November 14, 2009

Ghana Highlights: How to get from Volta to Kumasi or ‘the north’ without returning to Accra or Koforidua

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Ghana Highlights: How to get from Volta to Kumasi or ‘the north’ without returning to Accra or Koforidua there.

Note: The road from the northern Volta through Yendi and Bimbilla to Tamale is virtually unpassable. You can try it, but I’ve been told it can take 2-3 days.

So, if you wish to take ‘the path less traveled’ from the Volta Region, across Lake Volta and the Afram Plains, and on to Kumasi and further, this is how it works. To see all the Ghana Highlights on one page click here.

You need an overnight stay in Donkorkrom (aka. Donkey Kong, for the alcoholically sated—there isn’t much else to do).

Kpando, about a quarter-way up Lake Volta’s eastern shore, is the jumping off point to cross the lake.

This is not the same service as the Akosombo-Yeji Ferry which travels up the lake, south to north (also an option, but notoriously unreliable). This is the Kpando-Agordeke ferry that travels across the lake, east to west. Note: you can travel the entire journey in the opposite direction.

The ferry crossing is a 2 hour journey and costs about 4 Cedis. The lake has an eerie atmosphere as if spirits are floating in the mist. The tops of dead trees from when the area was flooded to create the dam still poke above the surface.

The key here is to work around the ferry departure time. It is supposed to depart at 1 p.m., but you know how time is. Aim to get there by 11 or 12. Bring some snacks. Find the ticket man and buy tickets. It should take you 40 minutes from Hohoe to Kpando on a tro—at most, about the same from Fume, and about 1.5 hours from Ho to Kpando.

Kpando port across Lake Volta to Agordeke: 2 hours, ferry

Agordeke port to Donkorkrom (DKK): 40 minutes: tro. You’ll arrive as the sun is setting. The one decent motel is St. Michaels at 12 Cedis per double. Just ask someone. Very, very basic. Don’t worry about it being over-booked. Few tourists pass through here. Maybe more after this post! Order (very simple) food in advance or find street chop.

So, you stay overnight in DKK: the middle of the patch of land between the two southern arms of Lake Volta.

Now, if you continue on, you travel across land to the next port, Ekye, then cross the lower western branch of the lake again. Adowso is the town on the far side (Kumasi side) of the lake. From Adowso you cross the mountains to Nkawkaw, on the main Accra-Kumasi highway, and then continue to Kumasi.

I began this leg in DKK at 9 a.m, took share taxi to Ekye, canoe over lake, tro over mountains (great journey) to Nkawkaw, and another tro to Kumasi, and arrived in Kumasi by 2.30 p.m. that day. Quite reasonable. Not much waiting. Fun. Adventurous.

This is the tricky bit. The ferry leaves Ekye port in the afternoon, around 3 p.m., and trotros from DKK to Ekye don’t leave DKK until 1 p.m. So you’re stuck in DKK all morning and there

ain’t much to do.

But the journey from DKK to Ekye port is only an hour. If there happens to be a tro heading there anyway, you’re lucky—about 2 Cedis. If not, the alternative is to hire a taxi (as I did) or hitch. It would be about 40 Cedis for 4 seats. However, we bargained it down and suggested the driver pick up others, which he did.

This crossing is only about 20 minutes and there are plenty of motorized canoes to take you across, so you don’t have to wait all day for the ferry crossing. You can be on the other side of the lake at Adowso by 10.30 a.m. if you leave DKK at nine by taxi or manage to find a lift. Earlier if you’re an early bird (which I’m not).

There is always at least one tro waiting at Adowso and crossing over the mountains to Nkawkaw takes about 2 hours. Finding a tro from Nkawkaw to Kumasi is quick, as it’s a major stop on the highway, and the journey is about 1.5 hours.

All in all this is an adventurous and exceedingly more interesting journey if you want to get from somewhere in the Volta to, say, Kumasi or the north of Ghana.

For my money, it beats returning to Accra (4 hours), then crossing Accra (nightmare) to the next tro station or whichever bus station (say, Kaneshie) to find a vehicle to go to Kumasi or Tamale, which may entail an overnight stay in Accra—expensive—and more crossing town probably for some ungodly departure time like 5 a.m. The Accra-Kumasi highway is an awful experience—4-6 hours for what should really be 3. Even if you go from the Volta to Koforidua, you’re still stuck with the Accra-Kumasi Highway from K’dua.

From Hohoe, the total travel time to Accra and on to Kumasi is 10 hours minimum, but more like 14-15 hours with waiting and stops.

From Hohoe to K’si via Koforidua is about 12 hours.

The actual traveling time for the ‘path less traveled’ across the lake is about 5 hours maximum on day 1 (even from Ho), and 5 hours maximum on day 2. The waiting parts of the journey are pleasant (Kpando on the lake for the ferry), the ferry crossings are relaxing, and you see a whole other part of Ghana that very few Ghanaians or tourists ever experience. And the hassle and stress factor is almost zero.

If you do take this path, let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear about your experience.

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