Ghana – Kumasi – Friday

Awoke today feeling better, but not so wonderful that I was prepared to risk breakfast. Water pressure was very low this morning, so our showers were somewhat limited. Still another couple of Imodium and I could face the world. However you will find that stools figure rather prominently in today’s offering.

First to the Asante King’s palace, now a museum. The British imprisoned the Asante king for 28 years in the early part of the C20th, sending him into exile on the Seychelles. The governor demanded the golden stool from the Asante, but tipped off by someone, they hid it when British troops raided the palace. Not finding it, the troops burnt the wooden and thatch structure to the ground. 28 years later they returned the king to the Asante region and built him a new palace, but the king refused to move into it until the Asante people could pay for it. It was then theirs and no longer belonged to the occupiers! Furthermore the golden stool was retrieved from hiding and is still used in ceremonies today. Unless the king is sitting on it it is kept on its back so that no evil spirits can occupy it. image

On our arrivals at the palace we were shown a short video about the Asante Kingdom and then we met our guide. He was a real character, both informative and very amusing. We went room by room through the museum where we were not allowed to take pictures. Cabinets contained the chief’s guns, a ceremonial axe and some war drums – thank goodness, as the video informed us, the Asante are a peaceful people! We also saw a variety of chairs and stools. I rather list track of the stools, but there is at least a white stool and a black stool, but why I wasn’t sure.

From there we went to the cultural centre and were allowed to wander around through the grounds and, of course, the craft shops. There was an open air prayer meeting going on, so it was unbelievably noisy. I say open air, but it was being held in a church, but so big was the crowd it had spilled out into the grass, in at least 3 directions. Large speakers carried the charismatic preacher’s voice over the congregation and probably half of Kumasi, if it could be given the chance. The preacher repeated key phrases which he then encouraged the congregation to repeat again and again whipping them up into some sort of religious ecstasy. One of these phrases was something like, ” Those who use witchcraft against us …..die, die, die”. This  was clearly not a gospel of repentance and forgiveness and there was little evidence of the ‘peace that passers all understanding.image

We went into lunch in the Kentish kitchen and catering company, run by a charming woman who informed us that she had trained at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London. The food looked very good, but I kept my fast.

Replete we entered a large bowl shaped arena for en exhibition of traditional drumming and dancing. A small group had travelled up from Accra to display for us and very good they were too. We sat on the stage with the, mercifully in the shade. I never understand why at these sorts of things, they always insist that those watching should have a go. Is it that they want us to appreciate how hard it is? I don’t need to try it to know that. As far as I am concerned any form of dancing is well beyond my skill set. Is it that they take pleasure in our humiliation? After all there is nothing more embarrassing than a group of white people trying to find a sense of rhythm. Or is it that they think we want to have a go, so that we can say on our return to Blighty, ‘ I danced with some Asante dancers, you know.’ Whatever the reason, I try to hide away in these situations. This time with only 11 of us that was impossible and I found myself dancing with some very attractive girl who kept barking orders about what I should be doing. At least I didn’t injured her, even though I felt she was asking for it!image

Humiliation over we were given the choice to return to the hotel or walk to the market. As I was feeling better, Christine and I chose the market. Kumasi market is the largest in West Africa an is a full on experience. We walked along roads, competing with mini-buses and cars for the limited space, past stalls selling everything from vegetables and fruit to lumps of rock. The latter are apparently used as charms and to prevent nausea in women…..don’t ask! I quickly learned that photographs were not welcome, except for general overviews. We pushed our way through the crowds and squeezed between mini-buses. We came to a sort of cobbled area which was filthy with plastic bags and other things the provenance of I would not like to guess at. There is no litter problem in Ghana; you just through it on the ground and the problem is solved!image

It was at this point that Nathan told us we hadn’t yet entered the market. We hung a sharp left and headed down a narrow alley where there were clearly more permanent stalls. The first section seemed to consist entirely of ironmongery including rows and rows of gleaming machetes. Then we came to a fish area. The only fish I recognised was mackerel, but there was quite a range, all out in the open. From there an area of clothing and material and then we plunged down another alley into the household goods area. It was unbelievably crowded, hot and noisy. Nathan gad only taken us into small part of the market, but that was enough. Thankfully we climbed the hill out of e maelstrom and to the waiting coach.

