Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Can we stay here forever?

On Saturday Sarah, Sikander and I left our hostel in Accra to travel further east along the coast to Ada Foah. Our mutual friend Eirwen was already there and had convinced us that we absolutely needed to join her, and we were excited to journey somewhere on our own and the prospect of being on a beautiful beach. We caught a taxi from our hostel to Tudu Station which, despite being much smaller than Tema Station, was probably the most intense experience I've had in trying to catch a trotro thus far. When we got out of the taxi, an elderly man approached and asked us where we were going. Once we indicated we were headed to Ada Foah, he motioned for us to follow him into the station. The station, just like all stations here in Accra, was dirty, busy, and filled with trotros and porters competing for customers. As soon as we began to walk through, a group of 4 to 5 Ghanaian men began trying to get us to go with their trotro - all of them yelling over each other, arguing with each other, and grabbing our arms. Deciding to trust our original guide (the elderly man) we did our best to ignore the clamor of drivers trying to get our business and followed him until he brought us to a trotro that had a sign on top that said, "Ada Foah." We thanked him and hopped on, but not before one of the other drivers who had tried to get us when we first walked in began a conversation with us from the door of the parked trotro. It went something like this:

Man: Okay, you are going to need to separate. Two stay here, one will come with me.

Me: No, no, we are going to stay together. Thank you.

Man (speaking to Sikander): You can't have both of them. One should come with me. You married?

Me (realizing what's happening): Yes, yes, we are married. We will stay together. Thank you.

Sarah: Yeah, we are both married to him. Sorry.

Man (speaking to Sikander): It's not fair for you to have both of them. In Ghana, a man should have just one wife. You should separate.

Me: No, no, we are rivals (how Ghanians refer to multiple wives). Sorry.

Sarah (laughing): We are sister wives!

Sikander: Sorry, we aren't separating.

At this point, the mate for our trotro came and  more people boarded, so the creepy man who wanted one of us for his wife was forced to leave. Talk about a bizarre experience!!

The trotro ride from Tudu Station to Ada Foah was long (about 2 and a half hours) but largely uneventful. The closer we got to Ada Foah though, the worse the roads became  - red dirt roads with ridiculous amounts of potholes that made the ride quite bumpy! We also unexpectedly had to change trotros once but that was okay. Once we got off the trotro in Ada Foah, we were on some back dirt road in a village area with a bunch of Ghanaians on motorbikes nearby. We had no idea where to go from there, except for that we were supposed to meet a Ghanaian named Winfrid from the Maranatha Beach Camp (where we would be staying) who would take us to the camp by boat. I couldn't see a river anywhere nearby so I was feeling a bit skeptical about our location. The Ghanaians on the motorbikes, upon finding out where we were headed, offered to take us to the boat location on their motorbikes (for a fee of course) but we weren't feeling too safe about that so we just asked them to tell us how to get to where the boat was. We started walking in the direction that they pointed (just straight ahead down the dirt road) but the more we walked the more misgivings I had about where we were headed. Maybe we hadn't communicated properly? As we continued to walk, I heard a distant voice from behind us say, "Hullo?" I ignored it at first, but then, "Hulllloo... Hullo!" We turned around and saw a Ghanaian guy with dreads in a bright orange shirt motioning to us. His name was Eric and Winfrid had apparently sent him to pick us up. He led us right back to where we had originally walked from and through an obscure path that cut through random parts of the surrounding village and market. Along the way he told us all about the various activities we could do once we arrived at Maranatha - we could take a 1 hour, 2 hour, or 3 hour boat ride to Rum Island (a place where rum is made), Crocodile Island (speaks for itself), the mangroves, the estuary (where the ocean meets the volta river), and an island where we could participate in basket weaving. He gave me his number and told me to call him if we wanted to do any of those activities. After about 10 minutes of walking we reached the boat - a long, wooden boat bobbing gently against the ruddy shore. We got into the boat and Desmond, the boat driver, fired up the small engine and we began to glide smoothly along the Volta River - which really looks like a beautiful lake. As the boat glided out into the river I felt like we were entering a dream. It was stunning. As far as the eye could see there was beaches, palm trees, sun and open sky and water. Beautiful, expensive houses lined the shore at first, but those eventually gave way to small, thatched huts made from palm trees. Long fishing boats could be seen gliding along the water or anchored on sandy shores, and a breeze from the ocean made everything seem just perfect. I literally kept thinking to myself, "I can't believe this is my life right now."
on our way

