November 29, 2017

Must See Outer Bolgatanga, Upper East Region, Ghana

If you come to the Upper East Region of Ghana for a couple of days, you may wish to visit SWOPA: Sirigu Women's Organisation of Pottery and Art. The village of Sirigu is similar to that of the villages where G-lish works:
'Sirigu’s story is typical of farming villages in Northern Ghana; several years of intensive farming and poor rainfall has degraded the land to the extent that even subsistence farming is threatened. This is where the similarities end though; Sirigu village is also well known for its traditional architecture, basketry, pottery and wall designing. Faced with declining yields from farming, it became not only important to revive the traditional arts of the women of Sirigu but also to leverage it as an important source of income for the women for the upkeep of their families. Many children owe their education and healthcare to income generated from the handicrafts and traditional arts produced by the women of Sirigu.' -- SWOPA website

A shot of design of external walls of hut in Sirigu. Image by Familia Bonnardeaux

At SWOPA, you taste village life in the far northern Upper East Region and learn something of the culture, arts and crafts of the village and surrounding areas. And, for the budget-conscious, their prices are great. You can see the accommodation huts here. The Harmattan is in full swing here in the Upper East Region already so if you visit anytime from now until February you will appreciate the cool interior of the huts into which you can escape from the dust and heat during the day.

The peace and quiet at night is, well, a bit deafening; all you will hear is a chorus of electronic sounding insects and the odd lost goat.

We were accompanied by two foreign friends from overseas as well as three Ghanaians from the Eastern Region visiting this region for the first time on a big trip up north. They all said that the trip to Sirigu was the highlight of their entire trip, which is saying something! Something good, I believe. The Ghanaians were fascinated with the life of the village as well as how those of us living in this area can withstand the harsh, dry heat compared with the humid jungle climate of their region. Our Canadian friends echoed similar sentiments. Visiting Sirigu gives you a first-hand opportunity to feel that reality and know another Ghana altogether.

Costs: 15 GHC per night for a traditional, round hut painted in the SWOPA style with 2 single beds and inhouse bath and toilet. An entrance fee of 1.50 GHC is payable. If you tour the village, the price is 4.00 for non-Ghanaians and 2.00 for Ghanaians. There is a dorm with five single beds for 30 GHC total. The dorm is constructed in the traditional style of the area with steps leading up to a wide, flat, low-walled roof from which guests can gaze at the stars at night and sleep during the very hot season, if they like.

The major crafts produced in Sirigu for sale at very reasonable prices in the gallery at the centre include pottery, baskets and acrylics on canvas in traditional designs and style from the area.

A clay, glazed dish about the size of half a PC keyboard costs around 6 GHC. A short piece about the pottery here.
The colours of the pots are black with a geometrical design. The colour is made by putting the hot pots in a mixture of millet grass. These pots have round or flat bottoms and some have lids. The colour of the pot is earthen red with geometrical designs in black.

A typical mud home with roof designed to be slept on in hot season. A basket maker holding a basket typical of that area. Image by Baptiste Delbos.

Awesome chop bar. Image by Baptiste Delbos.

SWOPA is located about 40 minutes drive north-east from Bolgatanga: turn right at the Kandiga junction when heading north to Burkina on the highway from Bolga, SWOPA is another 17 kms along the dirt road from the junction. A bit tricky in the wet season, but not impossible, and easy in the dry season. You could also hire motorbikes from Tanga Tours for 20 GHC a day in Bolgatanga.

Meals are huge, delicious and prepared that day and cost 5 GHC per person. Call ahead and be sure to order drinks in advance as they need to order them from the local market.

A 40 minute taxi ride there (and 40 minutes return, same day, same driver) will cost around 35 GHC from Bolgatanga. Click here for a more extensive view of Sirigu-related images including the village, architecture, design and arts and crafts.

I also referenced another blogger's writing on Sirigu here in Two Excellent Ghana Blogs.

November 28, 2017

Ghana Highlights Part 2: Accra to Eastern Region and the Volta

As I said in Part 1: Accra to Cape Coast and the Western Region, every region has something to offer travelers in Ghana: culture, history, arts, crafts, drumming, dancing, beaches, monkeys and elephants—you can sample it all over, from the jungles and beaches of the south, mountains of the east, to the Savannah plains of the north.

In this part, we’ll cover the highlights from Accra to the Eastern Region and on to the Volta Region. Click here for all the Ghana Highlights on one page.

NOTE: There is a (somewhat oddly situated) immigration check point located between Ho/Hohoe and Akosombo (I remember the exact location). Currently there is no legal requirement to produce your passport so you do not have to if you're asked to produce it here. Be nice about it if you choose not to; there's no reason to be rude, especially with officials. If you do produce it, as long as you are legal there is no reason for anyone to withhold it from you. I never had trouble here, but some travelers have started arguments with officials, thereby holding up their vehicle and all the vehicles behind them. Be civil and all shall be well.

Indeed, the mountains and valleys, waterfalls, fresh air (which cools to a goose-bump chill at night and is so cold that you actually want to sit around a campfire at night), few tourists, clean villages, weaving and bead-making traditions, and excellent cuisine make this one of Ghana’s most rewarding areas through which to journey. It’s, hands-down, my favourite. I know, I’m not being very patriotic to my former or present homes (Cape, Kumasi or Bolga), but the Volta is gorgeous, especially between May—December. It’s hot and dusty (like most of Ghana) during Jan-April: dry and Harmattan season. This quick google search returned a selection of photos from the Volta Region.

A note on language. The major language groups in this region are Krobo in the eastern part of the Eastern Region, bordering with the Volta. And in the Volta, from the coast to the northern Volta, it’s Ewe (pronounced both Ay-way or Eh-veh, depending on the speaker—also spoken in Togo and Benin). In this region, the ‘K’ that precedes many place names, such as ‘Kpando’, is silent, but the ‘p’ following is ‘aspirated’, similar to the first p when you pronounce ‘pop’. So Kpando (the port town from which you’ll cross Lake Volta if you want to take the road less traveled to get to Kumasi) is pronounced, phonetically: 'Pahndoh'.

Highlights we’ll cover. You can pick and choose your route by joining the dots.
• Koforidua Bead Market
• Cedi Bead Factory
• Agomanya Market
• Atimpoku, Aylo's Bay, and the river at Akosombo Bridge
• Ho and Kpoetoe (Pehtweh) weaving village
Mountain Paradise Lodge and Biakpa
• Wli and the waterfall

There are several ways to cover this region. Many travel directly from Accra up to Hohoe on a tro (from Tudu station—near the Novotel Hotel), and then to Wli Waterfalls, and work their way south from there. Others work their way north, stopping and staying overnight at points along the way. Tudu, incidentally, is just as hectic as Kaneshie.

In this guide, we’ll work north, stopping at the highlights.

