Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006

Inaugural Ghana Aluminum Man Triathlon - Akosombo, Ghana

Here we are with the Directeur Sportif of the inaugural Ghana Aluminum Man Triathlon.

Simon Hankinson explains the format of the event.

Run 2.8 miles,
Swim 500m across Lake Volta
Bike 16.5 miles
1800' of elevation gain

Simon - "We'll run to this point right over here."
Dylan - "Hmm...okay. I've seen worse."
David - "Looks kinda steep."
Brian - "I can't even see the water from where I'm standing."
Simon - "Look just beyond the weeds."

Simon - "Perhaps we can just hack through the weeds and throw a rope down the slope. No problem."

Simon - "At this point, you'll enter the Volta River and swim 500m to the other side. We'll give this guy a few cedis to pluck any stragglers from the water.

Brian -"What was that about bilharzia?'

Simon - "Anyone not swimming can add another mile to the run by going over the bridge to the bike segment."

Actual race recap to follow...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Months 1-4 condensed

Okay. Here is a quick photo recap of the four month prior to arriving in Ghana.

Here we have the lucky bride an even luckier groom with some of the happy family.

A day trip to Chicago for another architecture boat tour. Here, SJD catches the bean reflecting lower Michigan Avenue.

Location: Millennium Park, Chicago

SJD pauses momentarily to scratch her head and consider which way is down.

Location: Mt. Dickerman, North Cascades, Washington State.

I wonder if SJD is thinking the same as me. High enough yet?

Location: Mt. Rainier, Washington State

Me foraging for SJD's dinner.

Location: Kitts Beach, Vancouver, British Columbia

Go Team City Bikes! My next to last mountain bike race for 2006 in the US.

Location: Quantico Marine Base, Virginia

Remembering grandpa.

Location: Corey Lake, Michigan

An afternoon at the beach with my sister and niece.

Location: Indiana Dunes National Park

Moving day in DC. I guess this means we're really going to Ghana.

Location: Washington, DC

Monday, October 16, 2006

This American Life podcast

Now available via Podcasts for free apparently.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Not another bike blog entry...

Today, SJD and I decided to head out east from Accra on the road again to do bit of a recon ride on unfamiliar roads. Keeping our previous experience riding to Aburi in mind, we decided to keep things fairly simple with an out and back route. A mile from home I glanced over my shoulder and noticed a group of 20 or so receational cyclists waiting at the side of the road. I motioned to SJD to pull a u-turn to stop and say hello. We quickly changed our plans and tagged along with the club Chain Gang Ghana, not really sure they were headed or for how long. The CGG members were riding knobby tire mountain bikes of various vintage. SJD and I were riding slick tire vintage commuter bikes. They were friendly enough to ask us along, but were probably wondering just how we long would hang on before the trails and roads would get the best of our bikes.

The route back tracked along a few familiar roads for a while as the pace increased. As the pack was strung out, a rest stop was in order. A rather long rest stop, but it provided a few more introductions and the usual equipment comparisons before we rolled out again (note from SJD - the riders were quite impressed with BEP's speed on his SS commuter). More road. I figured the guys must be headed to some trails soon. Now some of the better roads around Accra can be rather rough, even by Washington, DC standards. The minor roads can rip wheels off cars. Perhaps this explains the mtbs on pavement. In any case, a long ride will likely involve a bit of rough riding. There were a few nice climbs and a short section of dirt thrown in for good measure, followed by equally long rest stops where bunches of bananas and watermelon was offered. So on and on it went for another two hours adding and subtracting riders before the big finale sprint into town. (Kinda sketchy there guys). The ride ended at noon at a local bar (not Kilroys, the beer was just as cold but Kilroy's doesn't have women who come around with aluminum tubs on their heads full of plastic bags of squid for sale or the ritualized offering/collection associated with a funeral taking place nearby). Plenty of the usual guy/bike banter. Apparently they ride every Sunday at 8am. We'll be back.

An Aussie couple on the ride introduced us to a young Ghanaian - apparently the National Champion cyclist-- who stopped by for the post-ride socializing. Also apparently, Accra was supposed to host a major West African Cycling race today. A criterium competion of local clubs. Unfortunatley we heard nothing of it ahead of time. Perhaps more unfortunately, the event was postponed when the sponsors pulled out last minute. So we missed it, but not really. It was somewhat unclear if the event has open entry or is a club event only. There is very little information via normal means (bikereg, list serves) that we're aware of so far.

