Tuesday 3rd March 09 Mole National Park

I wake up after a long night of sweating to find I still have no spare water for the bathroom. I am quite dehydrated. I will not be going Game viewing today. Rehydration again I take some mixtures and then find the Staff Canteen here and get a big bowl of FuFu, which is Yam mash in a spicy sauce with some mutton. It is good and considerably less money than the Motel restaurant.

They also have a bar and I get several carbonated drinks for some flavour. I Meet some people and enjoy being able to talk English. There are a lot of people who volunteer over here and then get to see a bit of the country afterwards. A large mix of gap year and post Uni or mid-life crisis brigade. I hope I don’t fall into that category. There are lots of elephant here and you see quite a bit from the lodge. If I try to talk about everyone here I could fill a book with their various stories.

As with a lot of places I have visited there appears to be a difficulty with change in this Motel. No one seems to have any. You can’t make change for a 10 Cedi note which is around £7 in fact it is difficult when you offer a 5$GC note.

I eat at the canteen again later in the day and meet some volunteers who are working in Kumasi which is on my way to the coast they can accommodate my motor in their compound and so I am invited to call in on my way through, Sounds good as they have been here a bit and I may get a better insight into what really goes on. A lot of the volunteers I meet are fed up that their work is not really appreciated. They give time and effort asking nothing in return and a lot of the time people say ‘Why can’t you build this, or that or give money so we can have something else. These are people living on little money with no great fund of money back home. Sometimes I think that people get used to handouts and the way forward is to stop them. Just provide training and support to let the native population help themselves. If you provide a water pumping or piping or filtering system have it so there is a local factory built with local people building the parts to sustain the system when it breaks and needs parts. I have seen a lot of very expensive machinery here which cannot cope with the local conditions and cannot be repaired without specialist parts. These machines are left to rot. Okay, soapbox is now put away.

I intend getting up for a game walk as I think I have fluid back in my body now so I head off to bed and again find it rather hot.

Wed 4th March 09 Mole

I wake early to go on the walking safari and meet up with quite a few interesting people. It is difficult to remember all the names but there is Gerald from Holland, Clare from Blackburn and a young lady from Germany whose name escapes me. We have a guide called Steven who I use again later. We walk for a good hour with very few sightings of animals. One of the highlights of this hour is to have pointed out to us crocodile faeces! After another ¼ of an hour we see an elephant and move to view better when another appears out of the bush almost right by us. This allows for an excellent photo opportunity which I hope you enjoy. We move out to the plain and there are more elephant and bushbucks. It is a good experience and I think we return to the Motel satisfied. I spend the afternoon relaxing and having a good chat to the German girl I mentioned who seems to have a very mature outlook on the whole aspect of the work and place of aid and volunteering. Wish I could remember her name. I think it was Suzie. The rest of the afternoon is at the campsite where a young pair Oliver and Theresa are camping. They met up a week ago and are just travelling together for a week. The tent is broken into and a baboon is making off with Theresa’s bag. It gets under the viewing platform and at this point the couple return. I tell them the baboon has her bag and disbelief finally turns to fear as she lists the items in it including her passport. She runs for help and we try to make sure the baboon doesn’t take the bag further away. Two motel workers come and retrieve the bag. The tent has been badly damaged but it looks as though the camping (with security which is invisible) is totally at your own risk. They decide to head to the nearby village which means they can get a later bus in the morning.

My meal this evening is not so enjoyable but is okay.

Thursday 5th March 09 Mole

Another rest day with little to report other than Alex (a crazy Frenchman who is self-treating himself for malaria) is on the point of calling for medical assistance. One cup of tea and a couple of hours rest and he has gone back on this. A little later in the day I go with him to the canteen and after a little food he is a bit refreshed. We have a good few chats over the course of my time here and I find him both crazy and rational at the same time. He has certainly travelled.

There is not a lot else to write about today other than the baboons don’t bother us as we leave nothing out containing anything they could eat.

Friday 6th March 09 Mole

Today I get up early and pack up my tent, not to leave but because I want to go on a safari drive and I have to collect a ranger to accompany me. We set off with a time limit of 5 hours set by me due to the heat later in the day. Steven, the ranger, is happy as he likes to see more animals and is confident of doing so. I could spend a long time writing about this trip to say almost nothing so I will cut it to the essentials. There is a lot of new burning on the route which has been done by humans and this generally means the animals run away to other parts because there is no food and fire is danger. After 3 hours and few animals Steven is not as happy as before. I am perhaps a little more ready to accept that you can’t always see everything. We meet up with a party of the anti-poaching rangers who have just seen elephant but by the time we get there all we see is fresh elephant poo as they have run away. All in all a poor use of a morning but at least I tried.

