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, February 07, 2006

Ben's African Adventures 18

Place the ball on the panalty spot. Shut out the noise from the opposition fans who are screaming abuse at you. Take a final long look diretly into the keepes eyes and transmit by telepathy the word p##t to him. Then after taking a couple of steps back, run up and whallop the ball past his outstretched fingers. One nil. The whistle for half time goes and you can now settle down with your Gin and Tonic to the exciting fun laben Adventures of your humble narrator in Africa.
Welcome my wholesome chums to the 18th installment of my African life. Place your bums down on your favourite chair and read away because theres a lot for you to diges in this one......
Last time I wrote I was setting out on my gand advenure on my own. An adventure that would take me on dangerous roads, through wild tribal villages and into the black unknown. In oterwords I was going on the Volta Ferry and beyond!
I left Accra and headed away from the smelly and sweaty capital on a rustheap of an old tro tro up to the Eastern Region to a place called Atimpoku. When I got there I spent two days on m own exploring all the enchanting little villages that line the banks of te mighty Volta river. I wondered freely around some but when I found this particularly lovely one I was set upon by hundreds of childen. These little sweins knew only one word in English. 'Money'! Al they said was money, money, money. I had to escape and give these cheeky little sods the slip as they were beginning to latch onto me and grab my bag. They were only small and the first one who grabbed my bag ran away after a well aimed slap hit the side of his face. But that didnt stop or perterb them one bit. They came back at me with a vengeance and soom I had to escape over a small wall and up a steep palm infested slope and back on to the safety of the road.
I waited for two days in his balmy environment for the two girls that I was going to meet to travel with. But typically they were a day late so I explord all that I could and ended up watching the football in some grubby little bar with the locals who found me far more entertaining than the match!
Atimpoku is the larger town near the port of Akosombo. There is nothing to do in Akosombo at all and I found that out to my annoyance when I went there to try and buy the tickets for the ferry. I was soon told that we would have to arrive early at 7am and queue for the tickets.
Soon the two girls who I had been planning to travel with arrived and it was the reunion of the Intrepid trio of Burkina Faso fame. As soon as we had met up we went on a mad skinny dip in the cool refreshing waters of the Volta. Then the next morning our adventure rally began. We arrived arly as requested to Akosombo port and there was no sign of a ferry or single boat at all. once you are at the port thats it. There is nothing for you to do except wait and queue for tickets. We waited and queued and finally after 4 hours managed to buy a second class ticket each. First class entitled you to a cabin but I fancied the idea of sleeping in the breeze out on deck. So ticket in hand we waited for the ferry to turn up. It eventually did after I had devoured some filthy street food at 6pm. 11 hours we had bloody waited. Now by the docks there was a mass of activity. People loaded massive wooden crates with yams and fruits. Cars were driven down on the the landing deck. Forklift trucks moved large objects two and fro. But the thing that struck me the most was the people. There were hundreds of them. The ferry had finally arrivd a large rusty hulk of a thing called the Yapei Queen and it seemed to me that there were far to many people and cargo for such a small and rusty old boat. But I was proved wrong because Africa in all its glory amaized me yet again. Everything was basically rammed and thrown on to the deck. Nothing was placed or carefully loaded to maximise space. Soon the crates were piled high and people were actually sleeping in them. We could now get on board and I accidently walk into the 3rd class area. A hot and fume filled hollow under the boat where hundreds of people crammed in and tied to find some floor space to sprawl out on. It was like a pigsty and the smell, along with the immense heat almost knocked me down. Luckily I managed to get out and climb the deck to the second class area. This was pretty much the same in terms of clinliness and I noticed that the lifejackets were daed 1983 and the instruction poster on the wall had a woman with the best mullet ever on it. I went straight out onto deck and managed to find somewher to sit and the loud hailer sounded and the ferry turned around and set off on what would become a memorable trip up the Volta River.
