Ghana, Tema and lots of goodbyes

Whilst at Big Milly’s Back Yard, we bumped into the two English guys, Luke and Bertie again, these were the pair that had bought the cheap Chinese bikes in Ghana, and had spent 3 weeks travelling the Country on them. They had a ball on them, sleeping mostly in their hammocks with a tarpaulin over them to keep off the elements, or in cheap local accommodation. The bikes were still intact (mostly) despite giving them a real hammering by the sounds of it. It was great to catch up with them at the end of their trip and hear their stories. They were currently seeking buyers for the two bikes.

It was also the place that we had to say goodbye to Anouk, and Naomi, our Dutch companions for about 10 days.

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Having them with us for about 1,000km was great fun, and after spending so long on our own in French speaking countries, it was nice to have someone to talk to, even if they were from the Netherlands, we couldn’t really hold that against them ha ha.

So after treating us to a lovely lunch (thanks again girls), we said our goodbyes, and waved them off to their usual mode of public transport (probably more comfortable than in the back of Colonel K). They set off to the Tro-Tro point in the local village (these are the overloaded mini-bus’s that stop in front of you without any warning, usually not having indicators or brake lights).

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Our plan was to head North up the Togo border side of the Country, and have a few days up in the Volta Region, then we got an email from the Shipping Clearers in Namibia, saying that the estimated date in Walvis Bay for the ship was two days earlier than we expected, we then contacted the agent that we are using back in the UK, and he confirmed that the date expected for the ship to arrive here in Ghana was three days earlier! All these dates are provisional still, and can change at any time. We are also pretty confident that there is very little or no mobile signal up in the Volta Region, so we decided that we needed to remain in an area where we could at least send and receive emails on a regular basis.

Big Milly’s Back Yard is a great place, and very lively, but after 3 nights there, we needed to move on, so we rang a place just over 100km to the west on the beach, the bloke that answered the phone, said  that they could accommodate us in the Daf in their carpark/courtyard, so we said we would be there the next day.

As we were leaving Big Milly’s, they were setting up a huge sound system next to the bar area, its a lively place anyway, with most of the customers being local guys, with lots of reggae and hip-hop playing, but I would imagine that night it was going to be loud!

On the way to Koko-Bongo Beach, we got stopped at a checkpoint (there are many of these in Ghana),  and had Ghana’s answer to good cop/bad cop, in this case it was bad cop and down right rude corrupt cop! After looking bemused by my International Driving License, he asked me to get out of the cab, and whilst eating a hard boiled egg, asked “where are your side reversers?”. Now I was quite sure he meant side reflectors, but I just shrugged and said “sorry I don’t know what Side reversers are”. By this time he had smelled a bribe, and promptly marched me up the road to a Tro-Tro (mini bus) and pointed to a yellow reflective sticker running the full length of the vehicle, “oh reflector!” I said innocently, “yes reverser” he said angrily. After lots of arguing, and him eating far too many boiled eggs, he changed tact. “where is your fire extinguisher?”. Two seconds later Jac passed it out of the window, both cops looking at it for a long time, giving me the impression that we have the only serviceable fire extinguisher in Ghana, “warning triangles?”, Jac had them to hand also. More boiled eggs were consumed and eventually he gave up and waved us on! 

An almost repeat performance happened about 20km down the road, only this time rude corrupt cop wanted to know why we didn’t have a Ghanian driving license, he obviously did not understand the concept of International Driving Permits, but soon moved on to fire extinguishers and triangles, again, soon getting fed up and waving us on. At this point I should mention that unbeliveable as it seems to many, we have traveled down through North and West Africa without paying a single Cent in bribes (apart from some cigarettes to speed up our passage at Diama Dam, Senegal).

The Government officials in Ghana do like a Military Uniform and the Fire Service here are no exception, only this time they add a little red to the camouflage.

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We got to our destination of Koko-Bongo Beach only to find the entrance gates extremely narrow, and the place looking very run down, after leaving Jac to go and find someone in the premises, I went and had a look at the other slightly wide gates. No Chance, they had planted coconut trees inside the gates! We were then told that they were shut anyway! I was not happy, and we told him that we were told on the phone the day before that it was open and should easily take a large overland truck, He just shrugged his shoulders, not saying sorry or anything. 

I was so furious that I ended up flattening a small tree with Colonel K, as we struggled to turn round in the small dirt track. Further up the track, we considered our options and decided as we were only about 60km from Ko-Sa (where we were before Big Milly’s), and we knew we could get a phone signal there, we would head there. Once again we were made most welcome by the owners & staff.

The next day we set off up the beach towards the nearest village (we actually drive through it on the way to Ko-Sa), to get some bread, and a mobile phone top-up card. On the way we watched the small children playing with their home-made bamboo boats in the surf, I guess emulating their fathers, as most of the adult males seem to be working on the tiny fishing boats in these coastal villages.

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As we got to the village we started to hear the usual chants from the kids as soon as they saw us “Ubruni, Ubruni” or “whiteman, whiteman”, this is not used in an insulting or threatening way, but does greet you as you turn every corner. It is usually followed by “how are you?, how are you?” almost sung at you, and it is obviously the english greeting that they are taught in school. The other word that almost all the small children know in Ghana, is “fine”. This is used to answer almost any question, or statement that is put to them in English (this is the official language of Ghana, though most villages use their own local language), and can be quite funny if you ask them their name “fine” is sometimes the answer. But almost without exception the local people really make you welcome, and there is not the hard sell from these people that you get in the North African Countries. This is one of the 3 or 4 churches in this tiny village.