On our arrival back at the hotel we found there was no water. Hot, sweaty and in need of a loo this did not go down well. Linda headed off to sorg the problem out and we now have a dribble which means we can wash. I  also had to  persevere to get my washing back. Four goes and someone had the bright idea of looking in the laundry and there it was, not under a stone in the garden, or in a kitchen cupboard – well fancy that!

 

 

Ghana – Thursday

I have been accused of being a little scatological in this blog and I fear that this may only worsen with today’s entry. As I said, we had a good meal last night in spite of the frequent power cuts. What I didn’t say was that I had to complete our walk home at double time. I actually had quite a good night’s sleep, but it was clear by the morning that all my troubles were behind me! Christine, similarly felt far from well. Still we managed some try toast for breakfast. St Imodium, the traveller’s friend came to the rescue and we were able to leave with everyone else with a degree of confidence.

We travelled out if Kumasi and headed to a village well known for weaving the beautiful Kente cloth. Kente uses bright colours and traditional patterns to create stunning pieces of cloth using cotton, rayon and even a metallic fibre. Our guide, a student called ‘Cosmos’ showed us how the yarn was put onto a bobbin and I even had a go at it. Then we went to the weaving sheds, some of which are old market buildings.  On the way a couple of men showed us how the warp was created. Then we moved to the weavers and watched amazed as they produced the most intricate patterns from memory at incredible speed. Women also weave, but it is mainly men. The cloth is woven in long strips and is then sewn together to make cloth. The cloth can then be used to make clothes, bags etc..

 

Shopping was of course, always on the cards and so we were led to two shops selling kente cloth in the main street. Understandably it was expensive, but two of our group bought some. Christine settled for a pair of kente-lined flip-flops. Back at the visitor centre I bought a strip of cloth which I particularly liked.

We moved on to a nearby village, Ntonso, which is  known for printing Adinkra symbols on cloth. Each symbol has a meaning, many of them philosophical. The building where this happened was right next to the local school and we were mobbed by the children again! Our guide showed us how the dye is made, using the bark from a tree which only grows in northern Ghana. The bark is broken up and then steeped in water to soften it. Then the bark is put in a pastel and mortar and pounded to break up the fibres. The fibres are then boiled over an open fire. After the first boiling a red is produced. Further bookings produce brown and finally black. So three colours are obtained from the same tree. The open fire is built between old engine blocks, the only thing that are readily available and which can withstand the heat.image

For a modest fee we were offered the chance to print symbols if our choice on strips of kente cloth. All the women in the group had a go while the men stayed out if it! The results were very pleasing.image

It was about now that I began to feel a little funny ( about time, some might say!) and so I went to sit in the bus. I don’t remember much of the journey home having fallen fast asleep. Lunch was to be at ‘My Kitchen’ about a 5 minute walk from the hotel. I wasn’t up to lunch, so I went back to the hotel on the coach and collapsed on the bed, hoping for sleep. Unfortunately several young Ghnaians have decided to hold a pool party outside our window, so any hope of sleep has gone. The thump thump of Ghanaian pop music plus the screams and shouts from the pool have put paid to any rest , hence I am blogging.

We shall have to see what tomorrow brings!

Ghana – Wednesday – Kuapa Kokoo

Breakfast did not happen at 6.30. The chef had probably fallen on his own can-opener, but a frantic waiter manged to deliver omelettes, barely toast and some cold baked beans by around 7.00. We left at about 7.30 and enjoyed the turmoil which is the Kumasi rush hour. Luckily we were going out of the centre, so our delays were minor compared to those coming in. We were heading north on the main road to Tamale which is excellent. Then we headed off into the middle of nowhere (our guide’s phrase, not mine!). We were visiting the village of Amankwatia and travelling down very narrow, potholed dirt roads to get there. We passed areas of swamp and small cocoa farms as well as the main town of Ofinso and some small villages.