Ok, the next entry will be non-bike related.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Accra to Aburi

by bike in a day. SJD and I have heard that Aburi will be our best best for real mountainbiking around Accra. Accra seems rather flat and congested surrounded by more flatness - not the best combination for trail riding. Aburi lies about 30km north of Accra on the top of a low mountain range. We set out early Sunday morning on commuter bikes with the intenion of riding to Aburi, and just turning around.

All was going well the first hour on the roads. The tro-tros didn't run us off the road. A Ghanaian rode along with us for a mile or so chatting away about Aburi and his bike...I think. Eventually the pavement ended at a barricade and a small kiosk. Out pops a Ghana Police to ask where we're headed. Aburi we assure him. By bike? Yes, by bike. Why? Because. He pointed out that the road ahead was under construction. A moment later a construction type guy ( I can spot them) appeared. Same two questions/answers... He says we can ride through if we're careful. We nod to each other to be careful and proceed around the barricade and up the gravel switchbacks. The road climb offered nice valley views and a good workout.

Fast forward a few miles to the top in Ketase where we stop for a quick drink. The kiosk owner pulls out two plastic chairs for us. Very nice. A knock on the adjacent kiosk window produces two bottles of Coke from an eight year old girl. We quite the object of attention of the local kids. At one point, a little guy appears from around the corner. He stops dead in his tracks seeing SJD and me in bike helmets and garish (SJD disputes the use of garish to describe her tasteful lavender jersey) shirts. He retreats quickly to his friends.

Back on our bikes we finish the final 5km to Aburi for our turn around point. A small tour company www.ghanabike.com operates out of the end of town. We'll be sure to return.

Heading back south through Ketase to Accra we near the same construction zone from the north end. Construction workers have gathered, and we assume it must be the end of the day. SJD snaps this picture.

Just your average road sign warning of "unpredictable inconveniences." That could mean a lot of things in Ghana, but in this case it seemed to mean "blasting". Luckily a more diligent Ghana Police officer stops us from proceeding further. The options appear to be wait until blasting stops, or take a bypass. We bypass not entirely certain where or how we'll get back into Accra. The road is full of pot holes and rolls along the ridge a while before dropping back into the valley. Our map does not agree with the towns we're passing through. Names are spelled differently. Roads connect differently. Villages are not even mentioned. In the end the bypass is somewhat unpredictable, but conveniently funnels us back to a familiar intersection near home. We arrive at our house tired, thirsty and dusty.

I stopped by the Mapping and Surveying Bureau today to pick up a more accurate map. It is really amazing the misinformation provided by the tourist maps. Someone could ignore all warning signs and bypasses and simply wander into a blasting zone.

Columbus Day

A photo from an short trip to a local Batik print cloth shop - kinda a learning and shopping experience rolled up in one. The process seems pretty simple at first. Stamp blank cloth with wax design. Dip in dye. Let dry. I'm sure though that if I were to step in for anyone at this particular shop, things would go downhill rather quickly. It really was fascinating to watch for the hour we were there. There is nothing automated about it. Fire to melt the stamping wax. Sun to dry the dyed fabric. Not even a cash register or neon sign guiding us in.

I'm pretty certain that each piece of fabric is unique in pattern and color combination. The finished product was on display in the upper room of the house in the photo. Unfortunately the power was out in the neighborhood today (load shedding due to energy shortage), so we had to view colors out on the balcony in direct sun. Business as usual apparently.

The printed fabric is ready for sale straight from the drying lot if necessary. I bought 4yds of one print for C-72,000 (about $8US). I'm not really sure what will become of it. I've heard that tailors are very good and inexpensive. For now, the fabric adds some welcome color to our otherwise bland white home furnishings.

Later in the day, I went searching for maps - accurate maps!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Home away from home

Here is a photo of the front of our house in Accra. It is very white with lots of outdoor sitting areas. Six stoops, patios and porches last time I checked. The inside is even brighter white. Kinda hard to believe. I haven't yet taken time to name every room similar to our house in DC, simply because they all kinda look alike.

Hidden around the corner inside the wall is a small driveway. If/when our car ever arrives, this is where we'll find it. For now, we enjoy grand entries on our bikes...before hoisting them through the front door.

The gardner Emanuel has been keeping up with the gardening very nicely. I guess it is a year round gig for him since there really is not any big seasonal change. There is a papaya tree in the rear that we're keeping an eye on. Not sure if we wait for them to fall to the ground, or if I need to send SJD scampering up the trunk to retrieve them.

Right now it may just look like an ice cube tray full of mud, but just wait! Today I started a few seeds for our tomato plot. If tomatos like hot and humid, then they'll like Accra.

Or, I could also just walk around the corner to buy some fresh ones.