Soon we were sailing at full steam aheah and I had already had an argument with a Ghanaian Army sargeant after he stole the mattress that I had raced to get when they were being given out. The captain of the ferry soon appeared and he was wearing a bright ornage boiler suit like they do in American jails. Wow we are on a pirates ship I thought and I was soon making sailor noises to the annoyance of the crew. We steamed and chugged along and soon it was dark and the wind blew. We all went up on to the roof and watched the amaizing stars overhad as we sailed past Dodi Island. That night I had the most uncomfortable nights sleep ever. I didnt have a matress as Bilko has stolen it and every time he walked past me I sneared at him and gave him a mock salut in digust. I lay on the hard deck with the wind blowing in my face while all around me muslims prayed and as the ferry changed direction they shifted instantly without hassle to continue their prayers uninterupted.
The morning came and my goodness was it cold. I stood on deck trying to find the BBC on my little radio wrapped up in any old flea ridden blankets hat I could find. We came to stop soon at he most romantic little stretch of land I have ever seen. We stopped numerous times in iolated areas with nothing but sand and rocks. Once or twice a small thatched mud hut lined the shore but most of the time people ould just appear out of the bushes and loads up the ferry with fruits and all sorts of boxes. I loved watching as the ferry made the people on shore wade out to climb aboard, some women did this with babies strapped to their backs with cloth which is the west African fashion. I loved the fact that even though the ferry did not boom out its massive foghorn these people came from out of nowhere at the right time to trade, load buy, buy and also to board.
We were now fully into the Volta region where the word obroni is not used. Instead white people are now caled Ya Vu. It basically means the same thing but the language spoken here is called Ewe (E way). As I cannot speak anything apart from hello and thankyou in this regional dialect I had to put my trust in the Ghanaians abilities to speak English. Many of them cant at all and even though it is the official language there is no impetus put on school to realy throughly teach it.
We got off the ferry in a small town called Kete Kraachi and there was absolutely nothing to do excape avoid a local crazy woman who as soon as she clapped eyes on us three would not get the hint and piss off. She danced in front of us, sang at us and demanded money. Then it was all back onboard for the final leg up to Yegi in the Brong Ahafro region.
We arrived in Yeji late at night and it was a night that I will never forget. I will now refer to my travel journal and copy word for word my thoughts and observations when we rached Yeji.
Eventually after almost 27 hours on board excluding our small janutn in Kete Kraachi, we arrived at Yeji where there was a mass of hubbub and noise on the crowded shore. Another ferry called the Nana Besemuna had broken down and was still on the landing bay/pathway that runs down into the water. So instead of finding another area to moor up what did the genius's on board our ferry decide to do. Yes you have guessed it. They bloody rammed the Nana Besemuna.
100 plus tons of rusty old iron hulk fully laden took a sodding run up and rammed the Nana Besemuna full steam ahead. People were still on the decks of both ferries and they were running for cover as we hurtled towards the other ferry. Like one giant game of bumper cars! I stood in shock on deck thinking hat this cannot be happening, no one could be that dumb that they would intentionally risk sinking an entire cargo ferry and put the lives of all onboard in danger. But thats Ghana for you! The bloody fools, why do this? The front of our boat his the other ferry with such a force that I almost fell over and many crates fell from their high perched places causing screams and people running for cover.
The front part of our boat hit the protruding corrugated iron roofing that stick out over one of the decks. When it did it made such an ear splitting screach like when someone runs their fingrnails down a blackboard. Great lumps of iron shot up in to the air and this was followed by a large hollow metal thud as the two hulks kissed. By this time people were jumping overboard into the deepwaters and all sors of people were on deck trying to guide to captain as to where to hit the other ferry. All of them were headless chickens and had not a sodding clue as to what they were doing. It could only be described asmayhem.
