Ben's Ghana Adventures

A collection of all the emails that I sent while I lived, worked and travelled around Ghana West Africa from October 10th 2005 to February 10th 2006. Sorry thers a lot but I had a bloody good time living the experiences! Check out to see all my African Photos.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Ben's African Adventures 14

Put on your dancing shoes and clutch my hand.
For I am taking you all on a magical dance into the mystic world of Ben's travels.
Get ready for a very fast number that in which I will swing you around the dancefloor at a tremendous pace!

Because it's that man again, sit back relax and dont forget to go to the toilet first because Ben has yet another installment of gut wrenching fun for you all to digest........... Oh and I have been to Burkina Faso (twice)!! So then I will continue from the moment I left the internat cafe on New Years day and started to celebrate in style. That day I went to the Tamale arts centre and witnessed a drumming and dance spectacular. It was really good and I enjoyed all the Ghanaians jumping around in the traditional dresses, but the drumming was so bloody loud that my ears almost bled. Then the lead dancer clapped eyes on me and that was it. I was plucked from the audience and made to dance like a fool around this room imitation these thrusting movement. Some old lady almost had a heart attack!! I left Tamale and we all decided to head up to the Upper Western region. This is hardly ever visited my travellers and no volunteers are based there as it is so bloody remote. It lies just on the Border between Burkina Faso and The Ivory coast ans the Black Volta river is all that seperates the two countries. To get to the upper western region was a really bizarre task as we all had to clamber onto this ramshackle bus with about 100 people all crammed in and we bumped along these remote dirt tracks passing the quaintest ands smallest truly African mud hut villages along the way. The scenery was fantastic and I loved watching as we rattled along, the only problem was this rather large African lady decided to sit on me and I almost suffocated. We reached Wa the regional capital and the little dusty town was full of delights. I went to the Wa Naa's palace to seek permission from the Chief to enter the twon. But he was away on business in Accra and so I spoke to the elders and the custodians of the peace. It was all very nice. I had to sit cross legged on the floor and say 'salaam alekum' a lot and bow a lot. After that I bought from a stall at the tro tro station ont of these long flowing muslim gowns that is fantastic evening where as it gets rather chilly up here even thjough it is incredibly hot during the day. I even got a boubou hat to go with it. One of the girls I am travelkling with dared me to put it all on and go to the mosque, but I didnt fancy being beaten up so chickened out! While in Wa we explored the bustling colourful markets and I found a stall that sold multi coloured teapots. The reason we had all gone to Wa (there are still 6 of us travelling together but we split up today) was that we all wanted to go to the Wechiau hippo sanctuary.So on the 3rd January we left Wa and boarded the most rickety truck with a cage on the back and bumped along in the dust to the small town in the middle of nowhere on the Burkina border to Wechiau. I rode on the tro tro's roof all the way, hanging on for dear life. Even though the road was very bumpy the driver still decided to floor it and whizz along at a trendous speed. By the time we got there I was looking very dusty and windswept. One of the people in the back shouted up to me 'Your crazy ElSana, But I like you\! El Sana is the northern word for White person, no more bloody Obroni chants up here. All the kids sing this song at us all the time as we walk along. But I find that the northern people of Ghana are very nice. Much nicer in fact than those down where I teach. When we got to Wechiau we had to get on the back of another truck to travel the last 18km's to the accomodation which were the most enchanting traditional mud and stick buildings that I had ever seen. We were so remote that at night as I slept curled up on the roof you could gaze at the most baeutiful stars in the nights sky and the moon here looks like the Cheshire Cat's smile! Our accommodation was so rustic and rural that I fell in love with the place and really didnt want to leave. I walk in the dusty savannah and found all sorts of bizarre bush carvings by tribes men and some of the nearby houses were so truly authentic and really tribal that I eneded up just walking into one and making friends with the inhabitants. None of which spoke any English at all and only speak this bizarre reagional dialect that is so hard to fathom out. That day we all walked to the black Volta and borded canoes and paddled down the river in Burkina territory. The river was beautiful as parrots swept over our heads and the chorus of birds was music to my ears. We even got out of the canoes to stand