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My Adventures in Ghana, Tanzania & Italy

  • Submitted by: Paloma Wregg
  • Submission Date: 04th Feb 2005

Part Two : Ghana

On board the Sahara desert is a highlight. I am glued to the window for almost 2 hours watching the changing sands and shadows below me. Spectacular to see the whole way across. It is just beautiful and on the edge the sands turn to bright pink and yellow in the fading light. Ghana airport becomes a nightmare, when I leave the address space black on my entry card. I am detained and reduced to tears for over half an hour. They are very aggressive and unhelpful with me. Its only at the end I realise they were after money. It did not even cross my mind. Finally I reach John and Jean. The blacks outside are not as scary as I remember them in Papua New Guinea. John and Jean are panicked with other situations – John’s boss has phoned and has been held up at gun point. His vehicle and money stolen. A lot for one night. A lot for one day considering I nearly missed my plane. We are staying at the Shangri-la and I wish I could sit out in the sticky weather listening to the drums and music. Its a very nice place and John and Jean have given me a whole room to myself. Way too generous. Unfortunately I am so exhausted and apart from wanting to go back outside, I just can't wait to climb into bed and hide beneath the covers. I am such a baby sometimes but emotionally I am worn out. Despite the Airport trauma I already love Africa.

Diary Entry 16

Fantastic people and yet I still felt off-guard with them. Wary after my night at the Airport I guess. I am very shy and indecisive as always. Missing Steven incredibly. I got his email today and fell worried. He's going through exams. It is impossible to call due to bureaucratic channels. I have just been relaxing and reading. I love Jeans dog, Bimbo. He is so beautiful. Tomorrow I will get to see the mine and the gold pouring. It's very exciting and bringing back my memories from Tieri. Jean is very unwell with malaria and I feel helpless and concerned. I am not as worried about mosquitoes as I was in Borneo. I am enjoying myself and sleeping in. Our trip back from Accra was wonderfully scenic although I could not help falling asleep some of way. It seems such a waste to sleep when you're overseas and on the road.
The little towns we drove through were in fact massive populations. Bibiani is set in the hills. It's lush green with rich red earth. Even the soil seems alive here. It reminds me so much of New Guinea. It rains every day at about 3pm. The skies rumble in and the moisture thickens in the air. I love the monsoon atmosphere. Its perfect sitting out on the verandah and listening to the sounds, the insects and the distant sirens of the mine. Sometimes the chopping of trees can be heard, which worries Jean. She’s constantly checking the boys working outside. Kwarme is the Seawards' driver and speaks English pretty well. He is lovely. All the people are beautiful, they all look so young.

Diary entry 17

Today I went on my tour of the mine. I love the hard hats and the smell of lino in duplex buildings, the hummm of the air conditioners that make the whole building buzz, the in and out of muddy dusty four wheel drives. It was fantastic to see the gold pouring. Quinton runs the internal area, and showed me around. I couldn't pick it up as it was too heavy. I saw it being branded and cooled. I also managed to wash Bimbo and we had a visit from 4 little village children. They were very shy and took a lot of prompting to perform a song for us. I am half way through my book, “Under the Tuscan Sun”. Jean seems a little better today which is a relief.
I have just been down with the other four expats (Case, Mike, Quinton and Simon) at the club with John and Jean. It's a bring-your-own-food picnic and wine if you want it arrangement due to what’s available. It is perfect for me, probably because of the novelty. Holland won the quarter-finals. Case is Dutch too so...... Hup Holland go go go. Its such a mining town feeling here taking me back. I am excited at the prospect of Komasi tomorrow. The other thing today that has taken my breath away is the sky. From 2pm onwards it was ever changing and pink and yellow with purple billowing clouds. By 5pm the electricity in the air was evident and the sky seemed to shimmer, providing the African tropical atmosphere that can only be experienced. The red earth reflecting tints of the sky above and the green of the forest cutting between them. I wish I could capture this picture with the sounds and the damp air all in one. Actually I have not entered my unfortunate incident with my camera. Still so angry at myself.... so very angry I can almost cry at the thought. Jean and John have kindly let me borrow their Instamatic camera but it doesn’t seem the same. At least I have pictures... you just could not visit this place and not take some home. I have so many ideas to use my photos when I get back. They are the ultimate and irreplaceable souvenir. Not so many cats and dogs here either. Miniature goats everywhere, huddled amongst the people or sheltering out of the rain on the mud supports of houses. Just so special. Everything grows here even on the side of the road, corn pineapples, herbs, everything. Its so rich. Snails also GROW? in the side of the road. Kwarme has eaten the portion we brought.... I don’t eat snails at the best of times... especially at the size of my hand. I go to bed each night with the beautiful sound of rolling thunder. The sky sometimes cracked with lightning like ashanti gold. Tomorrow will be rich with culture and design.