Maranatha Beach Camp is a rustic, but beautiful beach camp that  is right along the shore and surrounded by palm trees. On one side of the stretch of sandy beach is the ocean (hidden by a huge sand buffer) and the other is the serene Volta River. The accomodations are very simple - we slept in a small hut made out of palm tree branches that had no electricity and a floor of beach sand. The washrooms were quite...camplike. No flushing available, and a very strong stench when nearby - but even that couldn't take away from the beautiful environment we were in. When we first arrived we were quickly ushered to sit at a red wooden table under a canopy near the main bar/desk and immediately asked what we would like to drink and eat. We ordered some alcohol and dinner - I ordered jollof rice and tilapia, and let me tell you, it was the best fish I have ever tasted! I ended up eating tilapia for every meal there! We met Winfrid finally who is this super cool dude who runs the beach camp and we also happily reunited with Eirwen.
inside our hut

outside of our hut

the beach front

We ended up deciding to take a 1 hour boat ride to Rum Island and that was such a fun experience. It was us four, and a few other people who were also staying at the camp. The boat ride was just as spectacular and refreshing as the one to Maranatha, and the people we travelled with were entertaining and kind. The rum is actually made just by this one family that grows sugar cane on the island. They showed us how they crush the sugar cane, then add something to it and let it ferment for a bit, boil it twice, cool it quickly, and fill reused water jugs with the exceptionally strong rum. They make a white rum, and a unique red rum that is made using mahogany bark. After a tour of how the rum was made, the man of the island led us to a table where a bottle of white rum and a bottle of red rum and some shot glasses were waiting for us. He showed us this worn, tattered book filled with comments from people from all over the world that have come to  his island to try his rum, and began to pour us each a shot glass of white and red rum. I asked for half a shot glass of each because I doubted I would be able to stomach it, and I was glad I did! Man, that stuff burned!  It was so fun sitting around with everyone just laughing, grimacing, and giggling about the rum tasting! I decided to buy my dad a bottle of the red rum and we all piled back into the boat and headed back to Maranatha.
taste-testing the rum

where the rum is made

used to crush the sugar cane

We spent the rest of that evening relaxing in hammocks on the beach, eating dinner, drinking rum and coke, and just loving life basically. At around 8:30 PM they brought out big speakers and began to play hip-hop and party music, and lit a a big bonfire on the shore. People began to dance, and pull up chairs, and everything was pitch dark except for the light of the fire. It was really fun. We played games with some of the locals, laughed and danced and walked a long the beach. We made some unforgettable memories! We went to bed around 1:30 AM, but it was surprisingly really cold at night and we weren't provided with blankets so sleeping was difficult. It didn't help that there was sand in our beds and clothes and everywhere basically! I probably got about 2 hours of sleep, and then woke up at 4:30 to a creepy swishing and rattling along the walls of our hut. Sarah jumped into my bed and we anxiously tried to determine what in the world was outside of our hut - imagining all sorts of unpleasant scenarios! After we got up the courage to investigate, we discovered it was a man who was sweeping the sand around our hut, looking for lost valuables buried in the sand! We were relieved.

That morning we were very tired, but the beauty of our surroundings was invigorating. Robert, one of the locals, is a very high-energy young man who was absolutely hilarious- he came out at about 5AM singing and dancing and urging us to continue the party! Sarah and I were very lucky in the fact that we woke up so early, because one of my favorite moments of the whole trip happened at around 6:30AM.

Sarah and I, feeling extremely hungry, ordered a big breakfast and settled into some chairs on the beach to wait for our food to be ready. But Robert and three other local guys called us over to the red tables to eat. Puzzled, we followed and saw that instead of the food we had ordered there was a staple Ghanaian dish on the table - Kenke! Kenke is a mashed-potato like substance thats actually made from corn, that is soft and sticky. You eat it with your hands, dipping it into this bright red spicy sauce and eating tiny smoked fish and shrimps. This was what they had ordered for their breakfast, but they insisted that we join them. It was so precious because they created for us this atmosphere of family - all of us partaking in the same dish with our hands, laughing, enjoying and just feeling like there was no difference between us at all. It was cute because they kept being like, "Eat the big fish, and look she is eating more than you, you need to eat more! And don't be afraid of the shrimp!" etc. Haha,  I wish I could replay that meal over and over again! I'll miss that.
kenke - delicious!
eating breakfast with the guys

And soon after that, our food was ready and we had to stuff ourselves to the brim to finish eating our pineapple pancakes and eggs!

The rest of that day we spent walking along the beach, collecting seashells, relaxing, staring out at the serene beauty and half-jokingly asking each other, "Can we stay here forever!?" We were also ambushed by the most adorable children, and spent a good while playing with the young ones, while some of the older girls braided my hair.
Lounging in the hammock
sweet girls braiding my hair and being silly

We didn't end up leaving the island until around 5PM, meaning that we were travelling by trotro at nighttime for the first time - it was a bit exhilarating and we were all a bit delirious from lack of sleep, but we made it back to our hostel by 10:30PM. I had the best time in Ada Foah, and I miss the people and the atmosphere so much, but next weekend I will be going on another adventure to the Northern region of Ghana and I can't help but anticipate all the wonderful people and memories I will meet!

We will be flying from Accra to Tamale, staying the night in Tamale, then trotroing really early from Tamale to Mole National Park to go on a Safari and staying at Mole Motel for 2 nights! We will also visit some local villages and mosques, and I am sure we will have some unexpected adventures! We will leave Saturday morning, and then I will fly back from Tamale to Accra on my own on Tuesday! This will be interesting.
Can I stay here forever?!

Much love from Ghana,

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