Thursday, 20 March 2008

Monika in Ghana Final (2007 Year Out Volunteer)

Despite now being in Thailand, we thought we'd give you our last report on Ghana.

Well our last week teaching was a quick one, the time just flew, right when we were loving teaching the most. On our final day there, the teacher insisted we come back just before we leave Ghana to say a final farewell. He spoke to the class and told them to bring gifts for us and all the kids looked really sad, it was only then we realised that we'd actually had some sort of impact on them. We had lumps in our throats, the nice things the teacher was saying to the children about us was really touching.

So after that last Friday we headed down to Cape Coast one last time just to say goodbye to some of the people we'd met there. We only stayed one night then traveled to the Western Region to a place called Butre Beach. It had this strange feeling to it. It was so isolated, you had to walk over a bridge to get there and once you were there, there wasn't mush else to do other than sunbake and swim. The waves were pretty huge so we stuck mainly to the sunbaking while we buried ourselves in books for the whole two days we were there. After those two days, we walked through a rainforest and the bush then onto a long beach to get to our next stop, Busua beach. This was no doubt the most beautiful beach we'd seen in Ghana. Apart from the beach, the town didn't have a lot to offer. It was quite poor by comparison to other places we'd been. But the beach was enough to keep us there for 3 nights. At the beach we were able to hire boards so it was fun to catch some waves there.

Then on Wednesday, four of the girls and myself headed up to Kumasi. We stayed there two nights and got plenty of shopping done at the Central Markets (the biggest markets in West Africa) and the Cultural Centre. The weather was beginning to feel much hotter and dryer though so we'd stay indoors as much as we could. One of the girls, Maddy got quite sick so her and Georgina stayed in Kumasi while Ally, Bec and myself traveled up to Tamale. Loads of people told us to visit Tamale but from the short time we were there we found there was very little to do. We stayed one night there in a place that reminded us of a slaughter house. Really dim flickering lights, stains on the walls, dirty beds..... So we were fairly quick to get out of there the next morning. We took a Tro Tro up to Bolgatanga which is all the way at the top of Ghana. The landscape up north was so different to down south. It was typical Africa, savannah grasslands, boabab trees, cattle on the sides of the road and red dirt and long dry grass. It was really dry up north as well and we went three nights without running water (probably the dirtiest few days we had in Ghana).

On our second day there we took a taxi up to Paga which is known for it's sacred crocodile ponds. Apparently the crocs are friendly and have an agreement with the humans that they won't eat them if the humans don't harm them. So we arrived and it was just a giant pond on the side of the road but the guides gave us a chicken to tempt the crocs out of the water, only one came out, about two and a half metres long and we were able to hold it's tail as it sat there placidly. After it ate the chicken the guides told us that if we paid one of the local boys would swim in the pond (home to 300 crocs). We figured we'd like to see it so we gae him the money and he was doing flips in the water with crocs no more than ten metres away from him. They told us we could swim as well, so Ally and I had a swim in our underwear (wasn't planned) with crocs swimming close by. It was pretty exciting and we figured this would probably be the only time in our lives we'd ever swim with crocodiles so why not!

Later that day, back in Bolgatanga we hired some bikes ad went riding around the town. It was our favourite place in all of Ghana. The people were so much more relaxed than back down south, tehy didn't pester you and it just had a really relaxed, calm atmosphere. After our bike ride we made friends with some locals who had motor bikes so they took us for a ride up to a lake which lay between Ghana and Burkina Faso. It was really beautiful and on the way we saw ostriches, donkeys and a crazy naked lady walking down the street. My driver, Moses, asked if we had people like that in Sydney, it just made me laugh. On the way back we rode through a village, typical African mud huts and the sun was setting over the horizon, it looked like a typical scene from the Lion King, but not a cartoon oviously! That night we went to a night spot, had a few drinks, didn't realise that it was midnight then went to bed hungry!

The next day we took a tro tro back down to Tamale where we met up with Maddy and Georgina again and hopped straight on a bus to Mole National Park. We arrived at night so we didn't realise that we were situaed on a cliff overlooking the game park, however there were warthogs lying outside our room so we knew we'd be seeing some interesting things here. The next morning we woke up and ate breakfast overlooking the reserve, watching elephants drinking and swimming in a waterhole with all types of deer and monkeys running around. We spent the day swimming, it was so good to swim in a pool as it was super hot and dry still. Then we did the afternoon safari where we walked down into the reserve, got about fifteen metres away from one of the four elephants we saw. Also saw kob, springboks, deer, antelope, monkeys, baboons, crocodiles, lots of different birds and butterflies.