Important: If you do not want to take the bead-making tour through the Eastern Region, you can go straight to Atimpoku (the town on the Accra side of Akosombo Bridge) on a tro along the smooth Tema Highway from 37 station. Scroll straight down this post to Akosombo Bridge/Atimpoku to skip the bead making journey.

Accra to Atimpoku and Akosombo Bridge via Koforidua: Bead-making.
Intro: If you do want to sample bead-making, then the main points are Accra-Koforidua-Cedi Bead Factory-Agomanya Market—Atimpoku. You can pick and choose whichever stops suit you.

Beads on display at Koforidua Bead Market. Photo courtesy of Picasa attribution licence by Danielgr.

Koforidua: Ghana’s largest bead market is held every Thursday morning until about mid-afternoon in the main town square—everyone knows it, so just ask around once you’re in town. You can purchase old trading beads (anywhere between 2-10 Cedis, depending on its size), chevrons, painted beads, recycled glass bottle beads, shell beads, coconut husk beads, brass molded beads, and pretty much every type of bead made in Ghana and West Africa. You can bargain a little—about 10-20% off the quoted price. There are usually quite a few tourists here for the market day. You can get a tro from 37 tro station to Koforidua, which is the capital of the Eastern Region at, say, 6 a.m. and arrive there by 9 or 10.

From Koforidua heading to Atimpoku town/Akosombo Bridge: If you don’t want to stop at the Cedi Bead factory, you can go straight to Atimpoku by heading first to Kpong on a tro (east) from K’dua’s main tro station. From Kpong, Atimpoku is a ten minute share taxi or tro ride north.

And, if you don’t want to stop at Atimpoku, you can go straight to Ho from Koforidua. If you’re not interested in Ho and weaving, you can go straight to Mt Paradise (more below). If you’re not interested in Mt Paradise, you can go straight to Hohoe and on to Wli and the waterfalls. You get the picture.

Choosing trotro and bus routes is like playing join the dots. All the dots of each town and village are connected, you simply decide if you want to stop, or bypass, and catch the tro from main town to main town, accordingly.

Sign post for Cedi Beads. Courtesy of flickr attribution licence by kalyan

Cedi Beads: A quick note on the word ‘Cedi’. It’s derived from the Twi word for cowrie shell, or 'cediee'. These shells were used as currency in Ghana in times past, and Nkrumah adopted it as the name of the currency post independence.

Cedi Bead Factory’s specialty is recycled glass bottle beads made from melting recycled bottles. You can stop in and watch bead makers at work (reminding me somewhat of mosaic workshops in Italy). They sell beads at good prices and since there is no entry fee, it’s good form to purchase something from the shop. The prices are much better here, obviously, than almost anywhere else.

Cedi Bead Factory is located off a junction on the main road from Koforidua to Kpong, between the towns of Somanya and Odumase Krobo. Pass through Somanya town, then after 5-10 minutes you hit the junction on the right to Cedi Beads; from the junction walk 20 mins or catch taxi to the factory; return same way and catch any tro to Kpong which will pass through Krobo then hit Kpong in about 15 minutes.

Alternatively, if you’re coming the other way, head to Somanya from Kpong but hop off at the Cedi Bead junction after passing through Krobo. The junction will be 5-10 mins on the left past Krobo. After the factory, back on the main road, you can get tros going to Koforidua, Accra or back to Kpong.

Agomanya Market: Another treasure for beads is the Agomanya Market which operates on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This is also off the main road between Krobo and Kpong. It’s on the left heading from Kpong towards Krobo and right heading from Krobo to Kpong. The junction is a few minutes between the two towns.

Global Mamas has a bead-making arm in Krobo and you can read the women's stories and see some of their beaded products here.

If you wish to bypass the Koforidua market and go straight to the Atimpoku/Akosombo area and still visit a bead market, you could tro from Accra to Kpong, and change for a taxi for the fifteen minutes to the Agomanya market for half a day, and then go back to Kpong, and then travel another ten minutes to Atimpoku and continue the journey up through the Volta. Or, if you’re really into beads you could go Kpong, Agomanya Market, Cedi beads and then back to Kpong.

Now you’re at Kpong. Bead tour finished or bypassed. Kpong to Atimpoku, the village on the Accra side of Akosombo bridge, is about 10 minutes ride north. When the bridge looms on your right, and you see the river, get ready to jump down at Atimpoku, if that’s where you want to stop. If you wish to go straight to Ho or Hohoe, you’ll cross the bridge and keep heading north.

View from pontoon of chalets sitting on water at Aylo's Bay. Photo courtesy of flickr attribution licence by jofleet.

Akosombo Bridge/Atimpoku: There is a guest lodge called Aylo’s Bay, operated by friendly Ghanaians, that is well worth one, if not two, night’s stop. A row of fancy, self-contained chalets sit on the river with their own verandah that leads down a ramp to a pontoon upon which sits a floating, shaded summer hut with table and chairs. Yes, you can have dinner floating on the Volta River as boats and canoes pass by. I dove from the pontoon and swam in the river. While it looks as if there is a strong current, it’s just surface deep; you hardly feel any pull in the water. There are less expensive rooms behind the three chalets but, if you have the budget, it’s worth splurging on the river-front chalets. Weedy islands float in the river and you can paddle around for about 5 Cedis in a hired canoe for an hour or so. You can read more about Akosombo Dam here.

View onto river and pontoon from chalet. Photo courtesy of flickr attribution licence by jofleet

If it were easy to get from Bolga, where I live, to the Volta, I’d be here all the time. (But the road from Bolga via Yendi and Bimbilla to the northern Volta is, sadly, almost unpassable.)

As I wrote earlier, you can go straight from Accra (37 Station) to Atimpoku in about an hour, bypassing the bead-making area. Simple. You jump off the tro before it crosses Akosombo Bridge. To get to Aylo’s Bay, don’t turn right and cross the bridge, just keep walking straight ahead along the highway. The river will be on your right. Aylo’s Bay is about a ten minute walk. The driveway to the lodge is well signposted and just happens to be past the (resortish-looking but bland) Akosombo Continental Hotel. Step right down the driveway into Aylo’s and find the reception in the bar/restaurant. Hang out. Relax. Dream of setting up your own Aylo’s. Everyone does.

Akosombo Bridge as viewed from Aylo's Bay. Photo courtesy of flickr attribution licence by acameronhuff

From Atimpoku it’s relatively easy to join a tro heading either to Ho, if you’re interested in weaving, or north to Hohoe, because passengers would drop at Atimpoku and you can take their place. If you do have trouble, it’s easy to backtrack to Kpong for 10 mins, then join a station car heading to those two destinations.

I should mention here that I didn’t include Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary as a highlight because I’ve not heard one positive review from the many, many volunteers and travelers I've spoken to who visited. I never visited myself because, well, the consensus was never good. Baobang Fiena, north of Kumasi is, apparently, the place to go (and ties in nicely with a highlight for the next section).

