First off, I’m sorry for not being able to post for a little bit. The last few days have been hectic, with major traveling and quick changes in hotels and cities taking up all of our time. But that will just make this post teeming with the latest.
So where to begin? Well, on Saturday morning, me and my mom said goodbye to the VEG (Village Exchange Ghana) house and office for the last time. My dad had a Saturday night flight to Accra, so we had to be there by that afternoon to pick him up. We had a nice barbeque on Friday night to celebrate, so I was once more filled up with delicious food. It’s hard to beat the cooking at the VEG house anywhere else in Ghana.
The spread at dinner.
It was sad to leave Ho. The city became a place of comfort and relaxation, the one place in Ghana where we actually knew where we were going and could navigate with ease. The people were amazingly friendly and used to volunteers, so we were never hassled and always welcomed with open arms. As we venture into the more tourist-y parts of Ghana, that feeling will be sorely missed. Goodbye to Kofi, Felix, Emily, Shoko, Albert, Jennette, and the rest of the great people who work at VEG. It couldn’t have been a better volunteer experience.
Kofi, me, and Felix
Christiane, the founder of VEG, graciously offered to drive us to Accra to pick up my dad, so we piled into the VEG pickup truck one last time for the three hour journey from Ho. Two other volunteers, David and Ferran (chill), decided to go to a beach resort outside of Accra for the weekend, so they tagged along. My dad wasn’t arriving until 9:15 pm, so we decided it would be perfect to have lunch with the guys at their resort before heading back to the city. However, the quoted 30 minute drive from Accra to Big Milly’s Beach Resort was a farce. Caught up in the infamous Accra traffic (a single two lane highway leading into a city of millions), it took two hours to go 20 kilometers (about 12 mph average).
Enterprising sellers taking advantage of the deadlock
Cows didn’t help the traffic either.
We finally weeded through the traffic and a bumpy dirt road. A relaxing lunch right on the beach awaited, much appreciated after five hours in the car. Our nice jaunt to the coast at an end, we said some more goodbyes to Ferran and David and Christiane drove us back to Accra. We helped deliver some cloth products created by the Ghanaian women at VEG to Global Mamas, an organization that resells beads and batik to stores and wholesalers in the West.
And then it was time to head to the airport. We waited, and waited, and waited, and waited, but finally my dad emerged into the arrivals hall. He looked exhausted from 24 hours of traveling (house in New York to Accra airport), but excited to be on vacation in an exotic country. Christiane drove us to our Accra hotel, and then it was time for our last goodbye to VEG. We handed over the many donations my dad had brought from home (two bags of children’s books, breast health booklets, and other supplies) and waved off our amazing host.
Sunday morning was an early one. We hit the ground running, finding our way to Accra’s Kaneshie Market to catch a tro-tro (public transport van) to Cape Coast. The city and its neighbor Elmina are home to two “castles” (more like forts) that played key roles in the slave and gold trades with Europeans. The ride to Cape Coast took less than two hours on the best road I’ve seen yet in Ghana. Due to our early start, we were able to see both castles and explore the historic town of Elmina a little bit. Then we retreated to a basic beach resort hotel (this time with floors) for some rest and relaxation by the roaring waters of the Atlantic.
The room of no return and the confinement cells for misbehaving slaves. Nobody ever came back from either.
On Monday (this) morning, there were fishermen casting their nets and groups of men pulling in their catches. It’s hard work to pull in the fish, but the result is tremendous, and everyone who helps pull gets a little piece of the catch.
But we didn’t have time to waste. We were just as quickly out of Cape Coast and up north to Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti region. A three hour tro-tro and 20 minute taxi ride later and we were at the Four Village Inn just outside of the city center. The Ashanti region is the cultural center of Ghana and Kumasi is the perfect base for day trips out to the sights. For the afternoon, we stopped by the Ashanti National Cultural Center, visited a small museum about the Ashanti kingdom (which still exists, but only exerts ceremonial and economic power), and got lost trying to find a magical Ashanti sword (who knew they put major tourist landmarks in the middle of hospital grounds?).
Unfortunately, Kumasi is better known as a base to travel to other places and not as center of things to see. So we headed back to the hotel for some R&R. We are staying in a tiny, four room bed and breakfast that the Ghanaian-Canadian owners converted from its former role as their Kumasi home. It is quaint, clean, and the Canadian man who runs it gave helped us book tours for the rest of our week in Kumasi. Plus, we were promised hot showers, our first in over three weeks.
The plan for the rest of the week is as follows:
- Tuesday: guided tour of Kejetia market, the biggest open-air market in West Africa; a visit to a brass workshop; and we might swing by the old Ashantihene (Ashanti king) palace if we have time
- Wednesday: taking a car around to a few of the surrounding craft villages where items like kente weaved cloth and handmade pottery are made
- Thursday: possibly a gold mine tour (we’ll see about that one)
It should be another packed few days, but we’ll be sure to see a ton before we have to fly back home on Friday night.
Everything has to change sometime. Hopefully the Ashanti region can live up to the fun times we had in Volta.