Original Touring Africa Diary – Ghana

As we arrived at the border formalities on the Ghanaian side Erik and I were a little shocked when we were asked to present the ladies, this was the first border crossing of the entire trip where they actually wanted to see the girls, all the other borders merely wanted to see their passport and valid visa.

After getting through the formalities we kept heading south, the quicker we travelled the quicker we could get to the coast we thought. The transformation of the landscape at this point was amazing, it turned from a sandy tree dotted landscape to a lush green vista with tall trees and grass. We managed to get a little bit past Tamale when all of a sudden the dutchies pulled over and decided they wanted a room instead of another night of bush camping, fair enough we thought, so turned around and found suitable accommodation in Tamale. TICCS guesthouse to be precise.

The next day we continued our speedy route south to Kumasi, we arrived late and started driving around looking for accommodation before it got dark. The first place didn’t allow camping even though previous overlanders were allowed to camp there, the next place was full, across the road was our hotel, Lahana Avon, opposite Four Villages Inn. This place was like Faulty Towers. The room was nice, one of the best we had stayed in thus far. The service was fine though I did have to go and have a discussion with the chef to make sure we ended up with at least one vegetarian dish, two burgers and some chicken. The burgers turned out to be toasted sandwiches. The price we had negotiated for the room and breakfast was under scrutiny for nearly the entire evening. The man that was dealing with us kept on returning to us once in a while asking us to pay for breakfast, at each of these attempts to get a little more money out of us I simply replied that we had agreed for 30 Cedi per room with breakfast, and he simply said “oh yes yes” and walked off.

On Saturday we left Faulty Towers knowing that this would be our last drive with the dutchies. Honestly at this point it was really time for us to go our separate ways as moods were starting to clash on the odd occasion. The dutchies headed off to stay with some expat friends of theirs in the thick of Accra. We headed to the wonderful Big Milly’s, where we have now spent a total of about 20 odd days. In truth the first stint at Millys lasted 11, we finally met other travellers, firstly there was Paul and Johanna, and they have backpacked from Dakar to Accra and are continuing all the way to Gabon. There was Josh and Mellanie who packed everything up in Gambia, bought a van and have driven this far to find a new home, they have no real concrete plans. We met plenty of others but Paul and Josh helped me figure out that I had malaria.

I didn’t feel all that bad, just a little rough and weak, Paul and Josh both had malaria and as they were describing the very early symptoms, I realised they were doing a better job at describing how I felt than I was. So off to the clinic we went had the local doc prick my thumb, 10 minutes later he said “You are plus 1”, “plus 1, what’s that?” we replied, “oh you have malaria, but no cicling” was his response, we never did find out what cicling was. The clinic then prescribed me some DRUGS, that’s what was written on the prescription at least. Got some of the locally available meds and headed back to Millys, Josh took one look at these things and headed off to the pharmacy to find me some better stuff. He returned a few hours later with what seems to be the new wonder drug from Novartis, Coartem, good on the Swissies for providing cheap medicine to Africans. It only cost 15 USD for this stuff, we are sure it would have cost a couple of hundred back home in CH. Anyway the first night of being “ill” I felt pretty good and slept happily in our tent, the next morning I got up and just muttered to Louise “need a room” in true man feeling sick mode. I progressively got worse that day but never broke out in a fever I was just very weak and had to use the loo a lot. The following day was much the same thing and on the fourth day of malaria I was starting to recover. I was still quite weak for a few days after that, which prolonged our stay at Milly’s for some time. On the 18th of June we left Milly’s and did a very long drive of 80 KMs to see the Cape Coast Castle.

Cape Coast Castle is the old English headquarters for the slave trade; they have a pretty good museum for African standards and the tour is reasonably informative, though the guide likes to point out that us whities are responsible for the death of so many African slaves and he the poor African managed to survive by hiding in the bush, or something along those lines. Listening to him for an hour got boring after about 30 minutes. Some of the things that were done by the slave traders are atrocious but to blame us now is a bit daft. We spent that evening in Cape Coast at Oasis Guest House where we could camp for 4 Cedi per person and met Matt, an Australian that had ridden his KTM from London. His girlfriend Claire had flown in to spend a few weeks in Ghana with him and we had a great evening chatting with them.

On the 19th we did another little drive to Kakum National Park where you can do a canopy walk in the tops of the Ghanaian rainforest, very interesting though seeing wildlife would have been quite a novelty as the Ghanaian tourists that were there made so much noise it even frightened the cockroaches away. That evening we stayed at Ko-Sa (7 Cedi), another European run bungalow, camping type place, it happens to be just past Elmina which is where the Dutch slave headquarters was. This was very much the same spiel as the Cape Coast Castle, though a slightly more impressive building. The gruesome part about this place was the story behind the Governor and his rape victims. Above the female dungeon the Governor had a balcony where he could pick his rape victim for the evening; the victim was then given some food and a wash by the guards in front of all the other prisoners before she was taken upstairs to the Governor, charming.

From Elmina we headed a little further along the coast to Dixcove to a place called Green Turtle Lodge (N04.45.503, W02.01.268). Yet another European run beach place where camping is possible, we ran into the Ellen & Erik again, they had stopped at Millys for a night while we were there, and this is where we thought our paths would not cross again for a while, as the plan was for us to ship the car to South Africa, and they were going to drive it.

From Green Turtle Lodge we headed back to Accra, to Tema where we planned on organising shipping.We stayed at Akwaaba Beach Guesthouse, 15 Cedi for camping which is run by a lovely Swiss lady from Erlenbach, if you don’t know where Erlenbach is, Louise’s parents live there. We went to a shipping company, chatted with them for a while and decided which boat and when we would ship. We then headed back to Millys, partly to do with the price and partly to do with the vicious German Sheppard that ‘owned’ the house. From Milly’s we headed to Hohoe which is in the eastern Volta region.

We stayed at the Waterfall Lodge in Wli, again another European run place where you can camp, anyone noticing a pattern here? We went for a short walk to the bottom of the falls and were discussing how great it will be to be in southern Africa so soon. And how we will see Vic falls in the near future.

After spending the weekend in Wli we went back to Millys yet again and met the Dutch bikers Anne and Rainier, we have been bumping into them since Western Sahara. This is when the shipping plan started to turn to shit, the boat seems to be constantly late and still is. Rainier did a good job at trying to convince us to drive, so we went from “ok we’re shipping” to “ok we’re driving”. Also tempting fate with coin flipping sessions, pros and con lists and endless discussions with anyone that wanted to listen. Finally the decision was made that we are going to drive it, we are sick of waiting for a boat and every time we speak to someone there is an additional cost for this or that. Once we had made up our minds another Land Rover drives into Millys. Anneliese and Stewart have driven from South Africa to here and have given us loads of info on the road south that it has just boosted our confidence and has confirmed that we can make it in one or perhaps two pieces. The two pieces is obviously the car.

On Monday the 7th of July we headed for Accra to get a Benin and Nigerian visa and then start the muddy section of the trip. The steering rod was straightened by yet another brilliant road side mechanic (N.05.38.082 W000.10.587). We will head to Togo on the 9th.

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