It was 5:00 in the morning. I was still waking up. Everyone was waking up for that matter, but we were leaving the Accra region for the first time, on an excursion organized by our lovely IPO (International Programs Office) staff, so there was excitement in the air. Although I too was excited, I had no idea what we were embarking on and why so early. Even though we were all ready for 5:00 am, I think the driver of our bus must have been on a different clock because he came rolling into the parking lot at 5:55. Regardless, we were all eager to get on the bus and hopefully sleep some more. The journey to our first stop, a Monkey Sanctuary, was but the beginning of a journey that I will always cherish as one of my best days. Imagine a mini coach bus, with two sections of seating split by an aisle. On one side, the chairs are in a row of two and on the other just a row of one. Due to the size of our group, we also used the seats which folded over the aisle. These seats just hovered over the aisle waiting for those who picked a short straw and entered the bus last. Anyways, I was one of those. So we mounted the bus and with a short back on the chair and not a lot of leg room, we were off. As we left the metropolitan region of Accra and into the Greater Accra region, there began to be a shift geographically and by way of life. This paradigm grew as we made our way then through the Eastern region of Ghana into its Volta region. As we crossed the border between the two regions, we passed through a fishing town by the name of Atimpoku, before crossing the Volta river by bridge. This community was absolutely beautiful! A simple community, built along the shores of the river, which appeared to be reliant on the river for business and a source of income. Imagine being in a remote area in an African country and a bus full of Obroni’s (translates to white people but the term is used more loosely to cover all foreigners) comes to a full stop. What happens next? Well, every auntie in the village seemed to swarm our vehicle with goods for sale. Although this experience was captivating both those in and out of the bus, I was captivated by the merchandise: skewers of muscles and oysters, fried shrimp and lobster, even what I will describe as a maize pancake wrapped in a coconut tree leaf. We were in a bus with all windows closed, so in some ways it was as if we were on display for the next ten minutes (at least it felt that long). Once the traffic was moving at the peak of this village’s hustle and bustle, we began to make our way over the river– wow. It was gorgous! While our bus became increasingly more touristy as my colleagues were focused on getting the best shot, I was happy to take in all in… making for myself a mental picture that I don’t think will go away. With the view from the bus being so beautiful and different, I couldn’t help but just look in awe. Our journey continued until about 10:00 am, when we finally arrived at the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary and Cultural Village. The road was bumpy (literally the highway was unpaved, and full of holes and crevasses), but the scenery was lovely and the journey so worth it. Getting out and stretching the legs was soo nice.
When we entered the sanctuary we were met with instructions on how to hold our bananas so that the monkeys would befriend us. With our training complete, the hunt for some monkeys was underway. Just seeing these guys chilling in their trees, checking us out, and even walking along side us was pretty cool. After making our way over a stream and finding a secluded area, we were in the thick of the monkeys. With a banana firmly gripped to my right hand, I began to wait for a friend. As I waited, some of my colleagues were having successes. I was most impressed by the monkeys that landed on arms from an airborne or jump squat approach. And before I knew it, I too had a friend eating away at my banana in hand while enjoying the comfortable accommodations of my forearm. It was so sick! As Avery would say, “ugh… ferda!” These monkeys were so fun to watch and try to lour… it was like a game. Once it was obvious that the monkeys were full, we made our way back to the bus and continued our journey– next stop being Mt. Afadjato, about an hour away.
After a 2, 905 ft. climb, Mt. Afadjato allows you the privilege of seeing Ghana, even Western Togo, from the highest peak in West Africa. The climb was the most vertical I have done, and in a heat which was stifling, but the view made the journey so very worth it! All I could think of while climbing it was a song Avery would sing from time to time as we hiked the Bruce earlier this summer. It goes like this (and I am likely paraphrasing);
“It’s only a mountain,
nothing but a big old rock.
just a couple of steps,
a few rights then a left,
then a million more who’s counting.”
It got me through the journey. I definitely think the largest contributing factor was how much I was sweating, but I have never had more people ask me if I was okay, I think too out of general concern. Like I am telling ya– for all my El Salvador peeps reading you can appreciate the situation, or at least imagine.
For me it is also moments like these that allow me to connect with our Lord in a special way. It leaves me speechless that people can see things like that view and try to argue that there is no God; as NF would say. But in all seriousness it was such a beautiful sight. In front of me was the Volta region and beyond of Ghana. To my back left was Togo and my back right I was even able to spot Wli Waterfalls (with the help of Yuki from Japan), our next stop. And so back into the bus for another hour of travel. With the sweat of the hike being fresh and people’s appetites ripe as ever, we were ready for a cold beer, dinner, and a swim. And we got just that. Our restaurant for dinner was amazing and its food delicious, although by the mildness of it I’d imagine they were informed that the group consisted of some international stomachs lol. That being said, the service was excellent and I especially was amused by the fascination of male genethliac. This was due to the fact that the restaurant had penis swings and bottle openers– maybe they cater to middle aged white woman who have recently gone through a divorce? Who knows. All I know is I didn’t care to ask.
But after a nice meal paired with a “cool, crisp, and refreshing beer” (Sebastian the Austrian), we were off to the falls. I must say, the falls was more magical than I ever could have imagined. Of all the sites which have left me speechless in my days, I think I can honestly say that Wli Lower Falls takes the cake. The only thing that did not live up, was the eight-packed Ghanaian man which I promised, to the ladies, would be bathing at the base of the falls upon our arrival. They can’t be that mad though because there were no Ghanaian ladies modeling two pieces either, so it left us even. But again, WOW! Literally I joked on the way to it, as we crossed nine bridges, eight of which were over the same body of water, that I expected the falls to be something out of a Hollywood movie. And sure enough, it was. We swam, we smiled, I even touched the wall behind the waterfall. The only thing that would have made the day better, would have been to have joined the local boys having a fire at the base of the beauty.
But the sun was setting and the bus was beckoning its call to us for the 6 hour drive ahead. With the bumps and jumps along the way, not everyone was able to sleep but we sure all had lots to dream about and were left with a feeling of peace. I took the time to chat with God and it was very nice. Easily one of the best days of my life and I think the best day up to that point in Africa.
As Chris the Chaplain would say from HCC (Huron Church Camp); God is good all the time, and all the time God is good! That rings true every day, but it was definitely on my mind this day.