Monday, January 29, 2007

The Great Escape - From The Heat

Escaping the heat – or at least splashing it with some water - was my goal for this past weekend. I read in the Brandt guide book that there was a beach town about an hour from Accra called Kokrobite (pronounced Kokrobreetay). Ato, the JHR representative in Accra, laughed when Mark asked him how to get to Kokrobite (pronounced the way it’s spelt). We are quickly learning that the pronunciation of places in Ghana is not obvious. I will not be able to get around the city based on names on a map until I learn how to pronounce them properly. Ghanaians don’t know how to read maps or street names. Every place is identified by its proximity to something else. We live near Metro TV. We want to be dropped off near Koala supermarket. Please take us our friends’ house near the Poly Clinic. It’s actually quite funny and difficult to get used to. I asked our landlord to show us where our house was on the map, and she pointed to an area even I knew wasn’t close to where we actually live.

Our exit from Accra happened on Saturday morning. We negotiated a cab ride to Kokrobite for $100,0000 Ceedees, or roughly $12. It took us an hour to get there. The last leg of the journey took us through a village that stretched for 7 km along a narrow dusty road. Along the entire length of the village, little shops selling everything from hair clips to fresh pineapple, sat adjacent to the road. The shops were little more than metal or mud shacks with one or two people either asleep in whatever shade could be found, or sitting with children running around them. The children, barefooted and covered in dusty dirt, stopped and watched us as we passed.

We were delivered to AMAAL (The Academy of African Music And Arts Limited). It sounds more official than what we found. The ‘Academy’ was little more than a rundown, empty resort that was obviously past its prime. We were met by Victor, the manager of the Academy, who told us we were the only white people who’d checked in. Apparently there was one other person staying in a place that could easily hold 100 people. We didn’t see anyone else the entire time we were there. When we left, Victor told us to call him when we planned to return “Just to ensure you get a room,” he said.

Further down the road from AMAAL we found its westernized cousin. Big Milly’s, a beachfront, hostel, populated mostly by young expats and backpackers was as vibrant as AMAAL was empty. Big Milly we found out was a woman from Britain named Wendy. Her husband was from Ghana, and for 13 years they’d been running a successful business that pulled in travelers looking for a good time, western food, and access to a secure beach.

We spent part of the afternoon at Big Milly’s. There were many village people roaming the beach. Children played and danced on the beach, and young men spent hours repairing fishing nets.


I wandered along the beach with my camera to take some pictures. The children posed for me as long I would show them the photos on the digital screen once I’d taken them. Their poses grew sillier as I took more photos. They laughed gleefully upon seeing their reflected image on the screen. Later I found the kids playing quietly in a circle so took another picture.

The next morning I got up in search of bottled water. The first place I found told me to sit and wait, they’d go find water. Five minutes later a young woman came back telling me the water was all gone. I should go further down the road, about 50 metres she said. I went further down the road, and a young boy named Abdul told me they didn’t have bottled water either. He told me he would take me to find water.

Abdul, a young boy of about 14 jumped off his bike and walked with me down the dusty road toward the next stall. He told me he goes to school in Accra, an hour’s drive away to secondary school. He wants to become a refrigerator and air conditioner repair man. He also wants to be a boxer and showed me a couple of moves he’s been working on. He asked me if I had seen the big house near our resort.

“You mean the hotel they’re building?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

The building he was referring to was a monstrous construction project on the other side of AMAAL. We’d noticed it the day before. Apparently it’s been under construction for almost 5 years. We were told it would be finished in time for the 2008 African Cup. We had discussed the project the day before, unsure whether western corporate interests in Kokrobite were a good thing or not.

Abdul was convinced the hotel would change things for his village. “It will be great for development,” he said sweeping his arms across the area. Tourists will buy more from our village.”

I hoped he was right. Exclusive resorts often have a way of providing all services to their guests so that there is no need for them to leave the area. Hopefully, the friendliness of the villagers and a desire to truly get to know the culture of the area would pull people from their luxurious surroundings.

The highlight of the weekend was jumping into the surf coming off the Gulf of Guinea. We stayed close to shore for fear of the powerful under tow, but submerging into the cool waters was an incredible treat.

Our drive back was more Ghanaian style. We took three trotros to get back to our neighbourhood. Tro tros are vans or buses that go all over the city and serve as the country’s public transportation system. It was a longer, hotter trip this way, but only cost us about $1.50 to get back from Kokrobite.

Soaking wet by the time we reached our apartment from the heat of the trip home, we were thrilled that the air conditioning in our room was working.

We were glad to be back, but the memory of the surf will soon pull us back to Kokrobite.

- Janet

3 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Mark and Janet,
What a weekend you had. It's hard to beleive you can do that much in 2 days. I have read your blog twice just to take it all in. The pictures are amazing. I am glad you are being cautious in the water. I am sure there are rip tides and undertows there.
You know Mummy always being careful.
Take care. I love reading your blog.
Love, Mummy abd Daddy

Anonymous said...

It surely does not look like King Street today. Wow Mark love the 6 pack...:)
Very interresting reading and love sharing this experience through your eyes.
Patrick