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Offline Nick Rivers

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O.P. « 2010-Nov-12, 03:45 PM »
Thought I might keep something of a travel blog.  A fortnight from tomorrow I fly out for eight weeks in West Africa, taking in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal & The Gambia.  Rough itinerary below:

Ghana:
Accra
Cape Coast
Nzulezo
Kumasi
Tamale
Mole National Park
Bolgatanga
Navrongo

Burkina Faso
Po
Ouagadougou
Bobo Dioulasso

Mali
Segou
Mopti
Sevare
Djenne
Mopti
Dogon Country
Mopti
Timbuktu
Sahara
Make my way down to Bamako
Kayes

Senegal
Kidira
Tambacounda
Thies
St Louis
Dakar
Ziguinchor
Cruise around the Casamance region

The Gambia
Haven't planned this part too well (nor Senegal for that matter)
Up and down The Gambia river
Fly out of Banul, and having roughed it until now, I'll be looking forward to a round of golf at
www.smiles.gm/fajara
Not sure how much of this I'll end up being able to fit in - public transport isn't quite as efficient in this part of the world as it is in Germany.  If anyone knows how I could learn French within a fortnight, please let me know   :lol:

Offline MagiC~*

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« 2010-Nov-12, 03:56 PM Reply #1 »
Will need some photos Nick  :thumbsup:

Will be some fantastic sights  :yes:

Offline Nick Rivers

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« 2010-Nov-12, 04:02 PM Reply #2 »
Will do mate, not sure how well connected some of these parts are. 

If I'm able to check in once a week, I'll be happy.

Offline worldisavampire

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« 2010-Nov-12, 10:21 PM Reply #3 »
Have a great time buddy.

What a trip!!!!!

Be careful and have fun   emthup

Offline grosvenor

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« 2010-Nov-12, 10:29 PM Reply #4 »
mate , im exhausted reading that , good luck

Offline gratlog

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« 2010-Nov-13, 10:17 AM Reply #5 »
Have a safe trip.

Also can you fill this order for me  :biggrin:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oOzszFIBcE

Offline Nick Rivers

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« 2010-Nov-13, 12:37 PM Reply #6 »
Thanks guys, should be a blast.

I'll see what I can do Grats - knowing my luck, I'll get it back here only for Customs to ruin everything.

Offline poxdoctor

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« 2010-Nov-13, 01:25 PM Reply #7 »
Good luck and have a great trip Nick. Should be a blast.

Offline Nick Rivers

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« 2010-Nov-25, 03:49 PM Reply #8 »
Flying out in two days.  I've had a whole lot of other (big) stuff going on, so apart from my shots which I had already organised, and some general research that I did months ago, everything's been pretty much left up until today and tomorrow. 

When reading my Ghana guide just before, I came across the greatest euphemism of all time.  A guy who is impotent, is said to be 'without portfolio'.  I work in Canberra, and there seems to be a lot of that going around.


Offline westie

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« 2010-Nov-25, 06:22 PM Reply #9 »
Nick
Have a good trip no need to hurry back parliament is taking a long break, enjoy your holiday.

Offline Nick Rivers

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« 2010-Nov-26, 11:16 PM Reply #10 »
Cheers mate   emthup

Nine hours until I leave - anyone want to pack for me?

Offline MagiC~*

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« 2010-Nov-26, 11:22 PM Reply #11 »
Have a safe trip mate, and am looking forward to your updates   emthup

Offline Nick Rivers

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« 2010-Nov-30, 12:21 AM Reply #12 »
Thanks Magic   emthup

Currently in London - I fly out for Accra, Ghana, tomorrow morning at 6:20.  I'm reacting badly to the anti-malarials (again), and I really need root canal I kind of look like Popeye).  So I'm feeling a bit ordinary right now, and slightly unprepared, but overall though, I'm just keen to get there.

Offline poxdoctor

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« 2010-Nov-30, 07:08 AM Reply #13 »
Good luck Nick, that anti malaria medication can be a right pain, but the teeth are worse...

Offline Nick Rivers

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« 2010-Dec-02, 03:12 AM Reply #14 »
Thanks Doc.  The good news is that I've started taking the antibiotics given to me by the dentist in case this happened, and the teeth are behaving themselves.  And the antimalarials have ceased being a pain in the a*se.  So I'm feeling pretty healthy. 

