Blogs and Burkina

A little quiet on the blog front lately as I’ve been giving 110% on my work projects since returning to Ghana in February. You can follow exactly what is we are doing by checking out this special project blog: https://openbdsa.wordpress.com/ which details every step we are taking to re-envision Business Development Services to small agroprocessing firms in Ghana. It’s been an interesting journey so far and there should be plenty more to come.

Personally, I will be moving down to Accra for the next few months to undertake some new pilot projects there. If all goes to plan, we should have a new direction and business model by the middle of the summer. Hoping to get back on the blog horse here with more irreverent travel writing, general ranting, and other topics such the Colonial Pact in Francophone West Africa, Dumsor-Dumsor in Ghana, Volutourism and the amazing hidden world of international food economics. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here are a few snaps of a Easter trip up to the Burkina Faso Capital of Ouagadougou, which can be basically summarized in one word, strawberries!

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Scenes from The Volta

9:30pm Tuesday, April 22, 2014:

“You want to go to Volta over the Easter Weekend?”

“Ahhhermahhiiiii…”[glancing at map: that’s roughly two-thirds the length of country away. Visions of long hours on packed minibuses, crowds, confusion, “exposure”, risk, etc. all for a day and a half at a waterfall…], “…wha the hell, I’ll be there!”

4:30pm Thursday, April 24, 2014:

“You know, obroonii, that this is the party bus, ohhh!” [Way overexcited teenage driver’s mate on the knock-off-knock-off intercity coach bus between Tamale and Kumasi, as he’s dancing around the aisle to an extra loud, extra generic hip-life/auto-tuned-to-death dance number, supergluing the seat numbers back on while his colleague is crop dusting the seated passengers with two cans of air freshener.]

11:00pm Thursday, April 24, 2014:

“Hmm..energy levels seem to be dropping. I know just the thing to liven up this party-bus!” [Bus driver to himself, before queuing up the next three consecutive Nigerian movies] “Full volume? Oh yeah!”

10:30am Friday, April 25, 2014:

[At the Kejetia Tro Yard waiting for the bus (converted 80’s utility van) to fill up for the trip from Kumasi to Ho. Having just missed the last bus by mere minutes (one seat was left and there are two of us travelling together), we now pass from reality into the Kafka/Heller-esque, time-free parallel universe of the tro yard. When will the bus leave? It could be minutes, it could be hours, it doesn’t matter, it all comes down to a simple formula:

# of seats on the bus – (rate at which people decide to travel to Ho)*(amount of patience you have to wait)

It is a chess game of patience, social psychology, minute trends and arcane signals. There are rules, and patterns sometimes arise out of the chaos, but like antimatter they exist only to vanish as soon as they are discovered. It takes dedication and zen-like control in order to become good at picking the right bus to the right place at the right time to complete your journey.]

5:30pm Friday, April 25, 2014:

“Yeah, I’m not actually going all the way to Ho (even though you waited around for an hour or two to meet this specific criteria). The bridge is out and there are long queues at the one ferry crossing. Instead, I’ll “sell” you to another tro driver going that way and we’ll split the difference.” [Tro driver to us as we are unceremoniously dropped off in Kpong, still several hours from our destination.]

 8:00pm Friday, April 25, 2014:

“Oh shit, braa, our headlights are fading! Quick jiggle the cable to the battery that for some reason is under the seat.”

“Nah man, battery is dead. We’ve got no lights, chali. Maybe you should slow down a bit.”

“Slow down!!?”

“You guys are going to kill us all! Here is my flashlight.”

“Okay great! Front seat passenger: dangle out the window holding the flashlight. Yep that works! Crisis averted!”

[An interpretation of a conversation in Ewe between the tro driver, his mate and an old lady in the second row, during the last few kilometers into Ho.]

8:30pm, Friday, April 25, 2014

[Dropped off in the regional capital of Ho, no chance of covering the extra hour and a half to our final destination of Wli just outside of Hohoe to the North, my travel companion, Sean, and I weigh our options.]

“Let’s just flag a taxi and get him to take us to a guest house.”