Amankwatia, is in many ways beautiful, in a way that poverty strangely can be. There was a smell of woodsmoke in the air, the houses were mainly wattle and daub but were charming. Women and children sat outside cooking or washing. Mat tables were laid out waiting for the coffee beans. Chickens and their chicks rooted about for grain amongst the red mud. It was peaceful, surrounded as it was by forest and cocoa trees.

Except two things caught the eye and brought you up short. Firstly there were street lights. Tall poles with lights and solar panels on top of them. We learnt later that they had been given by the Cocoa Board and didn’t work anyway. Secondly, up against the forest wall was a large green and cream toilet block, apparently donated by the Methodist church. It looked very new and displayed pictures to show which gender should go where.

The farmers were not quite ready for us so we visited the school at the back of the  co-op’s meeting place. This had been paid for by the FT premium and meant that children no longer had to walk 6kms to school each day. The children all seemed to be doing Science, but the top class were revising for a mock exam. Their teachers did not live locally but cycled in from Ofinso, quite some distance away.image

We met with the local farmers selling to Kuapa Kokoo in the small meeting house, outside on the verandah. Again we had to introduce ourselves and we were introduced to the committee members. As before we opened in prayer, the Moslem members joining in along with the Christians. Then we were free to ask questions of each other.

The cocoa farms are essentially family businesses but the government controls the whole business through two organisations:

1. The Ghana Cocoa Board

2. The Cocoa Marketing Company.

The Cocoa Board sees to the welfare of farmers and their farms. They help farmers get the best yield by researching into new strains of cocoa tree and how best to combat diseases.

The Cocoa Marketing Company oversee the buying of the cocoa and market it. They licence private companies to buy from the farmers. They check the quality of it before it leaves the country so that only the best is exported. The quality of the beans is checked at every stage.

Fairtrade cocoa is organic but certain chemicals are permitted for use . 2% of the profits from Divine go to Kuapa Kokoo who own 46% of Divine.

In this community there are 78 farmers supplying KK . The recorder buys the cocoa from the farmers on behalf of KK. He is elected by them and other communities that he deals with.

There are a lot of women farmers, and KK makes sure that women get a fair deal in all sorts of ways. There is a women’s group leader who arranges special activities for women on Fridays.

The farmers pointed out the benefits of FT to them. As always the most important advantage was that their children could now go to school. FT gives women special training in activities like soap making and Batik so that the family has some income when cocoa is out of season . The farmers are aware of climate change and speak of scorched plants because of the drought and heat. They are now planting trees donated by KK to shade the plants. Every year each KK farmer gets a new machete and a cash bonus depending on how much cocoa they have sold. Each year, on average, a farmer will produce 60 bags of cocoa beans. Everything he sells is recorded in a passbook, so the bonus can be worked out. They also get a pension based on what is recorded in the passbook.

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After a photograph we moved into the heart of the village to learn about the cocoa bean processing. The beans are removed from the pods on the farms and are then laid on banana leaves to ferment. They are covered with more leaves and left for 6 – 7 days to ferment. Then they are brought from the farm to the drying tables where they are laid out in the sun for 5 – 7 days to dry. They are turned regularly by hand and small stones are added to the table so that any dirt or fibres are rubbed off. We tasted a bean from the table and it was very good. Then the beans are bagged and sent to the depot.

We  walked up through the village, past the toilet block to a cocoa farm. 1 acre can hold 450 trees on average. The pods are harvested 3 or 4 times a week in the season. The pods can be used for fuel. Some trees still produce pods when they are over 100 years old. On this farm they were only 16 years old. The ground has to be weeded regularly as well as the organic agro-chemicals applied. The pods are cut from the trees by a knife, if necessary on a pole. Then the pods are cut open and the slippery coated beans dug out. We were given some beans to suck on . The White flash around each bean has a very distinctive and pleasant flavour……a bit citrusy perhaps.

