I made it to Ghana 2 days ago! My first time in Africa. Wow, it’s a bit like being on another planet I would say. Let me talk about it.
My friend Kwesi picked me up at the airport, it was really good to see him. For those of you who don’t know, we actually were housemates in England for a year! With Lake (Fangjian) and Emilie, we were (are!) the #BestHousematesEver! :) He kept repeating: « I can’t believe you are here! » lol. We went for a ride around the city. Compared to Europe, I would say… it’s such a mess! :O Everything is completely disorganized. Cars, pedestrians, motorbikes, tro-tros… All sharing the streets with no rules. And you can hear honks all the time! Like a concert. Other things that surprised me: how women (and some men) carry stuff on their head!!! It’s not only in the movies! So many kilos of food or clothes, and they have such a great balance! Wow. What else could I say for my first impression(s)? Well, Accra is a HUGE city. When I say HUGE, I mean it. We drove for one or two hours, and were still in the capital. Oh, also, some people try to sell you random stuff at each traffic light, particularly when they notice a white (synonym = rich) person in the car. And we got « arrested » by a policeman (well, he just stopped the car in the middle of the street), I thought he would want to see a driving licence you know, but he just wanted some money! :O Corruption seems crazy here. OH! And all the women wash their clothes in the streets! :O
Kwesi took me to my hostel, The Sleepy Hippo (I like the name), where I finally saw other people with light skin lol. The atmosphere is pretty nice, the room is cool as well. But hmmm the bathroom is not very clean, and also we don’t have hot water. Cold showers, here I come! Breakfast is included, consisting of bread, eggs, and coffee or tea. I had mine with an Italian girl and an Argentinian girl, who both stay in my dorm. There were lots of mosquitoes, and I got pretty scared! The story is: mosquitoes LOVE me (too much). I had a pretty bad allergic reaction in Ghana lol. So I used my spray all over my body, and somehow I survived! (Maman, c’est les huiles essentielles des Atlantides ! Peut-être ENFIN un spray efficace !!!) Oh, also, there are some kittens! They are so cute! :D
In the morning, I went for a short walk around my hostel. I tried to walk « fast » to pretend I knew where I was going, even if I was only doing some sight-seeing. I also pretended to be on my phone, to avoid receiving too much attention. It actually worked pretty well. Yeah, I learnt since/from my Cuban experience haha. Kwesi joined me later and we had lunch in the nice backyard of my hostel. They actually have a bar/restaurant with food for foreigners lol. What do I mean? Well, Ghanaians eat CRAZY SPICY food. We cannot handle that. ;) So we had some chicken, chips and salad. We gave the bones to the kittens, who looked so happy. Cutiiies <3
In the afternoon, we went to the Chale Wote festival, which is a street art festival happening once a year in Accra. Perfect timing for me! :) Loads of people, nice atmosphere, artists, music, food. By the way, a little explanation about the name! Yes, it’s good to be with a local! :P Chale Wote is actually a Ghanaian brand. The flip flops! Everybody wear them here. Cool, isn’t it?
This morning, I had breakfast with a German girl, and so we decided to go around together. Stay posted for the news! 😀 Hmm, if I manage to find some wifi! 😉
I went back to the festival with Breta. I believe it was the last day, therefore there was a lot going on. I had a different experience than when I was with Kwesi: all the men tried to talk to us, and all the kids were catching our hands and wanted money from us… We were both glad we went there together and not on our own. We saw Barbara, the Argentinian girl from my room, painting on the wall. She did a pretty good job!
I then took a cab back to the hostel, while Breta stayed a little longer. I wanted to have some food and then take a bus to Kumasi, my next destination. I had the same lunch than the day before with Kwesi, because it was really good! ;) Soy, honey marinated chicken wings, with chips and salad. I then walked to the VIP bus station with my backpack. I spent 5 hours like an Oreo cookie: I was the only white in the coach lol. I made it to Kumasi around 8pm, reached my hotel and… fell asleep! I was exhausted. I didn’t even negotiate the price for the taxi ride lol.
My first impression about Kumasi? A lot nicer than Accra. The architecture is more interesting, it is way less crowded, and somehow not (too) many people harassed me in the streets. Maybe it’s because it was Sunday and they were all at church? Oh, yeah, because everyone is crazy about God and shit here. On almost all the cars and tro-tros you can see « Thank u Jesus » or « God is my strength » or this kind of bullshit. Sorry Kwesi lol!
So I first went to Bonjour, which is a petrol station, to buy some water and some biscuits (because it is the closest thing to a supermarket I found here lol). Then I walked to the Manhiya Palace. There was a guide for the visit of the museum, and I learnt many things about the Ashanti region and the Asante people. They even had a souvenir shop! The first time I see souvenirs in Ghana! ;)
I then walked to the Kejetia market. It is a huge market where you can find everything. Food, clothes, shampoo, phones… I bought two t-shirts for 4 cedis, i.e., less than 1 euro. But there were too many people trying to talk to me, so I quickly gave up… By the way, I haven’t seen any white fellow in Kumasi yet.
Finally, I walked to the National Cultural Centre. I thought it would be some kind of museum, but actually it was more a small piece of land with different craft galleries and shops. But most of them were closed, maybe because it was Sunday. It was nice though, very beautiful sculptures, cloths and jewels.
