A Travellerspoint blog

November 2013

In a Ghanaian Market

semi-overcast 32 °C

We dance effortlessly through life as we skip from supermarket to supermarket snapping up the finest products from every corner of the world and, during our short Canadian summer when the fields of our rocky isle reluctantly hand over their harvest, we head to the Saturday farmers’ market full of expectation. For us, the market is a novelty – we don’t need it: we want it. But here in Ghana the market is life and people rush to see what’s new…
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The market is the social event of the week; the time to meet friends; to replenish the larder; to find some material for a new dress…
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And it is the time for the people of the surrounding villages to come to town to make a little money…
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Life revolves around the market for many Ghanaians as it has done for centuries. It is a place of excitement and expectation; of hopes and dreams; a place where, god willing, a bargain can be struck to see you through another week…
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It’s hard work carrying heavy loads in the heat, the dust and the tropical rains, but that’s life here in Ghana…
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So, the next time you are peeved that the ferry fares have increased, that the power is off or the supermarket is out of fresh raspberries in the middle of January, spare a thought for these ladies carrying their wares to the market to make a few cents to feed the children…
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Posted by Hawkson 08:26 Archived in Ghana Comments (5)

Coming Down from Mole

sunny 32 °C

In her 1996 novel, ‘Coming Down from Wa’, Galiano islander Audrey Thomas wrote about life in northern Ghana and her story was brought to life for us when we followed her footsteps and headed south from Mole back to Sunyani. Of course there have been changes in Ghana since Thomas lived here for two years from 1966-1968. For example: the Chinese are building major highways linking the remote agrarian communities in the north to the more prosperous industrial conurbations in the south. Here is a short section of the hundreds of kilometres under construction – note the numerous cellphone and TV towers…
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There are also a number of hydro-electric power stations feeding power to the southern cities, but the cables pass right by the homes of most northern villagers without stopping…
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It is almost inconceivable to us that despite the enormous amounts of foreign aid that has poured into this country since independence more than 50 years ago little has changed for a large percentage of Ghanaians. As we take the road south from Mole we pass dozens of villages comprised entirely of thatched-roof mud huts where there is no sanitation, no electricity, the water still has to be fetched from the river or from a hand-pumped well and all cooking is done over an open fire,,,…
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If we didn’t know that these rural communities were authentic we could easily believe that we have wandered into a museum exhibit.…

While the idea of existing entirely without modern conveniences in a tiny mud hut may have an appeal for some people who are tired of keeping up with the Joneses, we doubt that many would relish living virtually penniless in conditions like this…
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Charcoal burning is one of the few economic activities in this region and sacks stand by the roadside awaiting collection…
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But charcoal production has left large swathes of the savannah woodlands with insufficient mature forests to shelter and support large wildlife. Wild animals of all kinds, including monkeys, are fair game for the villagers and poaching in the game reserve is rife, as is the practice of enticing the game to leave the protected areas by providing food. Young boys stand by the roadsides and wave dead animals at us as we pass in the hope that we will buy them for a few cents. The roadsides are littered with smashed and broken-down vehicles of all kinds. Weight is simply not a factor and goods are piled on trucks, buses and taxis until the chassis snaps, the axles break, the brakes burn out or the wheels simply fall off. Often the disabled vehicles are unloaded and abandoned in the ditch to be cannibalised and rot...
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Coming down from Mole isn’t a particularly pretty experience, but it sure is an eye-opener.

Posted by Hawkson 13:23 Archived in Ghana Comments (4)

All The President’s Men

The Elephants of Mole

semi-overcast 34 °C

Mole (pronounced Mo-leh) is a national park of nearly 5,000 square kilometres bordering Burkina Faso in the north of Ghana. We came for four days and were promised elephants, but first we met the President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, who just happened to be on an official visit at the same time as us. No photos of the President were allowed for security reasons but we sneaked some shots of his flambouyant entourage…
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We also saw many families of warthogs…
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Dozens of kob antelopes…
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Herds of waterbuck…
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And various kinds of monkeys, especially the baboons…
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So much of what we have witnessed in West Africa is simply beyond description. The sounds of the jungle, the exotic smells, and the humidity and heat, can only be truly appreciated up close and in person. The incredible taste of freshly picked tropical fruit is also an experience never enjoyed in northern climes. The pineapples and bananas are exquisite…
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We bought a paw-paw from this delightful lady in one of the villages close to the park and decided to eat it in the back garden of our villa to avoid attracting insects indoors. Within seconds we were surrounded by a troupe of ten baboons who clearly wanted a share of our bounty…
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James was having none of their mischief and shooed them away so they rushed to the poolside restaurant to snatch food from the unsuspecting diners. A great time was had by the baboons…

As for the elephants that we came to Mole to see…
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Every day for four days Christopher, our intrepid guide and big game hunter, enthusiastically showed us the tracks that the elephants had made during the night. Here is Christopher proudly carrying his ancient rifle (which he admits he has never fired).

