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Published: August 31st 2006
Before the Fishermen's Return.
: My apologies for not updating sooner, but between classes, outings, and power outages, I have had virtually no opportunities to "veg" on the internet.
Last weekend, a few friends and I planned on visiting the superb beaches of Gomoafetteh, a small village about two hours west of Accra. What followed was a series of misadventures and pleasant surprises. We made the short drive over to Kaneshie station (in western Accra) to find a tro-tro (cheap, public transport minibuses that operate along fixed routes) that would take us to Winneba.
The station was chaotic, to say the least.
Tro-tro operators work in pairs: a driver and a "mate," whose responsibilities include collecting fares from passengers, giving change, and shouting the name of the vehicle's destination as loud as quickly as possible at anyone who looks like a potential passenger. At the station, hundreds of these delapidated old vehicles jockeyed for the best positions, and the cries of the mates was only matched in volume by the farts and sputters of choking engines. I never knew so many places existed in this small West African nation! After much searching, we boarded a Winneba-bound tro-tro, only to find ourselves
waiting for another half-hour while passengers slowely filled the seating. It seems that tro-tros depart only when the drivers deem the vehicles sufficiently stuffed with cramped patrons.
Their passengers packed in like sweaty sardines, the driver and mate hoped aboard and we began the bumpy journey across the pothole-riddled roads of the country. After arriving in Winneba two hours later, we were quickly courted by a half-dozen taxi drivers, who wanted to take us to one hotel or another. When we inquired as to the distance to Gomoafetteh, they quickly informed us that we were still many miles away. So, we chartered a taxi for a moderate price and set off across the terrible backroads of the coast. Nevermind a whopping $70 dollar admission fee to Six Flags: in Ghana, for the meager price of $2, you can experience a one hour roller coaster ride in the back of a taxi as it careens through the red clay roads, dodging enormous potholes, goats, funeral processions, farmers, chickens, women on their way to the market, dogs, and the occasional wreckage of other beat-up old vehicles.
After our stomachs had endured a thorough wrecking, we arrived in Gomoafetteh. The beach
Hauling in the Nets
Fort Good Hope (our accommodation) is visible on the hill in the distance.
was minutes away. Our only problem was accommodation. After walking from one end of the small town to the other, with a throng of children skipping and giggling behind us, we discovered that only one hotel-resort existed in the town, and it charged 45 dollars a night. Might as well shack up at a Four Seasons for that price. In West Africa, everything is negotiable, from taxi fares, to meals and accomodation. We haggled the receptionist down to 30 dollars per room with breakfast included, but we still didnt have enough money. To make matters worse, there was a fee to access the beach!
Defeated, we hitched a taxi in search of lodging elsewhere. The nearby village of Sanyabereku was our destination. A tranquil backwater, Sanyabereku features a great natural harbor and cool coastal climates. We asked the taxi driver to take us to a guesthouse, where we could feel out the cost of rooms in the area. He dumped us in front of an old Dutch slave castle. "Fort Good Hope," built by the Dutch in 1702 as a store for gold, was later converted into a holding station for slaves in 1715. Now it rents rooms to
the stray visitor. The rooms were actaully quite pleasant and clean, and at only 4 dollars a night, they were well-priced, too. Half the group stayed in the Fort master's quarters: a lofty, breezy place with large windows. Drawing the short straw, I settled for the only other available room: the former dungeon (hey, no windows but the paint was fresh!). The view from the ramparts was breath-taking, providing sweeping views of the village and the harbor.
We trotted down to the cove in time to watch the fisherman return with the day's catch. What a sight! Dozens of brightly colored fishing boats were carried in by the waves, with several strong men lowering their patchwork sails while others sported their largest catches for all the village to see. Those boasting the largest catches tossed a fish or two into the cheering crowds as a show of their great bounty. The exuberant rejoicing initially struck me as peculiar. Learning of the real dangers of ocean fishing, the reason for celebration was clear - each venture out to sea is a gamble, and the return is far from guaranteed. We spent the rest of the evening playing with the many
children, who were delighted to see white people drudging through the white sands. They compete to hold my hands, and when I teach them a new game, they seem to never exhaust it's entertaining intrigue.
I am now back in Accra, back to the bustle and hustle of student life. I'll post again soon. Take care.
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