Then it was back on the bus for the journey to Ofinso.  We passed through the bustling town and out to the southern edge where the Kuapa Kokoo depot is. Here the beans come to be checked and stored until they can be taken to the port. Samples are taken from each sack and examined by Cocoa Board officials for quality. One does a ‘cut test’ which means that the cuts open 300 beans and looks at the colour  of them. He can then tell which are mouldy and therefore more bitter. Above a certain percentage and the sack is rejected and will be sold at a lower price fifth internal consumption. The beans can also be checked for weevils by the test. A moisture meter is also add to test each sack for humidity. If all is well the sack gets a silver tag on it and can be exported.

Unfortunately only about 30% of what is produced as Fairtrade is sold as such. The other 70% goes to the government for general export. This emphasises the need for us to sell more Fairtrade chocolate!

We drove  back to Kumasi and to our disappointment lunch at our hotel. It was almost ready on time, but was much the same as we’d had the night before. However it was improved by a glass of excellent tangerine juice.

Then it was back on the bus for a 5 minute ride to Kupa Kokoo’s headquarters. We could have walked, but as we are beginning to realise walking is distinctly frowned upon!

I won’t go into too much detail, ad a lot is on their website, but KK was founded in 1993 when the government liberalised the internal cocoa market.there are 100,500 farmers in 6 cocoa regions supplying KK. There are 1,281 active zones with an average of 78 member farmers in each zone. KK offers a guaranteed price of $2,000 a tonne with a social premium of $200 a tonne. This premium makes a real difference to people’s lives:

  • potable water in villages
  • teachers’ bungalows so they stay in remote villages
  • 9 schools have been built by KK
  • books and stationary for schools
  • improved sanitary facilities
  • a mobile clinic which looks after farmers and their families
  • trainng for women in other forms of employment
  • giving extension officers motorbikes so they can visit farms
  • continual monitoring of child labour

and other benefits as well

KK has 6% of Ghana’s cocoa farmers supplying it……about 1% worldwide. But we need to eat more Fairtrade chocolate to make further progress!

We left the offices having bought some KK T shirts and asked to walk back to the hotel. Apparently it was much too far, so we were taken about 500 yards from the door and told we could walk from there! Ah well, better than nothing.

The pool had been cleaned so some of us had a swim and then sat quietly reading. Not for long! What we needed was entertainment, so the faltering sound system in the bar was switched on and African pop music was played at us until we were all driven away.

Later we walked  down the road to a restaurant owned by the Pentacostal church next door. We had been told this was good and indeed it was. Being Pentacostal there was however no alcohol, which upset a number of us, including our two Methodists! Christine and I had pizza which was recognisable as such and quite tasty. The journey home would have been more perilous had we consumed alcohol, so perhaps it was ax well we didn’t . There was a distinct lack of street lights, uneven pavements, gaping chasms in places and the lottery that is crossing the road in Kumasi. We all made it home and headed for our beds. A lie in tomorrow until 7.00 at least!

Ghana – Tuesday

The alarm went at 5.20; a shock to the system! We had breakfast at 6.30, then hit the road. I say ‘road’ but the further we travelled north, the les like a road it became and the more it resembled a footpath. The vegetation closed in on both sides, gras started sprouting in the middle and the potholes got even bigger. At times we passed small oil palm plantations and then suddenly we came out of the undergrowth and laid out before us was a Palm plantation stretching away into the distance. Row after row of palms, the only trees visible confined to gullies or steep slopes. The palms then gave way to serried ranks of rubber trees. All these must have been planted in the last couple of years by some large agri-company. Then, thankfully, the vegetation closed in again and the road resembled a path once more.image

After about an hour we came to a T junction and had to ask the way. We turned onto a wide dirt road, made treacherous by the recent rains. Deep muddy gullies formed the sides of the road so most vehicles drove in the middle. Obviously this created ‘challenges’ when two vehicles converged, both in the middle. I have to say that Dominic, our driver, seemed to win in most cases, even though some decisions were left rather late!image

We were now in gold country and signs for gold dealers appeared in the towns we passed through. Other signs pointed to mines or gave the times when blasting was likely to occur. We arrived in New Koforidua, the first Fairtrade producer town in the world 3.5 hours after leaving Asuom. We pulled off the road and bumped over a rough track to the Cooperative House. There we met some local farmers all members of the local co-op, including the Treasurer, Patricia, the President, Emmanuel and Farida, the Vice President. We all had to introduce ourselves to the group and tell them why we were there.image

