Vacation in Ghana, Part IV

By 4AM on October 7th the five German girls and I were huddled together again, waiting in the dark in Mole National Park for the bus to take us back to Tamale, hoping the nocturnal lions wouldn’t swing by for an early breakfast. While we waited, lightning flashed constantly, and one of the dozen or so 15-second exposures I took managed to catch some horizontal lightning bolts:

Horizontal lightning in Mole National Park, Ghana

This time the bus was only half an hour late, but after one hour on the road, picking up passengers in villages along the way, the engine overheated and refused to start up again. The conductor told me the radiator tank was leaking, so I told him to patch it and fill it with water, and he looked at me like I was from another planet. After an hour of arguing with him, trying to get our money back, we organised a mini-van to pick us up because we didn’t want to wait for the promised replacement bus, which would surely arrive half a day later if at all.

Metro Mass Transit bus, broken down due to leaking radiator

Once we had organised the mini-van to leave a nearby town to fetch us, the driver promptly filled a big jerrycan of water from a nearby water source, then used it to fill the radiator tank, started up the engine, and told everyone to get back on board for a ride to the next town to wait for the replacement bus. We took our bags off the bus and waited for the minivan to arrive, and by noon we were in Tamale again.

The pair of German girls split off to head north, leaving the trio of German girls and myself to head back to Accra. After a few hours waiting for the bus to fill up, munching on cookies and frozen fruit juice and drinking bags of cold water, we left Tamale in relatively good spirits. At the halfway mark – Kumasi – we got a pleasant surprise, when we were ordered off the bus and onto a different one for the second half of the trip. This bus, of course, was far less comfortable and we were given the very last row of seats with the least leg room and no way to lean back and try to sleep.

By 4AM we were in Accra, from which we caught a tro-tro (a mini-bus with about 20 very cramped seats) to a road junction on the outskirts of town and a taxi from there. By chance, the three girls were staying only 5 minutes from the beach-side guesthouse to which I was returning out of sheer convenience for my final day in Ghana. It was 515AM when I arrived, having spent 25 hours on the road.

All that uncomfortable road travel would have been very unpleasant, but good company made it a really fun experience for me. I spent the entire day Saturday reading a book and chatting with a couple of travellers who didn’t fit the description at the start of this blog post, and eating some tasty Ghanaian food (my favourite is the super simple plain fried rice with palaver source). Eating the food also involved waiting nearly two hours for the rasta cook to make it, a large part of which was spent sitting inside his hut chatting and staring out at the world slowly passing by:

The view from inside Prince Joe

Sunday morning I was off to the airport in Accra and by mid-afternoon I was eating German bread and Spanish chorizo sausage in Abidjan. The view after takeoff from Accra:

Flying out of Accra, Ghana

Long story short: if you get the chance to check this little country out some day, you’re probably Ghana have a great time like I did!

Vacation in Ghana, Part III

After a good night’s sleep in the Mole Motel (the only accommodation inside Mole National Park), I was up at 6AM on October 6th to meet up with the five German girls again. We ordered breakfast from the little motel restaurant, but they were so slow they hadn’t even boiled the water for the instant coffee by the time we had to leave to catch the 7AM walking safari in the park. The six of us joined three other pairs of tourists plus a park guide named Adam, and set off to see some wildlife. Over the course of almost four hours, we saw a few antelopes, warthogs, baboons, a monkey in the distance, and some birds.

Warthog in Mole National Park, Ghana
Monkeys in Mole National Park, Ghana

But of course, the main goal was to see elephants! The park guides all carry mobile phones with them, so they call each other to find out who’s seen elephants and then the others can head that way. This makes it far more likely for tourists to see elephants. Once another guide had called Adam to tell him where he’d spotted a group of five male elephants by a watering hole, we headed that way. The only problem was the big marsh, complete with narrow but fast-flowing river running through, that stood between us and the watering hole in the far distance. After a bit of discussion, we decided to risk ruining our shoes by sloshing through the mud and swamp water, and carefully crossing the river which came up higher than my knees. I was glad to be wearing my knee brace, as I could feel my kneecap trying to dislocate from the lateral pressure of the water while I slowly made my way across – it definitely wouldn’t have held out on its own.

We eventually made it all the way to the watering hole and spent a fair bit of time observing the five elephants, the largest of whom had a ridiculously long left tusk, showing his old age.

Savannah elephants in Mole National Park, Ghana
Savannah elephants in Mole National Park, Ghana
An old bull elephant in Mole National Park, Ghana

Having had our fill of elephant-watching, we headed back toward the park motel, crossing through a different part of the marsh and then another river that was much less powerful, but a fair bit wider and deeper than the first one. This time the water came halfway up my thighs!

Crossing a river in Mole National Park, Ghana

On arriving back at the motel, I spent a full hour in my bathroom washing the mud out of my only pair of shoes, plus my socks and trousers, then left them out to dry in the sun. I also saw a non-colourful agama lizard outside my room; I’ve seen a LOT of agamas in different countries, as far east as Uganda and as far west as Côte d’Ivoire (they can be found even farther in each direction, I just haven’t been that far!), but they’ve always been quite brightly coloured… purple, blue, red, orange, but this was the first time I’d seen one which seems to have had his colours taken away:

White-headed agama lizard, Mole National Park, Ghana

In the afternoon, the German girls invited me to join them for a canoe trip on a nearby river, so we all jumped into (and onto) a Nissan 4×4 vehicle with a park guide and headed to a small village outside the park to pick up two of villagers who would take us in their canoes. While we waited for the two men, the village chief suggested we get a good view of his village by climbing up these steps onto a roof of questionable structural integrity:

Very cool stairway in Mognori, Ghana

The canoe trip was very relaxing. We saw a few birds, including a kingfisher (I’ve now seen different types of kingfisher on every continent I’ve visited), and a bunch of kids playing in the water.

River canoes
Canoeing on Mole River, Ghana

On the dusk drive back to the park motel, I got to sit on the roof with two of the German girls, who chatted with me about the challenges of assimilating refugees and other immigrants into German and Swedish society.

Riding on the roof

Back at the motel we watched the sunset and were visited by a baboon looking for food.

Baboon visit at dusk, Mole National Park, Ghana

The six of us then ate dinner, three of us had a quiet beer, and by 9PM we had all gone to bed exhausted.

To be continued…