on these large jutting up rocks and as we paddled along we could hear fishermen and women singing their enchanting songs that enchoed down the river. Then we say hippos! Not just one but 5 of the massive water wallowing beats. They are bloody huge and nay like horses. Boy can they fart also, what a noise. If I could fart with that velocity I would be able to fly! The canoe we were in was slowly filling up with water and I had to keep bailing it out. It was a strange sight seeing us for the local fishermen as we all had face paint on. You see two of the girls I am travelling are proper hippies and just love to paint me at any given opportunity. So many singing fishermen gave us a strange double take when we paddled past. That night I slept on the roof ofour accommodation which was fantastic as the stars were out and the rooms were now warmed to the temperature of a furnace by the days heat. I did however wake up absolutely freezing and had to put on every single item of clothing that I have with me to alievate the cold. The next morning we all left the hippo sanctuary and headed back to Wa. This time the only vehicle going back to the regional capital was this old rustbucket that once again I had to ride outside clutching on for dearlife standing barefooted on the rear bumper and holding on to the end of the roof rack. The reason I couldnt go on the roof was that a calf, a whole live one was taking up most of the space and mooing away to herself!! By the time we got back to Wa I was like a dust monster and if I slapped my head showers of dust came off into the air. From Wa we wanted to go to Bolgatanga the capital of the upper Eastern region but the tro tro's only went via a place called Tumu. So we spent one night in Tumu and then had to catch a 4am tro tro all the way to Bolga as it is called locally. 4am came and we all huddled around a fire with some tramps in the tro tro station fopr warmth. The tramps seemed to like me as I collected some rood out of a ditch and got the fire roaring. 8 hours of bumpy travelling later we rolled into Bolgatanga. So what has Bolga got to offer I hear you cry. Well not a lot really. But we wentto manynplaces from there. Bolga is the sort of place that you stay the night at and then do day trips from. We did however go to the national cultural museum in Bolga, but I took one look at it and decided against paying the extorsiante entrance fee. Some people did however pay to go in and did the entire museum in 5 minutes. It really was that rubbish. I on the meantime sat on some rocks and watched all the goats and pigs fight over scraps in the street. The great thing about Bolga is that animals roam free everywhere. Many time I had tio move out of the way for a bullock to pass by or a rampaging goat to cross the road. Animals were absolutely everywhere, then were even in peoples houses and shacks. We stayed in Bolga for 3 nights. Two of which at this really nice guesthouse where the owners thought we were the best thing since sliced bread. But we couldnt stay there for a thrid night as they had a prior booking. We had to stay at the Catholic guesthouse. Which had many rules and regulations and was very strict. But the toilet had a sign inside saying 'please flash the toilet'. So I did!! It was about this time that I realised that all my boxers had gone missing. Where do these things go to I wonder. This brings me up to the 6th Jnuary and one of my most memorable days in Africa. Because we all went to the border town of Paga and I went accross the border into Burkina Faso without a passport or any formal identification at all. I just said to the border guards on the Ghana side that I was 'going then I come' and the French speaking Burkina boredr guards I tole that the Ghanaians had my passport so they let me pass through. Wheere else in the world can youi lie to get into another country. Burkina looked the same but everything was French. Luckily the German girl travelling with us is a dab hand at the old lingo so we managed to procure a Burkinan beer using Ghanaian currency rather than the west African Francs and also as as souvenir the 3 of us who crossed the border as the other wimped out and thought we would be arrested and put in a detention camp or something we bought little magical teapots that you can heat in the sun. Wow sun tea! It tastes rather good. We explored Burkina and even decided that we could try and get to the capital city. Ougadougrou, but alas it was over 240 km's away and that sort of quashed that ides. All we could do was explore the border village of Dakola and pose by the Burkina Faso sign to prove that we have been there. Then it was time to return to Ghana. But before I did I jumped accross the border a few times to say I have been to Burkina more than once. I am so glad that I have managed to get accross an international border in Africa and whats more with out any ID at all whatsoever. I even spoke some pigin French when I ordered by beer. Paga has there sacred crocodiles that you can touch. I held this huge beats tail, but