In 2007 Garstang partnered Koforidua and they began taki ng a real interest in Fairtrade activities. In 2011 Koforidua became the first FT producer town in Ghana and indeed the world. It is also linked toA Japanese FT town in a triangular partnership which one of the group likened to the old triangular slave trade, but for good not evil. They are now looking at new ways forward to raise funding for the community, including :

1. Plantation tourism – bringing visitors to home stay in the community. This would mean additional revenue and more jobs for people as guides and hosts. Their tag line would be ‘From bean to bar’.

2. A vast craft market in August of each year which may bring in people from other parts of the world as well as locals.

The farmers told us that the average farm size was about 3 acres. They said that in the past, before FT they were often cheated by buyers and their payments were delayed. Now it is much fairer. An extension officer trains them in hope to run a good farm and they have increased yields.

However they are noticing the effects of climate change.mthere have been two very dry years and the sun has scorched the cocoa trees.image

We said our goodbyes after a group photo in front of the House and then we headed on to Kumasi. We stopped at a very smart hotel for lunch, which include ice cream for dessert – luxury! Kumasi was about another hour and so we arrived quite early in the afternoon. Our hotel looked attractive on the outside, but we knew that was no guarantee of what was behind the mirror glassed doors. However Christine and I were shown into a palatial suite with a large entrance lobby and a massive bedroom with a gigantic bed. We are so far away from each other it is easier to text rather than shout across its snowy sheets. O.K. I exaggerate, but not by much. The bathroom is equally large and for some reason has a serving hatch between it and the bedroom. Strange. There is a bath, a toilet and a wash basin, all in working order of sorts, and acres of tiled floor where one can practise yoga, go for a run, learn to waltz, hold a FT Meeting, or invite in a small orchestra to serenade your while you wallow in the bath.

Of course there are still sockets that leave the wall at the slightest provocation and the shower has no fittings, a couple of the lights don’t work and  the toilet roll holder has disappeared, but hey this is definitely an improvement on our last hotel. There is even  a pool.

We decided to go for a walk , but again the heavens opened and an even more violent storm than yesterday ensued. When we finally did get out we walked about a mile along a very busy road, being tooted at by taxis desperate for our business. Once back We relaxed, swam  and slept and went for dinner in the restaurant at 7.00. This clearly put the kitchen in to a start of panic, even though they had been warned beforehand. A lot of things were ‘off’ so as veggies we  were left with a choice of salad or rice or noodles and vegetables. We settled fo rice and vegetables. Over an hour later our order finally arrived. Others waited longer. We tentatively asked for dessert, but apparently the chef had gone home by then. It was 9.00 by then and the restaurant was due to close at 10.00 , so presumably frightened by the prospect of serving 11 portions of ice cream he had fled tthe premises.

Another early night then as tomorrow we leave at 7.00 again. Breakfast is at 6.30 …..assuming they can find the chef!

Ghana – Asuom on Monday

A surprisingly good sleep, a cold shower  and a decent breakfast set us up for the day. The latter included a very good chocolate spread. Ironically, on a Fairtrade holiday the only coffee available was a tin of Nestle instant!

I don’t wish to keep on about toilets but I also manged to pull the toilet roll holder off the wall this morning……only t.he cistern to go really!

We set off for Serendipalm at about 9.00 and arrived 10 minutes later. Serendipalm is a wonderful factory that processes locally produced Palm oil some of which is used in Traidcraft soap and cleaning products. The oil palms are organically grown and are brought in from about 430 small farms in the region. The peak season is from February to May so November is a relatively slack time. The bunches of fruit are stored for 2-3 days to soften; after 4-5 days they start to go off. When the bunches are taken from storage they are cut up into smaller pieces by men with axes. Then women extract the fruit from the fibre by hand. In many factories this is done by hand, but Serendipalm wants to give employment to the community. The women sit in groups to chat as they work. Any bad fruit are removed along with the fibres. The women are paid piece rates of 0.091 cedis a kilo. As each woman averages 120 kilos a day she can expect to take home 10.62 cedis a day – about £2. In addition they get a free meal, their social security paid, free health care, maternity leave and sick pay. They start at 7.00 and finish at 2.00 p.m. But at busy times there are 3 shifts keeping the factory going 24 hours a day. The women were delightful and were very happy for us to photograph them and even try our hand at extracting the fruit. About 140 women work there.image

