Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Ps visit Ghana - Part 2

More than a month has passed now since went to sleep in the Mole Motel. So... picking up where we left off 52 miles down a bumpy dusty road up north near Mole National Park, here is Part 2 of Up, Over and Down 'round Lake Volta in a Compact Car.

Mole to Tamale to Yendi to Nkwanta

We were back in the car at 6AM barreling back down the wash board road at a somewhat quicker pace leaving the elephants, monkeys, bush bucks, wart hogs and baboons behind.

Whoa, talk about leaving something behind!!!

Reaching pavement towards Tamale was really quite a refief if it would only last. The car seemed to be floating on air.

There is a very noticeable bicycle presence in the north, but especially near Tamale. I haven't been to China or the Netherlands yet, but this is the greatest concentration of bicycles I've seen anyplace. Cars are hardly noticed. I guess there are many factors that contribute to this. Tamale seems flat (perhaps flat like a tortilla...Tamale-tortilla-tamale. Oh well) Bikes are somewhat affordable - certainly more so than a car. Remote villages get cut off following a big rain, but bikes can usually push through the puddles. And holy cow can you carry the goods on a bike even if you have to push it. (See previous post) Also noticed - the number of women and girls riding bikes. You don't see that in the more affluent southern regions of Ghana. Ironically, Tamale was just a refueling stop for us this time.

Privately owned cars between Tamale and Yendi were few and far between. All tro-tros, mopeds, bikes, pedestrians and few bush taxis. If the road conditions continued, by any reasonable estimation, Nkwanta should be just another 2 hours away. Hah! Wishful thinking. The paved road continues to the junction town of Yendi where we turned south. The next 112 miles of dusty, rutted, pot holed roads into Nkwanta were covered in just over 6 hours at a break-neck average speed of 18mph. Believe me it seemed so much faster. So, 260 miles in 11 hours was a bit overly ambitious. By this time the family was getting used to the jolts, weaving and sudden stops. Even SJD, normally a jumpy passenger, didn't really mind what she could not see from her perch in the back seat.

Every dusty little village seems to have its own form of barricade manned by a drowsy officer of some sort. Sometimes a swinging gate must be opened. Other times, a rope is dropped, or a barrel is rolled out of the way. Rarely did there seem to be any purpose served. We'd probably passed through 30 or more of these make shift road blocks on the trip so far. A lorry driver, during a stop for a cool drink (we werethe only ones at the bar not drinking beer) about 50 miles from Hohoe assured us that we'd be there in "one-hour" because our car was "strong." We had all grown used to noises emanating from the underside of the car as it scraped over mounds, holes, ruts and rocks, but an hour seemed and absurd time/speed estimation to Hohoe given our pace so far. But safety and time are merely concepts here. Every now and then we stopped to make sure we had all four wheels still attached.

We rolled into the only known accommodation in the dusty little town of Nkwanta - The Kilamanjaro Hotel around 4:30pm stiff, tired and willing to accept almost whatever was offered resembling a resonably clean bed and shower. A rather sudden, brief but intense storm must have been chasing us into town. Dusty little town was turned into a muddy little town. After that passed, we ordered dinner and strolled the main road with a bit more energy before the sun went down to see what Nkwanta had to offer. The ubiquitous auto repair lots, tro-tro stop and vendors selling "Aligator" machetes for sale apparently. They seem to be as Ghanaian as kente and banku. (Be careful opening holiday presents this year).

Nkwanta is home to another game park straddling the Ghana/Togo border. According to the signs, lions are present, or have been spotted. Another time. So there is more to Nkwanta than meets the eye.... Time to update the Bradt guide.

Back at the Kilamanjaro, the staff produced the oh-so-common flimsy plastic chairs and table in the middle of the parking lot so we could dine alfresco. I guess we were served more or less what we ordered even if it did appear to be hastily puchased on the street and plopped on a clean plate.

The rooms were again very basic, but had probably seen better days and perhaps a broom from time to time. But sometimes you get what you pay for. In this case $10. So you try to remind yourself of that when the bar TV showing the football game blares until 1am, or the mobile public service announcements van begins it's rounds at 4:30am. It's Ghana. (Yes, need to update the Bradt guide on this one too.) As we drove South out of town, we saw a new hotel, the Gateway. It looked more promising than the Kilimanjaro as we zoomed by with a touch of regret. We'll check it out next time.

Nkwanta to Kpandu to Biakpa

Not surprisingly, we were up and out the door of the Kilamanjaro before 7am again without breakfast. More stretches of dirt road south into Hohoe had me a bit annoyed at this point. Eventually pavement returned as well as the lush greenery of the Volta Region. It is absurd to think of the VR as home, but the scenery does seem much more familiar and refreshing after so many hours in the more barren north.

Hohoe is just another refueling stop in the push down to Biakpa.

Kpandu is known locally for its pottery coop. We stopped for a looksee and a few purchases. River clay hand moulded pots, figurines, and other objects. Many of their products are exported around the globe.

At last we reached Biakpa Mountain Paradise and settled in for a light lunch on the newly constructed dining porch. The more we visit BMP, the more we like it and the staff - Tony, Enno and Wisdom. There is a steady rotation of teens from the village of Biakpa who assist with various tasks or guide work. No electricity ever. Water usually. But all is forgotten once the cool evening breeze kicks up around dinner time. The fufu and ground nut soup with chicken is tasteee. Mom and dad bravely ordered up banku and tilapia having grown tired of variations on fried rice and chicken since leaving Anamabo. But the fermented banku is a bit too zippy for our tastes I'm afraid.

So, the final leg of the trip into Accra was pretty uneventful except for a torrential rain storm that we waited out, which was just fine by all.

We really had a fine time on the trip, however it was a lot of driving in a short period of time. A few more days to stop and explore would have been ideal. TdG V2.o will be even better.

So for now, it is back to Accra, work and catching up with that bike race in France.

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