A young man weaving a length of cloth--in Kpotoe it's mostly a man's job

Ho and Kpotoe Weavers: Ho is home to one of Ghana’s best volunteer organisations, VEG Ghana. I like Ho as a base from which to visit Kpotoe (‘Peh-tweh’) weaving village, which is a thirty minute’s tro ride through rolling plains, framed by low-lying mountains, from Ho’s central tro station. Making your way through the village where weavers work outside their mostly mud huts, and ten foot long threads held by stones peak from behind walls, is a joy. When you turn the corner, you’ll find a weaver on the other end of the threads diligently creating lengths of cloth. You can buy directly from the weavers for a fraction of the price you’ll pay elsewhere. A few entrepreneurial types have set up shop too. I bought a beautiful, multi-coloured throw of different pieces of cloth for about 40 Cedis. There is a weaving centre, but they charge a fee and it’s underwhelming.

(If you decide to head back to the coast, you could return to Accra from Ho via Aflao, the town on the border with Togo, by the ocean, an easy tro journey. Tros leave regularly from Ho’s central station. You can travel from Aflao back to Accra in about eight hours. From Aflao you tro through Keta, the home of Eli the amazing cook I wrote about in Ghana’s secret food spots. Keta, ocean on one side, lagoon on the other, will certainly be underwater in the not too distant future. This is the one part of the coast I haven’t traveled, but those I know who have highly recommend taking this journey.)

Otherwise, Ho to Mountain Paradise Lodge or Atimpoku to Mountain Paradise Lodge. I loved this lodge, a former government rest house, which sits on a promontory among mountains near the Togo border. It has the feel of a family weekender with just the bare essentials. Perfect. There is no electricity, and water is stored in tanks, and that’s how I like it. Tony, the owner, is Ghanaian. There are guided walks throughout the valley to the Kulugu Waterfalls. My friend and I decided to go it alone, got terribly lost all up and down the mountains, and never did find any falls. We had a ball anyway, but I have heard it is well worth taking a guide and finding the falls. Cocoa is grown around here and you’ll find rotting pods and leaves along the trails.

Photo by raysto at flickr under attribution licence. Road through Biakpa village, just 20 minutes downhill from Mountain Paradise Lodge.

The village of Biakpa is quite possibly the most tranquil spot in Ghana. Turn left out of the lodge’s driveway, keep walking downhill along the (unusually white) dirt road and you’ll end up in Biakpa in about 20 minutes. Plantain and banana trees shade the main dirt road. Take a stroll in the late afternoon. Virtually no tourists pass here so it’s hassle free and quiet.

But I digress--and I urge you to too. The easiest way to get to Mountain Paradise is by hopping off at Fume on the main road between Ho and Hohoe. It’s the same main road as if you’re traveling from Accra or from Atimpoku to Hohoe. Just tell the driver you’ll stop at Fume junction. They all know it. At Fume’s little junction you can brave the heart-pumping, 2 hour walk up bend after bend to the lodge. Or you could hire a taxi, and there are plenty waiting for you, for about 8 Cedis. Um, from personal experience, having walked up because the guide book said it took 45 minutes, I’d taxi up and walk down in future. The walk down takes an hour.

Wli Waterfalls: The waterfalls are reached from the village of Wli. You must stop at Hohoe and change for either a tro or a taxi to Wli, 30 minutes east, on the border of Togo.

If you start at Fume, wait at the junction and flag down a tro heading north to Hohoe—the next big stop. If you’re coming from the south, just catch any tro heading to Hohoe. At Hohoe station ask around for the Wli tro (pronounced variably “Vlih” or “Wlih” depending on who you speak to). There are two main lodges there, equally good. Waterfall Lodge (please click the link for their email and phone--they have no network coverage so they visit town to get texts and emails) is owned by a German couple and Waterview Heights is owned by Ghanaians who, incidentally, worked in Cambodia for an intl org. The income saved there funded their establishment. They’ll happily chat with you on the verandah. Waterfall Lodge has the advantage of sitting in a lovely garden overlooking the upper falls in the distance. It’s just fifty metres down the dirt track to the guide centre that takes you into the park and the falls. Their German-cuisine-focused menu is delicious. Waterview Heights is a few roads behind and serves good Ghanaian and continental dishes. You can stay at one, eat at the other; it’s only a ten minute walk between them.

I adored Wli for its clean, quiet charm and the mountains that reminded me of bushranger territory in Australia. On one occasion I was there for Christmas and it was lovely to watch the town go about its quiet celebrations, singing hymns in church where palm fronds had been plaited, decorating the open church windows.

This photo was from Flickr's attribution licence: by Stig Nygaard

And then there are the waterfalls. We took a guide, which I strongly recommend, and hiked to the upper falls. It almost killed me. If you have average stamina and a strong will, you can do it. The falls are lovely and the air at the upper falls is, I would wager, the coldest in Ghana. It was freezing. I pulled my sarong around me. My friend found a fresh water crab way up there in the rock pools from the waterfall. The walk down is tough on your knees but you won’t pass out from exhaustion. You can venture into the lower falls pool and stand under the waterfall. My friend said it was at once frighteningly heavy, then surprisingly light, and he was surrounded by rainbows in every direction.

Now, from here you can either return to Hohoe (taxi from main road in centre of Wli to Hohoe) straight to Accra (4 hours). Or, you could do the reverse trip down, stopping along the way. Or, you could go to Kumasi and then head on north, traveling to Koforidua and along the highway to Kumasi. To Koforidua: 4 hours, and on to Kumasi: 5-6 hours. Or, you could do that route less traveled thing across Lake Volta. I have created a separate post for that here.

This is the view of Wli from the trail leading to the upper falls.

November 21, 2017

Ghana Highlights Part 4: Accra/north to the three northern regions

Welcome to what sometimes feels like ‘Far, Far Away Land’—the three northern regions of Ghana—which occupy about half of Ghana’s land mass. But they needn’t seem so far. I’ll give you a couple of tips (see *** below) about how to negotiate this region as easily as possible on public transport.

Since there is little by way of up-to-date information for these areas online, other than the standard guide books, I’ll attempt to pass on what I know from living up here for the last 10 months and traveling to Mole or the Upper East on four other occasions so you may travel more comfortably than I once did.

As I said in Parts 1, 2, and 3 (read all the Ghana Highlights by clicking this link), every region has something to offer travelers, volunteers and workers in Ghana: culture, history, arts, crafts, drumming, dancing, pottery, weaving, monkeys and elephants—you can sample it all over, from the jungles and beaches of the south, mountains of the east, to the dry, savannah plains of the north.

Indeed, the plains and their massive baobabs, standing like fat scarecrow soldiers on guard, start appearing a couple of hours after you pass Kintampo heading to Tamale. The northern half of Ghana is all wide, open spaces, grasslands, termite mounds, desert palms, and baobab’s.

