(the way home)
I enjoyed Benin so much that I stretched my stay an extra two days, cutting everything else from my itinerary. Instead of using them to go somewhere far, I chose to hang out — at the beach, at the badminton court, at Miguelle’s house, at my hostel with Firmin and Clementine.
With my French finally at a basic conversational level, it was all the more refreshing to get to know people better… tragically, just as I was about to leave. We coached Kesley through her interviews for a volunteer opportunity in Canada. Aubin and I exchanged music and learning materials related to informatics. Maman and her gang at the shop gossiped some more, teased me about potentially dating African women, while I dished right back to them. Lots of time killed on Youtube, huddled around a smartphone. I played a bit more badminton… and at least scored a single point. Watched a few telenovelas with Clementine and her family, then received a few bags of peanuts and tapioca flour to bring to her brother in Boston. I was killing time and enjoying company. I felt like I could stay… I really didn’t want to leave.
Tafi Atome and Hohoe, Ghana
I readily admit to burning out. At Mole National Park, I stressed over my next destination: northern Togo? Transport was possible to Kara, but to Natitingou, Benin from there? Having to negotiate everything in French? Not knowing how frequent (or rather, how commonly people take the route, given how vehicles only leave when full unless you charter the whole thing) transport leaves and whether I’d be stranded? The possibility that I would have to arrange my own costly private transport? It turned me into a little ball of stress.
Mole National Park, Ghana
It took two miserable days of travel to get to Mole: an 8 hour bus ride from Kumasi to Tamale arriving at 5:30 pm, a 4 am wake-up call to buy a Tamale-Mole ticket at the station after every local I encountered told me they’d sell out (they didn’t, and the bus wasn’t full), and a 2 pm departure that ended up being at 5:45 instead, on the dustiest road known to man in a bus with open windows. At least Jessica, Felix (both rejoining me direct from Accra), and I entertained ourselves during the long wait for the bus by chatting with children (after school, selling sachets of water, ginger, toothpaste, candy… anything their parents sold) who taught us some words in Dagbani and Twi. My poor attempts certainly got the other locals laughing. At least know I know how to say things like “good afternoon” (Dagbani: antsere), “what is your name” (ayuli), “ginger” (kakadro), and “is your mother in the house?” (Twi: u maame wo fie?) And of course, “thank you” (Dagbani: nan desugu, Twi: medaase), which always brought pleasantly surprised responses without fail whenever I used it.
We arrived in Mole around 10 pm, sweaty and covered in red dust. We all looked like we changed ethnicities and dyed our hair. All of this trouble is definitely worth it.
Cities are exhausting. While I’ve been enjoying my time so far, it’s been admittedly stressful. Walking out onto the street is an assault on all the senses — honking, pollution, traffic, cars with an index finger’s worth of space between each other and having to walk between them, dodging people, dodging men and women carrying things on their heads, heat, haze… I return to my room every night blowing black soot out of my nose. And when I arrived into Kumasi, I was swindled by a taxi driver and dropped off at a hostel that no longer existed — a pretty dismal start that made the stresses of the city worse. But then stuff just happens that kinda erases that from my mind.
Wandering for half an hour trying to find another hostel, I asked some souvenir stall owners for some directions. Kwadjo took me straight to a nice hostel, and offered to take me around town.
Why? I’m not sure. But he left his stall for two days.
Busua and Cape Coast, Ghana
After meeting Erik (Norway), Jessica (USA), and Felix (England) from my hostel in Accra, we decided to swap numbers and travel on and off together. So, Erik and I headed off to Cape Coast to meet Jessica, who was one day ahead of us. We caught a tro-tro (reluctantly, instead of a bus) headed to Takoradi from Kaneshie Market and went off on our way.
Well, off we went. So far that we ended up passing Cape Coast and not realising it until we asked the driver about 45 minutes after we passed it. Oops. We just decided to go along with the flow and headed to Takoradi instead, and from there, we made our way to Busua, the backpacker-friendly beach village of Ghana.
From the streets of Accra.
“Welcome to Ghana!”
“Thank you for visiting my country!”
“Do you like our country? It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
“So what brings you here?”
I don’t know, actually. Ghana is not a country you come to specifically for touristic sites. Something drew me here, after reading about it, and I hadn’t and still haven’t really pinned it down. But I’ve received a heck of a welcome.