I arrived last night, finally - my flight from London was supposed to go via Frankfurt, but with the horrible weather in Germany, that airport was closed.  The good people of Lufthansa found me a flight with KLM, and I was here at around 20:00 last night.  Despite reports that attacks on foreigners leaving the airport after dark were becoming commonplace, I found my way to a hotel okay.  Not my hotel - the b*stards denied having a booking for me - but a hotel nonetheless.  Like a lot of capitals around the world, Accra seems to be a lot more expensive for accommodation for no discernible reason.  Those who have been to both Luang Prebang and Vientiane in Laos could empathise.  Anyway, I can't complain about things too much, and although I would never generally fork out for air-conditioning, I'm grateful for it now.

So enough of the really boring stuff, and on to the stuff that would be interesting, if I knew how to write.  Firstly, and I don't want to sound like a dirty old man (after all, I'm only 31), some, as in just as high a proportion as Buenos Aires, Krakow, or Saigon (my top three - not that I keep a list), of the women I've seen here are stunning.  I've only been in the working class parts of town so far, parts where the girls wouldn't have time to be concerned with appearances, but there are some incredible looking girls around the place. 

So this morning, after dropping my passport and visa application off at the Burkina Faso embassy, I headed to Makola Market.  This is where the locals go for their wares, and wares there are.  More colossal than anything I saw in India (market-wise, that is).  And like other similar places, everything seems to work, although I don't know how.  Having said that, I was stuck in a human traffic jam for twenty mins, but that was because a few trucks were parked in a pedestrian only street.  There would have been hundreds if not thousands of us, crammed in like sardines, but there was no panic or anything, I just went with the flow (which wasn't always forwards), and everything worked out.  These throbbing organisms, such as this market is, amaze me.  How they function I don't understand.  Accra is a city of only 2 million, but it seems like more in some ways.  It's only very young - a European creation towards the end of last century - and I suppose that it shares similar characteristics to any Western city at the same age.  In this way, I'm guessing it's the fact that it has grown 'organically' - there's no planning, yet it somehow functions.  Kinid of the antithesis of Canberra.

Anyway, I was walking in one of the industrial areas (interesting and colourful, to say the least), when a bloke stopped changing the tyre on his van and quickly approached me, telling me of his story as a Liberian refugee.  (N.B. this is NOT NOT NOT mentioned to 'encourage' any discussion of refugees further, I merely mention it because I work in this field, and it seemed amazing that this bloke, out of thousands who I passed today, stopped what he was doing and literally ran to talk to me.  I've had other conversations with locals, but I've generally been doing the approaching).  Thomas told me of how he'd lived in a Ghanian-hosted and run camp, still knew people there, and offered to take me tomorrow.  I'm weighing up the invitation.  I would LOVE to go, but I don't have a lot of time, and maybe it's because I've only been here less than 24 hours, but I'm still a bit cautious at the moment.  I also want to get out of Accra, because when I'm travelling, it's rarely the big cities that I'm keen on. 

Lunch today was a bit funny.  I took with me my Bradt guide (Lonely Planet can go to hell), an exercise book, and a pen.  I think the bloke thought that I was reviewing the place, so he kept bringing me free cokes and fruit.  Lunch itself was a local dish (name escapes me at the moment) - a whole grilled local fish with a corn/cassava dough side, and a chilli/tomato/onion chutney thing.  I'm not a foody, but it was amazing.  If it wasn't for the fact that I want to try a few places, I'd go back tomorrow.

So organising my BF visa was on top of my list, and it took them a total of four and a half hours.  Tomorrow I'm seeing some of the sights - National Museum and Kwamhe Nkrumah Memorial.  I'm a massive nerd for West African history, so I can't wait.  Also can't wait for Friday, when I head down to Cape Coast to check out some of the slave history.

Gotta run, more next time.

Offline triple7

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« 2010-Dec-02, 06:45 AM Reply #15 »
Great read Nick. Have a great trip, look forward to reading more.   emthup

Offline worldisavampire

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« 2010-Dec-02, 02:24 PM Reply #16 »
Very interesting Nick. You write brilliantly. Paint a very real picture   emthup

Offline Nick Rivers

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« 2010-Dec-03, 04:33 AM Reply #17 »
Thanks guys, much appreciated.  I've taken around fifty photos so far, and although I've done nothing spectacular, just thumbing through them now, they don't look too bad.  I'll upload them as soon as I learn how.  The internet's not too slow here, but still not brilliant.