Because there are as many ways to get here as there are towns, and there is no definitive guide on how to do this, choosing the simplest route can be challenging.

I’ll address how to get here by focusing on the main tourist attractions and towns. I’ll outline the easiest ways to get between them (knowing what I know now)! This will be longer than usual, but it’s worth taking the time to read through if you’re planning on heading north on public transport. If you have your own transport (lucky you!), you won’t so much hassle.

Three amigos on the escarpment outside Mole Motel as sun sets

Let’s say Mole is what you’re aiming for. Here’s how most travelers do it. They leave somewhere in southern Ghana in the morning and arrive in Tamale in the evening. You have no option but to go to Tamale from where the public bus leaves to Mole.

Because the Mole bus is scheduled to leave Tamale station at 2 p.m. (although it’s often late), you will miss that day’s service. You must stay over night and buy tickets in the morning, wait around all day, sometimes until 6 p.m., then depart to Mole. It takes 4 hours to get to Mole. By the time you get there it will have been about 36 hours since you left the southern point. Essentially, most travelers on public transport from the south end up over-nighting in Tamale because they have no choice.

If you leave Accra by 6/7 a.m. you’ll get to Tamale around 7 p.m. if you’re very lucky. More likely by 10 p.m. You would leave from Accra STC (shortly before Lamptey Circle/Kaneshie area on the western side of Accra) at 5 or 6 a.m.—the timetables change regularly so check the day before—or Tema STC at 8 a.m. The Tema service actually goes on to Bolgatanga, arriving around midnight-2 a.m.

To clarify: STC stands for State Transport Company and is the name given to the green/white coloured coaches you’ll see zooming along highways all over Ghana.

You can also get tros from Nkrumah ‘Circle’ Station in Accra to Tamale. It’s hell, but you can do it.

Takoradi (T’di): There is a daily STC service to Kumasi in the morning. (Incidentally, T’di services to Accra leave daily, every hour, from 8 a.m.)

Cape Coast: STC option: If you're waiting for the Takoradi service via Cape, you could wait at Cape STC to see if there are seats for Kumasi after the service leaves T’di station—they pass through Cape. There may be seats left, but you have to wait until after the coach has left and then the Cape office will let you know (you have to hang about the ticket selling window) if there are seats. Keep in mind that services are often late. So if the service is supposed to leave T’di at 5, you should be waiting at Cape STC from 5 to get a ticket. But it might not leave until 7. So you’re waiting for 2 hours and you still don’t know if you get a ticket. I never did this. Instead I caught a tro to Kumasi from Tantre station in Cape. By the time you’ve waited to get a ticket for the STC, you could be half-way to or almost in Kumasi.

Unless you’re leaving T’di or Cape on Friday morning (best option, see *** below), it’s easier to start the journey from Cape on a tro and work out the next leg from Kumasi on either a tro or the STC. Alternatively, you could travel to Accra and buy an STC ticket direct to Tamale or Bolga from there. It’s just that the Accra-Kumasi leg is painful. If you’re already in Cape, Cape-Kumasi (while a bit bumpy in parts) is better than Accra-Kumasi. (Careful readers will have noted by now that I do everything to avoid the Accra-Kumasi highway). Contrary to what you might imagine, that highway, and the bit of highway directly north out of Kumasi are slow and unfinished—still. The major roads in the three northern regions (except to and from Wa), even to Bawku, are quite good.

***Alternatively, you could leave Cape the afternoon before, overnight in Kumasi at the Presby around the corner from the STC (see Part 3), and leave on the 7 a.m. STC service in the morning. This is a lot less stressful and less expensive than going to Accra since over-nighting in Kumasi is about 12-14 C and over-nighting in Accra (unless you know someone) is at least 20, plus taxis.

Kumasi: Kumasi’s 7 a.m. If it leaves on time and doesn’t break down, the STC service to Tamale can get you in just before the official 2 p.m. Mole bus leaves. The Kumasi-Tamale service is a major service in Ghana so try to buy a ticket from the STC the afternoon before, if not go very early (5 a.m.), to buy a seat that morning. If you’re lucky (which I was once), you might arrive in Tamale in time to get a ticket for that day’s bus to Mole. Since the Mole bus is usually late, this will probably work.

Techiman/Kintampo: If you’re in Techiman or Kintampo, you’d catch a tro to Tamale around 6/7 a.m. in the morning and you’re likely to get to Tamale in time (11/12) to buy a ticket for that day’s service.

The orange metro mass buses also leave from Kumasi to Tamale and Bolga but the Kumasi station is my idea of hell: There are no queues and no communication about when buses will arrive or depart. Go there if you have no options. The station is on the northern side of the city, about 10 minutes or 2 Cedis dropping out of town. Just ask for Metro Mass bus station.

Remember, you could break up the leg to Tamale by, instead, traveling 3 hours north to Techiman from Kumasi, staying at Operation Hand in Hand in Nkoranza (15 mins from Techiman) for a day or two, and then heading to Tamale in the morning from there and still get to Mole that night.

Sunset over the plains below looking from the escarpment out front of Mole Motel

There is a trotro to Tamale from a small station in Kumasi called “Dr Mensah” on the opposite side of Kejetia station from Adom, a little outside the station. Taxis know “Dr Mensah”. Try to be there by 9, but we once got one as late as 2 p.m.

*** This is my make-life-easier tip: Like ripping off a Band-aid/plaster in one go, if you’re coming from Accra or the coast, go directly to Bolga on an STC service. The stress of the public transport to Mole could be reduced by going directly to Bolga, spending time here, and then heading to Tamale (2.5-3 hours south by tro) on the morning you intend to go to Mole, and then you can stop at the major points heading south.

*** Alternatively, you could slowly work your way north—Accra/Cape/Kumasi/Techiman—Nkoranza/Tamale/Bolga—and then STC back from Bolga or Tamale south. Anyway, I’ll cover route options in Part 5.

I mentioned the STCs from Accra and Tema.

***But, an STC service for Bolga departs from Takoradi at 7 a.m. on Fridays. It passes through Cape, departing at 9 a.m. It arrives in Tamale between 10-midnight and Bolga around midnight-2 a.m. If you’re in Cape, you cannot buy a ticket until the bus has departed T’di and the sellers know how many seats are left. So you wait at Cape STC from 7 a.m.—be really friendly with the ticket sellers. Both times I tried this, I got tickets. Other passengers will be waiting and hoping too. These people are most likely from Bolga and, rather than competing with them for tickets, work together in Cape (it’s obvious who they are as they’ll be hanging about the window asking about the Bolga service and you just strike up a chat—which is what I did), they’ll help you out when you get to Bolga. You’ll stop for half an hour in K’si, and again in Techiman, Kintampo and Tamale. More on arriving in Bolga at midnight below.

