Jan 6, 2009
Today was our last day along the coast as we drove into Accra. The distance was not too far but the highway was full of rumble strips (speed bumps), what we call "topes" from our time in Mexico and Central America. It seemed that every town or village, no matter how small, had at least six sets of multiple topes at either end of town. This made for a very slow drive which resulted in our arriving in Accra, the capital of Ghana, right at rush hour.
We thought that we would look for one of the budget hotels listed in our guidebook to stay in for the night, you know, something with air conditioning just to give us a break. However, traveling with a large expedition vehicle reduces our options and made this difficult. In the end, we couldn’t locate a hotel with suitable parking, so we continued across the city to a large shopping center that we had a GPS waypoint for, and after we arrived, we obtained permission to spend the night in the guarded parking lot.
Jan 7, 2009
Spending the night in the parking lot, although not exactly quiet, did have the benefit of letting us do our shopping first thing in the morning. We were able to visit a western style supermarket (actually it was South African owned) where we were able to replenish our diminishing food supply. Although most things were reasonably priced, some things like cheese were outrageously expensive.
Another bonus was that there was an internet café in the mall so we could connect and get our emails and take care of other business.
As we headed north out of the city, we stopped at a fuel station to top off our tank. This stop turned into a great multi-tasking stop as, in addition to getting fuel, we ate lunch, topped off our water tank, dumped our toilet cassette, and got our oil changed along with the oil and diesel filters too. Talk about cheap, not including the fuel, all the labor only cost us less than five dollars.
|Our destination today is Akosombo and the the Akosombo Dam. This dam was built during the 1960’s to provide the country with power. We were also interested in seeing Lake Volta, the largest artificial lake in the world. We drove up to the Volta Hotel for what is called a bird’s eye view of the lake and the dam, but due to a combination of the Harmattan winds and the annual burning of the fields, we could barely even see the dam, let alone the lake. It was disappointing. So we retraced our drive back a few miles to a lodge that we noticed had camping available. We pulled in and found a great spot right on the Volta River.|
Jan 8-9, 2009
Time to continuing moving on, so after a refreshing swim in the river we crossed over the Volta then drove into the mountains along the Togo/Ghana border. After getting directions down the wrong road, a first on this expedition, we quickly found the right route and arrived in Wli at a camping area with a view (through the trees naturally) of what is supposed to be a really nice waterfall. It was a rather peaceful spot, and there were even two other overland vehicles there, so we decided to just hang around and relax for an extra day.
Jan 10, 2009
We’ve been looking at the map trying to decide on the best and most interesting route north back into Burkina Faso from here. We’ve talked to a few other overlanders that have traveled this way to help make our decision. The choice is either to cross the border into Togo and then drive north through the country, or continue through Ghana across pistes (dirt or otherwise unimproved roads) until we get pack to pavement near Tamale.
Today we reached a decision, we will continue through Ghana. The most current information, received from the owner of the hotel/camping area here, is that we will not be able to get a transit visa at the nearby Togo border. Simply, this means we cannot enter Togo, so the decision has been made for us. Additionally, we met an overlander who has traveled this stretch of piste and has told us that at its worst, it is no worse than the road to Mole NP. OK, we can handle that, we will just go slow for the next two hundred miles.
So knowing how the road conditions are, we got an early start so that we could spend extra time driving. Funny how things work out though, since we were prepared for the worst, the road ended up not being so bad after all. The first fifty miles were actually paved, and the next hundred or so miles had been graded. We passed through dozens of villages, some having their weekly market, and passed trucks unbelievably overloaded with merchandise and people. By the end of the day, we had crossed over the Volta near Bambila and found a great bush camp off the road.
The drive was pretty as well. As we drove north, we passed out of the tropical region and back into the Sahelian region. This meant that the terrain changed from jungle into drier savannah, and more important, it meant that there was more choice of bush camping – it has been difficult to find camping places when every place is overgrown with jungle. It also meant a drop in the humidity, hurray!
Jan 11, 2009
This morning we hit the type of piste/road that we had expected yesterday – ungraded, washed out and washboarded with tons of pot holes. OK, we made it further yesterday on good roads than expected, so we can take three or four hours to drive the next 80km/50 miles or so. Then what happens, about half way we get to a brand new, first class paved highway! Amazing. We did miss the crossroads for Tamale as it was unmarked, but we found some police who were more than happy to give us an escort to the intersection and point us in the right direction (it was only a couple of miles back the way we had come).
|We made it to Tamale, did some quick shopping in the main market and then headed north another hour to yet another great bush camp. After we set up camp, we heard drumming from a nearby village, so we pulled out our chairs and enjoyed an impromptu concert for nearly an hour. It was an excellent way to enjoy the sunset on our last night in Ghana.|
Jan 12, 2009
Today we’re hoping to run a few errands before we leave Ghana, things that are easier done when we can speak the language before we return to the Francophone countries. First off, we wanted to replace our 240/120 transformer, again. The two previous ones we bought just weren’t up to the task of charging our batteries – they both overheated and burned up.
Lucky for us, the last town in Ghana, Bolgatanga, is a big town with lots of businesses. After finding two electrical shops, and being directed to yet a third, we found exactly what we had been looking for, a 1500 watt voltage regulator/converter that would give us the 110/120 volt charge required by our converter/charger. We’ll find out tonight if it actually works.
