Things I learnt in Ghana:
- You absolutely definitely need a visa before arriving
- Accra is stressful
- You get very used to kids yelling ‘Oburoni’ (literally ‘white person’) at you
- Hailing a trotro is quite fun, the journey is not.
- I am not good at brushing my teeth with no running water
- Never ever EVER use a public toilet
Ghana was a massive eye opener for me. There is so much I can write about this country, and I am not really sure where to start. I visited here as my lovely friend had spent a gap year in this part of the world and wanted to come back and visit the village she taught in. When she asked me to go back with her at the beginning of 2011, I jumped at the chance.
This was the first time I had been to a LEDC and it did take some getting used to. Being escorted under armed guard by the Ghanian border security to cash point after cash point trying to scrape together the money for our visas is a memory that will last with me forever. And a very important lesson for future travel – always check visa requirements!
Bumping along the dusty roads at midnight in the back of a car I was thinking what on earth had I got myself into.
We arrived at the village, Twifu Mampong, we would be staying in and were staying the rooms used by gap year students. We had the luxury of having an ‘ensuite’. A hole in the grown and a bucket for showering. We spent our days in the village wandering around, buying the insanely cheap food, playing with the kids and going to visit the school.
A few tips for going into the schools. Gifts go down so well, however it is key to make sure they are identical. I literally mean, don’t bring colour pencils in as the children will argue over who gets which colour. Simple HB pencils are much easier. Equally playing with the children and the balloons we gave them was one of the most beautiful moments. However the heartbreak when they pop one of them is so hard.
When we took photos of the children, they just clamoured to see them. It does become quite a lengthy process. We also learnt how to pound the fufu (local food). Water was bought and drank from plastic sachets.
We were fed by the family who hosts the gap teachers, it was so generous and I honestly couldn’t tell you what I ate. We were going to bed stupidly early, it got dark and there was literally nothing to do. The village was such an eye opener and so fascinating to see.
We did head into the near by town, Twifu Praso, one morning. There was a local market, which was full of cramped, wooden stalls with uneven mud floors and steep slopes and crevices everywhere. The stalls sold literally everything; earrings, nappies, food, materials, batteries and stinky fish.
We went to an upstairs cafe to have a drink. Fanta in a bottle has never tasted so good, so refreshing, so like home. This is where I learnt never ever to use a public toilet in Ghana. Luckily it was not me who found this out, I was just told this information usecond hand and I was so relived.Leaving the village we headed to explore other parts of Ghana. First stop was Kakum National Park. This involved a beautiful canopy walk, so high in the tree tops and amazing. We stayed the night at Hans Cottage Botel, which has real life crocodiles which they oh so causally let us touch.Many other wonderful places in between. In Cape Coast we remembered it was a Sunday, which meant the banks would of course be closed. The slave castle in Cape Coast was such a chilling place to witness. We travelled between locations using the local Trotros. Very cramped, they took about 20 people more than seemed able to fit. One can often end up holding a chicken or even a goat belonging to a random also taking the trip.
We were staying in a lovely hotel called Anomabo Beach Resort. on the first night there we camped on the beach, and had our own personal guards! Such a wonderful experience falling asleep to the sound of the waves crashing.
The next day we took a walk along the beach which was an experience in itself. Yes, the beach was the actual toilet for all the locals of the village.
We ended up coming across the fort and decided to take a look. It seemed abandoned at first, and then a man appeared almost out of nowhere, dressed in a very grubby vest and shorts. He offered to show us around, and we accepted. This turned out to be the most interesting parts of the trip. Our ‘guide’ now lived there and told us about the sad and awful history of the slave fort, and then it being turned into a school. Us being the only people shown around made it so much more real and poignant, epsecially seeing the burnt drawings the slaves burnt onto the ceiling.
And as a final highlight, the view from the top of the fort was also oh so very special. My advice – head to Ghana and learn so many lessons!