A note on languages. In a nutshell, Hausa is most widely spoken across the three northern regions and, irrespective of ethnicity, almost all Ghanaians who grew up here can speak a few words of Hausa, if not be conversationally fluent. It’s a pretty simple language. Dagbane is spoken by the Dagombas who live across the entire breadth of the Northern Region (which is what you’ll hear around Mole). In the Upper East Region, Frafra is spoken by Frafras who live mostly in Bolgatanga and Bongo (I find this language difficult). Kasim and Nankani is spoken in Navrongo. In Bawku, Mampruli is spoken by the Mamprusis and Kusa by the Kusasis. Moshis speak Moshi and Bisas speak Bisa. In the Upper West Region, Wale is spoken in Wa and Lawra/Nandon.

English is less widely spoken outside the main towns in the north. You’ll notice this in markets, but you can always get by (speak clearly-no slang) and find someone to help.

Northern Region: capital Tamale; Upper East: capital Bolgatanga; Upper West: capital Wa.

Elephants grazing at Mole in late December.
Highlights we’ll cover:

Northern: Mole National Park (Link to a good Wiki.)

Buy the ticket to Mole in the morning at Tamale’s main bus station. It’s right next to the STC and the seller is towards the rear of the station. It’s 2.5-3 Cedis for a ticket to Mole. Warning: the bus trip is pandemonium in motion. My Italian mate got ‘seasick’—in his words.

Mole’s attractions are well-documented elsewhere. What most people rave about is getting up close to elephants in the wild. We were able to sit by the lake/dam and watch them frolicking for hours. The baboons around the motel are more than naughty and will steal your food right from your hands if you’re not careful. Give them a wide berth. There are plenty of monkeys too. I love the trotty wart hogs that may cross your path around the motel or out on the walk.

Service-wise, Mole Motel made Fawlty Towers look five star. It still is my worst experience, service-wise, in Ghana. The motel is expensive and food is way overpriced. You can eat more cheaply at the park rangers’ quarters. Just ask. Book your room in advance and try to say your name clearly as they may well mess it up or just lose your booking full stop. Order your main meals at the meal time before—eg. Order dinner at lunch time so they can prepare it in time for dinner. This is a good system and ensures you’ll get meals during meal times.

You do have to pay an entry fee to the park—that’s not a scam. If you’re a student, you need a valid student ID to get a discount. Likewise, volunteers. You also have to pay for the tour in addition to the room cost.

Many choose to stay at Larabanga, where the mud mosque is, at the Salia Brothers because it’s way less expensive and they (according to all accounts) are excellent hosts. If so, email them ahead and they’ll meet you on arrival. It’s 5 kms before Mole. The hassle factor in Larabanga is apparently extremely high. Some love it, some hate it. Those who stay at Larabanga get up early and go for the 7 a.m. walk in Mole, hang out all day by the pool (yes Mole Motel has an inground pool from which one friend watched a thirsty elephant once drink), and return in the evening to their lodgings. You can bike between. You could get a car for 2 Cedis each way. The road is known for robberies so be careful if walking alone or in pairs.

NOTE: I know two groups who hopped off the main highway junction to Tamale from Kumasi that branches left to Mole, hoping to get a tro (or any lift) to Mole from there instead of going to Tamale and doubling back on the bus the next day. It didn’t work. They got stuck there and ended up having to go to Tamale anyway. By the time any vehicle gets to that point it’s usually full. It is possible to negotiate an empty tro for hire around Tamale station to Mole but it will obviously cost more.

Likewise, it’s almost impossible getting out of Mole on anything but the public bus. The bus out of Mole still leaves at 4-5 a.m. getting you into Tamale around 8. On the upside, it’s easy to continue a journey from Tamale to anywhere in Ghana that day.

NOTE TO ENTREPRENEURS: The person who starts a bus service between Accra/Cape and Mole, direct, will surely reap rewards. Travelers to and from Mole are aching for this: Arrive while it’s still light and leave at a decent hour like 10 or 11 a.m.

• Tamale Central Market

If you do overnight in Tamale and have the morning to fill while waiting to go to Mole later that day, there are plenty of good internet cafes close to the bus stations on the main road—just ask. The Tamale Central Market, adjacent to the STC (2 minutes from the bus station), sells a variety of northern-style and Malian cloths and crafts. If you have no chance to visit any other market in the north, then see this market.

Where to stay in Tamale. Bradt Guide listings are OK, but the Hamdallah Hotel, Kukou area, is a gem. It’s a few kms out of town (not its sister branch on the main road which is more expensive). The Kukou branch is a 5 minute dropping (2 Cedis)—drivers will know it. You can get a huge double bed room that looks like a modern Sydney apartment, sparkling clean tiles, DSTV, air-con, and a shower with a bath tub for 18-20 C per night. Omelette/toast/tea breakfast is included. It’s mostly patronized by in-the-know Ghanaians. Ask the security people to find a taxi heading back to town from there. We easily picked one up on the road around the hotel.

Photo of "Bolga baskets" courtesy of Oxfam Australia's Summer 2009 Catalogue

• Upper East:

When I first came to Bolga last year, after having been to Tamale/Mole twice and never making the journey further north, I thought: I missed out! It is like being in another country (and 30 minutes to Burkina, it almost is). It’s very laid-back, like a large Australian country town, frontier-ish, and has a happy vibe. I’ve been getting emails from readers about it too. Marie, who was once in Peace Corps Togo and recently journeyed around Ghana, wrote: “Even though my stop in Bolga was ever so brief, I liked the ambience of the place. Hope I get a chance to return some day and spend more time there.”

It’s subjective, of course, but I feel Bolga has more to offer than Tamale, the hassle factor is virtually nil since few tourists pass through—although I see some virtually every time I go to town now, people are friendly, and it’s easy to get around. Pottery, cloth weaving and basket-making traditions flourish in this area. You can find balls of shea butter in the market for 10-30 pesewas—the same market that sells the cloth below (just ask someone and they’ll direct you). Navrongo’s mud cathedral and Sirigu pottery and arts are easier to get to than Kakum is to Cape. You could easily spend 3-5 days here, but you can see some highlights in 1-2 days. Of many volunteers and travelers I spoke to, quite a few said they would have given up Mole for Bolga (especially if they’d been on safari elsewhere), so there you are.

Arriving at midnight-2 a.m. Trusted taxis that work with the STC are waiting for the service to arrive late at night. Also, those who arrive on the STC are almost always locals and, if you ask nicely, they’ll help you out. At night, whatever you do, DO NOT try to get a taxi outside the STC on the highway (everyone will warn you against this) because they are waiting for naïve travelers to do just this and then rob them. The ones inside the STC are there for a good reason—they’re known and trusted. You’ll pay about 2.5-3 Cedis for a dropping into town (about 5 minutes). Once you know it, it’s very easy to walk back to the STC. If you arrive during the day, it’s quite safe to get a taxi from the road, just not at night.