Next we calculated out how much fuel we needed to fill our tank and what the cost should be. Why? Well we were now out of Ghanaian Cedis and fuel is nearly half the price in Ghana as it will be in Burkina Faso, so we want to fill up and save some money. The bank was easy to find, but it turned out that all the service stations in town were out of diesel. OK, there are still a couple of small towns before the border and as we drove on we lucked out and found a station that still had fuel. It doesn’t make sense, but we found that many stations in the country were out of fuel, even propane, yet a few miles away there would be no shortage. We have no explanation for that.
|Arriving back at the same border crossing where we entered Ghana three weeks ago, we got our Carnet signed, passports stamped and crossed over into Burkina again. There we again did the same dance, Carnet signed and passports stamped, then we were on our way to Ouagadougou and our destination back at the OK Inn.|
We expected to just have a routine drive, back along the route we had earlier driven. When we entered Po National Park, we joked that we’d have to keep our eyes open for the "elusive" elephant on the road experience that our Rough Guide talked about, even though no elephants were in sight last month. About halfway through the park, the road deteriorated to just holes in a dirt surface, so we slowed to a crawl. As we crossed a bridge, Kim looked down and shouted "There’s an elephant!" "No!" "Really!" So we backed up off the bridge and parked, and sure enough there was an elephant – wait, no there were two elephants. A large male and a smaller female (we think), both with big tusks. Standing on the bridge, we watched the elephants for about twenty minutes. Even though we were only about thirty feet away from them, the elephants didn’t seem to mind us at all, and we didn’t have to fear them as we were on a bridge just out of their reach. We were speechless, well not actually, we just kept saying that we couldn’t believe our great luck. Later on in the drive we also saw a troop of monkeys run across the road.
When we arrived at the hotel, we found we were the third set of overlanders to arrive that day. We greeted everyone else, set up camp, then enjoyed a meal out at the hotel restaurant – a meat fondue with so much food that there was no chance of being able to finish it. All in all, a great day.
Jan 13, 2009
|After spending most of the last three days just driving, we treated ourselves to a day off. We did some laundry, caught up on some internet time, and relaxed reading our books. We also enjoyed our time with the other overlanders, a couple from Great Britain, one from Belgium and another from The Netherlands.|
Jan 14, 2009
Just a lazy start to the day. We got the Fuso ready to get back on the road and said goodbye to our friends. On the road out of town, we stopped off at a supermarket to stock up, as usual, then headed on a new heading towards Bobo Dioulasso, on the road back towards Mali.
We were hoping to stop at a park to try and see some more elephants near Boromo, but when we got to the intersection of the track to the park, we were confronted with a track bordered by trees which left only a small clearance of about 7 feet in height. Obviously we are taller than seven feet, so we decided that we were happy with the elephants we have already seen, like in Po, and continued on. We didn’t travel too much further before finding a nice bush camp well away from the road.
Jan 15, 2009
Our destination today is a small community run "park" that protects a lake where a large group of hippos make their home. This is Mare aux Hippopotames about 60 km north of Bobo. To get there we have to first get to Bobo, then skirt around to the north edge while trying to find the right road. Neither of our maps show enough detail to help us locate the exact road, and our GPS doesn’t show the road either.
OK, so we’ll just do a bit of dead-reckoning, and take our best guess at the way to go. As we entered the outskirts of Bobo, Kim suggested that we follow the big trucks as they were likely to know of a bypass around the northern edge of town, the general direction that we needed to go. Then we got to an intersection shown on our GPS (no signage at all so far) that we thought headed in the right direction, so we decided to follow it. When we turned, we found that we were "off" the GPS but headed due north. OK, the right direction. So we followed it for a few miles, and whoa, we saw a kilometer marker indicating that we were on the right road. This is how we typically navigate here in West Africa where in many places, signage is non-existent.
|We followed the nicely paved road for about 40kms and then turned off on a pretty good dirt road with only a few really rough spots. Turns out that the villages along this stretch of road grow cotton and we had arrived just after harvest so we drove past mounds and mounds of cotton stacked awaiting pickup. We arrived about 2:00pm and after wandering around lost for a few minutes, were greeted by an employee and led down a very narrow path (that we had initially avoided) toward the camping/hippo viewing area. Our leader pulled branches out of the way for us, and we eventually arrived at our destination. We were immediately shown where the boat was that takes you out to see the hippos and after changing into sun and insect proof clothing, we climbed in.|
The hippos actually were so close to shore that the boat ride took all of about 5 minutes. We spent about thirty minutes watching them, but they don’t actually do much other than sit in the water and eat. Occasionally one would open its jaws really wide or splash around in the water, but they are also quite vocal and they make a lot of noise competing with each other. It was actually quite interesting to be able to see them so closely.
We spent the night in the park and were "lulled" to sleep by the sound of snorting hippos.
Jan 16, 2009
Today it was back to Bobo and our destination of Casa Africa, a small hotel/camping area where we were warned to arrive early in the day to secure a spot. This turned out to be true as the parking area is extremely small. When we arrived there was only one other car there (that moved to accommodate us) and we backed in through the gate and into a corner. A short time later the Dutch couple that we had met in Ouaga also arrived and were squeezed into a another small parking spot.
After relaxing for a while, we put on our boots and walked into the center of town. We checked out the train station that was built in the Sudanic Mosque style (would that be considered insulting?) and then wandered through the outdoor market. We then found an ATM and a grocery store.
Which brings us back to the topic of what kinds of things we eat while traveling. Today while shopping in the marketplace, we bought three papayas and 7 mangos for 2 dollars and yesterday we bought a watermelon for one dollar. We often find really fresh produce that we can store for much longer than we can at home, and in the Francophone countries, we can find hot French bread in every village. The major cities all have supermarkets where we can usually find just about everything we have at home (if sometimes at really expensive prices).