after I felf bad as it really is degrading to the animal to see it treated like this. Then they fed the massive lump of meat this live chicken and it moved at a lightning pace to chomp it down. The sacred crocs all look dejected and I felt so sorry for them. I belive thet even though local legend protects them that the only reason they are there is to attract visitors there for a photo opportunity. Paga also is the home of a village called Nania. How cool is that so not only did I go to Burkina Faso that day but I went to Nania aswell. At nania is a rather sober placed called the Pikworo slave camp which has pounishment roskc and also bowls carved into the rock faces so that the slaves could eat there before they were transported off down to Elmina over 900kms away on foot to be shipped to the America's. The whole time I was there I felt very humble. We also went to this place from Bolga called Sirigu. Sirigu is the home to this traditional art work that adornes buildings and looks spectacular. There is an eco project that preserves this ancient art and teaches it to local women so that it does not die out. The place was fantastic and we went into these traditional homesteads and chatted to the owners who were all colourful people. The local people here have a spiders web facial scarring pattern. Many people in Ghana have tribal facial scarring but these people have the most intricate and also they have scarring around their navals too. Many muslim women up here have facial tattoos and I have a few picture s with them. In one photo I am posing with face paint on with a moustache (for I fancied shaving off the rest and keeping the debonair David Niven Clark Gablesque tashe) with this man with a huge head dress on. I really enjoyed sirigu anfd this local woman who ran the eco project taught me all aboput the meanings of the paintings and what they symbolise. Yesterday we all went to the fantastically named town of Bongo. Bongo is this enchanting little village in the middle of nowhere and getting there was one hard task believe me. But at Bongo there are the most amaizing rock formations and the musical drum rocks that make resonationg sounds if you hit them. The whole place seemed magical and spellbound as small children sat in alcoves in the rocks singing songs which echoed in the valley and played the drum rocks. We climbed up on top of all the ones that I could and also climbed all the massive trees. I was just like a little kid again. Today I feel very windswept and weather beaten as I was near naked all the time and feel really tingly. I sat in Bongo waching the world go by and I love the small things that the locals take for granted but make me smile. The fact that goats are strapped to peoples bicycles as they cycle along and the car roofs that are piled sky high with every concievable things immaginable. The delightful facial scarring of the tribes around and the local kids running up to touch me. The random crazies who are everywhere. A random man came up to me and did a forward roll and stodd up saluted me before he buggered off. The crazy men who try and grab you as you walk. The women as big as a house who sit on the back of a donkey pulled cart while the poor beast wheezez trying to propell her weight along. ASfrica has all these little traits that I love. The only bad thing about all this traveling mularky is that you lose compleately the time and the date and have no idea when you have to be back at school to teach. Well I am now back in Tamale and our intreped group splits up today as people are all going off on their seperate directions. I am off down to a placed called Techiman to see yet more monkeys and then I am off to this hand in hand project place to do some volunteer cooking for the mentally handicapped people there. Then lake bosuntwi the other side of Kumasi before going back to good old Kwanyaku to teach again. But it will not be the same teaching again with out poor olf Kofi who so sadly died just as we were leaving to stsrt our grand travels. I will miss his bombastic ways and his expeditions with me to the spots to drink waist and power. Well all the way from Africa I bid you a sweet goodbye til we all meet again. I will write agin soon. But for now its goodnight from him.
Take care all
x x x x


At 4:18 PM, Blogger KappiahatChicago said...

I have never laughed so much in my life. Such vivacity, such sense of humor and such an eye for details – the good, the bad and the ugly. Not to speak of the fantastic memory. Some of the scenes you describe brings to mind my own childhood. I grew up in Ghana and during my tender years my parents used to take me on some of the routes you describe. I imagine that if I had had your eyes and sense of humanity I would have probably stayed in Ghana, instead of moving to and making my home in the US. You are amazing! Don’t lose your common touch and sensibilities. They would come in handy in what I envisage would be a fulfilling and happy life.
Kwasi Appiah


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