Wow. I've got so much to say and I don't know where to start. You may want to stop reading now as this has the potential to get real long and boring. If you're brave enough to continue, here we go.
I guess the best way to do this is just to go in chronological order and see where that takes me. I think the last time I checked in was from Hohoe. While in the internet cafe writing the last blog, I met some volunteers who were working in a nearby village and had come to Hohoe to use the internet. Of the ten of them, seven either currently had malaria, or had just gotten over it. I always thought it was some terrible life threatening illness, but these kids hadn't even visited the hospital. Now I don't feel so bad about not taking anti-malarial drugs (at least not ones that work in west Africa). I've also been amazed at the number of white people here. It's not quite as bad as Thailand, but still, I had no idea that so many people traveled to Ghana. Most people I talked to in the states weren't exactly clear on where Ghana was, so I kinda figured I'd be one of the only white person (obruni) around. Around 90% of the obruni are volunteers, and generally come to Ghana for around six weeks and help out in smaller villages with farming, education, and all that other good stuff. I had no idea it was so popular, but I guess Ghana is one of the safer countries to visit in Africa.
Anyway, my plan was to leave Hohoe and travel by tro-tro to the small mountain town of Amedzofe. Though the towns were only 50km apart, the trip ended up taking around 10 hours. Just after passing through the outskirts of Hohoe, we were stopped at one of the many police checkpoints where the police decided that our driver needed more than an outdate proof of insurance to be driving van loads of people around the country. When he failed to provide a license or ID of any kind, they pulled him into their small hut and had a 10 minute heated discussion. I'm not really sure what transpired, but he somehow convinced them to let him continue on. About 10km outside of Ho, where I needed to catch a connecting tro-tro to Amedzofe, the tro-tro stopped. No fiery explosions or anything, the engine just turned off and we slowly drifted to a halt. This is such a common occurrence in West Africa that no one even seemed to notice. We filed out of the van and sat down on the roadside as our driver walked to the nearest town to see if he could get supplies to fix the tro-tro. After around an hour of waiting, a truck pulled up and the driver asked if I wanted a ride. This was one of those situations where instead of thinking, I just said 'sure' and hopped in. I felt a little bad leaving all the other passengers to wait, but it would have been stupid to refuse a ride from a strange man in the middle of nowhere, right? Right? Anyway, it turned out that the guy was from Bellevue. Yes, Bellevue. Small world. He was in Ghana for a funeral and said he just got a strange urge to pick me up. Worked for me. He gave me his phone number in Ghana and back in the states and told me to call if I ever needed any help here in Ghana. He then was kind enough to drop me at the tro-tro station in Ho, and I continued on my journey.
The 20km journey between Ho and Amedzofe also didn't go as planned. As we started the final ascent to the town, the tro-tro broke down again, and again, we all filed out and waited for two hours until the driver was able to fix it. After another five minutes, it stopped again, and I was seriously considering walking, though I had no idea how far it was. Just when I was putting on my bags, the van started working again, and we crawled the final stretch to Amedzofe. Though the ride was terrible, the views from the road were absolutely stunning. I arrived in town just as the sun was setting, and looking out over the valley into the sunset was amazing. The sun sets really quickly here, and I wasn't able to get a decent picture off before it disappeared. Of course, the next two days were cloudy, which meant I only got brief glimpses of the surrounding area, and nothing near what I saw that first evening.
I should add that on every single tro-tro I've taken, the person sitting next to me has offered me food. On the way from Accra to Hohoe, the man next to me (well, actually in the same seat as me) bought some kind of bread from a lady selling things through the van windows, and offered me some. I said no thanks, but he wasn't having it. He told me that he bought it for me and that I must eat some. He put a piece into my hand and practically forced me to eat it. On the ride from Hohoe to Ho, an old toothless man offered me a half eaten hard-boiled egg. Thanks, but no thanks. I can't really complain, as people are just being polite, but do they really expect me to take a bite out of their egg and then give it back to them?
