Hello everyone! I am sorry for dragging my feet on this past entry. It has been a hectic couple of weeks and each time I sit down to blog it all out, something else comes up and I once again find myself preoccupied. But I am here now and ready to share so I hope you are still with me!
The past few weeks as I said have been wonderfully busy. This entry is going to be heavily weighted towards the past few weekends. The weekends are my chance to get off campus and explore the rest of Ghana! Here’s what I’ve been up to.
Three weekends ago, the CIEE program took us on a trip to the Eastern Region. We visited the Tetteh Quarshie Cocoa Farm, where we saw how cocoa is harvested and the maturing process that cocoa undergoes before being shipped off for processing and distribution. After the tour, our guide cracked open a cocoa pod and passed it around for us to taste! Expecting it to look and taste like chocolate, I was surprised by the brain-like appearance and sweet, fruity taste.
After the cocoa farm we went to the Aburi Botanical Gardens. We saw tons of different trees and exotic plants that you cannot find anywhere else. The gardens were also a host to numerous events and social gatherings. We saw a couple of church masses being conducted and what looked like a day care for children. At one point I turned around and was bombarded by children shouting “oburoni” and asking what my name was. They motioned to a camera that my friend was holding and they all began smiling and posing for us. After a not so brief photo shoot with the kids, my fellow badgers and I decided to teach them a bit of our Wisconsin culture and we all held up the W’s for one last picture.
The following week I had my first midterm exam in History of Western Medicine. The first test in any class always gets my blood pressure up but my first test at a new university in Ghana made me especially nervous. As it turned out the test was more of a reflection on what we had been talking about for the past few weeks so there was no need to worry!
The following weekend, some friends and I planned our first overnight trip. We went to the Volta region to see the Wli Falls and the Tofi Atome Monkey Sanctuary. The trip took about 5 hours via three tro tros, one city bus, and a few moto taxis. We left at 6am on Friday morning and caught a bus to the downtown Accra station. From there we hopped on the most luxurious tro tro I have seen to date. The seats were plush and comfortable; there was air conditioning and even seat belts! I felt like I was living in a dream. About an hour and a half away from Wli, we made a pit stop at the monkey sanctuary. Equipped with our bananas and our guide, Gladys, we soon found ourselves underneath a tree filled with monkeys. We were instructed to grip the bananas firmly and hold them towards the monkeys. On my first attempt, I wasn’t holding on tight enough and a sneaky little monkey snatched the entire banana right out of my hand. My second try was more successfully and a monkey jumped onto my shoulders, casually peeled the banana in my hand, ate half of it and jumped back into the tree. I was definitely startled at first but it was quite the experience having a monkey climb on top me.
Once the monkeys had had their fill of bananas we headed back to the main road to catch another tro tro to the Wli village. We arrived just before dark and went to schedule our hike for the morning. We met our guide whose name was Wisdom, but most people call him Mighty. As it turned out he was a good friend of our UPal Atsu and he gave us a good deal on the price for the tour and a place to stay for the night. We woke up bright and early the next day to the sound of two roosters having a shouting match outside our room. Gotta love nature’s alarm clocks. We started our 6-hour hike to the falls at 7am when it was cool outside and the sun was still rising. We asked Mighty how difficult the hike would be he assured us that it was not hard and that it was just like a walk. I started getting skeptical when he stopped to make us all walking sticks out of palm branches. And after a seemingly 90-degree climb up to the first peak of the mountain range, I realized that when a Ghanaian says walk, odds are they really mean a very vertical climb. We continued up through the mountain range until we were high enough to see the entire village of Wli as well as three or four surrounding villages on one side and both the upper and lower falls on the other side. It was quite the view to say the least.
After a grueling 3 hours of climbing up rock walls, fighting our way through thick trees and branches, and descending down another almost vertical path, we made it to the bottom of the upper falls. I have to say the best cure for sweat and near heat exhaustion is the ice-cold pool at the base of a waterfall. I could have stayed in that water with the force of the enormous waterfall on my back all day. It was by far the best shower I have ever had.
Knowing that we still had long way back down to the lower falls, we packed up and headed back on the trail. You would think that going downhill would be easier then the strenuous climb up but let me assure you, it most definitely is not. Every step had the potential of sending you off the path and straight down the side of the mountain. There was a lot of careful planning for foot placement and the “sit-n-slide” technique was put to great use. Another three or so hours later and we were at the lower falls, which was equally as magnificent as the upper. Another quick swim and we were back on our way. After saying our farewells to Mighty (who by the way completed the entire hike in flip flops) and purchasing some handmade jewelry in the village market, we headed back to the nearby tro tro station in Ho Hoe to hitch a ride back. Unfortunately the tro tro back was not nearly as glamorous as the ride in but at that point I was just happy to be sitting and not climbing!
The next week came and went with a fairly normal schedule of classes and work. For the weekend, we decided to reward ourselves after the physicality of the previous weekend. We traveled six hours down the coast, past Cape Coast and into Takoradi to the small beach village of Busua. We took a friend’s recommendation to stay at the Alaska Hotel and we were not disappointed by any means. The rooms were individual huts set right on the beach. The hotel had a restaurant and bar also set on the beach with a huge canopy to shade the tables and chairs around it and just to top it all off, in between each set of trees was a hammock. The ocean was a 15 second walk from my hut, separated only by the white sandy beach. Looking down the coast to the west was a surf shop, a few chop bars, and local fishing crews periodically pulling in their nets and to the east was forest and mountains with little signs of human presence.
My description nor my pictures do it justice but I honestly would not mind staying on that beach forever…or at least for the next three months. The village itself was quaint but very inviting. The locals went out of their way to make sure we had everything we needed. We dined with Daniel the pancake man and met Frank the juice man. We also met a rasta named Jerry who personally escorted us to his restaurant. The whole trip was quite surreal and leaving on Sunday was definitely difficult. The drive back was especially interesting mostly due to a woman in the seat in front of me who sang the same gospel song at the top of her lungs for almost the entire trip back. The best part was that no one reacted or seemed phased by it at all except for us oburonis. All I have to say is good thing for headphones!
That’s it for the not so brief recap, much more to come. Stay tuned and stay warm!