April 6, 2011 § 2 Comments
Ghana is almost exactly twice the size of the state of Pennsylvania. We have about 400 miles of coastline. I once saw pictures of some rocky beaches along the west coast and I thought I was looking at Seychelles or some other exotic local. It was Ghana, and I’m sure between Wa and Cape Three Points, there’s a lot more surprises to discover. But first, you have to leave Accra. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything worth seeing or doing in Accra. And before you think I hold some bias against the region, it is my hometown. La beach is crap. There’s dust, thrash, and traffic everywhere. I hiked to Aburi yesterday, and it was a world of difference. Forget Aburi for a second…merely crossing into the Eastern Region was a world of difference. Just for reference, I live in the valley below the hills leading to Aburi.
So, if you want to really enjoy Ghana, leave Accra. And this is what I suggest you do:
16. Food: when I was younger, my family and I would go on these trips outside Accra. Almost all of them centered on the Volta, Eastern, or to Mfantsiman in the Central Region to visit my sisters at boarding school. And for me, the best parts of all those trips were the food stops. You always get to sample something savory right from your bus or car window. I loved going to Dzodze in the Volta Region because I knew I’d get to have Keta schools boys along the way. On the way back from those Mfantsiman trips, we’d always get Akranti (grusscutter) to prepare for some soup later. Whatever tasty morsels you get to try on your road trips would be fresh and organic. You just might envy what people in all these parts of Ghana eat everyday. Also, buying food along your trip helps the local economy, which I’m all for!
17. Togo/d’Ivoire/Burkina love: Ok, La Cote d’Ivoire isn’t a great place to visit right now, but I’ve only heard nice things about the country. So maybe in a year’s time, if you happen to be in West Africa, or Ghana’s Western Region, do hop over the boarder to see how those Francophones do their thing. As for the other two, Lome is just after the Aflao border in the Volta Region, and Burkina Faso borders our two upper regions. I’ve only been to Lome in Togo, and it seemed nice when I visited. This was decades ago, so I’m hopeful a lot’s gotten better since. Did you know Burkina Faso means Land of The Upright Man? Ain’t it cool? Read a bit about Thomas Sankara on your way there, if you can. You’d be surprised to learn how much of a feminist and progressive he was.
18. Beaches: If you want to enjoy the beach and you’re in Accra, don’t go where everyone goes (Big Milly’s, Bojo, La, etc). Try doing your own thing. Go off the beaten path and see what you can discover. Remember, we have a long coastline, and every beach is public property here. There are good, quiet beaches right after Bojo, and there are good beaches on both sides of Greater Accra. It’s all up to you to find what suits you. I’d even strongly suggest you DO NOT go to La. It’s dirty. It’s always crowded. I wouldn’t go in that water and neither should you. So if the place is all the things I’ve mentioned, why go there in the first place? One thing I would add about beaches is riptides. Because of the way the continent meets with the Gulf of Guinea, every inch of the West African coastline is has strong rip currents. We may not have the biggest waves, but the water is dense (very salty) and easily pulls you into deeper water. Most beaches here don’t have life guards, so try not to put yourself in any precarious position.
19. Forts & Castles: There are supposed to be between 30 and 40 forts and castles along Ghana’s coastline. I’m not sure the exact number, but we’re supposed to have most of all the forts and castles built by the Europeans in all of West Africa. There’s only one that’s inaccessible by the public, and that’s Christainborg (Osu Castle), but if you do a little homework, you should find many others including El Mina and Cape Coast Castles. There’s Fort Dixcove (or Fort Metal Cross) in the Western Region around Axim and Busua that has a spectacular view of an estuary emptying into the ocean from its top.
20. Volta Lake/Water Trips: There are lots of streams, lakes, rivers, and waterways criss-crossing the land like the Densu, Afram, Oda, Yeji, Pra and the lead inlets where the Volta lake (and Dam) gets its water, and the Volta River itself which enters the Atlantic at Ada Foah. There’s a point along the beach where river water meets sea water. It’s a really cool feature worth seeing if you ever make it out there in the Volta Region. There’s also Lake Bosomtwe in the Asante Region. It was created by a meteor and is supposed to be the deepest body of water in Ghana. All these and many others make for some good canoeing, rafting, and kayaking trips. So, when you have the opportunity to try out some of those activities on your trips, don’t hesitate to dive in. There’s even wind-surfing in Ada, surfing in Busua, and sword fishing trips available for the more adventurous types.
