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Published: January 19th 2012
My time in Ghana began in its capital- Accra, where I met my group for the next month. I was going to be trucking from Accra up to Mali and back again, our vehicle was a regular big truck, gutted out and its insides replaced with seats and clever storage spaces with everything you'd need for a life on the road. It was 90% camping, bit of hotels and a bit of sleeping on rooftops, plus taking it in turns cooking on a gas fire, usually in the middle of nowhere. There was also a huge amount of driving involved, but with the windows wide open, tunes to listen to, book to read, and approximately 4,769 kids to wave at along the way, plus a nice tan on the right side of my body, it just became another highlight.
I've realised since just how lucky we were with our drivers. We were supposed to be with Darren, a very long term, experienced driver. Unfortunately he'd come down with a pretty hardcore case of malaria (he really nearly died) and could only join us a few weeks later, so Al, brand new to the job, was almost left on his own,
until Matt came down from Bamako, where he lived. He was an ex-driver, but agreed to fill in while Darren was in hospital. They were all the most awesome guys. Matt was a funny Australian guy, a big fan of the beer, and dancing, he knew the route inside out, including cool local characters and good bars, and was amazing to have with us. Darren was one of those straight talking blokes who loved to poke fun at everyone but couldn't take it back for shit (which made it way more fun to tease him), in the same way, he'd be super nosy about everyone else's business but wouldn't tell anyone his. He was from Croyden, and I got everyone calling him 'Dazza' which he hated, especially when he started responding to it, he was a great guy, fun to shre a beer with for sure. Al was a quieter, more gentle character. He'd been a mountaineer up until becoming an overland driver, and had seen an impressive portion of the globe. Of everyone on the truck, I got on with him best. The rest of the group were eight eighteen year old girls, and two guys and two women
in their forties, which was a bit of a weird mix. My assigned bunk mate was Asher, who was awesome, she was good friends with four of the other young girls, but had come on her own, she was just that bit more independent and mature than the others, we got on really well, I was stoked to have her to share with.
We camped at a few lakes and waterfalls for the first couple of nights, plus some bush camps in the middle of nowhere for nights on end, with dirty feet and dusty clothes in the absence of showers. We had a hotel stop in Kumasi, Ghana's second city, which had a huge, crazy and amazing market. We were in cook groups of two, half the fun of which was going to buy produce at all the local markets- shopping for veg has never been so much fun with all the market sellerrs clapping and shouting just at the sound of our names (one woman also unashamedly grabbed my bum. Then she laughed at how small it was. It was pretty awkward). We also got a chance to check out the cultural market (avoiding the 'fried bat'
stall by the zoo) with all the guys and gals making all the stuff they sell to tourists- drums, jewellery, paintings, pottery, it was pretty cool, and they were all cool to talk to or play a game of bantumi with. Later that night we went out for a tasty meal and then onwards to play some increasingly drunken games of pool, lead by Matt… leading to some increasingly embarrassing dancing… leading to hanging out with some cool local girls (that Matt took quite a shining to), who taught me some bad-ass dance moves.
Heading up north, we went through the Baobeng-Fema Monkey Sanctuary. Provided they were enticed with biscuits, they were quite friendly, not to mention photogenic, and it was the first time for most of us that we'd been so close to monkeys like that. Before crossing the border into Burkina Faso we visited the 'Sacred Crocodile Pond' at Paga, where you can sit on a (not all that) sacred crocodile, they're essentially just overfed, and have got used to the idea that when a guy comes up to the front a lake waving a chicken around, they are going to get a feed, even if it
does mean having a pasty tourist sat on your back for a while. But it was fun, and strange to feel that almost plastic reptile texture for real up close, and on such a big, powerful animal.
Crossing into Burkina Faso, we went straight to the capital, Ougadougou (that’s pronounced ‘Wagadoogoo’- makes you realise how unimaginative ‘London’ is) we were only there for a night, so we pretty much just went out drinking in the city (again, thanks Matt) and then nursed headaches by the pool all day the next day. Clubs here are pretty different, for a start, local girls don’t go out, just hookers, although it is kind of different over there, it’s hard to explain. Matt said that essentially, they are all potentially hookers... Unless you treat them otherwise. Anyway, I didn't have big plans to pay women for sex while I was there so I didn't worry about it too much. The other weird thing- everyone dances looking at themselves in the mirrors... We gave it a try, but maybe I need to work on my moves a little more to fully appreciate the view...
The next night we sleepily made our way to
check out some live music, which was cool, but the entertainers in front of them totally stole the show. First up were three creepy stilt walkers- their fabric masks reminded me of Papa Lazara, or scary scarecrows with straw collars and hands, looming over you in clown-like outfits, leaping around and doing tricks. Up next were two guys eating fire and doing some impressive balancing acts, like balancing a full grown man on their head- they blew all the lame entertainers in Covent Garden right out of the water.
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