After the safari we were pretty tired so had an early night then woke early the next morning and hired bikes where we rode to the nearest town, Larabanga. There wasn't a lot in this town but it was home to hana's oldest Mosque, built in 1421 so we checked it out, walked around for a bit then rode back to Mole. Spent the rest of the day by the pool then had another early night because we had to be up at 3:30am to catch the 4:00am bus back to Tamale. From Tamale we decided to get the bus straight back to Accra rather than stopping and staying another night in Kumasi. After the twelve hour bus ride it took us another hour or so to find available accommodation. We ended up taking a single room, which had a king single bed, three slept on that and two on the floor but we were desperate for a room!

The next morning we all went to breakfast where I met up with Jani again who had stayed down south, in Cape Coast, Takoradi and at some hotel she was able to stay at for free because she made friends with the ladies who owned it. I was so glad to see her again, it had been the longest I'd been separated from her the whole time we'd been overseas, plus she had malaria, so she was in a bit of a bad way! We stayed that night in Accra then the next day we headed to Kokrobite to say goodbye to the friends we'd made there. We stayed there for two nights then on the Monday morning we had to say goodbye to the Australian girls we were with, but know we'll be seeing them back in Sydney so it wasn't too hard to part with them.

On our way back to Swedru, we were standing on the main road waiting for a Swedru tro tro when we heard yelling coming from a car. We looked up and see our host mother, father and brother in a car heading towards Accra. All we could do was wave and look a bit confused. When we arrived home though our host cousin/brother told us they'd gone to Accra to get medicine cause our little brother was sick.

When our family finally did arrive home they were so happy to see us, and us to them as well. We had a big hug from our mum and we told them all about our travels.

The next morning we went to visit our school one last time. A few of the teachers made some speeches, then we did the same. We said goodbye to the kids and they gave us some presents so to remember them. It was all really sad saying goodbye to them, knowing that even if we do go back to Ghana agian, it's unlikely we'll see them.

We then went back home where Colin, the Australian who runs Antipodeans was. He had come to visit the Aussies and it was nice to see a familiar face. We told him what we'd been up to and then it was time to say our goodbyes because Seth, the in country agent, had arrived to take us back to Accra. It was a fairly emotional fairwell, even our little brother who was shy gave us a cuddle. We took some final photos, said our thank you's, exchanged addresses and emails and were on our way. Sitting in Seth's car driving back to Accra was fairly quiet until his tyre popped, fortunately we had about 12 hours till our flight so we were in no rush! Once arriving in Accra we said our thank yous and goodbyes to Seth then visited a few of our friends in Accra, most of whom were really angry cause they didn't realise we were leaving that day. They all collected a few of their bits and bobs they sell and gave us some things to remember them by. Ali Baba asked for my phone, but didn't seem too upset that I couldn't give it to him. Had our last meal in Ghana then set off for the airport.

Getting to London was hassle free. We wanted to make the most of our 15 hours at Heathrow and considered going to visit Buckingham Palace, or just getting out into London town, but one step outside the airport and we knew we'd freeze, with only our Africa clothes on our back. So we slept for hours on the uncomfortable airport lounges. After checking in for our flight to Bangkok we felt really strange being surrounded with expensive shops and all these white people.

Our plane trip was long and uncomfortable but eventually we made it to Bangkok where we suddenly felt overwhelmed at being in a big city. We obviously felt very unfamiliar with our surroundings and started to miss Africa madly. After settling into our guest house we felt more at ease but still definitely have a soft spot for Ghana.

And now we're traveling Thailand, arrived by train in Koh Phangan yesterday, went to the Half Moon Festival last night, was so good to dance to familiar music again, it had been too long! Just been relaxing on the beach, our bungalow (which is filled with cockroaches and spiders) is directly on the beach, white sand and blue water. Very much paradise!

Meeting up with Jo, Thea, Liza and Mitch in Phuket in a few days, will be very very excited to see them! Can't wait!

And that is it up until now, will keep you posted on Thailand although pretty sure it wont be as interesting as our Africa reports!

Hope all is well with everyone and be in touch soon!

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