Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Last week mom and her friend Marcia came to visit. We were thrilled to have visitors from home and to show off the Ghana we’ve come to know. We also looked forward to touring around the country during our Easter break to experience some new aspects of Ghanaian life.

After spending a few days in Accra, we set out into the countryside and headed west.

Here are some snapshots from our trip.

On our way to El Mina, we stopped at the Buduburum Liberian refugee camp. This is a picture of the market at the entrance to the camp. Used clothing from Canada and the US is sold here for more than double the price it’s sold at home. I have seen t-shirts selling for $5 with the Salvation Army Thrift Store price tag of $1.50 still attached.

Checkers is a popular past time of young boys and men in Ghana. Some times a large group forms around the players cheering on their favourite as if it’s a baseball game.

The Buduburum refugee camp is home to 23,000 Liberian refugees. It once housed 43,000 people but many have returned home or moved on to a host country. The camp has no running water and no sewage system.

Fishing is a major industry in El Mina. This coastal town has been trading internationally for 500 years. It was first settled by the Portuguese as a trading post exporting Gold back to Europe. The Africans traded gold for weapons. The name of the town comes from the words “The Mine” signifying its importance as a location for mining gold. Because of the extensive history trading with Europeans (the Dutch, and British followed), many Ghanaians in this area have lighter skin and European last names.

The largest slave castle in West Africa is in El Mina. More than 2 million West Africans left for destinations abroad through the doors of the castle while the governor entertained in rooms above.

Just north of El Mina, Kakum National Park has a special canopy walk that carries visitors through hundred year old rain forest. At 100 ft above the ground, the sway of the walkway is not for those inclined to be timid or afraid of heights. Mark nervously set off in mom’s footsteps. Looking down is not recommended.

Further north of El Mina we spent two days on Lake Bosomtwi, a lake created by a large meteor strike millions of years ago. It is 25 square kilometers and inhabited by hundreds of people living in small villages dotted around the lake.

Upon entering one of the villages, I was greeted by a young woman on laundry duty who recruited my help. I don’t think I had the right technique because she let me go a few minutes later.

The dirt road into the lake was bumpy and almost inaccessible by anything with less agility than a 4 x 4. Thankfully we made it to a guesthouse run by a Ghanaian Austrian couple who had transformed a small piece of land into a garden paradise. The property was spectacular with its careful placement of flowers, shrubs, fruit trees and winding walkways. During the day, two young men made their way across the grass cutting it with machetes.

This is a picture of the traditional hut where we stayed overlooking the lake.

We met these boys walking along the road to one of the villages. They have met enough tourists that they know the instant gratification of digital cameras. Getting them to pose meant we had to let them see the image immediately following the click of the camera. Looking at the tiny screen they laughed hysterically and then quickly set up a pose for the next picture.

Nakedness is nothing to shy away from on Lake Bosomtwi. Young boys led us down to the lake shore to show us their boats. As we reached the edge of the water, they shed their clothes and ran into the lake. Here you can see them leaping off their boat.

The boats are simply wide boards. The villagers sit in the middle of the board and paddle with their hands. Apparently the people believe the lake is sacred so won’t allow traditional fishing boats on the lake waters. All fishermen use these boards to check their nets each morning.

The town of Okasombo was created to build the dam at the mouth of Lake Volta. The dam powers 80% of Ghana. This year the water levels are the lowest they’ve ever been so the country has been forced to conserve power. Right now all of Ghana loses electricity every 48 hours for 12 hours at a time. Productivity around the country is at an all time low, and there are many grumpy people who are unable to sleep at night without fans or air conditioners. Wealthy people and companies have generators, but in many cases people just don’t show up for work because there’s little they can do without power.

On the road out of Akosombo we nearly ran over this chameleon on the side of the road. Thankfully he hadn’t tried to camouflage himself.

In Amedzofe, a tiny town in the Avatime Hills, we spent two days hiking, and learning about life at 1800 feet. The town doesn’t have its own water source, so children as young as 5 get up at dawn to fetch water from nearby streams. The rainy season has yet to start in earnest so we met one woman scooping water out of a tiny pool one cup at a time.

About 4 kilometres away from Amedzofe through a steep bush path, the town of Biakpa has its own well. A young boy took his turn filling up buckets for cooking and washing.

From a distance it was okay to take this picture. As soon as I came closer to say hello, the young girl in blue took off screaming.

These three girls are orphans who have found a home with a woman named Maude. She has rescued 16 orphans from the community. She clearly loves the girls but keeps them busy with various tasks. Here they are getting Cassava seeds ready for planting.

Goats are all over rural Ghana. This goat pressed itself against the wall as it tried to pull some coolness out of the stones.

At the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary we met the sacred Mona monkey. Unfortunately we had a difficult time calling them to us even though we’d brought a handful of bananas. The mangos hanging within close reach proved to be an easier alternative.

For our final night on the road, we arrived at a beach resort nestled between an estuary and the ocean. The resort was only accessible by land through sand dunes or by boat from a launch point a few kilometers away. We opted to go by land but nearly got stuck in the deep sand a few times.

Upon close inspection of the cabins (above) and the latrine (a bucket in the sand), mom and Marcia opted for a hotel nearby. They’re adventurous, but not that adventurous I was told. Since they were traveling all night the following day, I easily succumbed to this second option. Still with the view below beckoning from the door of each hut, I know I’ll be back.

- Janet


Anonymous said...

Janet and Mark,
This is a wonderful blog. From beginning to end I couldn'beleive seeing clothing from canada. It must have made you feel like home seeing Salvation army thrift store price tags. Also the boys playing checkers with the men. Do you remember Mark how much Big Papa loved checkers. I could go on and on about this blog like all the others. The pictures are great too. Anne and Marcia certainly saw a lot while they were there. I certainly appreciate the time you both take to write these blogs. It makes me feel much closer to you.
Love, Mummy and Daddy

Jack said...

Janet and Mark,
Thanks for the terrific travelogue. It gives me a bit of a feeling for what you're going through and experiencing. I especially loved the the three little orphans. I wonder what will happen to them in the future.
Isn't it amazing that you Mom and her friend could visit with you.

Yogi said...

Hello Mark I wish I was there for like the last month you were there I waqnt to go visit Africa someday and many more counry I wish you could get me there it would be fun well can't wait in till you arrived homes

By:Rickey Cook

Steve said...

Hi Janet and Mark:

Just got your blog address... sounds like you are having a great adventure. Your pictures bring back memories of my very short time in Ghana -- especially Cape Coast and Kakum.

Do you think you may make it to Kenya before you head back to Canada? Let me know!


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