Saturday, 5 June 2010
Ghana Part 2 - Brenu Beach, Takoradi, Cape Coast, Hans Cottage Botel, Kakum National Park canopy walk, Accra & Lake Volta
Malaria aside, Ghana had been exceptional and as we moved towards Brenu Beach, we'd already spent over a week on picture perfect beaches...and Brenu was no exception. On the way there we stopped off at Takoradi (where we'd passed through on our way to Green Turtle Lodge) to get cook group supplies for the next couple of days. Afterwards, We rolled into the Brenu hostel/campsite on the beach early on in the afternoon and the place was deserted except for a few members of staff and a flock of sheep that seemed to gallavant around the place endlessly. The set-up was pretty cool as all the community that surrounded the place helped to maintain it in some way and a lot (all?) of the money that was spent there went back into the community.
We stayed there for a few nights (3 I think) and Laraldo and I treated ourselves to an upgrade to one of the rooms (avec fan, shower, toilet AND powerpoints to charge all of our stuff!) for a couple of nights. The time spent there was extremely stressful but we all found ways to get by: long strolls on spotless sand, listening to the sound of the rolling waves, bodysurfing, sitting in the shade of one of many palm trees, reading a book off the truck's library.., and watching pirate movies (i.e. the unpaid for ones as opposed to the Johnny Depp kind) on laptops. Times, my friends, are very tough.
On our second afternoon there a few of us gathered up some matches and all put 1 cedi (local currency) into a pot to play a Texas Hold'Em poker tourny...which Laraldo won. That's my girl (although despite me buying all the drinks so far this trip, I never saw a penny of her winnings). I won't bore you with my analysis of the tourny, but there were some extremely funny moments, especially the reaction of Yoichi - the strictest budgeter on the truck - when he cleaned up on a massive hand with a straight to the 5 (beating Lara's 2 pair and Sonya's pair of Aces...which they both thought were winning hands).
I should probably tell you that the cook group I'm in with my homie, Kyle, is now just called Team Amay...as after our cook group reformations a month ago, we lost our -Zing in Leon.
The cook group formally known as Team Amazing. Leon in the middle shortly deserted the boys for greener pastures. Team Amay has survived the test of time, sadly the same cannot be said for the Fez's.
Some day soon, Team Amazing will rise from the ashes again, if only to create more as we burn everything trying to cook 'Beer Up The Butt Chicken'. Anyways, on our last night in Brenu, Team Amay were cooking up some pasta and mushrooms in a creamy sauce under the tarp when the wind picked up and gave us warning of the storm to come (which we'd already watched rattling and cracking across the horizon) so we moved all our shit (including the glowing red coals in the jucos) to a little verandah/gazebo area where we'd played poker earlier. The storm never came but it was good to eat at a table under an electric light.
Oh yeah...and afterwards, a lost and confused bird flew into my head and stayed nestled in there for long enough to get rid of at least some of the head-lice! A bird in the bushy hair-do is worth two in the hand...isn't that how the saying goes?
The next morning we left pretty early and headed for Cape Coast where we expored the town, chatted with the locals (one of which insisted on giving me a gymnastics display in the road) and some paid to get into the castle with relics of the slave trade. After a couple of hours at Cape Coast, we boosted through to a place called the 'Hans Cottage Botel' - a hotel on stilts over a croc-filled lagoon. Yet another awesome place...so awesome that it had a dorm with beds, fans and toilets and we only had to pay one cedi each (over the top of the camping costs which our 'local payment' to Africa Trails covered) for the privelege. After all the reading and relaxing we'd done in the previous weeks, this was the perfect opportunity to re-charge our batteries
This was the lovely picture on the wall in the dorm - explanation?....the patrons of the hotel were German. Enough said.
...although Marjane (aka Normski aka Mark the Driver) did enforce a truck clean (all pots and pans had to be spotless and all tins and bottles inventorised (??).
Everybody was vying for the shady spots in the 35 degree heat scrubbing pans.
We were temporarily the local tourist attraction as the other hotel guests took turns
having their photo taken in front of us. Now we know how the locals feel!
Before the truck clean (undertaken in the blazing heat of a Ghanain afternoon), we took the truck on an excursion to Kakum National park where all did a breath-taking canopy walk: interconnected rope bridges at the top of 30-40 metre high trees. Needless to say, the view was superb (there was a group of teenage Americans with us on the tour, one of the girls had legs that nearly reached as high as the trees).
