#5 Ghana, Feb. 11, 2001

Dear Everybody,

I’m so irritated that the telephoto thing on my camera doesn’t work at all now. Of course it conked out completely (it was limping along) just as I got to the elephants. These ultra electronic cameras are just too complex, I think.

On the road again—on the bus to Tamale last Tuesday, and, of all things, Rob Hanson was also on the bus. He is the Swanville, MN guy, and the only other white person. He said that I was all over his website, as the day before when we met over breakfast, he updated his website regarding his travels in Ghana, and he included info about meeting me. His website is http://www.BoxCollector.com. Mildly interesting, I thought.

Anyway I arrived in Tamale after six hours and then got another bus, which left at 4:30 pm for Mole Park, over a washboard, gravel, dusty road, arriving at 10 PM. The Norwegian couple, Solveig and Rickart turned up again on the bus to the park.

Mole Park was WONDERFUL! Just overlooking the watering hole from the motel the next morning I saw elephants, kob (pronounced ‘cup’ –a kind of antelope), warthog, vultures and crocodiles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I went on several walking safaris with the Norwegians and a guide (with a gun) and saw the above plus waterbuck, elephants frolicking and swimming in a watering hole, monkeys and a baboon, real close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was within 60 feet of 16 male elephants. They are SO BIG! They did signal us—turning towards us, flapping their ears and pointing their trunks at us, but nothing worse!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The motel had a pool (!) which I made good use of. But for the fact that there was no electricity and I had to put my contact lenses in by candlelight to be ready to safari at 6:15 AM, all was wonderful!

 

 

 

 

After three nights in the park, I got a ride with some French tourists in a car to Larabanga (7 km) where I stayed for $1.50 in a guesthouse. (Yes, I used my sleep sheet as the bedding didn’t look too clean). The proprietor, AlHussan, is a real community activist, and with the help of his identical twin brother (they’re about 35—they don’t know their birthdate exactly) and a Peace Corps volunteer, established some ecotourism in this village. He also was instrumental in eradicating guinea worm in this region. It was quite interesting to hear of all the conflict that the ecotourism generated—especially with the Chief Iman (it’s a totally Muslim village of 4000) who wanted to control the money derived from this effort. But with great patience and perseverance the ‘Development Committee’ has accomplished a lot, like reestablishing the primary school which had become totally defunct.

I viewed their 13th century mosque, made of mud in the Sahel style. (I saw similar mosques in Mali) and also visited the Mystic Stone. Both of these ancient sites involve lots of ‘warrior throwing a spear and it landed here,’ etc.

 

 

 

 

I walked around the village, visiting the primary school. The children were all in uniform and lined up, singing and marching to “When the Saints Go Marching In.”  They didn’t seem to know that this was an American song!

In the evening I also happened upon a couple of hundred children and adolescents drumming, dancing and singing. There was also a young man with a tiny whip who would ‘whip’ the girls that were singing. When I asked why he was doing that, somebody said that he was their coach, and he whipped them when they didn’t sing loud enough or with enough spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

I had local fufu for lunch again—I just love it! None of the tourists that I have met (8-10) like it. I have decided that the texture is like raw bread dough (no wonder I like it—I always eat raw bread dough!) with a meat/tomato/onion sauce (this one had ground groundnuts (peanut butter) in it—and it’s eaten with the fingers.  It’s made with cassava and yams, peeled and combined in a tub where it’s pounded for a long time.  This takes somebody with muscles and stamina!

In the evening we had T.Z. (pronounced tee-zet) which is also a doughy thing made out of corn. Actually it’s a little like a very firm oatmeal. Again, you pick up a wad and dip it in the sauce (tomato/okra/chili peppers). You’re really not supposed to chew either ‘T.Z.’ or fufu, but what would be the advantage in that? In the evening we adjourned to the rooftop to eat the T.Z. (at first I was spelling it teeszet, but I saw it as ‘T.Z.’ on a menu in Tamale—some languages call ‘Z’, ‘zet’). There were no mosquitoes and there was a beautiful full moon and starry sky, and a wonderful cool breeze. We climbed a ‘ladder’ that was made from two tree trunks, each about eight inches in diameter, leaning against the building, reaching about two feet from the roof. The trunks had notches cut on which to put your feet. Going up wasn’t bad, but all the time I’m up there, I’m worrying about getting down! I finally did manage it with help from AlHussan, but it was not comfortable.

The bus ride to and from Tamale and the Park was quite a scene; beautiful rural compounds of circular mud huts with thatched roofs, arranged in a circle; a single file of nine young girls carrying pails on their heads, their posture is perfect as it must be to balance the pails; a woman across the aisle in the bus is nursing her baby; most of the people in the bus are dozing off, probably because they have worked so hard that day; it is the dry season and some trees are completely bare, some are in bud, and some are in full leaf; there are goats, chickens, cattle and power lines; at each stop there are people selling oranges, water, peanuts, dried fish (near the river), bananas, bread; there are fifteen foot high termite mounds; the babies are bound to their mothers with their legs straddling their mothers’ waists; there are trucks broken down, with night approaching; and a million other details to take in. How would it be if this were my life? I have learned that in exotic places like this, that the objective is not the destination but the journey. However, on Saturday when coming back from Larabanga for five hours on the dusty, washboard road with the bus cram-packed with people standing in the aisle, I sometimes forgot! I had gotten up at 5:15 to be ready at 5:45, backpack on my back, for the 6:00 bus. It arrived at 7:30. In the meantime, more and more people had congregated, each bringing large bundles, chickens, babies, very large sacks of yams, peanuts, etc., and by the time the bus came there must have been 50 people wanting to get on—it was bedlam! AlHussan appeared and bought my ticket for me (as a man of consequence in the community his request had some weight) and I did get a seat. We finally got underway at 8:30. I noticed that the driver ‘geared down’ a lot to stop the bus, and the ‘boy’ jumped out at each stop and placed a large brick either in front of or in back of the rear wheels, depending on which way it looked like we might roll. Alas, at 10:00 we had to pull over for repairs. It was explained to me that the bus had no brakes so the driver was applying superglue and sand, in layers, to correct the problem. We left about 11:00 but I noticed that the driver used the brakes as little as possible. It probably wasn’t as dangerous as this sounds—given the condition of the bus, the driver probably was well experienced with this situation.

I had a little walk about in Tamale this morning but there wasn’t much of note, although, of course, everything is somewhat interesting.

I’m off to Yendi tomorrow in a tro-tro (another gravel road!) to see the Dagomba Chief, the YaNa, and his 22 wives with shaved heads.

Carol

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