I relax for the afternoon meeting a Dutch couple who are doing a West Africa loop in their Landcruiser and some students who have hired very dodgy tents from reception, the type you used as play tents when a child. I decide to use the restaurant for dinner as I haven’t tried it yet. I also pay my bill to the lady at reception who has been surly at best and plain rude the rest of the time.

The meal is with some students I have met who are studying at Accra University, Molly and Kristen are from the USA and only here for one term. Liu, Lou and Jen are Chinese and are doing the full 4-year course here. The company is good but the food is awful. Not recommended. I head back to the campsite and enjoy the company of the 4 Kiwis who arrived earlier (Greg, Kerry, Richard and Chantelle I think). Good sound people having a fun time.

Saturday 7th March 09 Mole to Kumasi

I get up reasonably early and get on the road by 7.30 having said goodbye to the Kiwis and American students and also wishing Alex well with his continued self-treating of his malaria. I hope he is okay as he is the sort of crazy guy that it is not bad to have around.

The road to the main road is really not good and takes about 1 ½ hours including a police check which I think is just out to catch people who had too much to drink after the Independence Day celebration parties. Once I strike out South the road is the typical mix of good tar and badly filled potholes with occasional stretches to show that the road is actually being upgraded.

I fuel up and am pleased that I can put in 92.5l at a cost of $83 cedis. Much more like it. The temperature on the road today isn’t as high as it has been and I find it far more bearable in the car. At one point I stop in order to purchase a Ghana SIM card for the phone and someone reads the sign on my car and asks which stores my CD is available at.

I arrive in Kumasi and send text for directions to the girls place which proves a little complicated but works okay as when I get to Ntiribuoho a chap stops me as he has heard I am coming and shows me to the house. This guy is Lucas who I will mention later. I am directed to this mansion and we have to leave the car outside until the man with the key arrives at which point I drive in and set up. The place has the most oversized satellite dish being constructed. You will hear of this later.

I have arrived in time for a light dinner that is rice and boiled eggs delivered from the village. It is then meant to be time to go to the reggae party but I have no energy for this and it appears most don’t. Just as well I give it a miss as Lucas apparently returns at 3.30am. We go for a quiet drink to the village ‘The White Man Spot’ (Spot is always a bar here). There are Tina, Kristina (a new volunteer) and I. We meet a guy called Foster who shows us the way. It is an interesting bar where the radio is on until it is time for some poor chap to get a genuine ear bashing from 2 women, apparently this is about family matters!

We head off and I climb to my tent for a good nights sleep

Sunday 8th March 09 Kumasi

After a good nights sleep I am woken quite early by the information service broadcasting to the village a bit like a call to prayer really. Also this is followed by more people being shown my car and the words ‘gas cooker, refrigerator’ being uttered while I am still in bed. I decide to get up. Breakfast is cooked and I am pleased to take a break from cooking it myself. I have already promised to cook for the girls tonight so I can save myself for that. It is also going to be a day to go and check the internet although not in a place where I can securely upload without virus risk. We take the Tro-tro into town. This is a minibus taxi with a fixed fare. (Around 35c) It is filled up before departure and I have seen many of these on very long trips with their rear axles stressed to breaking point. It is a very uncomfortable ride but it gets us into the city to the lorry park. We head to the internet and I spend the first 10 minutes of my allotted time trying to find where various characters are on the German keyboard!

Part way through my session my tummy starts to rebel and I ask for the loo. They have one but there is no paper. I ask and a sheet is taken from the printer. Mmmm, nice.

On leaving the internet we head to the market and the 3 girls buy various veg for the meal. No meat is bought and it looks as though it is vegetarian (I didn’t realise till later this would be good for Sarah who is veggie on principle and not on taste). They do shoe shopping but we finally get a 2-part Tro-tro ride back to their place.

It is around 4 and Tina sends a message to Lucas and Eva to join us for food. Just as this is done the heavens open and it pours down. The skies are full and we are in for a serious storm. I check my windows are shut and let the tent do its job. I get on with the food and the girls seem surprised that you can get a lot of taste in by cheating. I do a Tom Yum Soup with just a few veg and a couple of stock cubes with my jar of paste. It goes down well but not as well as the pasta which is just a plain tomato, onion and garlic sauce with fresh veg.