The corrugated iron buckled under the weight and pressure and shot up into the air. A funnel billowing white whispy smoke was knocked off the deck like it was a skittle being hit by a bowling ball. The front of the Yapei Queen hit all along the side of the other ferry. Now I am no sailor or nautical expert and never I hasen to add will be, but what this lot did was just plain and simply shear folly. Pirates the lot of them. Tey must have got their sailors badges from a box of Frosties! The trail of carnage and damaged that it left was ridiculous and very costly. While the ferry continued to back up and then re-ram the Nana Besemuna another moment of Ghanaian brillience occurred. This is just one reason why I do think that Ghana as a developing nation is going backwards father that forwards. As we rammed and crates fll all around us and people sought refuge in the squalor below deck the forklift truck driver decided in his infinate wisdom to start up and rearrange the crates on the ground . He did a 3 point turn and narrowly avoided running over a woamn with a bady strapped to her back and me. The deck was still full of people as not all could fit into the crammed areas below, so this forklift was a bloody nuisance and could have easily crushed someone to death. I had to pull a small child away from almost getting run over and then I bellowed at the driver telling him in the most undignified nglish that I could muster what a fool he was.
Evenually the genius's of the Yapei Queen had only succeeded in making the poor batle scarred Nana Besemuna firmly wedged in the mud banks. They didnt even managed to get the ferry off th runway. So they diecided to finally do the sensible thing and moor up on the mud banks and lower the front of the ferry into the water. Why couldnt they have done this in the bloody first place, sodding inbesiles.
We waded through waits high water to get to the shore, so sod only knows how the cars and tro tros on board managed to get off. As soon as the ferry's front had dropped it was a mad scramble and rush to get off. Many people were shaken from the ramming antics and some were inured. We waded to the shore and shrugged off the atentions of locals youths saying the annoying usual sentences like 'where are you from friend?', 'I take you as my friend', and 'give me money'. Everywhere you go these buggrs appear and they jus get more annoying at the time. I told them not very politely to sling their hook but they followed us all the way into a loca hostel where I turned on them and shoutd in their faces until they finally left us alone. Then the man in the hostel wouldnt let 3 people share a room, so once again I got angry and bamboozled him with English words that he couldnt understand and soon after he le us be. Once again I slept on the floor.
What a day! Where do I start from? After one of he girls left our travelling group and headed to Kumasi me and th remaiing girl went to the port to try and catch a fer accross the waters to Makongo.
The Volta river is the largest man made river/lake in the world and ll along the banks are sicking out trees that were once great living things when this land was villages and farm land. Now they are all at the murky depths below the waters. When we got to the port we discovered to our dismay that the Nana Besemuna the ferry tha had been put in a headlock and punched in the face numerous times last night was the ferry hat we needed. As this thing was no beyond repair they were running replacement ferries. Long carved wooden boats ornately painted with all sorts of embellishment on them. These long boats were already full to the brim with people and after we paid the crossing fair which was about 60pence we waded out to the nearest one and climed in to perch in the wet next to some old women who were alking to themselves. The boat next to us had a picture of Jesus on it and some footballs painted next to him!
Oh what a treat it was to cross the waters in this wooden rustic lookign boat. We crossed from Yeji in the Brong Ahafro region going to Makongo in the northern region. The boat rocked and swayed and at many occasions I thought that we were going to capsize. I had a quick headcount and I lost count at 120 people in the small croweded wooden boat with an outboard motor which kept cutting out. Not ony was there people in the boat but goats, cargo, giant pots and pans and all sorts of shite which was loaded up near the engine.
At one point we tipped to the left and many people scrambled over to the right hand side to counterbalance the boat and stop us from capsizing. Everyone on board was shoputing and talking, but all Ghanaians seem to talk to themselves. They dont talk about anthing in particular thy I think just speak their minds loudly. Mainl it was the old women who always no matter what the situation is have some old bollocks to say. I could undertand a bit of it and a lot of what they were saying was about us two. Why do people have to talk about you in another language when you are sitting right next to them, its bloody rude. We chugged along passing little brightly coloured fishing boats and more sunken tress those top branches still pertrude from the water. Finally we arrived in Makongo and jumped into the waters and waded aboard and had to literally fight to get into a tro tro which would take us into the small town of Salaga. It was a case of elbow out and scrambled in.
