First impressions and travel guide for Ghana
I have to admit, that my first impression of Ghana was that I hate it. The capital, Accra is noisy, unorganized, chaotic, dirty, hot and well … not even close to be beautiful. As my first mission, I wanted to get my visa to Mali. Searching for this embassy made me really tired, and I even thought to give up my travel period on the first day. No Africa-virgin person can arrive to Africa prepared.
I traveled quite a lot before, but this level of chaos had an effect on me, which I could describe with the phrase “cultural shock”. Luckily it only lasted until I met my couchsurfing host. Once I had a reliable local along me, everything looked more simple, and I started to understand the way and style they live. Finally I was able to communicate with anybody and I even got my visa to Burkina in only 20 minutes!
If I said, that in the first day I hated Africa, I can continue by saying that on the second day I accepted it, and on the third I fall in love with it. It’s not the sites (honestly there aren’t many), but the people and their easy going and free way of living. In Ghana there are something like 50 different languages and also that many ethnics. Many – many religions and many different people. And still, they all have this same vibe, the same “african style”, therefore they manage to live together in peace. This is what I love.
During my stay in Accra (the capital) I volunteered at a library, which was created for disabled people. I painted its fences, organized its books and cleaned the shelves. In exchange I could taste one of their local dishes, called Kwachi. (This actually became my favourite since.)
After Accra I visited Cape Coast, what was once also the capital of Ghana, or better said of Golden Coast – as it was called back then in the colonial times. Cape Coast has a powerful and touching history of slave trade. The castle here was the prison where the slaves spent their last few months before being shipped to America. I learned a lot about slave trade here, and I would make it a must for everybody to pay a visit here once.
Thanks to my couchsurfing host, I also got an introduction on how to stay healthy by only eating local food. He is an expert of that. I tried mornig tea, fresh mango and many-many other fruits and vegetables, which name I don’t know in english – or maybe doesn’t even exists.
After Cape Coast, I took a tro-tro (local name of the poorest condition bus, often called as a bush taxi too) to the second largest town of Ghana: Kumasi. Kumasi is the capital of the Ashanti region. The “Ashanti” was the most powerful kingdom of West Africa before the colonialisation. The Ashanti people and the Ashanti culture is still a very important part of Ghana, and all the Ashanti people are proud to be Ashanti.
Little known fact is, that the Ashanti kingdom still exists! The royal family is still living in their castle, and there is still a king. The king of Ashanti is more powerful, than the democraticly elected president of the whole Ghana! Other than their royal roots, the ashanti region is world famous about its gold mines. (This is also the reason, why it was – and is still – so powerful.)
From the tropical rainforests to the savannah
After the Ashanti region, I took a very long bus ride to the north of Ghana. It was 9 hours, but it wasn’t boring at all! I could see, how the landscape changed from the tropical rainforests to the savannah, how there are always less churches and more mosques and how different the people look and speak from those in the south. I was hosted by a person, I met on this bus, and he also helped me a lot to explore his area. Thanks to him I’ve seen elephants, crocodiles and antilopes first time in my life (excluding zoo visits)!
After the short beak at his area I continued my journey to the very north of Ghana, to Wa. Wa is the capital of the poorest region of Ghana, and this is where I spend one week of volunteering with Lucas. I taught geography at the local school and also helped at the construction of new classrooms. I met many locals here and also had some excursion to the nearby places. This is how I saw the oldest mosque of Ghana, the hippos and the elders of the region.
Back to the South
After the week was gone, I started to travel back to the south, to Accra, where I left my laptop and other unnecessary weights. On the way back, I visited north Ghana’s largest town, Tamale, and a lot of interesting places around it, including a village painted by the local women and the Lake Volta – which is the largest artifical lake of the planet.
In Accra I took the “unnecessary stuffs” and after a short visit to the city center (there is a castle built by danes and a fortress by british, otherwise everything is just a large dirty market) I took a bus to Togo. I arrived to the togolese capital Lomé, late in the evening. At the border they somehow managed to steal 200 cedis (something like 340 nok) from my wallet. How they did it I still don’t understand…
Lomé was different from Accra. More lovely urban landscape with worse people. It can actually be quite dangerous, as I heard. In Lomé I visited a very interesting voodoo market. After Lomé I started my journey to the north. Atakpamé, Sokodé and then to Aledjo, where I planed to volunteer for a few days. But unfortuntely I got a very heavy fever and diarrea, so instead of the volunteering I ended up at the regional hospital for malaria test.
Luckily the test was negative and I got healthy soon after that, so I could continue my journey to the northern end of Togo, to a town called Dapaong. This is the place, where I spent the last days. I visited nearby towns, ancient cave dweelings and traditional fortresses around. Today is my last day here and also the last day in Togo. Tomorrow I plan to enter to Burkina Faso. During the next month I plan to explore that country and Mali. Everything is flexible.