Monday, December 11, 2006

Escape from Accra!

Feeling the need to escape Accra, SJD and I loaded up the car with the mountain bikes, maps, snacks and clothing for a long weekend in the Volta Region. The VR is the hilly and green sliver of land nestled between the Lake Volta and the border of Togo. The air was certain to be cooler and fresher than in Accra. We hoped to see some sites, relax, ride, relax, eat and relax. We ended up staying at the Mountain Paradise Lodge, about half way between the towns of Ho and Hohoe, near the village of Biakpa.

For our first major solo outing in our car here in Ghana, I wanted to make doubly sure we would not encounter any problems mechanically or navigationally. We copied all important insurance, registrtation and license docments in case we would be asked to present them. The car was topped off with fuel. Plenty of maps. I stowed a reflective traffic saftey triangle as required by law. All set. Three of for more trips later back inside the house to make sure we unplugged the iron, toaster, TV and computer we were ready to go. Oh yeah, Ghana requires a small fire extinguisher be carried in cars. Not entirely sure where to get one right now, I grabbed one from the house - the big one! The Ghanain gardner, Emmanuel, had a good laugh watching us. Finally we're off for the hills!

Traffic was light, and we were making decent time. Not rushed. Just crusing along getting a chuckle at the reaction and gestures of onlookers to a small car with two half-assembled bikes mounted on top. Certainly not an oddity in the US to see bikes dangling off cars, but in Ghana, oh yes, it grabs one's attention. Stop, turn, point. Kinda the same way I stop, turn, and scratch my head everytime I see a tro-tro or flatbed truck stacked high with oil barrels, couches or humans. Well, the Ghana Police Service apparently didn't think it was just simply amusing as we approached the check point north of Ashaiman. We were waved to the side of the road. I cracked the window as the officer approached the driver's side. He simply asked where we were headed, and for how long before politely wishing us a safe trip. The officers on the other side jabbered on and pointed to various stickers and the bikes on top. SJD just smiled. We pulled away a minute later feeling relieved but a bit annoyed.

Eventually the scenery changes from dry and dusty to greener agricultural plots. Tro-tros pick and drop passengers along the way. People are still walking great distances between towns. Two more police check points produce only curious stares, but no suspicion. An hour or so later we are deep into the Volta Region, passing through small farming villages at the base of a low mountain Akwapim Togo Range. Soon after we turn off the paved road, onto a three-mile gravel and rock strewn switchback road leading up to the Mountain Paradise Lodge.

MPL is the lone structure solidly perched on the top of a hill overlooking a lush valley near Mount Gemi, Amedzope, Gbadzeme, waterfalls, a monkey sanctuary and not much else. The MPL is off the "grid". Perhaps a generator supplies power, but it was not used during our stay. Solar and oil lanterns provided sufficient light for dinner and relaxing before bed. It is quite a pleasant place with attentive staff serving decent meals. The photo below is from the open air dining porch.

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