Sorry if this ends up being a super long e-mail. We’ve had trouble getting hotmail to work anywhere but Accra, so we haven’t sent anything since we were last in the big city.
Our first stop (since we last wrote) was Kokrobite, a small town just west of Accra famed for its beaches and relaxed tourist feel. We stayed at a very enjoyable backpacker lodge called Big Milly’s where we were able to eat, drink and relax. We had a nice small room in a pretty garden and were able to meet lots of travellers. The beach is clean and very safe for swimming so we spent several hours each day body surfing in the waves and working on our tans. There are lots of fisherman out along the shores and we enjoyed watching them bringing in their nets and boats at the end of the day. The friday night that we were there, the resort hosted an excellent drumming and dancing group. Probably the highlight of our stay there was the great pizza joint next door that offered an absolutely fantastic cheese and garlic pizza for about $3. Mmmmm….
After spending a week hiding out from the dirt and grime we decided it was time to see some sights and set off inland for Kumasi. Kumasi is the second largest city in Ghana (just under 1 million people) and is easily reached by bus from Accra. However, it seems that the government is repairing all the roads in this part of the country, so our bus ride took closer to 8 instead of the expected 4. Kumasi is an excellent city, much more relaxed than Accra and less crowded and dirty. They host a huge outdoor market, over 10 000 people selling pretty much everything. The very narrow streets have stalls selling everything from dried lizards and pig feet to fresh vegetables to used oil drums. There seems to be a huge market in west africa for shoes, shoe venders outnumber any other seller around here. We were too intimidated by the yelling, bell ringing and constant obruni (white man) calls to actually purchase anything but we plan to return before we leave and try again. We also tried visiting the cultural center in Kumasi but were disappointed by the run down atmosphere and lack of cultural activities going on. However, the center is in a fairly nice garden with beautiful palm trees, so the walk wasn’t all in vain.
We then travelled by train from Kumasi to the coastal city of Takoradi. We purchased our first class sleeper tickets for the overnight train (at a huge cost of $3.50 each) and boarded the train expecting to arrive in Takoradi bright and early the next morning. However, as is to be expected, the train was delayed a whopping 10 hours and it took us all of the next day to arrive. It turns out the engine had overheated and the conductor was forced to wait at every small station for about an hour until it cooled down. This gave the local venders plenty of time to sell water, fruit, and what ever else they could to people through the train windows. It got quite annoying since the small children would gather around our window and stare at the obrunies hoping that we were going to buy the yams or smoked fish that they were carrying. It’s hard to have a staring contest with a 6-year-old who has live snails on top of their head.
Takoradi was uneventful, we’d planned to travel around but were both sick for the 2 days that we were there. The big adventure was walking to the bank to exchange cash. We did enjoy a nice dinner at a chinese restaurant on our last night there. We again plan to return later and continue west to see the sea turtles along the coast there.
From Takoradi we took a minibus (the only trip that actually arrived on time) to Cape Coast. The main attraction here is the large Cape Coast Castle which was used during the slave trade. Touring the castle was an eye opener. It’s a beautiful white building right beside the ocean, but when you go underground into the slave dungeons its easy to see why it was a terrible place for so many. They have a very good museum there, but not much else in the way of signs or information around the castle. Since transportation doesn’t leave Cape Coast on Sundays, we spent the next day there just walking around the small market (again, one zillion shoe venders) and enjoying a few drinks by the ocean.
We again tried travel by the government STC buses to Accra on monday and again were late (more roads under construction). It seems like it takes at least a day to travel anywhere, even if that anywhere is only 150km away! Today was a pretty busy day since we are traveling on to Nigeria tomorrow and had to go out to the airport and confirm our tickets. Our guide book told us that we should be able to catch a shared taxi or tro-tro to the airport from a gas station very near our hotel. However, upon walking there we found that no one had any idea what we were talking about! We would ask on tro-tro driver and he would send us across the road to one part of the station, we’d ask there and they’d send us back to where we’d started. Finally, we had a breakthrough and were actually able to find what we’d been looking for! We were both quite relieved since neither of us had wanted to pay the $6 fare to the airport. Shared taxis are much quicker and cost about 20 cents each way. After returning from the airport we headed back down to the large market here in Accra to buy some new clothing and see what was going on. I managed to purchase a very nice sun dress for about $3 but we were unsuccessful in our hunt for shirts for Jonny. There was an overwhelming amount of luggage for sale at the market today, had we needed suitcases we would have been in luck. It’s incredibly hot here today, as it is everyday and we are sweaty dirty travellers in need of a shower!
Anyhow, that’s probably enough boring details for now. We are having an excellent time, especially now that we’ve found several food items that we enjoy eating. The best is probably the Fanmilk products they sell here: frozen yogurt, chocolate milk or vanilla ice cream in packages that can be bought from a vender for about 20 cents. Mmmm, they are so good and cold! They also sell something very similar to Sunny-Delight in bags here too, also very good. We have discovered that every town along the coast has at least one restaurant selling decent chinese food so we’re happy that we don’t have to eat any more fufu.
Off to Nigeria for a while, we are going to a game park this weekend which should be very exciting.