After that I relaxed a bit in my room - too much walking - and washed my clothes the African way! That is to say in a bucket with cold water and soap lol. Oh, it makes me think of a funny anecdote I haven’t mentioned. Apparently, none of the beds have blankets nor sheets here. I like to have something on me when I sleep. And the funny thing is, in the plane from Hong Kong to London, I « stole » a red Virgin Atlantic Airways blanket (because it was cold in London). I am very glad I kept it in my backpack! :P Hmm, by the way, I probably spoke too early; men make horrible kiss noise when they see me here, it’s disgusting. And kids catch my arm or leg so that I give them money. I really wanted to punch or or two.
My second day in Kumasi went a lot better than the first one. I decided to go back to the Centre of National Culture, as a few things were closed the day before. Also, people are more "educated" there, so less pain in the arse with me lol. I visited the Pempreh II Jubilee Museum there, which I would not recommend after the Manhiya one. The best would probably be to start with this one. But it's fine, it completed my knowledge about the Asante. I also went to a few art galleries, as well as a woven "factory".
In the afternoon, I met two Couchsurfers from Kumasi. One of them, Vandana, lives in the US. He contacted me on CS a few weeks ago. The second one (I'm afraid I don't know his name) had never leaved Ghana his has an impressive knowledge about Western countries and cultures. We spent a few hours together, eating a pizza, chatting, and drinking some amazing fresh juice (a mix of orange, mango, banana, and not sure what else). Next to us was a big family celebrating a birthday, dancing, taking pictures... It started raining like crazy, and I discovered it was also raining inside my room lol. Went back in a tuk-tuk!
I found a bus to go to Cape Coast. The only problem is that busses do not follow timetables; departure only happens when the bus is full! So I had to wait 1h50 in the coach... Before the 5h-ride. We had a break in some kind of village, and I discovered something pretty disgusting: female urinal!!! :S When I alighted in Cape Coast, 3 taxi drivers fought on my backpack to have me in their car...
I made it to the Natural Bamboo Village Guesthouse on the beach. No beds but bamboo, no shower but a bucket, nothing but weed and Bob Marley music. Yeah, the owner is a Rastaman. Perfect place to chill lol!
I took a taxi to Elmina, where I discovered a very busy fish town. I went to the castle for a guided tour. The castle was built by the Portuguese in 1482, and used for slave trade... We visited the awful male and female dungeon and the "gate of no return", as well as the neat governor's rooms, with a nice view on the ocean.
It was still early when the tour ended, and I didn't want to go back to Cape Coast, nor to stay alone in "the jungle" - I usually love exploring on my own but it's too annoying here. I saw these two guys, one black and one white, who did the visit with me, and I decided to chat with them: Emmanuel from Ghana and Mathias from Germany. I asked them what were their plans, and whether I could join them when they told me they were going to visit the city. Emma is actually a tour guide so he told us many things about the city! We finally spent the whole afternoon together! 😀 It was really nice.
We ended the afternoon in a fort which was built to protect the castle. Emmanuel managed to get us a discount on the ticket price haha (we only paid 5 cedis each, i.e., 1 euro). The view from the fort was really nice, we could see the castle, the sea, and the busy harbor.
I took a "shared taxi" to head back to Cape Coast, as Emma told me it was cheaper than the normal taxis. Indeed, I paid 3 cedis against 20! :D In the evening, I had my first bucket shower - I didn't take any on the first day as I was too scared lol. Actually, it went pretty well and I even managed to wash my hair! 😀 I had dinner with Kobi AKA RastaKobi, the owner of the place, and an Hawaiian lady. I don't remember the name of the food, but basically we all ate in one plate with our (dirty) hands... It felt disgusting to me, and I was so scared to catch a virus, and the funny thing is that I woke up ill the day after... but I had a cold and a sore throat! Hahaha!
I took my first tro-tro to go to Kakum. A tro-tro is some kind of very old mini-van where 15 (or more) people sit together. I was the only white in the vehicle lol. So we drove on this very bad "road", well, not road but dusty path, and the car was shaking like crazy, and we were going faster than the taxis and other tro-tros, I thought we were going to die lol. But we made it! Yay! I alighted at Kakum National Park, which is a forest/jungle half an hour North of Cape Coast. I did the canopy walk, which was a) a bit scary, b) very fun, c) quite impressive, d) all of the above!
In the afternoon, I visited Cape Coast castle and museum, and learnt more about the Gold Coast and slavery thanks to the (moving) guided visit. Obama and his wife came to visit this castle.
Back to Accra for my last day in Ghana! I spent some time with Kwesi and his family. They cooked a non-spicy lunch just for me lol. I also learnt how to make fufu! 😉
I had a pretty warm welcome back to the UK, even if both of my flights were slightly delayed. Indeed, everything went smoothly at Heathrow airport, then I managed to catch a coach 2h earlier than the one I booked, the driver was very funny and cheerful, and finally my friend Shakil picked me up at the bus stop! He will host me for a few days as I am currently homeless. Also, it is sunny and warm in Cardiff, so I feel less depressed about my coming back after 2 months of traveling... Stay posted for new adventures! Who knows when/where! 😀
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