Needless to say, I've been drinking bottled water over here.  I'm encountering a problem with it though - when I drink it, I feel somewhat re-hydrated, but I just get this feeling that trace elements are filtered out of it, so it's kind of an 'empty' feeling.  Consequently, I've been drinking a sh*tload of coke and juice.  Does anybody know if this is the reason?  I don't mind drinking filtered water, but there's plenty of good stuff in the tap variety back home that I might be missing here.

Early start again this morning.  I decided  to walk to the National Museum.  It's only about a half hour or forty minute walk, although everything good I said about Bradt guides was about the information, not the maps.  Just terrible.  I took a few cabs yesterday, but thought that for a few reasons, I'd try walking as much as I could.  Firstly, to save money.  They might only cost a few dollars at a time, but it adds up.  Secondly, to feel less cocooned as I get about town.  And thirdly, I wouldn't mind losing a few kilos on this trip.  Well the second and third reasons, I'll accomplish, but the first one, not so much.  The problem is that there are a few beggars around.  I'm not talking about kids who should be in school (or at least working - I know that sounds bad, but tourists shouldn't be encouraging begging as a 'profession').  I'm talking about amputees/multiple amputees, etc who are obviously struggling.  I only had Cedi notes in denominations of 5 (about $3.50), so after giving away a number of these, I'm a long way behind on where I would have been taking taxis.  Mental note - always have plenty of one or two Cedi notes on hand.

The museum.  It was largely an ethnographic collection, although there was an interesting exhibition on the slave trade, which was very good.  It explored issues of how guilty today's descendants of yesterday's protagonists should feel - both African and European.  And rather than just telling the obvious elements of the final 'transaction' at the coast, with Europeans purchasing the slaves, it discussed the story of the raiding, conflict, etc, that occurred in the interior, for the purpose of inland empires accumulating bodies for the purpose of onward trading.  As far as the ethnography goes, my favourite thing (forgive the juvenile nature of this), is the significance of stools in the Ashanti Kingdoms.  When the Ashantehene (King of the Ashanti) becomes King, the process is said to be a 'stooling'.  All I could think of was the colloquial similarities with us, and 'ascending the throne'.  Maybe people everywhere think of their monarchs as being full of sh*t.  The truth is, of course, the Ashantehene is adored, and the poms are getting a public holiday for their royal wedding next year.  So my initial reaction's probably somewhat off the mark.

Leaving the National Museum, I then walked the epic journey to the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum.  Fortunately, this trip was broken up by a haircut.  I love getting my haircut overseas.  Barbers are often focal points for socialising, where anyone who can afford to hang out and chat, does so.  So Thomas (about the third Thomas I've met) spent the next forty mins shaving my head.  Considering I had this done about five or six weeks ago, taking the time he did was something of an effort on his part.  The reason for this, is because he was so obsessive about having every hair cut perfectly.  The cost was only two Cedis ($1.40), but I doubled that, so impressed was I.  

Off to the Mauseleom.  I finally made it, but it really was a long and hot walk.  Before I go on, Kwame Nkrumah was a pan-Africanist, and first president of Ghana.  In many ways, he is both the father of the African anti-colonial movement, and the inheritor of the pan-African movement from W.E.B. Du Bois.  His presidency was not an unbridled success, but I can't think of anyone who had made that transition from leader of fight for independence, to successful leader of the new nation.  His legacy is still debated, but his accomplishments are undeniable.  Among them, he led Ghana to being the first African nation to throw off the yolk of imperialism.  Anyway, the Mauselom is situated in a lovely park, right near the Atlantic, and not only is it quite serene, but I was very, very grateful for the sea breeze.   After a couple of photos and a look around the adjoining museum, I went looking for a place to grab some lunch.  I finally found an establishment called Magic Power Phoenix, or some other such name that could pass for a Hong Kong racehorse, and I ordered 'Red Red' - a spicy bean and plaintain dish.   The woman from whom I ordered, said that it would take an hour, because she had to go and buy the beans.  I think she meant 'grow' the beans, because it was closer to two hours.  But, as I was overlooking the ocean, undercover with that breeze coming in, I couldn't have cared less.  And I would have waited twice that time for this dish.  It was fantastic.  Served with sweet potato, it is a staple among southern Ghanaians, and a tribute to the poor and scrubby folk not letting the fact that they have bugger all, get in the way of a good tasting feed.  Very simple, but delicious.  I think I have found my 'go to' dish, should I ever be in doubt later on.  