Diary Entry 18

I have had my hair done and and its certainly different to what I had in mind to start with. She was very quick and it is all out of my face now, thank God. Her name was “Helena”. Most of the Africans have several names here. Most go by the name of the day they were born on. There is a female set and a male set. Kwarme, for example is Thursday I think. In Komasi I called out his name and about 5 men turned around. I have been down to the Bibiani markets where we ran into Kwarme's son. He was so gorgeous, but we ran out of film to capture a picture. It was raining when we were down there so it was difficult to browse around. Exciting all the same and I brought some fabric. Jean handles the bartering system so well. I have never been good at it and so I find it frustrating. They have first price, second price, best price here and so it is exhausting just buying anything. I have been to the markets at Komasi also, and they are overwhelming. People everywhere.

The population is so dense in this country. Everyday there is a new thing that makes you smile and just wonder in bewilderment. The markets at Komasi were huge and spread all the way across the railway tracks. We stood out a mile being white – they call us “brunis”. I managed to buy some beautiful glass beads and a picture or two of some people. Yesterday we ventured back into Komasi again to see the Kente cloth being made. It was exhausting and very annoying being harassed by the buyers in the village. At one stage I was surrounded by about 8 children all screaming... please miss, your best price please. They say 'yes, please' and 'no, please' here for everything. We came away with nothing as it all got to much for us all. Previously Jean had taken me to the Wood town and Brass town which had not been so frustrating. I could not resist the wooden carved stool, with the Geonarme symbol. I also got a beautiful wooden mask and some georgeous brass ornaments. After Kente cloth town we stopped in at the museum. It was so interesting but I felt extremely faint all of a sudden and could not manage to finish the tour. Its the second time this trip I have been suddenly ill and I'm not sure why. My nausea spoilt the whole trip and I am so embarrassed. Normally my fainting spells don’t come with nausea as they have done recently and I went to bed feeling very strange. I hope its not malaria. I have learnt some wonderful recipes though, and today “Irene” is going to show us how to make ground nut soup. She has also promised to show us some African dance. It will be great to try some traditional food. I have been unable to eat any of the food in the markets because of hygiene. They don’t fry there food or boil it properly so chances of eating Foo Foo and not being ill are slim.

Most of the foods are Foo Foo and soup or maize-based porridges. They eat with their hands (right only) because left is the dirty hand. I forget and wave with both sometimes. Tomorrow we leave Bibiani and make our way to the coast. I hope to fix the camera when we get to Accra. I am off now to take photos as I am inspired to do some painting when I get home. I have emailed Steven but no one can call in so I will have to wait to contact him again by phone.

Diary Entry 19

Today we packed and headed to the Cape Coast. There is a fantastic castle (Elmina castle) and fort (Fort St Jago) and a totally different village from inland (fishing village). The beach is beautiful and the surf is heavy on the rocks outside my room. The old Gold Coast. Our hotel has views of the castle through the palms and through the goats grazing on the beach. I have my own room again and despite loving every moment I'm missing Steven like crazy. He would love it here in this beautiful weather, perfect humid salty air. We had coffee under the grass huts by the castle and cool drinks in carved wooden chalet's on the beach. Bombarded by children with photos and addresses crumpled in their hands, they beg you to write, be a pen pal (wanting money) as you leave the cafe.

This is much more of tourist area (although I couldn't imagine travelling here alone) and so the locals are either really tolerant or really intolerant of us. I turn my airconditioner in my room because I just love this hot air. John and Jean like it very cool. Everything is good when your on holidays though. The sand is white with little groups of 2 and 3 people walking along with their bundles balancing on their heads. The sand is white and the water a murky blue. No one in swimming because most of them can't, apparently.

This place is full of history (Portuguese - Dutch - English) and it is interesting that the castles are all out on points, surrounded by the slums and poor of the villiages. It is tuesday and all the boats are in. The ju ju doctor (witch doctor) has said it bad luck to fish on Tuesdays. Its a colourful scene. I have had a hot and wonderful evening watching the chocolate and purple sky turn black. The Atlantic ocean and a row of palms, each supported by a single pair of gorgeous african children. They seem to sit right below the palms and nowhere else.