Best places to stay. In town proper, and walking distance to the market, tros and main road, is St Joseph’s Hotel, 072-23214, next to the stadium. It’s 17/22 Cedis a night for double room (fan/air-con) and it’s a clean, airy place. Otherwise, the inexpensive Catholic Social Centre which sits behind the SSNIT building (in which there is a decent internet café) is 10 GC a double. While in a nice space, Sand Gardens is over-rated at 30 GC for a plain double—their food is also over-rated. For a similar price, SWAD food (near SSNIT) is best: curries (6 GC), pizzas (10 GC) and really good red-red and banku (4-5 GC). See Best secret food spots in Ghana post for more details.

There are 3 internet cafes along Commercial Street, the main road of Bolga, which runs south from SSNIT or north from the Zuarangu Road (one road in and parallel to the Bolga-Navrongo road).

NOTE: Bolga Crafts Village only sells crafts. There is no demonstration of craftsmen or women at work here, a missed opportunity, really. For craftspeople in action head to…

Photo courtesy of Marie McC at Travels in Ghana which is an excellent source of photos and recent information about Sirigu, Tamale, and Bolga--and an excellent photo of Elmina Castle across the page header.

• Bolga market for smocks hand-woven cloth. Read Marie's excellent post on that here.

The weaving part of the Bolga market is in action every day, although sparse on Fridays and Sundays—religious days. Get into that part of the market simply from the Zuarangu Road. If you’re in Commercial Road (the main road) you turn left at its southern end at the T-junction into Zuarangu Road. Or, you might know it as being main road heading to Bawku. Either way, as soon as you turn left out of it, you pass the police station on your right and Goil/Shell further ahead on your left. About then, ask for the market and weaving. It’s just ahead on the left behind a two-storey salmon-coloured building. You can wander around between dozens of stalls where men are weaving and selling cloth. You can buy a waist-length men’s woven top for 30-40 GCs in a complex mix of colours. It takes one person two weeks to weave the cloth for this and a taylor then to sew it. For one or two colours, the price will be a little cheaper.

I took this place for granted (because I have to pass through it every time I go to buy food) but when Marie sent an email I realised it should be shared too. She said,“You may not know that this is the type of thing that tourists might like to know about. As a tourist, I loved my visit there, and as a photographer it was a fantastic photo opportunity.” CHECK OUT HER NORTHERN PHOTOS HERE.

Shea Butter producers on the side of one of Bolga's main roads

If you want to buy shea butter (kamengbbo in Frafra), ask anyone around here and they’ll take you to a seller. A fist-sized ball is anything between 10-40 pesewas.

Weaving baskets in a village just outside Bolgatanga

• Market day and Bolga baskets.

Every third day is market day. If you’re planning a trip to coincide with it, call any hotel in Bolga and ask them when the next day is (or when the last one was); they’ll be able to tell you.

Learning to weave baskets is like Sydney-siders learning to swim; it’s more or less a given. And basket making is virtually unique to Bolga. You can find women, boys and girls weaving in many of the villages around the outskirts of town. I visited several and learnt that it takes one woman three days to make the large, traditional basket. Most middle-men pay the producer 5 Cedis a basket at a central warehouse point where you’ll see hundreds of sellers congregating on market day to sell their baskets. Note: The minimum wage is 2.65 C/day so, by rights, the middle-men should be paying at least 7.95 GC a large basket and perhaps about 5 for a small one. But, this is the poorest region in Ghana, people are desperate for income, supply is high, demand is relatively low, and it’s the informal sector so producers just manage to survive.

In case you should wish to buy directly from the producer on market day, the warehouse is located on the main road: Commercial Road (one road in from the highway—Navrongo Road) at the southern, STC end. When you turn into Comm. Road from this end, there is a grey-painted, enclosed canteen soon on the right called International Traveler’s Inn which serves great omelette and tea for 1.5 Cedis. Behind here (and you can’t miss it) is a block of warehouse buildings where producers sell to middle-men. If you come on a non-market day, you can haggle with the middle-men in the warehouse, probably from 15 down to 10-12 for a large basket. You’ll pay US$32-35 (GHC45-50) LINK for the same basket online. Somewhere, someone’s making money, but it isn’t the producer so if you get a chance to buy directly from them (and a fair price is around 8 GC for a large basket), it will make a difference to them.

You’ll know it’s market day by seeing people toting baskets (and chickens and goats and guinea fowl) along main streets everywhere from early morning.

• Navrongo’s mud cathedral

If you do stop in Navrongo, it’s worth checking out this striking, enormous mud cathedral on the southern end of town dating from 1920. Inside its walls are painted in old fresco style but it’s rarely open now. Seeing it from the outside alone was an experience but if you’re there on a Sunday you may get a peek inside.

Photo courtesy of flickr attribution licence by super.heavy

• Paga crocodile pond

About an hour and a half from Bolga or 20 minutes from Navrongo. Paga is where most cross the border to Burkina. ***By the way, you cannot get a visa at the border; you must have obtained it already at an embassy (in Accra or another country). It’s about 10 kms past Navrongo. You could go Bolga-Nav-Paga-Sirigu-Bolga in a day. Or any or all of those, depending on your interest.

I’ve seen a lot of crocs at home (Oz) so I’ve given this a miss, but you can sit on the croc and have your photo taken at the ecotourism project here. I’ve heard varied reports about the service. In Paga itself apparently you get similar hassle as Larabanga in terms of being pushed around for exhorbitant fees. To avoid this, get dropped before getting in to Paga central taxi station. Instead, drop at the visitor’s centre on the main road before town. One pond is right there at the visitor’s centre. A new building is now being constructed to improve the centre.

• Pikworo slave camp

During the slave trade West Africans from all over were brought here before the long march south to the coast and the castles. Like visiting the castles, according to all accounts it’s an emotional experience for those with ancestral connections. From Paga, get a dropping taxi directly to the visitor’s centre. Pay about 2-4 Cedis. Check in at the centre. Then you get taken on a tour which costs about 3 Cedis. Tip those who demonstrate the drumming where the slaves drummed on the rocks as they don’t get paid otherwise. Godwin visited here and said it’s fascinating and worth the tour. I hope to go soon.

• Sirigu arts and pottery

I’ve been planning this trip all year but Marie’s photo’s inspired me so maybe I’ll visit Pikworo and Sirigu together. Godwin has been here and has also been pushing me to go. Characterised by striking, geometrical designs in earthy-colours (reminiscent of Aboriginal Australian art), the Sirigu artists and potters are unique in Ghana. Whole houses are painted in this fashion and you can buy artwork and pottery too. It’s an hour from Bolga by tro from town—western side of the market area or just down the road from St Joseph’s hotel.