One of the things I decided before I began this trip, was that I would spend a lot of money on little stuff, supporting a variety of vendors.  I don't have a lot of money myself, but if there's one good way to spend it, surely that way is supporting these guys - some of the poorest people, in the very poorest region of the world, and injecting money into the economy, rather than just giving it away (although I'll make an exception for those who are clearly beyond working).  I've overdone things a little, though.  Two days in, and I've spent forty Cedis on four pairs of sunnies (none of which suit me - I need to accept that none ever will), and I've also spent twenty Cedis on five ties, all of which are surprisngly good quality.  I really hate sh*t ties, but I also detest being asked to pay the kind of money demanded in Aus for a good one.  So I'm stocking up.   Mental note - no more sunnies, but as many ties as you want.

With the spirit of 'buying stuff' in mind, I thought that I'd head to 'Oxford Street' - kind of a market street, based around the fact that a lot of expats frequent the place, and there are a lot of restaurants and bars close by.  This place doesn't really have a lot for someone like me - I'm more into the working class side of things, but just because it's more modern, doesn't make it any less authentic - it's still Ghana, and every bit as much a part of the country as the more 'traditional' elements.  N.B. I'm not sure if I like the words authentic or traditional, but you know what I mean.  So off I went, and I bought a Ghana Black Stars football jersey, and my fourth pair of sunnies.  I was all set to finish and go, when I was accosted by a few young guys.  This was the worst kind of being accosted - they were 'friendly', didn't want anything, and knew Aussie slang.  I'm quite naive, and don't have a lot of common sense or initiative, but this combination means one thing - dodgy and potential danger.  They were pretty relentless, and I have to admit, this was the first time I've felt in danger on the road since being chased by wild dogs outside of Wadi Musa, near Petra.  I ended up jumping in the nearest cab, which would have been fine, but traffic was at a standstill.  All I could do was wind up my window while they kept knocking on it.   The cabbie, seeing that I wasn't comfortable, yet realising how innocuos the situation really was, thought it was hilarious.  He was right to laugh, and we had a good laugh about it on the way back to the hotel.  He'll be picking me up tomorrow morning to take me to the station for my onward jouney to the Cape Coast, for some more slave history, more spectacular ocean views, some beaches, and where I'll be watching my favourite Ghanaian football team - the Cape Coast Essienimpong Mysterious Dwarves, although they're better known as the 'Ebesua Dwarves'.

All the best from Accra.
« Last Edit: 2010-Dec-03, 07:58 AM by Nick Rivers »

Offline Walter Watermelon

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« 2010-Dec-03, 05:16 AM Reply #18 »
You are getting me spellbound. Keep up the great reports and have a great time. Whatta journey you are undertaking.

Offline gratlog

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« 2010-Dec-03, 06:06 AM Reply #19 »
  emthup  Great read

Offline Nick Rivers

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« 2010-Dec-05, 04:13 AM Reply #20 »
Thanks for the feedback guys, much appreciated.

Well, there was no post yesterday, as I fell asleep around 14:30.  I had risen before 5:00 to catch my cab for the station, where I would take a bus to Cape Coast.  It was supposed to be a public holiday (Farmers Day), but I have never seen such traffic so early.   It took a lot longer than I'd anticipated, but I found quite easily my minibus (a reasonably modern Dodge van or something similar), with blasting air-con.  I'm told that this is the most comfortable public transport I'll get in Ghana, and they ply only certain routes.  This will, in fact, probably be the last one I use.  I was the second last one to board - they only leave once full, and there was about a twenty minute gap between myself and the last passenger arriving.  So a twenty minute wait, air-con, not too crowded (I'm told that other transport is no bigger, but with twice the number of passengers) and only Cedis 5.50 (a Cedi is comprised of 100 Pesawas, incidentally).  The trip took about ninety mins, partly because the driver was a maniac.  Roads are only one lane each way, and although I'm sure there is a speed limit, most of the vehicles aren't capable of attaining such speed.  The end result of this, was my driver - keen to fill up at the other end and return, no doubt - weaving his way in and out, so as to dodge all oncoming traffic and the slower cars in front, at the pedestrian speed of around 140km/h.  I thought that this was a particularly evangelical country, as every car seems to be emblazoned with references to Jesus, but it could just be out of fear of the traffic.