Lara looking like the local football hooligan - see below photo for footie shirt explanation.....
World Cup preview - featuring Ghana (AK), South Africa (Zakiya), Mali (Lara) & Cameroon (Ian). Zakiya was the only person who could be patriotic, the rest of us had to take whatever AK pulled out of his locker.
Marjane (driver Mark, far right) overcame his fear of heights to throw some poses across the ravine.
Yoichi and Victoria holding on for dear life.
Sonya and AK - only 3 people were allowed to go over at one time. Lara had to go first :(
Sexy. Check out the entry pass around AK's neck says 'Local Ghanian' - God bless the Ghana footie shirt!
After Kakum, and then the truck clean back at the "Botel", a few of us pigged out on lobster and chips at the Botel's restaurant as they were dirt cheap and damn good.
The next day after a breakfast of 'Disco Doughnuts' (see photo of Dave and Ian: prime advertising for the Disco 'Doughnuts' or maybe civil partnerships?!) we finally made our way to Accra (capital of Ghana) staying at yet another beach resort ("Big Milly's Backyard") just outside of town. The journey there did involve some heated (literally) negotiations with Marjane (the driver, remember?) and some local guys: it turns out that there had been an ongoing dispute between tribes and local land-owners and for whatever reason, they had blocked off the road with burning tyres, tables, branches and chairs...helped with just a little bit of petrol. We hit two of these blockades and on both occasions, Marjane did us proud and sweet-talked the irate locals into moving some of the flaming branches out of the way just enough to let the truck through (meanwhile, we all put our marshmallows back into our lockers).
Big Milly's was a well-equipped and surprisingly chilled out place with plenty of stalls selling all sorts of local clothing, jewellery and carvings (enough to keep Kayelene busy for a day or two!) as well as a very well stocked bar with bar-men whose bottle-opening talent made up for their tardiness. The place also had some tiny little kittens which kept Lara entertained for hours too ('til I pointed out how many fleas you could see crawling around on the little white one with blue eyes).
Within less than an hour of being there, Kyle - who had been feeling a little ropey - headed to the bar with Leon and as he supped his bottle of 'Star' (local lager) his condition got worse and before an hour was up, he was lying in bed as malaria victim number 9 (out of 16). I feel the need to say this for anybody reading this and thinking of doing something like this themselves that this shouldn't put any of you off. It's Africa. We all half expected to get ill in some way. Yes, malaria's not nice, but the trip so far has been well worth a couple of days of feeling under the weather. Marjane has been doing this for years and has been excellent at looking after us all when sick and making sure that nobody f**ks around and takes the right meds and sees the doctor if needs be. If you're already in the mindset of doing something like this trip, I'd imagine you to have a strong enough adventurer's spirit that malaria wouldn't be enough to put you off. (African Trails can pay me for saying this later!)
Sonya joined Lara and I in getting a room (again with a fan and bathroom) and as much as I liked to play up the Arthur Fonzarelli attitude ("Eey!") as I walked to bed with the two girls, it was purely for economising.
We stayed at Big Milly's for a few days to give us a base outside the bustling city but close enough to go explore it in our own time...and also get our visas for Benin. On the way out of Accra, the truck stopped off at Shoprite (South African chain of supermarkets), which the Saffers were particularly excited about as they could get their fill of cream soda (hangover cure Kyle and Leon swear by), biltong and NikNaks. I bought a Saffer edition of FHM which had Audrina Patridge on the cover and her poster now hangs opposite Dave (Mark from Dewsbury!)'s seat on the truck wall.
Before we left Ghana, Marjane had one more surprise for us...he took us to an understated little hotel sat on the banks of the Lake Volta. We wasted no time making the most of the rope swing that dangled over the water and all the lads spent about 2 or 3 hours throwing balls up into the mango trees as others dived down and competed to fetch the freshly fallen fruit from the murky depths. All the while the local fisherman paddled by in bemusement.
Mark showing us his back flip skillls.
Kyle swinging to beat the distance record held by Ian...Sadly he fell just short.
Dave and AK get some fishing in at dusk. Unfortunately the fish didn't like the only bait available -mango or biltong!
This was my favourite spot from the whole trip so far.
In fact, coming back to the present day momentarily, we had a recent nostalgia session (as Zah, Zakiya, Ian and Mindy have all finished their leg of the trip and left the truck - the former three to go the World Cup and the latter to get married in Nigeria!) and this spot seemed a favourite (at least in the Top 5) for everybody.