Anyway, upon reaching Amedzofe, I checked in to a guesthouse on the edge of town where I tried to get the woman running the place to fix me some dinner. When I arrived, she offered to cook me dinner, and asked what I would like. I told her I was starving and that anything would be fine. She insisted that I tell her what to make, and whenever I made a suggestion, she replied that she didn't have it. After about five minutes of me guessing, I finally repeated my original statement that any food she had would be terrific. She asked how rice would sound. Great, rice sounds wonderful. What would I like to eat with it? Anything. How about chicken? Don't have chicken. Ok. How about mutton. Don't have it. Ok lady. Why don't you just tell me what the hell you do have to eat because I'm absolutely starving? Two hours later I was served with rice and an egg. It wasn't great food, but I happily ate it and headed to bed.
The next day I got up early and visited the tourist office in town to find out some places to go hiking. I decided on a trail that took me down out of the mountains to the small town of Biakpa, where I could follow a dirt road to Fume, and then climb back up the mountain to Amedzofe. It was a really pretty hike that took me through some decent forests and through some nice farmland. The clouds blocked the view for most of the way, but occasionally they would part and I would get to see the surrounding towns and sometimes even as far as distant Lake Volta, the largest artificial body of water in the world. The landscape here in Ghana is distinctly African. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but there is absolutely no mistake about where you are. The trees, mountains, lakes, and valleys all scream Africa.
Once, I'd hiked down to the town of Biakpa, I headed north and passed through the mountain paradise lodge, where I hoped to find a guide to take me to some nearby waterfalls. The most annoying thing about Ghana is that they require that you take a guide everywhere you go hiking. It's not for safety reasons, but to ensure that you spend some money when visiting remote wilderness areas. I'm all for supporting local economies, especially when my money goes to protect the forests and such, but I'd much rather do my hiking on my own, without having to deal with a guide explaining everything. When it comesto nature, I'd usually rather not know what the name of a tree is, or where a small stream originates, or other semi-useless facts. Even when I explain to the tourist offices that I just want to hike without a guide, they don't seem to understand. I've even offered to pay extra if they'll let me hike alone, but it's just not an option.
So anyway, I went to the lodge and got a guy named Wisdom to guide me down to the waterfalls. Though I could have done it on my own, he did at least provide some somewhat interesting information, though it was nothing I couldn't have found out by talking to him before the hike. He told me how the lodge was trying to get the surrounded area to be designated as a protected wilderness area, and how poaching was driving all the animals away. Even in his younger days as a student, he said he would go out into the bush on a Friday night and return on Sunday evening with a bag full of bushmeat. The animals that he caught and killed would provide him with enough money for the following week, and that was how he paid for his schooling. I thought it was interesting.
The waterfalls were nice, and after the hike I continued on to the town of Fume, where I was able to find a trail leading back up to Amedzofe. Unfortunately for me, Ghanians haven't mastered switchback technology, and all their trails go directly from point A to point B. I'm usually fine with this, but when the trail takes you straight up a mountain for three miles, it can get a bit tough. As I was resting and finishing my bag of water, I was passed by an old woman carrying a five gallon bucket of water on her head. I figured if she could do it, I could do it, and charged on ahead toward Amedzofe. After one final steep section, I made it to the top of the mountain and ended up at the doorstep of my guesthouse. I took a shower and changed my clothes, and in going through my bag, noticed that a few things were missing. When I left Hohoe, I searched the room up and down for my flashlight that I figured maybe I'd left in Accra, but now, I started to suspect that someone had come into my room in Hohoe, the one place where I hadn't locked my bag, and taken a few things. I didn't get hit too bad, as far as I can tell, all they managed to get were my flashlight (nice, but I have another), my knife (also nice, but again, I have another), around $40 worth of cedis (annoying, but at least they didn't take my credit/debit cards), my razors (apparently I need to look for a clean-shaven guy in Hohoe), and one pair of my underwear. The underwear were the most annoying thing. I only have three pair, and losing one is a pretty substantial loss.
I can't stand to write any more, so I'll stop this now. I've got tons more to say, and almost a week's worth of stuff to cover, but I'll get to that soon. Until next time, take care out there.