This weekend my friend Lauren and I took a road trip to the western region of Ghana. The main attraction we were after was a village built on stilts in the middle of a lake, but that turned out to be the least of our adventures.
First, we got up at 3:30 am Friday morning to get a ride from Lauren’s host brother’s friend to the bus station. If you have ever played the video game Need for Speed, well, we lived it. This guy was a crazy driver, speeding like a madman through the back streets of Accra, in the dark (it’s only 4:30 in the morning), and nearly killing countless pedestrians on the way (yes, there are pedestrians in Ghana at 4:30 in the morning.) Lauren calculated the km/hour and figured out we topped out at over 110 miles/hour at a few points. We each said a prayer of thanks when we got out of the car, and gladly hopped on the 4-hour bus to Takoradi, which did not go 110 miles/hour.
Once we reached Takoradi we took a 2-hour taxi ride to Bayin, a lovely little village right on the ocean where Lauren had made reservations for us in a nice hut, this time with wooden floors and walls and even a bathroom. Best part of the hut: it had a shower. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this weekend I took my first shower in 6 weeks. Actually, I took four of them. It was heaven on earth.
The beach itself was stunning, with a forest of palm trees and lots of sand and beautiful landscaping. There is even a sea turtle conservation project run by the people we rented our hut from, which we will get to later.
Saturday morning we got up and decided to make our way to the stilted village, which we knew was just a little ways inland. Turns out that, since it’s the dry season, it’s a significant distance inland, and we had to hike about 40 minutes through the grasslands with our guide before reaching the water. I was a little afraid Simba was going to jump out at us, but it was really fun getting to see a different side of Ghana, one that I had pictured more before coming here (it looked like it was right out of Lion King.) Once we made it to the edge of the water we waded through for a little bit with our shoes held above our heads, climbed in a canoe, and were paddled through the jungle and out onto the lake. It was a beautiful, beautiful ride.
The stilted village itself was rather disappointing. Again, it’s the dry season, so the lake is only at half capacity, meaning the village was mostly just on stilts over the garbage-strewn ground. All that I could focus on was the extreme poverty the people live in there; it was very uncomfortable to just walk through their desolation and then leave again.
We made it back to Bayin to discover we had acquired fantastic sunburns. Thus the rest of the day we stayed out of the sun, read books, took naps, and just enjoyed the chance to rest. Lauren even found a coconut on the ground that we managed to cut open with my pocket knife (after about 45 minutes) and we congratulated ourselves as we drank the 5 drops of coconut milk out of it.
Sunday morning we were awoken by a knock on the door from Patrick, the director of the huts and the turtle conservation program. “We’ve had a turtle hatching this morning,” he said, “and we’re releasing them into the ocean in five minutes if you want to come watch.” Lauren and I threw on some clothes and of course hurried down to the beach with the other hut guests to witness three dozen newly hatched baby sea turtles released out of the box over their nest and into the sand, where they flapped their flippers and flopped over the beach into the sea. They were small and black and completely adorable, about as big as the palm of your hand, and it took about 20 minutes before they all made it into the ocean. I didn’t get to go to church that Sunday, but it was quite a way to worship as I watched the little dudes struggle toward the sea and finally make it to their destination.
After breakfast we proceeded to take a cheaper way back to Takoradi by catching a tro-tro to a village about 45 minutes away, where we were told we could take another tro-tro back to town. If you have ever been on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, well, we lived that too. The tro-tro was packed with 20 people as we blazed down a red dirt track (you couldn’t really call it a road) through the jungle, then along the beach, then back through the jungle, over a rickety bridge, through countless villages, almost crashing into a herd of cattle on the way. Amazingly enough we made it without incident, although our tro-tro into town ended up breaking down after we got on it. No problem though; tro-tro drivers are very helpful in Ghana, so our driver hailed a couple of half-full tro-tro’s down, they consolidated their passengers, and they put us on the newly empty functioning one, paying the new driver to take us the rest of the way to town. One thing Ghana has down: public transportation.
So all in all, a fantastic weekend. We had more adventures than we could have anticipated, but again, it’s always and adventure.