imageThen we went out to a small Palm oil plantation and met a farmer. He was harvesting the bunches of fruit using a hooked knife on a long pole. The whole thing is called a ‘go to hell’. The bunches are very heavy and there is also the risk of snakes dropping out of the tree. The farmer spotted a green mamba in one tree, which we viewed with interest from a distance! They are very beautiful but deadly. Each Palm is most productive between its 7 th and 25 th year. After that they are usually dug up. He can harvest a bunch of fruit every 4 weeks from each tree. Fairtrade has meant a guaranteed market for his product plus some benefits in his local community. image

imageWe then went on to an experimental farm where they are trying to show farmers how the land can be productive over the seven years it takes for an oil palm to become commercially useful. Here they are growing bananas, aubergines, cocoa yams, chillies, maize and even keeping a flock of sheep. At present the farmer has little income over the 7 years.

Back in the town we visited a new library and computer room paid for by the Fairtrade premium. It was a lovely library apart from the lack of books. There are no books. The money didn’t stretch that far. They are hoping that a charity may donate some. There are five computers though, but no internet access. However it is a start, and while we are closing large numbers of libraries in the U.K. they are building them in Ghana. Now remind me, which country is meant to be developing?! The facility will be shared with the local primary and so we met the Head, a local pastor, and many of the 140 pupils all eager for a photo.

Then we went to see 4 houses built with the FT premium for nurses who work at the local clinic. Nurses tended not to stay as they had no house of their own. Now thanks to the FT premium they are staying.

Finally we visited a new wing on the maternity hospital again built by FT premium money. It was very smart with an outpatient clinic, counselling rooms, a labour room with 3 beds and a labour ward. There was also a lot of brand new maternity theatre equipment cluttering up the place. It was generously donated by a German charity who thought they did ceasarians here, but they don’t. There is no doctor! Perhaps they should have asked. In the ward was a new mother with her 1 hour old baby. We were told we were welcome to photograph her but it seemed a terrible intrusion.

Back at Serendipalm we had lunch in the workers’ canteen and very good it was too. Then we went around the plant to have the extracting process explained. The fruit is first steamed to soften it and then crushed to extract the liquid. The liquid is then put into large vats and heated to separate the oil from the water and sludge. The oil is symphonies off the top and stored in a massive tank until it is sent away to its various users. The sludge is sent to a tank and may then be heated again to get more oil out which is for local use. The liquid residue is sold to farmers for fertiliser. The fruit kernels are also sold on for further processing for oil. The whole operation is very labour intensive to ensure plenty of employment.

It was all very interesting, but we had had a good lunch and clearly some of us needed a post-prandial……so we started to get ready to leave.  I suggested we walk back to the hotel, but as I said it thunder rolled ominously overhead and we dashed to the coach. The storm actually broke about 20 minutes later and the rain hammered down. It lasted about 30 minutes and water poured off the guttering and washed down the drive. image

Once it was over we had our walk along the road and very pleasant it was. An early bed tonight as we have to be on the road by 7.00!

Ghana – Accra on Sunday

As you may have gathered, we have had no internet access for the past two days, but now we are in Kumasi city and we are back in touch with the world! So here is what has happened:

We awoke at dawn on Sunday, much to our annoyance, but felt refreshed. We hasian excellent breakfast and met the remaining member of our group, Louise. Two of the group have failed to materialise so there are only 11 of us.

