1.5 days / 125km
The next morning we packed up the bike and headed to the big supermarket on Oxford Street. We just didn’t have time to do the rounds of one of the markets again. I felt guilty about this as we should be trying to support the small local businesses but convenience won this time. There was a lot of western branded products and we were able to buy a lot of our normal staples which made us feel like we were back in our cycle touring groove. We were on the road by 11.30am following the heavy traffic out of the city which seemed to sprawl out of the city centre for miles in every direction – each district was bustling. It took us a good 90 minutes to reach even the quieter suburbs where we decided to stop at a small ‘chop shop’ (food kiosk) and was served spicy noodles, Jollof rice (rice with beans) and fried chicken with tasty spices chutney and avocado paste.
The weather, although humid, isn’t stifling and it remains cloudy all day with no sign of rain at all. Pretty perfect for cycling really. We were headed for Aburi which would act as our entrance into the mountainous eastern Volta region sandwiched between lake Volta and the border into Togo. We had a mixture of paved and unpaved roads and this gave us a feel for the traffic and the drivers who we agreed are pretty good compared to lots of other countries we have visited. We saw lots of careful and considerate driving with no crazy overtaking and this, along with a decent hard shoulder in some areas, made us feel very comfortable on the busier roads. We had some decent climbs to ease us back into our first day!
Our general route was to cycle through the ashongmon district of Accra and meet back up with the main road at Kunkunu before the final climb up to Aburi. Just before the town we did a quick stop at Rita Marley’s house (Bob Marley’s wife) who has traced back Bob’s ancestry to Ghana. She now lives here, and set up the charitable Rita Marley foundation.
We reached Aburi town centre at about 5pm and we’re glad of the cooler temperatures up here after the climb. We decided to head straight to the botanical gardens and paid our 20 cedi entrance fee hoping that we could camp in the gardens overnight. We headed to the guest house which sits in the middle of the park and got chatting to the proprietor. After assuring him we’d be leaving in the morning and after considering his position he decided it was ok to let us pitch our tent in the gardens. We enjoyed some good grub in the restaurant next door and then pitched up in the dark. Neither of us slept amazingly well that night – a combination of getting used to the tent again and the various bird calls during the night some of which were pretty spectacularly strange! We both did a lot of tossing and turning. A light rain fell just before dawn and we crawled out of the tent at 6.30am to be greeted by a very mystical scene. After a breakfast of fried egg rolls we packed up and cycled out of the park.
Our second day would see us continue to head north towards Akropong and reach Kpong on the Volta. We had a lovely stretch of road for the first 30 miles most of which was downhill. We were soon zooming down into the tropical, multi-storey forests of the region and with every metre we felt the humidity rise again. At the bottom we encountered our first police check point where a few officers are checking vehicles and we see a couple of the drivers performed some very smooth ‘handshakes’ before being waved on.
We had quite a bit of sun as we headed towards Senchi and took some smaller road routes which gave us our first insights into the rural communities in Ghana. Most of the villages have a central square with a bore hole water pump. The houses, most of which are simple dwellings either with corregated or palm leaf roofs, surround this on both sides of the road. Lots of beautiful gnarled trees provide shade and without fail there is always a football pitch somewhere! All the villages we have visited have electricity but a lot are without toilet blocks.
Christianity is big in Ghana and the various church secs are all obviously present – Adventist, Pentecost, Latter Day Saints etc. Even a small village can have a number of church buildings. We can’t help but notice the huge billboards advertising big prayer meetings with famous national and international prophets and it makes you realise what a big network it all is. It is also the norm for families to design and display large posters detailing funeral arrangements for deceased relatives. These are often title ‘Hail to Glory’ or ‘Home Coming Celebrations’ and are clearly large events and respected members of the community might also have funeral anniversaries. We are skeptical about some of the ages detailed on these posters – the oldest has been 125 years!
Most people we meet here, if we chat to them for long enough, will ask us if we are Christian and are keen to explain they are a man of god and not wanting to generalise too much, we have noticed that ‘God’s help’ is most associated with financial success. It is very common for people to name their businesses after things from the bible – my favourites so far have been: ‘The Lord is my Shepherd Fast Food’, ‘Trust in God Electronic Works’ and ‘Jesus Will Rise Again cold store’.
Having said all this we have noticed a number of mosques so there must be a decent number of Muslims here too – we know that parts of the north such as the third largest city Tamale are predominantly Muslim.
As well as religion it’s obvious that music is a hugely important part of life here. It’s unusual to cycle through a town or village without hearing some live music – be it djembe drumming, brass bands or choral singing. Music plays a big part of prayer meetings and loud music gets played in markets and high streets everywhere.
As the day progressed the countryside got more and more lush with plenty of banana trees, palms, mango groves and long grass. From the bike we had our first glimpses of some of Ghana’s famed bird and butterfly life. The colours on them are so amazingly bright!
We had more rural detours before lunch after which we met back up with the road. There has been a decent number of sunny spells and we have had to be careful to apply factor 50 as we have realised how quickly you burn when this close to the equator. The sun has allowed us to get out our new solar panel however which is very exciting! We reach the famous Adomi bridge and cross the Volta by 3pm. Just as we are posing for photos on the bridge with two locals our first big rain storm rolls in and boy does it bucket down. We shelter in a very convenient roadside bar just after the bridge and after about 35 minutes the rain thankfully stops just as quickly as it began. We jump back on the bike and carry on towards Juapong where we stock up on water before turning into a much smaller dirt road. We had about 2 hours of light left and the plan was to get to one of the villages a short way in and ask if we could set up camp nearby.
After 30 or so minutes of cycling we come to the small village of Anddo. We knew it was important for us to find the village Chief and ask his permission to sleep here so I stayed with the bike while Paddy went in search of him. While he was gone I noticed lots of small faces popping out from behind walls and doors. They got closer and closer until finally one of them was brave enough to cross the road and come closer to me and the bike. There was a lot of giggling, running away and then slowly creeping back closer. Eventually I was surrounded and I dared one of them to come and ‘high five’ me which caused much hilarity.
The ice broken, we chatted away until Paddy got back with a thumbs up from the Chief who was very nice and had a pet monkey tied up outside his house. We were offered the church to sleep in and so we unpacked and got cooking with many onlookers. The night turned into an amazing display of singing and dancing performed by the young people of the village accompanied by a band of drummers and percussionists in the church. A lot of the adults came in to watch too and it was a really joyful experience. We were even encouraged to join in on some of the dancing which everyone thought was hugely comical mainly because I think Paddy and I looked more like we were trying to impersonate a chicken! There is a definite finesse and art to African dancing which we certainly didn’t master!!
We learned more about he village which was founded by the current chief and a few of his followers in 1984 after he had a vision from God. We slept very well that night and woke early with the rest of the village. Not wanting to overstay our welcome we packed up and got going deciding to have breakfast on the road. Onwards to Amedzofe.