the flight. Go to the United Desk. Some snitty lady tells us we need to go to Air Canada to check in. I said why would we not have been told that. She says, very snittily, it's on the itinerary. It's definitely not. Air Canada is surprised, but they attempt to help. One hour later, the Air Canada Sherlock Homes discovers the clue - one of the ticket numbers is wrong, bingo, finds the new ticket number and we are checked in! So, then back to United to see if they can provide hiking boots to get us from Brussles to the Atlantic and maybe a small boat or a wet suit to help us with our Atlantic Crossing. First lady tells us it's not their problem and she can't do anything because she is usually in operations. Maybe Ravi can help. We go to Ravi. He looks at us as if we have landed from Mars and gives us a United Airlines Number to call. Ray says: "It's not an automated line is it{?"

"No" the UA rep answers.

We go to find a public telephone. I didnt know they still made them, but we find one and call the 1`.800 number. An automated telephone service. Finally we get to a real person. Ray says he has a problem. The rep hangs up! Ray calls back. After holding the line with sweat creeping slowly down our backs, the rep comes back and says he has sorted it out. I think what happened is that when the return flight was changed, the UA personnell didn't process the change correctly and therefore the information wasn't attached to the new ticket number. Hence the confusion at the Air Canada desk. And of course we couldn't check into United becuase we were supposed to check in with Air Canada. The flight attendant told us they were partners. I said well if you are partners you don't communicate very well. He made some smart comment about it being something like a marriage. Sometimes you talk, sometimes you don't.!! So, now we have an hour to get to the Gate for check in. I guess we were frazzled or something but we walked the length of Terminal 1 once then had to walk all the way back to the other end to find the US customs. Fortunately, they were efficient and we were through. Security, the same. We arrived with time to go to the loo and then line up to board. The flight to Newark was in a small plane and was quick and efficient.

Get to Newark with about 3 hours to wait. Time for lunch at about 3:30. Well, I guess it wasn't our day or something and maybe I should fast forward to German time to get out of it quicker. We ate a lousy meal in a lousy airport restaurant. Walked around the airport and then loaded for our flight to Frankfurt. Everything on time and efficient. Get on the plane and to pay for wine with dinner - no credit card. I guess it is still sittling in the credit card holder in the lousy restaurant in the Newark Airport. There is not much you can do when you are sitting in the middle seat of three on a plane with 400 people in the middle of the sky. I felt trapped. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to deal with my internal chatter. Nowhere to escape the inert body sitting beside me rigid with frustration. It was opportune that that was the moment the skies decided to take their revenge on the human race and hammer the airplane with winds. The plane started to cavort around the airspace, and the captain turned on the "seat belt" sign and revved up the engines making it hard to hear to take us up to the next level to avoid the turbulence. I guess there are forces stronger than us around!! It has been a very long timne since I have experience anything as dramatic in the air. Dinner arrived, and the wine thank goodness; I don't know whether it was the rolicking airplane or the loss of the credit card or the miffed husband sitting beside me, but my hands shook so badly, and all of a sudden my hunger faded as the plane settled down and I didn't do much justice to another rather dried out, sawdust tasting meal.

The saga of the lost credit card continued in Frankfurt when the 24/7 collect call line to Scotiabank had "technical problems". I think we exposed all the cracks in our very organized and controlled Canadian systems". Didn't make it so bad leaving to visit Africa. Sort of prepared us.....I guess!!