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We found a ‘shop’, and asked if they had any bread, the reply was “no, but we will send our daughter with you to show you where you can buy it”, so we set off with Elizabeth, that spoke better English than most girls her age (about 13, years old I guess), we made her laugh when we told her that she shared her name with our Queen, then she turned off the road and between a few buildings. Next it was a steep scramble up a rocky bank, past a few more houses, before arriving up above the village to a scruffy looking building with a couple of children playing and a woman cooking in a huge pot over a fire. Then a very smartly dressed woman appeared, Elizabeth explained that we wanted to buy some bread. This woman then had to unlock the building (obviously the village bakery), bring out the different types of bread, then we chose what we wanted and paid her, an awful lot of effort of her part for less than 60p! I’m sure this is ‘ubruni’ prices too.

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There must be an election looming in Ghana, and these poster’s are up in all villages at the moment.

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On the way back to Ko-Sa, we watched the villagers hauling one of the solid wood fishing boats up the beach, using rollers and wet planks of wood.

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Driving through the Sahara Desert was a dirty messy business, and all the cheap white tee shirts that I bought before coming out here have been ruined, the red dust coupled with Boots own brand Factor 30 sun cream had really taken its toll. Some were reduced to rags, some were discarded long ago, but three remained, stained around the collar and sleeves, but still intact. Until we met a woman tie-dyeing on the beach at Ko-Sa.

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After extensive negotiations, and much amusement of here behalf, we agreed that she would tie-dye my three whiteish tee shirts for 20 Cedi’s (£3.30), in patterns and colours that she thought fit. This was the result.

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Very hippie! Quite a crowd of locals had gathered, and seemed bemused that a” Ubruni” would have his western clothes dyed on the beach. They were left to dry on the sandy beach, then washed in the sea water, before being rinsed through with fresh water and hung up to dry. It seems that this particular lady appears from time to time with her buckets and various dyes to do all of Ko-Sa’s bed linen, sheets, pillow cases etc, all tie-dyed.

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So after a few very chilled out days at Ko-Sa, we said goodbye to Annalise, staff, and the goats and headed off to Tema (just east of Accra).

Tema is the port in which Colonel K is hopefully going to be loaded onto the MV Glovis Sunrise, a large freight vessel and be delivered to Walvis Bay in Namibia. I say hopefully as everything seems like unorganised chaos from the outside looking in. So on our our way to Tema, we stopped off at a large shopping centre and purchased two “cheap” suitcases (we were soon to discover that nothing is cheap in Accra), for taking our personal belongings onto the plane. The day after checking in at our hotel, we organised a taxi to take us to a specific Bank to pay our fees to the company that is dealing with the Customs here in Ghana, and who actually load the truck onto the vessel. It was a good job that we took a taxi, as we would never have found the Long Room branch of the bank, it is actually inside the port complex. I have never seen so many trucks (all with empty trailers), parked up at the side of the road, literally thousands of them, and many of them look like they have been in that position for weeks, waiting for a load/container to take somewhere. There were trucks from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Ivory Coast and Nigeria, parked up from the port to miles back. Our bill from the clearing company was in US Dollars (the main currency for shipping companies) and as we brought some dollars with us we decided now was a good time to use them up, so we took the details into the bank and the USD to pay in, the trouble was the account that had been given to us was a Ghanian Cedi account. So after waiting for about 30 minutes to find this out we had to start again with a new account number (their USD account). Nothing is simple in Ghana! Now at this point I must explain that banking here in Ghana is not the confidential affair that it is in the UK, when you are called to the cashier, its not unusual for someone to literally try to push in front of you, and if it doesn’t work (or the cashier tells them to wait) they just stand next to you and watch what you are doing! Sometimes having a quick sleep with their head resting on the cashiers counter!

After sorting the payment, we got Geoff our trusty taxi driver, to take us to the yard where we would be dropping off Colonel K the following day. The reason we did this was we didn’t have any GPS co-ordinates for the yard and addresses as we know them don’t exist in Ghana, The addresses here are more like “the traffic lights next to the Oil Refinery”. Again we would have been driving around the port for ages looking for it if Geoff hadn’t know where the yard was to show us.

After an early breakfast we took the truck to the yard and after giving the very friendly Ato a few extra details, and of course all of the keys (for customs clearance), we waved goodbye to Colonel K. Hopefully the Daf will arrive in Namibia in the condition that we left it in and all the contents still in the back.

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The next phase of our little adventure is nearly upon us and we are really looking forward to Namibia and beyond.

V

2 Comments on “Ghana, Tema and lots of goodbyes

  1. Great read as usual. Tremendous adventure you are having. Closer to home was the Bowl’s beer festival on Monday. Rather too much rain but the crowds held up and lots of beer sold, food ate and good bands listened to. Great event.

    Like

    • Thanks for the kind words! The bowl is always a great place on festival days eh. Thats one thing I miss here a decent beer! mind you with beer here at only 80p a pint it sort of helps! take care guys x

      Like

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