Last week we broke with tradition of the last seven years and did not race the 100 bike race. Instead, we swapped Shenandoah mountain laurel for West African palms and headed back up to the Volta Region for some riding and relaxing.
Rain was threatening more or less the entire time we were driving up. The drive is getting to be quite routine, but the rainy season has taken a toll on the road surface. Potholes riddle already uneven surfaces. Every now and then a volunteer road crew appears over the crest of a hill, mobilized to extort a few pesewas from passing motorists while presumably filling the potholes with sand and gravel 50m at a time. It beats simply begging, but is also a bit unnerving as we scramble for loose change while the guys block the road with their shovels. One has to imagine that the activity repeats itself after every rain or perhaps only whenever a car passes.
Up at the Mountain Paradise we headed out on the bikes again to map out a new section of trail from Biakpa to Gbedzieme through the forest bypassing Amedzofe. A cadre of small boys followed us through the village and into the bush curious why we wouldn’t just take the road like everyone else. We tried to explain our intended destination. The oldest boy – perhaps 8 years old – insisted we follow him although his directions seemed a bit suspect. Eventually after four or five confusing trail-junction discussions they simply deemed us hopelessly lost (or perhaps just stubborn) and went back to fishing in a nearby stream. They were half right.
All was going well enough for twenty minutes or so. We could guestimate our location using the landmarks of the lodge on one ridge and Mt. Gemi high up on the other. Soon, we topped out on a low knoll. From such a vantage point we would normally see over to Lake Volta and distant mountains. The dark clouds heavy with rain were rolling in and obscuring the view. As well, the trail ahead disappeared into the tall grass. At this point we decided to retreat past the small boys and back to the lodge. We arrived back at the BMP, once again, minutes before the skies opened up for the next few hours.
The following morning we ate breakfast and headed up to Wli Falls on the border with Togo for a short hike. Not bike.
It seems that most of the few – okay tourist attractions – require some sort of formal log book and “foreigner“ fee to keep tabs on who is visiting. As well, we are usually expected to hire a guide. Wli Falls is no different. Somehow, after paying the requisite “foreigner” fee we convinced the rangers that we did not want a guide. Trust me – if you can find your way from Hohoe to the Wli Falls parking lot in the first place, the very flat and well maintained path should not pose much difficulty either. I suppose a guide might mention other facts about the area as well. Assuming you can restrain yourself from jumping into the pool at the bottom of the falls, all should turn out just fine.
Several types of butterflies flutter about along the path, although they’re difficult to photograph.
An common millipede sneaking up on SJD.
The glossy photos hanging on the walls of the ranger station indicated a nice cascading falls that you might want to cool off in on a hot west African day. Well, let me tell you this. That must have been snapped during a drought. The falls today were full on, no doubt fed by the overnight rains. As we approached the falls, the wind picked up and a heavy cool mist was blowing hard through the air as we approached. We couldn't see much of anything, even when we tried hiding behind a big tree for protection from the wind and wet but SJD managed to get a snap of BP pretending not to notice how wet he was getting. On our way to the falls, we had seen a few other families walking back from the falls, but none appeared to get nearly as soaked to the core as SJD and I did. Guess that would get kind of old for the guides after a few trips.
Apparently it is possible to hike all the way to the top of the falls and across the border into neighboring Togo. We clambered a little way up a very steep trail in order to get a look at the falls away from the "storm" at its base (photo on the right). We'll be back.