We set off at 9.00 on a tour of Accra covering a range of residential and commercial areas. We began in ‘Cantonments ‘ a zone where the British built homes for themselves as well as a wide road leading directly to the castle in case the natives turned nasty. Today, the upper and middle class Ghanians live in these tree-lined streets. From there we made our way to the coast and parked outside the St James Castle, which the British built as a slave prison. From there a tunnel led out to sea, forming the harbour breakwater. The slaves were marched down the tunnel and onto the ships. By the time they came out into the light of day it must have seemed that they were already at sea and gave up all hope of returning.the castle remained a prison  post-slavery and several eminent Ghanians were imprisoned there prior to independence in 1957.

Lest we feel that the Brits were the only colonial power involved in slavery we also passed through the Dutch and Danish areas of the town, each with their castle , or slave prison. It was a truly European affair!

Near the prison is the Jamestown lighthouse which was built by the British and still works. Below it, on the beach is a shanty town of fishermen. Large wooden canoes bob on the waves or are hauled up on the land. Across the road is the home of a local chief, still active at 95!image

Following the sound of music we came upon a small side street which was the Sunday home of the ‘ Rejected Cornerstone Synagogue’ , a Christian church in spit of its name. The meeting was in full swing with singing and dancing and everyone seemed pleased to see us, even though we did not join in!

From there we went to Black Star Square, the second largest public square in the world after Tiemin Square in Beijing. It is certainly vast with a war memorial , seating all around and measurements on the ground to help the military organise their parades. We walked through it to the beach beyond and stood on a low cliff to watch young people playing football and bathing in the breakers. Against the bright sun and the waves the view was almost Lowryesque. the sea looked very tempting but there wasn’t time. As we walked back through the square an eagle flew overhead.image

As we left the coast we passed a traditional coffin makers displaying coffins in the shape of an aeroplane, a mobile phone, an eagle, a fridge and even a bottle of beer. The ‘tradition’ is actually not that old, but the idea has caught on amongst those who have the money for it, and not just in Ghana either. We were due to visit a coffin maker but unfortunately the visit had to be postponed.image

Similarly we arrived at a small craft exhibition to find that was closed as well, so instead we had to go to the main tourist trap I  a selection of large sheds. It was very quiet, it being Sunday, so the shopkeepers only had us to focus their full attention in. It was exhausting! Eventually we came away with a bracelet and a length of cloth for Christine. I haggled and got the price right down for both, but I suspect we were still fleeced……..the point is I’ll never know for sure!

We drove away past the Ghanian parliament and other important buildings to arrive at a hostel where we were to have lunch. And a very good lunch it was too, with some delicious fish, two types of rice, chips, salad and a green chilli sauce that was to die for! A star beer helped to wash the whole thing down and probably also helped many of us have a nap as we headed north towards Asuom.

The journey was not uneventful taking us out through the suburbs of Accra and then out into open scrubby country with the occasional tall tree as a reminder of the majestic rainforest that once was there. After a while we turned off the main road and headed north-west along dirt and tarmac ved sections of road. The Tarmac is worse as the potholes are enormous and Dominic, our driver had to lower ourselves into each one and the heave us out the other side. Progress was therefore slow, and after about 3 hours a ‘comfort’ break was called for.

Now I don’t want to go on about toilets, but in Ghana they have adopted the American term ‘washroom’ and I think I can see why. Entering the fetid cubicle at the petrol station we stopped at I realised that after using it I would need a thorough wash , and not just of my hands. There was at least water, but the cistern had to be flushed with a piece of bent wire and the tap produced nothing. Time to break out the gel!

Eventually we arrived at Asuom. Our hotel looked palatial, but we should never judge a book by its cover. Inside it was clearly in need of the skills of several craftsmen, particularly electricians.we had been warned that some hotels might provide ‘challenges’, not problems you understand, just ‘challenges’. This was certainly the case. Having electric sockets that come out of the wall as you pull out the plug is not a problem, but it is challenging not to be electrocuted. Having no hot water is not a problem but it is challenging taking a cold shower. Having a toilet seat that is not cap necked to the bowl beneath is not a problem but it is challenging to avoid sliding gracefully into the shower. Having only one light at the far end of the room from the bed is not a problem but itis challenging when you want to read a book in bed. Still dinner was very good and we were joined by a praying mantis so there were opportunities as well!image

 

Serendipalm tomorrow and perhaps some new challenges and opportunities……..