I was dropped at 'Sammo's Guesthouse' early in the morning, with a whole day ahead.  I headed straight up to Cape Coast Castle, the best preserved and most prominent testament to the trans-Atlantic slave trade remaining.  On my way, a number of locals yelled out to me 'Obruni!' (white person) asking what football team I supported.  Expecting me to say Manchester or Chelsea, etc, they went into raptures when I replied 'the almighty Ebusua Dwarves'.  They all asked me if I was going to the game on Sunday, which I am.   One of the big Kumasi teams is in town, and there's going to be quite a group of us walking up for the game.  From what I can gather, the Dwarves have started to hit a bit of form, after a very slow start to the season.

The Castle.  Well, it's hard for me to write about this, because I've read so extensively about it, that I don't want to go into too much detail, but providing a cursory description will probably see me failing to do it justice.  Essentially, it was used as a giant holding cell for slaves, before they were purchased and boarded ships, waiting to take them to the all over the New World and even Asia, but most commonly, The Caribbean.  Generally speaking, 1500 would be held there at any one time.  Back to the history of the Castle briefly, it changed hands several times before the poms acquired it sometime in the 1660s (date escapes me at the minute).  It was used by the English until Gold Coast (colonial name of Ghana) won its independence in 1957.  

It's hard to describe the evil and despair permeating every element of the experience.  The sum total of it all is quite simple though.  Hundreds at a time passed through here, and 12 million overall were traded in the 400 years to the late 19th century (from all parts of Africa, that is).  The dungeons were incredibly tiny, with minimal if any daylight, and nowhere for faeces, urine or vomit to escape.  Predictably enough, a lot of these poor b*stards died while still here.  Did their captors remove the dead bodies?  Of course not, so more and more became sick.  This was just the blokes, though.  The women were kept separately, and the average 'holding time' (that is, how long it took for enough bodies to accrue before the ships would purchase, or alternatively, the time that it took for a slave ship to turn up to purchase said bodies) was three months.  Yep, three months, so the women also had menstrual blood to contend with.

There were also other special cells, for those that had instigated rebellions and riots, and for women who refused or resisted being sexually violated by the resident officers.  Oh, I nearly forgot to mention - they were in iron chains the whole time, and never able to stand, sit or lie down properly.  

That's about all I can remember of the conditions for the moment.  I don't know how to post links, but if you were to google Cape Coast Castle, I'm sure there'd be plenty of readily accessible material.

On the plus side, it's fantastic to be on the coast.  It's just a little cooler, and being the dry season, their's bugger all humidity, which explains the absence of mozzies.  My room is a little closer to what I'm expecting as I move further north.  It's nothing special, but perfectly adequate.  The bathroom is more or less an outdoor one, but indoors, i.e. dirt floor.  The room's clean enough though.

Today was spent at El Mina castle - not significantly different from Cape Coast, but from a selfish perspective, more impressive views of the coast.  It's only 15km from where I am, and I successfully negotiated more primitive forms of public transport.  

Time's up on the net, I'll be back later to finish.

Back again.  Not much to add.  I caught a 'shared taxi' to El Mina - just a car that runs along a fixed route, and leaves once it's full.  It was only a small car, and with one seat empty, it was full enough, so I paid the 80 pesawas rather than wait for another body, and we were on our way.

The trip to El Mina was a lovely 15km, and most of it by the water.   This must be where the freshest fish in the world is sold.  It's caught, and some of the younger guys run the twenty metres to the road to sell it to the passing traffic. or anyone who lives along the road.  Coming from a Western country (and one with a very low density of living), it's easy to forget that in most parts of the world, people live where they can, not just where they want.  So there is no beginning and end to cities or towns over here, people just living everywhere. 

