#7 Ghana/Togo, Feb. 22, 2001

Dear Everybody,

In Tamale each day I went to Point 7, a little sidewalk bar, to have a Bubra (tap) beer. A flag over the bar said, “Northern Region Peace Corps Headquarters, ’93-‘95″so they must have enjoyed the bubra, too. Then I would often eat at Giddipass restaurant across the street (do you love the name?) where lots of backpackers would come. I had a very interesting talk with an African-American young man who was working on his PhD dissertation with a research paper on a tribe EAST of Yendi (I told him I didn’t think there was anything east of Yendi!) who are mortal enemies of the Dagomba. He grew up in Harlem.

The taxi came at 4:45 AM on Tuesday morning to take me to the tro-tro for Makonga. I arrived at 10, then took a ferry across a finger of Lake Volta to Yeji, where the Yapei Queen was supposed to dock on its weekly trip on Lake Volta. It wasn’t coming until 4 PM so, sparing no expense for my creature comforts, I got a hotel room for $1.50 where I could shower (bucket) after the dusty ride.

The boat came at 8:30 PM but docked a ways away—they said, because of low water in the lake. While waiting I had met two other backpackers, Valerie from Britain, and Natalie from France, both now living in Denmark. A man in a pickup offered to drive us to the other docking point so we three and several other Ghanians hopped into the back end of the pickup. While we were bouncing along I was slightly annoyed that a minibus was following us VERY closely. At one point the minibus took a little shortcut and got ahead of us. Five seconds later (we were going about 25 mph) the tailgate of the truck let loose and a man and a woman and a bicycle flew out and tumbled down the road! If the bus had been there, they absolutely would have been run over. Luckily the road was very dusty and soft so, while the woman’s leg was cut, neither were hurt seriously. What a scare!

As we got to the boat, we met people returning, as the boat was going to dock at its regular place after all. The 100’ long boat is really a very large ferry with a couple of cars on board, but mostly yams and other produce, a monkey, a few cows and lots of Africans.

These yams are gigantic, each one weighing about 5-7 pounds. When we stopped (as we did several times) at villages along the way, women would carry loads of yams on their heads (60-80 pounds) up into the boat where men would load them carefully into huge wooden crates—the farmers were sending their yams to market at Akosombo. They had a forklift on board, and we were told that usually the man would forklift the crates onto the shore where they would be filled with the yams and then be forklifted back onto the boat. But since the water level was down, the boat couldn’t get its ramp all the way on shore so the forklift couldn’t be used, except to stack crates and arrange things on the boat. Therefore the women would fill their tubs with 80 pounds of yams, put them on their heads, walk down a steep incline to the water, wade to their thighs in the lake water and climb up the boat ramp to unload their yams. They did this for hours!

There were two passenger cabins on board. I had reserved one and Natalie and Valerie had reserved the other; but there was a Nigerian man in one of the cabins. What to do! I told him that I was a 65 year old grandmother and asked him if I could sleep in the second bunk bed, and he said I could. But then after the involvement of many crew
members, it was decided that he could sleep in the ‘owner’s’ cabin so I could have his cabin.

These cabins were unbelievable! Clean (relatively speaking), neat, air conditioned with a nice stainless sink in perfect working order, a desk, chair, closet, and bench plus the two bunks, and the key worked without a hitch. The toilet and shower were communal, but neat and clean with water that actually came out of the shower! The toilet flushed with great gusto, another treat! These facilities were locked and only used by the people in the cabins (captain, 1st officer, and us).

I came on board about 9:30 PM Tuesday and got off at 4 PM on Thursday. Total cost for two nights and transportation—$14.65. (My friends paid that for the two of them!) Meals were served on board, and were very good.






After the last stop the boat was loaded to the gills with yams, animals, and people.




The people slept on the deck, cheek by jowl over the whole boat and everyone was very friendly and communicative. It was really a wonderful cruise, African style!!

When we docked at Akosombo (the site of the dam that created Lake Volta) I said goodbye to my friends and got a tro-tro bound for Ho. So, ho, ho, ho I went to Ho, Ghana!

I hired a taxi (cheating again) to go to Amedzofe, a small village way up in some small mountains around Ho. For lunch I had wonderful banku (corn dough stuff) with hot peppers and good fish at Phil’s Bar and Chop House, down the street from my hotel. (chop is food)

Saturday I realized that I was short of cash so decided to go directly to Lome, Togo where I could probably either get an ATM or change a hundred dollar bill. I took a tro-tro to the border and of course I was met by moneychangers. I asked to change a hundred dollar bill, American, and they said, “No problem!” Then the two of them told me that if I had any other foreign cash and hadn’t declared it, the customs people would find it by turning on a scanner, so the solution was to put the foreign currency “inside” local currency and then there would be no problem. I vaguely remembered something at the Accra airport about declaring cash, which I had ignored and had heard horror stories about the border guards, so I believed them just enough to do what they said. I had five hundred dollar bills plus the one that I was changing. They both began ‘helping’ me like mad, trying to handle my money but I wouldn’t let go of it. They did have their hands on the money many times, but I wouldn’t let them ‘arrange’ the bills as they wanted to. Finally I had all the money ‘arranged’ as they suggested and went through customs. There was no mention of foreign currency—what a scam! And negotiating the border crossing was no problem either. When I got to my hotel I was eager to see how badly I had been scammed—but wonder of wonders, I had all five hundred dollar bills and the full 65,000 CFAs from the one I had changed!! Hopefully they‘re not counterfeit—although the taxi driver accepted one bill.

I have had lunch in my auberge and already can see a world of difference in the food. Good French baguettes, rather than Ghana’s gummy sweet bread, a nice salad, and even a glass of wine. It’s amazing what the French influence is on food.

Finding this internet facility was quite a challenge. I asked around—then a young woman assisted me by calling to a motor scooter driver (they act like taxis, I see, although there are real taxis, too) who motioned me on to the back of his scooter, and away we went. Then, of course, it was closed. So I asked and walked and finally found this place. The computers are so slow—it literally takes 10 minutes for a screen to come up.

I made a hair appointment for a cut and color at one of the big hotels here. I asked her if they had my color; she got out the chart and we picked the one closest to mine. When I asked her if they had that color, she said that she would ‘look for it.’ If I turn up with very black hair, don’t be surprised!

Hope all is well with you.


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