Each morning when the air was clear and pleasantly cool we searched the forest for the promised pachyderms, but by midday the heat forced us into the hotel’s swimming pool. By late afternoon, tropical thunder clouds bubbled high above the forest’s canopy and rewarded us with beautiful sunsets and nature’s firework displays…
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And as the dying sun sank into the verdant sea we would scan the forest one last time for just a glimpse of an elephant. African elephants are big, really big – absolutely enormous in fact - and you can’t exactly miss them – but we did.

Posted by Hawkson 09:40 Archived in Ghana Tagged park national mole Comments (7)

Christmas Comes Early in Sunyani

semi-overcast 32 °C

Here we are just 5 degrees north of the equator sitting by the hotel pool under a tropical sun in 32 degrees heat listening to ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas’, ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Joy to the world’, over the poolside speakers. Christian Ghanaians are deeply religious as can be seen from this billboard in Accra…
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But Sunyani in central Ghana is a world away from Accra. It is a relatively small community surrounded by jungle, tentacles of which creep right into the centre of the city. But at its heart it is a bustling hive of activity where taxis of all ages and colours reign supreme...
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We have spent the past two days getting to know some of the locals in Sunyani. Here is Samuel, a tailor, who has been working in his tiny shop for the past 40 years…
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It takes Samuel two weeks to cut and stitch a bespoke jacket from fine cloth and he charges a modest $50. Wages are low in Sunyani and many people live in poor conditions, but they are surrounded by colourful scenes…
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Under this beautiful tree on one of the main streets we found a stall laden with fresh fruit. While this bag salesman has his goats to keep him company…
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And this is Filomena…
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Filomena and her German born husband sell all kinds of cloth from their store and there was a time when most of it was manufactured in Ghana. However, times have changed in Ghana just as in the rest of the world, and today most of the cloth they sell originates in China. Ironically, the imported cloth is about half the price of the locally produced material.

In contrast to Filomena’s well stocked shop, the roadsides are littered with numerous makeshift stalls where all kinds of everyday products and foods can be bought for peanuts. Here is an underwear stall…
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While this inventive shoe salesman has set up his display of runners on the railings at an intersection…
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Sunyani is a picture which isn’t always pretty, but the people are friendly and our hotel is very nice. We have much more to see and do in Sunyani but for the next four days we will be deep in the bush at a game reserve in northern Ghana. We hope to return to the internet next Tuesday with tales of adventure among the elephants, baboons and warthogs of Mole National Park – see you then.

Posted by Hawkson 12:27 Archived in Ghana Comments (3)

Accra - Not Recommended by Blissful Adventures

semi-overcast 31 °C

Culture shock is a phenomenon rarely experienced by us but Accra, the capital of Ghana, took us by surprise in spite of Sheila’s previous experiences. According to the Travellerspoint Travel Guide Accra is considered one of Africa’s most developed cities where old colonial architecture stands alongside modern resorts, developed to welcome the growing tourist industry. So we took a taxi to visit the colonial buildings, many of which now form part of the Makol market…
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Unfortunately we never got into the market’s chaotic parking lot because of congestion, but we had to pay the parking fee anyway to get out of the line up. We did however manage to snap a few photos of the marketers on the fringe of the action…
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After our aborted trip to the market we went to Accra’s number one tourist spot, the Nkrumah monument. Here we were enthusiastically waved into a parking space by a dozen shady characters who were aggressively demanding that we should visit their souvenir shops. We fled without visiting the monument and headed for one of the exclusive modern resorts on the beach for lunch – oh dear! Twenty dollars for one club sandwich plus 6% service fee for daring to use a credit card. The food wasn’t great but the restaurant's wildlife was interesting…
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When you are paying $500 a night or more for a beach resort you might want to swim in the ocean – but not in Accra where the shore is bordered by thousands of shanties without any sanitation apart from the sea, and the beaches are littered with garbage and old tyres. However, these local fishermen seemed happy enough as they mended their nets…
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While all hotel prices are ridiculously expensive in Accra be aware that the price quoted is for single occupancy only, (even if you book a double or suite). A second occupant will cost at least 20% more, not to mention the extra $7.50 for breakfast of a fried egg with dry toast and a cup of Nescafe. Outrageous – but not as bad as the taxi driver who, after failing to get us into the market or Accra’s No1 attraction, demanded $100 US for his services.
We have now left the madness of Accra for the sanity of Sunyani, a delightful small city in central Ghana, but not before the waitress at the airport restaurant in Accra blatantly added 50% to the already expensive bill by falsely claiming that she had inadvertently given us old menus.
Sorry Accra, but if your aim is to attract tourists you need to clean up your streets, clean up your beaches, charge sensible prices, and take some some lessons from Morocco on how to treat guests.

Posted by Hawkson 06:27 Archived in Ghana Comments (5)

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