Anyway, like I said, not much to add.

All the best from Cape Coast.
 
« Last Edit: 2010-Dec-06, 03:18 AM by Nick Rivers »

Offline Nick Rivers

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« 2010-Dec-06, 03:51 AM Reply #21 »
Well, I'm just back from the football.  Or half of the football.  I'm sitting in an internet 'cafe' and the fans are going nuts outside. Not sure of the full time score - I had to leave at half time.  The combination of several fights within a couple of metres of me, only one door for everyone to get in/out of the stadium (the rush was intense, and being crushed kind of irks me), and a bloke keen on fighting me were enough to convince me to leave at half time, with the score 0-0.  The bloke who wanted to hit me wouldn't have got more than one punch in - the crowd wanted to see football, and the fans themselves are the best police, consequently (lucky, because he could have killed me).  Not sure if it was 1-0 or 2-0 in the end, but we got up.  Oh, and from the safety of behind the barbed wire (that is, on the pitch) the cops were antagonising the crowd.  Just another relaxing Sunday arvo on holiday.

The football itself was quite entertaining - attack is the name of the game over here.  The colour and spectacle of the game / crowd was also amazing - before things started getting a bit too intense, that is.  I'm a bit disappointed in myself that I didn't see the game through.  The thing is, I don't find much of this travelling caper to come particularly easily, but I think it's healthy (for me, anyway) to challenge myself as much as possible.  There's an old saying that I just made up - there's nowhere less comfortable than your comfort zone.  This is certainly true for me at any rate.

Speaking of getting out of comfort zones, the day wasn't a total failure.  Earlier, I successfully negotiated 'tro-tros' (more later) to find my way to Kakum National Park.  Here, I summonsed the courage to complete the 350m canopy walk, 28-40m above the ground, on a less than reassuring suspension bridge.  As you can probably tell, I really really hate heights.  At any rate, I knew I'd be gutted if I didn't give it a go.  So I launched into it, and it actually wasn't too hard, despite the fact that 40m really is a long way up.  And to see the forest from that height - in some cases above the tree top - ensured I was rewarded for my effort.

I'm finding it increasingly difficult to describe what I'm seeing here.  Ultimately, it's the same as anywhere else - people just trying to get by, according to their circumstances.  It's just the environment and means that differ from place to place.  For one thing, it's so hot, and the people so poor, that they get out of their houses as soon as possible.  So from  6:00am onwards, it's crazy noisy outside.  If I can take one habit home with me, I'll be happy if it's the custom of effortlessly sleeping at 9:00pm, and rising before 07:00am.  The colour is amazing - sights, smells, never a remotely quiet moment, it's a cliche, but it really is an assault on the senses.  And the people.  They are just so friendly (a couple of football hooligans aside).  The tro-tro trip back from Kakum was incredible; people from different regions of the country all trying to teach me how to speak their lingo, and keen on hearing about Australia.  None of this sitting politely and ignoring the person next to you - everyone seems to be friends, everyone's, as they say 'Akwaaba' or 'welcome'. 

Heading off to Nzulezo tomorrow, a village on the Ivorian border (or close to), built entirely on stilts in a lagoon.  Why not?  I'm hoping for some peace and quiet, if only for a day, before heading off to Kumasi, which I have just found out is easily more intense than Accra.  Interesting.

All the best from Cape Coast.

Offline MagiC~*

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« 2010-Dec-06, 08:55 AM Reply #22 »
 :)

Keep the updates coming mate, also photo's would be good, maybe you dancing in them, like that guy in the youtube vids used to do ....    :lol:  

Offline Nick Rivers

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« 2010-Dec-10, 04:13 AM Reply #23 »
Not sure about dancing, Magic, might ruin things for everyone.  But I promise to upload some pics soon.  My greatest frustration  photos, is that I can't bring myself to 'snap', as they say over here, the complexities of people simply surviving.  I just can't come at the idea of people sticking their camera in my living room and photographing my day to day life, and that's what it would be; as I read somewhere else, life in Ghana is public.  So everyone's outside, all the time, the streets are their living room.