All goes down well and I bring in the petrol lamps to light the table as the storm has knocked out the electricity.

We start to hear strange creaking noises from the garden. The huge (unfinished) satellite dish in the garden is turning and eventually comes off the supporting scaffold. Half an hour later and the supporting post breaks free from the base plate and it leans over onto the ground. We move to rooms round the corner in case it properly breaks and is blown around. Fortunately the storm abates and we are able to go and settle in the large kitchen again. My tent is fine and, after Lucas and his friend come and polish off what little of the food the girls left, it is time for bed. Lucas is the organiser for the project the girls work on and has also many other ideas for progress in his village to help people be useful with their time if they have fallen off the rails a bit. I will put his website here in case you want to check it out. www.ogvoghana.org

Monday 9th March Kumasi to Green Turtle Lodge nr Dixcove

I get up after a better night’s sleep as the storm had cooled the air a bit. It takes a while to get going as there are people to say goodbye to and I have to take a good look at that amazing satellite dish. I take a few pictures and will put one on the site for Mike to laugh at the poor welding job which failed. No penetration at all.

The roads are okay considering the amount of water and I head through town. It takes me ages to get on a road out of town in the correct direction and I have doubts about one when it starts to head North so I back-track. I eventually get on the right road and from then it is plain sailing apart from the police checks, most of which are very gentle and I think are waiting for me to make some sort of offer of a gift which of course I don’t. Only one asks me what I have for the police and I try the ‘a smile and best wishes from my family’ line to which I am told ‘If you have nothing for police you may drive on’. Earlier, when I was fighting through the Kumasi traffic, I noticed a particularly enterprising piece of salesmanship. People wander up and down the queues trying to sell all manner of things from newspapers to hankies and fruit. I saw a young man with a triangle of wood on a stick. It was only when he tried to sell it to the driver of an old truck that I realised it was a wheel chock!!!

The route was pleasant and I finally found Green Turtle Lodge and settled in treating myself to some chicken which tasted great to me having had none this trip.

I meet Roo who is , surprisingly, Australian and has been on the road really hacking out trails for around a year now. He is in a 130 pick-up (really high spec) which he would sell and get a small Unimog for the other stuff he wants to do if the price were right. If you are interested maybe get in touch via www.worldwidewalkabout.com.au

So off to bed.

Tuesday 10th March 09 Green Turtle Lodge

I get up after being kept awake for part of the night sweating and part of the night with the rolling waves crashing on the beach. I head off to the village where I pick up bread and get Pepsi bottles. I want to keep my tab down at the lodge if possible. We are really out of communication except for a 2m² spot which has a mobile signal. This would normally be quite good but I could do with internet access at the minute as I am waiting for shipping quotes.

I have a few good chats with Roo (who I have christened Action Man because he is the stereotypical totally capable outdoors Australian) about various vehicle and travel matters. I can see that Cameroon could have been a big problem for me in the same way Janet and Tom struggled. I have a quiet day getting my first bit of tan other than on my arms and meet quite a few people who all have tales to tell. Dinner is bangers and mash but I am a touch disappointed to find them German smoked sausages. It is tasty nonetheless and it is in the company of 2 Dutch and 2 Germans. The German boy makes many jokes about the Dutch which they take in good sport as it is meant to just be fun. Shortly after I meet Gerald who was on the walk in Mole. He has made his way down here as, it seems, do a lot of others. Just as I head off to bed I see a familiar 6x6 and Manfred has arrived. Manfred is at www.thisfabtrek.com

