6 hours in Akuapem

July 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I was a very young boy, I visited Akuapem a few times with my family. I always hated the drive up the mountain. Back then, the road snaking up the hills was barely a two-lane road, and although our drivers weren’t the manic type, they always made sure to straddle the edge of the road. I’d always hold my breath when I’d see an oncoming vehicle because that meant we’d have to inch ever closer to the edge, and even though I was afraid of heights, I always found a way to look out over the edge.

Aburi was nice, but botany wasn’t exactly the most exciting thing in the word, and so for me as a boy, the botanical gardens never felt special. The old helicopter was nice to play around, but how much fun could a young boy have on that thing? Aburi was always just a place on the way to Mamfe. Mamfe wasn’t any more special even though it was supposed to be my hometown. Back then, the road was a lot quieter. It felt very much like being in the country side, and we were the city kids who stood out, today I’m the man who can’t say more than 10 twi words without breaking into that not-so-familiar English accent.

Last week I made it all the way to Bunso, which is even past the Koforidua I always wondered about as a kid, and probably the furthest I’ve been outside Accra in Ghana. There’s something really special about this place. When we first arrived at our destination after that forgettable van ride, all I could think about was curling up on the freshly-mown grass and taking a nap. I wasn’t tired even though I’d been up since 5a.m. It’s just one of those places. It’s the air, trees, breeze, people, and animals. You get to walk through orchards of exotic fruit plants. There were lychee, bread fruit, rambuttan, and jack fruit, which is probably the biggest fruit I’ve ever seen. If you’re up for a weekend day trip, visit the agriculture research centre in Bunso in the Eastern Region. There are tall trees everywhere, and it was sad to learn that 20% of the tree cover from the last 20 years was what I was seeing.

On our way back, we went through Koforidua which was so unimpressive. I don’t know if it was the rush of a few thousand boarding school students trying to go home on break, or maybe I’d long had this romantic sense of the town, but that place was no different than Madina. I don’t imagine I’ll be going back there anytime soon, but you’re more than welcome to go. You can find some very cool beads there. Sorry, I know, not the most enthusiastic plug, but oh well.

My trip really began after Koforidua. I’d say about 15 minutes outside Koforidua, I noticed an interesting pattern: hills-tall trees-lush green valleys-views. It kept repeating that way over and over, and this was on both sides of the road. I love how the road snaked through the hills and in moments, our van would shoot out to reveal a spectacular view, and before you could fully enjoy it, you were headed down another path to reveal yet another view. It’s very quiet up there. All you hear is the occasional vehicle that chugs slowly past you. If you could put together West Virginia Mountains, Southern Vermont country living, and Minnesota nice, you’ll have Akuapem. When we entered Mamfe, all I could think about was “nice view, that’s a nice house…and that one! I could live here…maybe build a house on that hill!” I didn’t know where we were until my dad pointed out my aunt’s home, which also had a nice view of the valley. The air was cool. The rain drizzled. It felt as if everyone up there was used to lots of rain. There are lots of views including many of Accra and the Volta Lake. It’s a quiet hide-out which I kept praying stays that way until I could buy my own land and before the masses moved in. I also saw clouds or fog in a valley below where I stood, I wasn’t sure which one it was, but I wanted to walk down into it. This was the stuff I would’ve loved to do as a kid- running down into a forest and disappearing in the fog.

I stood in a central square and listen to people speak Akuapem Twi. It was soothing to hear my language spoken. It was also nice to not have someone hear me speak and ask if I was Fante. When we got ready for the next van from Mamfe to Madina, all I could hear was “Larteh, Larteh, Larteh. Aka ebien!” If we had more time, I would’ve gotten one of those taxis just to see what Larteh was all about, but it was time to head back to Accra L

Update: The very next day after my trip to Bunso, a van crashed near the circle at Mamfe on the road to Koforidua. There was a call on the radio for vans or buses to come out to pick up injured travelers. I felt vindicated for scolding our driver from the previous morning, but I shouldn’t have felt that way to begin with. It turned out that three people died in that accident, including a neighbor of mine. I can’t say this enough. If they drive recklessly, do something!

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