There is no better example of this than in Kumasi.  It makes Accra look rather pedestrian by comparison.  Before I go on, I should add that I have missed a few days, essentially covering my time from Cape Coast to Nzulezo (village built on stilts) and back to Cape Coast.  I've recorded some of these experiences elsewhere, and I'll post them when I get the chance.  Anyway, back to Kumasi.   The whole place is one crowded market.  It's Ghana's second city, but outdoes Accra for sheer intensity.  There is a non-stop barrage of car horns (traffic here is as bad as I've seen anywhere), various evangelical mobs doing their thing, the traffic itself, and, of course, the bellowing of tro-tro 'mates', hawkers, and anyone else trying to turn a cedi.

I had one aim today - to find myself a nice (i.e. loud) suit.  First, I had to find the material, so off I went to Ketejia Market, the largest open-air market in West Africa.  It's like a city in its own right, although the train tracks running through the middle of it are a little incongruous.  A true maze-like series of passageways, with, as mentioned previously about life over here, a coherent manner in which things are laid out.  Food over in this corner, homewares over in that section, clothes here, tailors over there, etc.  The more complex (and potentially overwhelming, except I'm so hardcore   :lol: ) of these places are great in the sense that because they exist for the local market, the vendors aren't concerned with the 'obroni', or white person, dollar.  So there's no hassle.   The flip side of this is, of course, that sometimes I just want a souvenir, rather than a grilled bat kebab, which can be hard to find if you don't know where to look.  So after a few hours, still no material for my funky-a*se suit, but at least I felt that I had met the challenge of Ketejia Market.

I stopped for a feed at Vic Baboo's Cafe, quite the popular and famous spot for 'obronis'.  It wasn't so much that I was looking for the comfort of non-street food, but rather, one thing stood out in the guide book - air-con.  I sat down and immediately ordered a drink.  Soon after, I picked up the menu.  First page was the pizzas.  I looked up and down, and was a little stunned.  I read it again.  Amongst the Hawaiian, Mexican, Vegetarian, and other regular sounding names, was the 'Canberran'.  I read it again.  Yep, Canberra.  No London, Washington, Berlin, etc, just Canberra.  Its toppings were tomato, onion and sausage.  I don't know why I ordered it, maybe I thought a taste of home might be nice, as it were.  Nope.  Even with the egg appearing out of nowhere, it was still pretty ordinary.  Indians make some of the nicest food in the world.  When it's Indian.  I just don't trust them to make a pizza.  How globalised this world is, when I can get a 'Canberran' pizza (in theory, an Italian food) cooked by an Indian, in the Ashanti capital in Ghana.  Anyway, strike this up as a win for parochialism.... not a good result.  After a quick trip back to the hotel, and the booking of my bus ticket north, the search for material was on again.

When I'm on the road, and I don't really know where I should be looking, sometimes the best thing to do is to get lost.  So I just wandered.  Within about half an hour, I found the most stunningly..... yellow material, dotted and decorated with some vile looking brown patterns.  We had a winner.  At 5 cedis a yard, and requiring four yards to make a suit, I suspect that I was paying 'overs', but the quality of the banter with the woman selling it to me was worth it.  I'm pretty sure she was drunk.  Whenever she couldn't understand me, she roared laughing and high-fived me.  She took me to a tailor, who charged 20 cedi, but I can pick it up by 2:00 tomorrow arvo.  Pretty impressive.  So 40 cedi, or $28 for a tailo-made suit.  Not bad.

Tomorrow it's off to the local fort, where I can see the history of the colonial regiment, that is, the history of the locals fighting for the poms before independence.  Talk about Stockholm Syndrome, imperialism style.  Or sheer exploitation.  (Note that I've tried to be balanced thus far with my references to the various historical relationships, but the notion of locals fighting for the poms, against the evils of imperialism would be hilarious if it weren't so tragically exploitative and hypocritical).

Going to have to send some stuff home, too.  Pack's starting to get a bit bulky, and with the more demanding leg(s) of my trip coming up, it's probably best for me to lighten the load.

All the best from Kumasi, and I'll post  the earlier part of the week soon.


Offline Nick Rivers

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« 2010-Dec-10, 07:08 PM Reply #24 »
Just a reminder to myself to elaborate on the friendliness and helpfulness of the locals, and the women carrying huge loads on their heads.


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