Salaga is a small dusty market town which is famoud for one horrible reason. It is the place where the slaves from the Pikworo slave camp were brought to be sold. The central market which was where the auctions took place is now a busyy and noisy goat filled tro tro station. But a large Boabab tree markes the stot where the slaves were chained to the ground. It is also called the town of 1000 wells but in my short time there I only saw one of them and hat was padlocked up. We bought a ticket to Bimbilla where there is a chieftancy crisis and therefore a curfes at night. Two rival tribes are claiming the enstoolment of their chief and so far there have been many shootings over the matter. While we waited for our particularly broken down tro tro to disembark I ran after and caught a large trolly that was rolling down the hill. I stopped it before it hit a tro tro and the driver gave me a big smile and a wave. I celebrated my heroics on my own with a street coffe and then had to avoid a filthy crazy man who would not bloody leave me alone. Crazy beggers see your white skin and immediately latch on to you and, they are so dirty that you do not want them anywhere near you.
I bought a ticket to Bimbilla for 15,000 cedis off a ginger black man. This is not at all an uncommon sight in Ghana. One theory is that their great great great grandfathers were colonial era sailors and the ginger streak misses a few generations and has reared its head now. This is not a fact it is just a theory that I have conjured up in my twisted mind.
So off we went crammed into the small rusty tro tro. We bumped along for half an hour or so and then suddenly we could hear a hissing sound. Puncture!! Out we jumped as the apsre was soon fitted to the back right wheel. Then we were back on the road bumping along steadily until. Yes you have guessed it we had another puncture. As the spare had already been used I thought shit we are buggered. But luckily the driver dissappeared into some distant mud huts off the side of the road and soon came back with another wheel. This wheel was far too big for the tro tro to take, but none the less they made it fit by hitting the wheel and the underside of the wheel arch to make the area bigger so the wheel could fit. All aboard once again and as I sat bumping along on a small wooden sall a small child fell asleep in front of me. The mother the eveil cow hit her in the face full force to wake her up. What a bitch.
The new wheel was causing a lot of rubbing on the wheel arch and a loud cracking noise was heard. Immediately the driver jumped out to see what the occurance was but was satisfied with what he saw and we soon where heading towards Bimbilla again. But then BANG, CRACK AND THUD. The tire had worm a large hole in the rusty whel arche and done some considerable damaged. This of course wasnt helped by the hammering that the driver and his mate did to the car. he thu noise was a large part of the axle and the suspension falling and clattering to the ground. So there we were in the middle of nowhere in the mid day sun, the relentless heat with no shade what so ever with a tro tro that needed to be taken to the knackers yard. Were doomed!! The driver and his cronies soon jacked the car up on wooden stalls and were fiddling underneat. In no time at all the entire front and back axles were off on the ground and ol was vereywhere. Well done lads I said to them, but alas they didnt understand scarcasm.
We were in a bit of a pickle I thought. Stranded with no water in the middle of the vas Guinew Svannah with no shade in the hot hot sun. What would we do. One of the passengers was a muslim man with a polio stricken arm. He knelt down to pray and whether his prayers were answered is a cause for some debate.
Beacuse in the horizon a shimmering spec in the heat haze appeared on the otherwise deserted road. This spec baceme bigger and soon turned into a motorbike ridden by a man in a bloody great bigb coat. The sweat poured off him, but soon the driver was giving him instructions and he headed off again into the distance once again becoming a shimmering spec before dissappearing.
The motorcyclist must have gone to a local town to summon help for another spec appeared shimmering in the heat haze on the horizon. This time it was a larger spec. It was like the scane from Lawrence of Arabia where Omar Shariff appears on the horizon and walks to the well shimmering in the desert. But this time it wasnt Egypt's finest it was a great big wooden lorry. Weere saved we all cried and I saluted the horizon to where the motorcyclist had gone to. The tro tro driver proudly walked into the middle of the road stood to attention, in a dignified position held out his hand in the spot gesture and the lorry slowed down to a halt next to us. The driver is my new hero.
How will our intrepid hero get out of the desert in the lorry. What is in the lorry, what happens next? Well tune in next time for Ben's African Adventure number 19.
Sleep tight


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