Diary Entry 20

I saw the Castle at Cape Coast today and it was wonderful, hot white walls in the sun contrasted by solid black cannon balls piled outside on the stone floors. I managed to take some stealth photos through the cannon holes in the wall. Unsuspecting children caught in play. There was a wonderful museum with artifacts and the story of the slaves. After the Castle kwarme assured us it was not far to the Hans Hut and so we went for lunch. Crocodiles and hundreds of tiny yellow birds nesting in the trees. Unfortunately baby birds were being stolen right in front of our eyes by the crows. Now I am sitting on the edge of the beach looking at Elmino with the sun on my back.

It was a perfect day. After laying awake all night listening to the waves crash, we set off for a swim in the Ocean. I was dumped many times. The water was a lovely temperature for such a hot day and the place reminded me of what Jamacia would be like. We are not having much luck with our meals, Dinner was really late last night and even though I would normally be frustrated, because I'm on holidays it was just funny. I don’t think John and Jean think so. I have been swimming and sunbaking in the pool, talking to the visiting American students. They are all over here for a month and complaining about the food. They told me the beach we swam at was exactly like Jamacia so I was right in my first impression. I am writing this and being surrounded by little green and orange lizards, bobbing their heads up and down and then sprinting along. Coconut palms and Grass umbrella huts, Wooden carvings and brass pots adorned with beads add to the setting. This is African romance, the natural spirits and simple pleasure of being. Everyone has a smile on their face, the children almost all of the time. I almost don’t notice the women with huge bundles on their heads walking past. Its all so normal now. I know that I am rich here, I am easily reminded every time I see poverty lined up outside the hotel carpark... waiting... waiting... hoping. John and Jean have been so good to me and will not take any money from me. I will never be able to repay them. Sometimes walking in crowds confusion around you is deliberate, intended to distract you, while pockets are picked. I have lost nothing yet.

Diary Entry 21

I have been to the Culture centre and brought some great masks. We are back in Accra and Jean is happy I have experienced the traffic, so I can understand. We are trying to fix the camera but my doubts are high and my hopes are slim. It has proved such a run around and way to dodgy to think about. The girl in the camera shop, which is unlike any camera shop you would imagine, is asleep when we arrived. The man who fixes them would back later and it would take 3 weeks. Joburg will be my next try. I am resting at the pool at the Shangri-la. It is windy today and I am loving this sticky tropical weather and I could easily live in it. The water is glorious and I am covered in wrinkles again from being in here to long. Jean took me jewellery shopping and I purchased some sweet little earrings. It’s the time of my life and Ghana is such an exciting and beautiful place..... I have just left the airport. After a visit to the Golden Tulip,we arrived at the airport, which was chaotic. For us anyway. I am now safely (????) on Ethiopian Airlines. There is almost no one else on the plane which is very unsettling, because my other flight was over booked by alot of people...??? where are they. John was right and as unorganised as we were (we had confirmed) I did not expect to actually be told there as no seat and I would have to wait 4 days. I was getting very upset at the thought of missing my tour from Nairobi tomorrow. After more hassles with customs on the way out, and about 3 more hours of waiting I finally am on board. The flight I was supposed to be on has not left yet so I think it's fate that now I will actually get there... I hope, anyway. I am very flustered and sad, It was a rushed, panicked goodbye to Jean and John. I did not even get to say goodbye to Kwarme or give him my tip. John looked after me and managed to get my ticket transferred with a lot of hassle. I have had two bad experiences in that airport now and its almost funny. Ghana was just awesome apart from the airport..... Its about 3am in the morning and I am going to try and sleep before we take off. Goodbye Ghana!

“Ghana memories”

Red and Green with purple sky, Ashanti gold, Children and their eyes. Babies in Bundles, Balance and posture. Madasi and Madasi pa. Yes please and No please. Brass and wood and woven cloth. Fu fu, Maize and Ground nut soup. Goats sheltering under grass roof's. Mud Homes and wooden frames left. Colours that burn brightly as brightly as their eyes. Jewellery and beads on beautiful Black skin. Bimbo the beautiful, faithful and loved. Opheia the singing Iron Lady. Joseph and Jon in the Garden, polishing and polishing the brass. Where names are days and galisaums are the thieves of gold. Adinca symbols and queen mother stools. Markets of fish, fabric and people, Mangoes and pineapples abound with fresh sweet coconut milk to drink. Cape coast forts and Elmina castle. Beaches with palms (tops fallen off) and coffins like cows. Funeral possessions by the hundreds, black and red gowns, elaborate designs. Traffic chaos and yet workers sleep under trucks by the road. Expect the unexpected always. Swims under sunsets and nights of heat cooled by tropical storms.

Continued in Tanzania...

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