When we got to Frankfurt we had the same "check in" problems as in Toronto (we had to check in for the final stage of the journey). But once again an ingenious rep Lufthansa rep sorted it out. The flight rom Frankfurt was about 6 1/2 hours. The crew were fantastic but the flight itself was one of the bumpiest we have had in a long time. It reminded me of one of my earlier journeys to Ghana when we were in a Stratocruiser and went through the biggest storm over the desert. One of the communication cables broke, and there was some other damage done to the plane. We had to land in the middle of the Sahara to repair the plane. We weren't allowed out of the structure, until finally it got so hot, the crew were able to get permission for us to go outside, where of course it was almost as hot but not so claustrtophobic. We were well guarded by soldiers with guns. I think we had landed at an Arabic air base. Fortunately, we didn't have such an adventure this time,

One of the reasons I enjoy travelling is the personal stories you hear. For example. I sat beside a Nigerian woman on the flight into Frankfurt. She had moved to the States 3 years ago to be with her brother. She was a teacher in Nigeria but feels that because she hit the US at the worst time imaginable, she has been unable to find permanent work. She is supply teaching but sometimes wonders where her next few pennies are going to come from. Another brother had died in Nigeria and she was making the long trek back to Nigeria for his funeral. She was lovely. Then on the flight to Accra we met a German mother travelling with two small children to join her husband for a two year contract in Accra. I momentarily sat with the older girl while the mother took the younger girl to the bathroom. She was excited about fulfilling one of her life long dreams.

January 10

We walked out the back end of the 737 on to the tarmac in Accra about 7:30 on Jan 10, 28 hours after we had left home. A shield of heat and humidity hit us in the face when we took our first step down the gangway. We got into a bus which took us the very short distance to the unsophisticated terminal. The walk down the building to the customs hall was decorated with an archway of red ribbon making us feel like royalty when we arrived. Customs and baggage pick up went smoothly. We had our pictures taken and our fingers printed - correction we both had our pictures taken but I alone had my finger prints taken. We couldn't get an answer why but I suspect it may be in an effort against trading women. My biggest fear was that the driver i had arranged to pick us up from the airport wouldn't be there. He was!!! I should have more faith!!

We drove a short distance, maybe 10 or 15 minutes to the hotel. What the infrastructure lacks, the people make up for. We were welcomed warmly at the hotel, and soon had our jeans stripped off and dressed in something cooler. We went out to compound for dinner - because it was late we had a chicken and a beef sandwich which was really a wrap with a crepe. It was delicious. And.....of course a cold beer....or two.

The dining/lounge area is quite eclectic. The owner is Lebanese. His brother has a "special spot" where he sits with his group of friends smoking their water pipes. We are told they are smoking but with flavours added so that it doesn't taste like cigarette - a cooler smoke, we are told. There was another couple there from Holland. Tonight, the Libyan Ambassador came over with a Libyan friend, and the Lebanese crowd was there too. Fortunately, they seemed quite friendly, to each other, and to us, and we had a nice chat with one of the Libyan guys. The dining room manager, whose name is Mali, is lovely - very mannerly with the typical Ghanaian smile. He told us his life story and how he ended up here. Very high principles. Showed us his three beautiful kids. Very lovely.

We didn't do much at all today. We got to bed last night around midnight, just after and flaked out till about midday. Ray was up at 9 and had a shower. I slept like a log. We got up and made a 5 minute walk down the street to the supermarket. What an amazing array of foods. So well stocked with food from every part of the world. The shelves were packed with goods. We watched a particular white woman doing her shopping with her "maid". An interesting relationship where both women looked bored with each other, themselves, and their life. Shoppers were mixed - white - black - and probably Middle Eastern. Ghana has always had ties wtih people from North Africa. As a kid I remember all the "traders" being Syrian who were also the shop owners at that time. Interestingly, we haven't seen any hint of Chinese money at this point. We are told the Libyans are investing heavily in Ghana and the Lebanese have been here for years.

Later we went for a walk around Osu the district we are staying in. The best way to describe the scene is that of a market walking down the side of the busy main street. We were accosted by all sorts of people, hoping I am sure to make a sale, but able to say "welcome to Ghana" when we didn't buy!! The Ghanaians are truly lovely people. If you can catch the smile, it is big, and warm, with lots of sparkling white teeth and warm, friendly eyes. They have a special handshake which is readily offered.

Anyway, I must go to bed and will try and upload this epistle. Tomorrow at 8 we are off to Aburi Gardens and the Volta Region.