Wednesday March 11, 2009 GreenTurtle

I tried my fan in the tent for the first time last night and it has made all the difference. Not nearly as sweaty but still quite a restless night as the waves are loud. I should perhaps move a little away from the front but the view is also better here so I’ll try one more night and then work it out. Meet the Dutch and Germans as they have breakfast with Gerald who has had a bump in the sea because the breakers are quite strong. I head to the village again and then cook my breakfast. I hand in laundry but it is more than their small basket measure so it will cost 6 cedis to do. I hope they do a better job than in Mole. Oh dear, I appear to have my laundry back damp and not all clean but with a bonus item of clothing as well. Maybe I will learn from this. I have a lazy day and am taught to play a card game based on bridge called 500. This is by Nathan and Nora who live in San Francisco. He told me earlier that only film stars have 110 Defenders in California and that if you could get a diesel version in they would sell really well because they are iconic but people are looking for a bit better economy than a V8. Nora is my hero! The lens that I found wouldn’t work at Boromo with the elephants is now back in my armoury of camera gear. The pair are photographers and she has shown me that it is just the aperture the camera isn’t reading and if I set it to manual I can get a result. It means a bit of experimentation with settings but at least I now have the long lenses back. One of the Dutch girls is ill. They suspect malaria and will take her to the hospital today to check. I think most people are only getting bitten by the sand flies and their deet sprays are keeping the mosquitos at bay. I forget to work on my tan today. There is a fire on the beach which, whilst being very attractive, is a bit of a waste of wood as it is swimsuit weather at night!!!

Thursday March 12, 2009 Green Turtle

I am up early and head to the village as part of my ritual. I get eggs and bread and my Pepsi bottles exchanged for full ones. One of the ladies carrying water on her head points me to the short cut back as she races past me. They travel quickly with very heavy loads. I get the jack out and check one of the front wheel bearings, it is a little loose and I tighten it up. I will work my way round the 4 corners over the next couple of days being careful to only work in the relative cool of morning.

I am asked to play volleyball but will consider my knee a risk until I am sure I am light enough not to put too much stress on it.

I think I will try and find out about provision shopping today as I would like to get some vegetables in and also perhaps some orange squash if it is available. Roo is moving off today. I have to say I really think he is a sound bloke and hope he continues to have a good trip. I am letting the solar panel get the battery back to full so have switched off most gadgets but still have my toothbrush and Ipod on charge. It appears to be doing quite well and looks like it can charge the battery from almost dead to full in about 2 days, which is pretty good. If I had a charging problem I could get up to starting power in less than a day.

Okay, I got bored so did another wheelbearing which also needed tightening up. I will do the others in the morning.

The 500 marathon continues and later I duck out but return to find Nathan and partner winning all tricks in 2 out of 3 hands. He does rub it in a bit and I think Nora will hear of the way they played the tactics for at least a couple of weeks! There was swordfish for dinner and it was really tasty but the portion was tiny, good job I went for ½ rice ½ chips to bulk it up. More humid tonight. I talk to an English guy who has been coming to Ghana for years, he is good friends with a guy and his son but I am still trying to work out the exact link. The father is a proud Hausa man and is very keen to tell you about yourself and your nation. He is sound but has some views which are maybe only based on half the required information. Kristina puts him right about black Africans in Peru and Equador as he thinks they were slaves. It turns out they were on slave ships which were shipwrecked but once ashore they were never in slavery so they were displaced but free and now form the nucleus of those countries footballing talent. I must get his name again. He speaks 9 languages and chastises the British for only speaking one. I think if I were in a single country with many languages I may pick up a bit more but he is right that we are not very proactive in this field of learning as a general rule.

I decide it is time for bed as I have answered many questions for many people in the past few hours.

Friday March 13th 2009 Green Turtle

Another day by the beach. I am trying to decide how long to stay. Lots of the people I have met are leaving tomorrow. I jack the wheels up on the passenger side and am happy to find no play in the bearings so another job done. Later I finally decide to make the necessary adjustments to my drivers door so it shuts on a gentle swing rather than a slam. I am really getting along well with the Dutch guys who have driven down here in a Ford Escort!! Sort of crazy but they have been fairly cautious and sensible about which roads to drive and actually Paco is an excellent mechanic and totally prepared. We have a similar sense of humour and so that is good fun. Nathan and Nora leave and have to do a little checking of their bill. This is becoming a theme and so we all must check over the arithmetic. Later in the day I get my trombone out by my car and am pleased to note that the sound doesn’t carry to the bar area. There is a small but heavy rain shower and then I sit with Gerald having a chat. He is off in the morning and I find out that he is a truck driver and a few years ago when he was travelling in Uganda he gave a girl a small sum of money so she could start a hair salon in Kampala. She actually did it and apparently is doing fine making a sound living and running a business. All she needed to add to her determination was a modest amount of capital. That was a good investment because of the satisfaction return rather than a financial gain. There is always a tale in there somewhere with all the people travelling around.

