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December 21, 2012 / samwilson60

The reluctant dash to Accra

Day three was a long drive to get within reach of Kumasi. En route we had two marriage proposals, one direct request for an invitation to England and some highly dubious but non-negotiable directions, all from roadside police. There were checkpoints every few kilometres but thankfully half were either visibly having a kip or lazily waved us through/sent us down some clearly little used and little monitored pistes.

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We also had a few more failed attempts to contact various Nigerian embassies in West Africa and formed a tentative plan of attack as a result – fairly convinced now that we don’t have what we need for Nigeria and under fairly extreme and only semi self-imposed time pressure, we felt better once we’d thrashed out the options, however uncertain they all seemed, and worked out how to maximise what time we did have in Ghana, without jeopardising what lay ahead. We camped in the grounds of a very pretty, friendly hotel, albeit one that didn’t look like it had been in full swing for quite some time.

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The following day was more stressful than the last but only because we’d so drastically underestimated the size and traffic of Kumasi. Stopping for insect repellent but little else, we focused on getting to the other side of town unscathed and to Lake Bosumtwi to cool off. Despite having read about the lake, it took us by surprise. The landscape was incredible and the lake enormous. We had the choice of four or five places, variously advertising as hotels, lodges or guesthouses. None sold itself as a campsite and although the first would have accommodated us, the price put us off. We ended up doing the full rounds, half expecting to have to backtrack all the way to the beginning, but just as we were losing hope completely, the last place came into sight and we knew it would be the winner. Intersected by the piste, we camped on the lakeside half of the grounds, which we had almost entirely to ourselves (although a small army of rather enormous-sounding frogs made sure we didn’t feel too alone). It was the perfect place to unwind and lying on recliners taking photos of our sandy feet we felt like real beach bums after all!

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It’s been so long it’s hard to recall whether it was before or after our idyllic lakeside retreat that the checkpoints went sour, but sour they most certainly went. Somewhere in central Ghana they seem to breed, or dispatch, the grumpiest, most aggressive of all roadside police. They invariably stopped us with a bark, barked at us incessantly as if we were ignoring their instructions to present driving licence, car registration document, warning triangle, fire extinguisher… Whatever it was they were after, they never shut up long enough for us to present it. And once we finally did get the chance to present it, they either continued barking after another document or gruffly but simply grunted “Drive!”, aka “Thank you sir, you may now go.”

Checkpoints aside, our all-too rapid jaunt through Ghana kept turning up gems. The next stop was Aburi, picked out for its proximity to Accra, altitude above Accra and botanical gardens we’d kept hearing about from various sources. It seemed a bit of a fail to start with – the altitude was indisputable but the accommodation options were limited and run-down at best, and camping was clearly a foreign, untranslatable concept, despite the camping and caravans sign spotted on the way into town. Eventually we ventured into the botanical gardens themselves though, and found our little oasis. The lawns were clearly not for camping on but the window mesh on the rooms was miraculously intact and required no more gaffer tape than usual to insect-proof the room, which came with fridge, TV and bathtub – enough to make you forget the lack of running water!

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