SWOPA guest lodging. Photo courtesy of Marie McC at Travels in Ghana which is an excellent source of photos and recent information about Sirigu, Tamale, and Bolga.

As a one or two day trip, you might want to go Bolga-Sirigu-Navrongo-Paga-Bolga and easily return the same day to Bolga. Or, Bolga to Paga-Navrongo-Sirigu. You can overnight at the SWOPA guesthouse in Sirigu and return to Bolga in the morning—half an hour away (and head on to Tamale to go to Mole!). SWOPA stands for Sirigu Woman’s Organisation for Pottery and Arts. Kofi Annan even paid a visit some years ago. Drop at SWPOA guesthouse. You can stay in a hut at SWOPA and do a guided tour for a small fee (3 GC).

Sirigu Women's Association of Pottery and Art. Photo courtesy of Marie McC at Travels in Ghana.

• Upper West: Wechiau Hippo sanctuary on border with Ivory Coast.

I haven’t been here yet, but Godwin has. Having said that, it was during the wet season and he didn’t see any hippos which is also what the Bradt guide warns. A friend who went during the dry season did see them.

Getting to Wa from Bolga is very difficult now. The road is reputedly terrible and it takes about 8 hours by metro mass transit, leaving in the morning. During the rainy season it’s impossible to get to Wa from Bolga as the bridge is down. Wa is cut off during this time. You can get there from Kumasi/Sunyani/Techiman on a tro. Apparently it’s easier to get a tro there from Techiman than it is from Tamale. Now this is a big but. But, highway robbery on those roads is increasing so please don’t take anything valuable if you do.

From Wa to Wechiau: you get a tro on market days, but non-market days you have to stay in town. It’s about an hour so you could negotiate a dropping taxi probably for 40-60 Cedis. Then at the visitor’s centre in Wechiau you pay a fee of about 15 per night inclusive of guide and accommodation which is another 25 kms from there. So, you hire a car to go to the sanctuary (about 45 minutes): at least 20 Cedis for a dropping. Same price coming back. When Godwin talks of this he says, ‘We suffered!’ The guide apparently ate their food after cooking it and not telling them it was done. Their roof leaked and they got soaked. They had no water to drink (were forced to drink beer and he doesn’t drink alcohol) and didn’t see any hippos. They ran out of money and had to hitch back to Wa on a truck—and pay for it! Then get money from an ATM in Wa and tro back to Cape!

The lodge in the sanctuary is a locally built mud hut with student mattresses. You can sleep on top of the mud houses at night if it’s too hot. They have a platform/watchtower where you can sit at night to watch the animals come out to graze. Food-wise, you have to buy and bring your own food and water for the duration. The guide you are allocated at the tourist centre will cook your meals on a coal pot for you (and maybe eat them) and he’ll come with you in the taxi to the lodge and stay the entire time. You’re unlikely to see hippos during the rainy season (May-Sep). From now (Nov) onwards until about May is the best time to visit. If you approach it as an adventure and don’t set a time limit, it could be worth the effort.

When to visit the three northern regions: It’s alright to visit any time of year but be warned: it’s insanely hot between February and May. To give you an idea: Kingsbite chocolate becomes soft and runny. The Harmattan has hit now and while fairly light, it will become thick in late December and throughout January, reducing visibility and making breathing difficult—not good for photographers or asthmatics. The photography thing applies to all of Ghana between December and February.

My favourite time of travel throughout the northern regions is June—mid-December. June—September is the rainy season. The temperature is cooler and the air is still relatively dry. One potential downside of the rainy season, however, is that vegetation will be high, possibly making it difficult to see the elephants at Mole.

Elephants swimming in the lake at Mole
Still, I went during this time on my first trip (August) and we not only found the elephants, but we sat on the edge of the rainy season lake and watched them playing in the water, about thirty metres away, for a good 2 hours. I also went in early January once and, while the lake had shrunk, we did get up close to the elephants. We saw other animals like antelope more clearly and, later, you could spot the elephants on the plains below, far into the distance. October—December see plants drying out and wide-spread burning begins; you can smell smoke hanging in the air. The temperature fluctuates between hot and mild days, but it will become cold at night from mid November (I need two sheets to keep warm now—yay!) to January.

***There is an immigration check point between Bolga and Tamale, just before you enter Tamale (for those coming from Burkina). If you happen to go/come from Bawku, there is also an immigration check point on the western side of Bawku (coming from Togo). You’ll be asked for your passport here like you would in that funny spot in the Volta (see Part 2). Again, there is no legal requirement to show it (just say you left it in Accra/wherever) but there’s no need to create a fuss about it. They’re just doing their job and Ghana immigration (aside from holding my passport for 8 months once) have never been unfairly difficult.

So this ends the highlights. Woohoo. Part 5 will cover sample itineraries.

Painted traditional house in the Upper East Region

November 18, 2017

Ghana Tour including Wa, Upper West Region

Continuing on the Ghana tour theme, this next tour of Ghana is what could be called “All Over Ghana to the Upper West: Wa and Hippos”. 14 Days minimum. 

A Rough Outline of a Ghana Tour that Includes the Far North-Western Upper West Region

Accra— Cape Coast (Central Region)—one of the beaches past Takoradi—Kumasi (Ashanti Region)—Techiman—Wa—Mole National Park—Tamale—Lake Volta Ferry to Akosombo—Akosombo back to Accra.

This is basically a circuit that can be traveled in either direction. But, travelers may want to start out easy by heading first to Cape Coast rather than the other way around, and that’s how we’ve outlined it here: 

1. Depart Accra and head to Cape Coast, about 3 hours by public transport, depending on traffic. Enjoy Cape Coast for a couple of days. See Cape Coast Castle, take a tour of town, visit other historical monuments, travel to Elmina. Elmina is about 20 minutes from Cape Coast (15 kilometres), west. Visitors are divided about the Castle visits. My preference is Elmina, but Cape Coast Castle has an excellent exhibit. 

2. Travel from Cape Coast to any of the beaches along the coast like Green Turtle or Axim for a day or two. This takes about 3-4 hours on public transport, depending on the traffic, in each direction. 

3. Return to Cape and travel north to Kumasi—which is crazy so be prepared. However, there is a lot to see, particularly from an Ashanti history point of view. Visit the Cultural Centre and the museum. Perhaps visit the Kejetia Market in the centre of town for a truly shocking market experience.

4. From Kumasi travel to Techiman, 3 hours north, and stay at Operation Hand in Hand in Nkoranza for a day. It’s one of the most inspiring places in Ghana—an orphanage on sprawling, Eden-like grounds for mentally handicapped children who produce some of the most beautiful beaded products I’ve seen in Ghana. You can interact or just hang out. 

5. From Techiman you can travel directly to Wa, which is the capital of the Upper West Region and the jumping off point to visit the Hippo Sanctuary. However, right now, during the rainy season, is not the best time to visit as hippos are hidden by vegetation and extremely hard to see. If you want to see them specifically, wait until October or later when everything dries out and they are more visible. 