Saturday March 14th 2009 Green Turtle

Paco gave me a contact for shipping and the owner of Green Turtle says he has one for Takoradi so I really need to get internet soon. I also need to get in touch with Will and Hannah who are catching up. It appears Will wants someone to drive the route to South Africa with him. I just can’t do that now as I have my mind firmly set on shipping. The 2 Dutch leave and I am sad to see them go. I think they will remain in touch. Gerald also goes but I don’t see him and 2 Swedish girls who I meet at breakfast are also off today. Giles and his girlfriend are a British couple who only have a little time here but really want to see elephants in the wild. They are going to pay a taxi to drive to Mole. It is an addition to their original budget but they figure that if they don’t do it here they will have to spend a larger sum in future. They are around today and off early in the morning. It will cost around £400!!!. It can be done for about £20 but this involves much more travelling time and some interesting local transport. They don’t really have enough days left to travel this way. The local children are being a bit of a nuisance around the site today. They are scavenging and I don’t really know why. The village doesn’t have a lot but there is food there and the water source is good. I see some people walking along the beach who are on their way back from church. It must be quite a walk. I give them a wave and they wave back. Most people here are great but there are still a few who will steal and this means keeping your guard up whilst trying not to offend the good people with your suspicion. It is a bit of a juggling act. It feels a bit strange to be at a place where there is this ‘them and us’ thing because the lodge provides a lot of jobs and tries to organize tours that local guides can take which pay some money to the guide and some to the village. For this I think it is probably not unreasonable to ask for the guests to be left in peace when they want. There is a game set up on the beach just like swingball but you use your hand instead of a bat and only go one way until the other guy intercepts the bag that is the ball.

Sunday 15th March 2009 Green Turtle

I must at least get out of here tomorrow and have a look around.

Something happened yesterday. Martin, the chap with the Hausa friend who I now know is Ali, was not pleased. Ali ‘borrowed’ the car to pop to the village. He made it back but the car didn’t. Ali was avoiding a dog and lost control rolling the vehicle and hitting a tree. He is fine but in England the car would be a write-off. The truck came for the motor today and was accompanied by a policeman. If Ali had hit a person he would have a big fine or be in jail for 4 years. Ali yells across to me that the car is gone and seems pleased. I think he has missed the point that having the car was a good thing and it is down to him that Martin now has a bill for it’s repair (they will have it back on the road which is scary) and no transport. He is obsessed with his son becoming a great footballer and has him train every morning. The father coaches but appears to have few football skills. Sometimes you wonder about this false dream so many people create. It is all about the get rich quick route. The lad (Junior) is very keen also but I guess that’s because he has a nice time while his friends are at school.

Today’s evening meal of Chicken Yassa is the best meal I have had here. It also coincides with the arrival of Will and Hannah of www.mindtheelephant.com

Will plans to motor on and thinks most of the reports of difficulty are exaggerated. I am quite happy to let him find out rather than joining forces. I would have considered it had I met and travelled with them a little earlier but my wish to drive that section has gone.

I am glad we finally met as they are a really nice couple. We chat and then it is bed time.

Monday 16th March 2009 Trip to Takoradi

I get myself organised and pay my bill. It takes me ages to pack up and it is after noon when I drive off with the intention of going and staying at Takoradi. I have 2 main tasks. First is to meet Kobi, who is a friend of Tom (the owner here at Green Turtle) Kobi runs Kobina Shipping running out of the port of Takoradi and I hope to get good quotes.

I drive around looking for Harbour View and end up asking a policeman who gives me good directions as I am very close to it. As I approach Tom waves me down. He is on the phone to Kobi as he thought there were some pool tables for sale right by Kobi’s office. No joy for him but Kobi will be back in 20 mins. I wait. Kobi turns up a little early and we go to his office. He then takes me direct to shipping lines for a quote but the figures are too high.

Next on the agenda is internet but this is a failure as I don’t spot anywhere and time has been eaten away. I call in at Busua on the way back but it doesn’t seem to have anywhere to camp so I decide to go back to Green Turtle. Hannah times me opening the tent from closed and covered to being up with the ladder and I clock in at 3mins 18secs.. Fully set up wit windows out and bedding and electrics set up I am 8mins 3 secs. Let the rooftent challenge commence. Food is plain after yesterday and I think we are all tired so it is an early night with my book.

Tuesday 17th March 2009 To Cape Coast?

I am up quite early again and see turtle tracks on the beach. There is a nest about 15 metres from my car. I hope to get on the road reasonably early today and need to also get some money changed to pay for the coming days. I intend working my way along the coast and then meeting up with the others. Keep you posted.