21. Hike/Climb/Bike: I did a 30-mile hike yesterday (don’t hike in sandals!) in the Eastern Region. There are lots and lots of hiking and biking trails in those hills with guides and bike rentals should you want those services. You can even get to hike in Kakum or the Shai Hills where you’ll even get to see baboons. There are lots of open rock faces and mountains like the Abaasua in the Asante Region, and many more in the Brong Ahafo and Volta Regions. Ghana’s tallest “mountain” is Mt. Afajato in the Volta Region, which is supposed to be a fun climb with views extending into Togo. Some of these destinations will take several transits and overnight stays to get to, but I’m confident they’ll be worth the effort… just try to exercise some patience in getting there as we don’t have the most efficient transport system.
22. Water Falls: Growing up, most people I knew only knew of Boti and Wli water falls. Wli was too far, and Boti was a hit or miss deal depending on which season you visited. But there’s more… lots more! By my count so far, there are 16! There is even one in the Northern Region, the Nakpanduri. Most of the water falls would be found in the Eastern, Brong-Ahafo, and Volta Regions. Look for: Nchiraa, Kintampo, Filler, Wenchi, Boti, Begoro, Akaa, Atiwa, Oku Abena, Bupru, Tini, Osubinboum, Tago, Laboum, Wli, and the Nakpanduri. Seven water falls are within 40km of Accra in the Eastern Region and can be found connected to those bike and hiking trails, so you have less reasons to waste away in the capital.
23. National Parks: We don’t have most of the animals you see on nat-geo, so if you’re hoping to see lions chasing wildebeests, you’re in for a lot of disappointment. Interestingly, lions used to roam the whole continent (including The Sahara) until they became prizes for gladiator spectacles in Rome and for “sport” hunters the last millennia. But we have many others including the elephant and hippopotamus. It was hard finding where we have hippos (also in the north) and I was all excited to see them until I learned I’ll have to get in some of those tiny canoes to see them. No thanks! But if you’re up to face a three-ton wildly territorial animal with jaws that can crush your boat in half, let me know, and I’ll help you get to them. We have about 800 elephants in Mole National Park, and forest elephants in the Brong- Ahafo, Volta, and Western Regions. There’s lots of monkeys to count and where, but you’ll find them with many not far from Accra. If you want to ride a few crocks and are up for the travel time and distance, there are these somewhat ‘tame’ crocodiles in Paga in the Upper East Region. I wouldn’t try it, but you can get to sit on them and feed them live chicken for a small fee.
24. Artisans/Crafts: Beads, antique beads, hand-crafted stools, ornaments, toys, and cloth with your own adinkra insignia… you can have them all, and you don’t have to go very far from Accra to find most of these things. Kente is woven throughout Ghana. It originated here and is the only authentic kente you’ll find anywhere on this planet. You can even have a personalized drum or xylophone made by craftsmen if you wanted one These are one of many ways you can take with you something uniquely Ghanaian if and whenever you decide to return home.
25. Bespoke: This one’s simple: get a local seamstress to make you a dress. You get to pick out materials you like, styles you like, and leave the rest to the seamstress. Like the crafts, having something personally made for you (and maybe others you’re returning to) will add to your experience in Ghana.
Now given the choice, how would you spend that 100ghc? Two hours at some expensive spot in Osu eating crappy food by patrons who think you should be happy for the service they’re giving you. Or, you could take a trip to any nearby region you prefer, eat some delicious food along the way there and back; see some beautiful waterfalls and wild animals; buy some cool beads and locally-made crafts; then return to Accra with that Adinkra/Kente cloth you bought to be sewn into a few dresses. You would even take lots and lots of pictures documenting this and many other trips around the country. How well can you document a trip to one lousy eatery in Osu?
See the other entries for your 25 things to know about this country.
Enjoy your stay!