Wednesday, January 03, 2007

MTB Aburi

To close out 2006 on a good note, SJD and I met another DC transplant, Chris, for a morning mountain bike ride in the hills and valleys around Aburi. Our first ride with Kofi from Ghana Bike Tours was positive. Despite a late start and mechanical or two, the trail and scenery were interesting.

For the 12/31 ride we plotted a route north about 25KM on dirt road and trail. Transportation was arranged to pick us up at the 25KM point three hours later in order to return us to Aburi. Sounded like a solid plan. Off we went. A younger guide led us out of town and down a few rather steep descents into the neighboring valley. Once at the bottom SJD, Chris and I were somewhat disappointed that we had already covered 5KM on pavement, bypassing forests that surely hid trails. Any mountain biker will tell you that they much prefer dirt to pavement. Oh well. Eventually pavement gave way to dirt to double track to singletrack. What was missed was soon forgotten.

Ghana is heading into the hot/dry season, and the harmattan is obscuring views of the hill peaks. The sky is hazy but the air is neither humid nor breezy. The dust blocks just enough sun light to make mid-day exposure tolerable. The dirt roads are left to bake solid as concrete. There are huge tire ruts and gullies that must be remnants of the rainy season. They are completely dry this time of year. It is hard to imagine how the local farmers and school children make any progress during the rainy season. I don't recall any vehicles moving, parked, stuck or broken down.

As we pass through a few small villages, several children playfully chase us on foot shouting obruni, obruni... I get a kick out of seeing just how far any one of them will run in flip flops or bare feet before calling off the chase. Without varying my speed at all, two minutes seems to be the record - and that was against a slight up hill!

The riding progressed without too much drama. In fact, the pace seemed a bit light as if the profile was slightly down hill. We arrived at the 25KM rendevous point in just 90 minutes - or 90 minutes ahead of schedule. Chris, SJD and I quizzed our guide whether to tack on additional KMs, skip the return transport, back track, or simply wait. As quite a crowd had gathered to watch us plan our next move, we decided to peddle on back to Aburi. I had a vague recollection of our location on a map. The ride, from this point, was all pavement and mostly uphill. Not exactly fun, but a good workout and much better than waiting indefinitely. We were a bit miffed about mis-calculation of time/distance, having anticipated a much longer ride. The guides were not entirely certain what kind of vehicle would pick us up either. I wanted to assume pick-up truck or van, but thought I overheard Opel Astra - the common taxi. We agreed to make the most of the ride, and set out up the road knowing that whomever was tasked with scooping us up would certainly spot three red-in-the-face obrunis followed by one Ghanaian on bikes riding up one of the steepest hills around. Fifteen minutes later....

Honking his horn repeatedly and smiling widely, the taxi driver in the Opel pulls over in front of me already with one bike and rider inside. Somewhat out of defiance, but mostly questioning just how we'll fit three more bikes AND riders into this little car, we wave and tell them we'll ride to the top - probably another fifteen minutes of sustained climbing to Mamfe.

We eventually top out and pull over to meet the taxi. Discussion starts about how we'll get back to Aburi. Certainly there must be a second taxi, right? Nah... Just for the record - we managed to squeeze five people and three complete bikes INTO the car. The fourth bike, mine, is being tethered to the roof with twine (cringe). The taxi driver and guide think nothing of being packed in like sardines. And yes, we see all sorts of overloaded vehicles all the time. This taxi didn't even have the ubiquitous overly reassuring window stickers proclaiming "All shall Pass" or similar combinations including of "brother", "father", "riseth", "mighty", or "hath shame".

Well, all ended soon enough. The young boy at pictured at the top was still waiting by our car to greet us as he was two weeks earlier. The guides offered fresh pineapple as we cleaned up and packed our belongings. Chris headed back to Accra. SJD and I headed further north into Volta Region for the long new year's weekend.


camps said...

and I think Pennsylvania is another world

Brian said...

HNY Larry!

I hope you and the family are lovin' life up in PA. I thought you had stopped blogging, but then realized my browser wasn't updating properly. I'll have to catch up with the Camps.

I'll post some surf/beach photos for you.