6. From Wa travel via bus to Mole National Park where you can spend a couple of days looking at elepehants, wart hogs, monkeys, baboons, and other animals and birds. I have read of a few people unable to see elephants at this time, but most report seeing them—as I also did during an August, rainy season visit—it was awesome. 

7. Head to Tamale from Mole and then catch a tro to Makongo from where you can catch the Lake Volta Ferry all the way down the lake to Akosombo in the Eastern Region. This can take a day or two, depending on various issues like lake water levels and how many stops the captain makes. 

8. Stay at Akosombo on the River Volta—Aylo’s Bay is my fave—and then head back to Accra, an hour away by trotro. 

This tour of Ghana was based on one of the maps in our Ghana guide which shows this route around Ghana.

Let us know if you have any experience traveling these routes and what you’d suggest others to look out for. 

Thanks for reading!

November 9, 2017

21 Day Tour of Ghana Route Plan

Here is a suggested route for an all-over tour around Ghana that would take about 21 days at an average pace. This allows you to cover some of the major highlights of Ghana

Accra—(Eastern Region) Akosombo—(Volta) Fume, Wli, Kpando—Ferry across Lake Volta to Afram Plains, Donkorkrom—Nkawkaw, Kumasi (Ashanti Region)—Nkoranza (Brong Ahafo)—Tamale (Northern)—Mole—Bolgatanga (Upper East Region)—Cape Coast (Central Region)—Green Turtle or Axim Beach (Western Region)—Nzulezo Stilt Village (Western Region)—back to Accra

Elmina, Central Region

  1. From Accra, head north to Akosombo Bridge. Visit the bead makers at Agomanya market and hang out by the Volta river in Akosombo.

  1. Head on to Fume, half way along the highway from Akosombo heading towards Hohoe. Stay at Mountain Paradise Lodge for a few nights and enjoy complete peace and quiet.

  1. Head on to Wli via Hohoe from Fume. Wli is where Ghana’s largest waterfalls are located and one of most visitor’s favourite stops. You can climb to the upper falls which is on the border with Togo. In fact, there  is a border crossing at the end of the main road in Wli where you could cross to Togo if that’s your plan.

  1. Take the adventurous route and cross Lake Volta from the eastern shore at Kpando, about twenty minutes from Hohoe, after you leave Wli.

  1. Cross Lake Volta on a ferry to Agordeke and Donkorkrom in the centre of the Afram Plains. Stay over night.

  1. Next day head towards Kumasi by crossing the south-west arm of Lake Volta at Ekye in a motorized canoe, and land at Adowso on the other side.

  1. From Adowso, catch a trotro that will be waiting over the hills to Nkawkaw, a major stop between Accra and Kumasi, then travel on to Kumasi—about 2 hours from there.

  1. Hang out in Kumasi for a few days.

  1. Head on up to Techiman, about 3 hours away, and stay at Operation Hand in Hand in Nkoranza, a Dutch-run orphanage and gorgeous grounds in which to spend a day or two.

  1. Or, go straight to Tamale, the capital of the northern region. To get to Mole National Park without your own vehicle it’s almost compulsory to go to Tamale first. From there you catch a Metro Mass Bus departing at 2 pm (though virtually never on time) to Mole and arrive late that night—it takes about 4 hours.

  1. Hang out at Mole for a couple of days and watch the elephants splashing around and baby warthogs snorting away. (By the way, did anyone notice that Hogwarts (Wizards) is Warthogs switched?)

  1. Return to Tamale the same way as arriving, but on a 4 am Metro Mass (you get the feeling the hotel doesn’t want you to warm your bed for too long).

  1. From Tamale, take a trip to Bolgatanga, the capital of the Upper East Region, and visit the basket makers, smock makers, Sirigu Arts and Pottery, about 30 minutes out of town. You could also head up to Navrongo and Paga—crocodiles—easily for a day from Bolga.

  1. If you really want to be adventurous, you could head to Wa from Bolga, but via Tamale, unfortunately, especially now as the rainy season has begun and the roads are worse than ever. However, hippos are notoriously hard to spot in the rainy season so it’s probably best heading to Wa when the rains finish, sometime from October onwards.

  1. Scoot back down to Cape Coast from Bolga directly on the STC—takes about 18 hours (25 Cedis)—or from Tamale on the STC (22.50 Cedis). Hang out in Cape Coast or Elmina for a few days.

  1. Head west from Cape Coast, stopping at any of the sites or beaches along the way like Green Turtle Resort, Axim Beach Hotel, and on to Nzulezo where the village on stilts is located in the Amansuri Wetlands, in Ghana’s far west bordering The Ivory Coast.
Nzulezo Stilt Village, Western Region

Let us know if you have any experience traveling these routes and what you’d suggest others to look out for.

Thanks for reading!

November 1, 2017

Online Resources for Visiting Ghana

A couple of excellent online forums to find out about travel in Ghana, or life in Ghana, are:

Internations works on trust and they verify your credentials before being allowed to access the site fully. You can meet plenty of expats and get up-to-date details about living in Ghana, particularly Accra. They have an active expat community that attends regular meet-ups too. A good way to meet people when you first arrive in Ghana.
"InterNations is a community of trust and confidence, present in 230 cities worldwide. Data security and privacy are of major importance. Therefore membership is invitation-only:
You need to be invited to become a member"
and Lonely Planet's "Thorntree" forum.
This is geared towards short-term travelers and is essentially a place to find the most difficult to get information that may not be available anywhere else online. Many current and former travelers lurk around the forums and are ready to offer advice and answer questions from fellow travelers. When visiting Italy I developed my entire itinerary around the feedback on the forums. It was brilliant. I've read loads relating to Ghana there and the advice is helpful and mostly accurate.

This image was taken at Axim Beach Hotel, Axim, one of the best beaches and hotels in Ghana--with prices for all budgets. 

Ghana Currency Explained

If you're traveling in Ghana, this will help prevent serious nervous breakdown as you straddle the old and new Ghana Cedi divide still alive at street-side vendors and markets across Ghana.

One new Ghana Cedi is equivalent to ten thousand old Ghana Cedis. So, 1=10,000. And just as 100 cents makes one dollar, 100 pesewas makes one new Ghana Cedi.

However, prior to July 2007, pesewas were not in circulation. Any value less than 10,000 Cedis (1 new Ghana Cedi) was expressed in “thousands” of Cedis.

Today’s 10 pesewas was 1000 Ghana Cedis and 'thousand' is still quoted on the streets for items of this value, such as sachets of purified water sold in plastic bags. It is quite common to hear items still quoted as 'five thousand' instead of today’s 50 pesewas, or 'ten thousand' instead of today’s 1 new Ghana Cedi"

Image from Wikipedia.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...