[First taxi we see, picks us up, takes us more or less directly to the best, low priced motel in the city (suspiciously named “Work and Happiness”), doesn’t overcharge, and even offers to pick us up again in the morning! Where else in the world, (developed, developing, or otherwise) can you casually cruise into an unknown city with no contacts, no directions, no reservations and not much money, speak English to everyone, not get ripped off, not get taken for a taxi joy-ride, or be otherwise taken advantage of for being the silly tourists we are? The upturned cockroach in the motel hallway, legs curled upwards in agony/ecstasy, seems to indicate agreement.]

12:00pm, Sunday, April 27, 2o14

[Staring up into the crashing, tumbling upper Wli waterfalls after a 3hr hike in the jungle heat and humidity. Waves of mist discharge off the mid-point of the 50m high falls and drift off into the valley bellow. Roosting bats are hanging all along the cliff face above and are circling overhead. In the distance there is nothing but forest and mountains; at the waterfall pool, other than the group of 8 of us and our guide, there is just one other person around. Trotros, travel and all the minor irritations of living in this country seems incredibly trivial  and far, far away.]

1:30am, Tuesday, April 29, 2014

[Arrive back in Kumasi after a cumulative travel and wait time from Hohoe of 17hours, including 6hrs in the Ho tro yard which I came to know far too well. This is what it is, for better or worse. With time, the good moments will become  bad  memories (corrupted and half remembered), the really bad moments will become good stories, and the mediocre times will biodegrade and eventually vanish. All you are left with is some hazy impressions, a feeling or two, and a couple of interesting tales to tell–but that’s all anybody really needs or wants out of life when it comes down to it.]

Here are a few photos of the mountains:

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Lake Bosumtwi

About an hour outside of the city of Kumasi in the Ashanti Region lies a large meteorite crater lake that is quite out of the ordinary, but the people around seem even more so. I was hesitant to post anything about this trip because it was so short and I didn’t really get any good photos. Still, it’s was a nice break from Tamale and an item checked off my Ghana Bucket List.

Over the Dec 28-29th weekend, I made the trek from Kumasi with a few of the other die-hard EWBers who were not going out of the country for Christmas. The Lake itself is pretty spectacular, especially if you try to imagine what the meteorite impact would have looked like a million years ago:

Lake Bosumtwi (also spelled Bosomtwe), situated within an ancient meteorite impact crater, is approximately 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) across and the only natural lake in Ghana. It is situated about 30 km south-east of Kumasi and is a popular recreational area. There are about 30 villages near this crater lake, with a combined population of about 70,000 people.

The Lake Bosumtwi impact crater is 10.5 km in diameter, slightly larger than the present lake, and is estimated to be 1.07 million years old (Pleistocene period). Depth of crater is approximately 380 m, but, if counted together with the depth of lake sediments – 750 m. The crater has been partly eroded, and is situated in dense rainforest, making it difficult to study and confirm its origin by meteorite impact.

The Ashanti consider Bosumtwi a sacred lake. According to traditional belief, the souls of the dead come here to bid farewell to the god Twi. Because of this, it is considered permissible to fish in the lake only from wooden planks.

The legends say that in 1648 an Ashanti hunter named Akora Bompe from the city of Asaman was chasing an injured antelope through the rainforest. Suddenly, the animal disappeared in a small pond. It was as if this body of water wanted to save the animal’s life. The hunter never got the antelope, though he settled close to the water and started catching fish. This place he named “Bosomtwe”, meaning “antelope god”. This story suggests that at that time the lake level was very low. The large dead trees standing offshore in the lake also evidence this, for they are over 300 years old.

The following centuries saw several wars about the lake as both the Ashanti and the Akim clashed, each claiming the area. The Ashanti prevailed.

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Lake Botsumtwi Map

Ghana Bucket List

Here’s what I’d like to have done before I leave Ghana:

[x] Mole National Park – See some Animals! – Done. Read about it here

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[  ] Paga/Burkina Faso Border – Sit on a crocodile!

[  ] Moto Trip – Destination not important really, but maybe the Gambaga Escarpment

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[  ] Bolgatanga – Upper East Region capital

[  ] Bui National Park/Cote d’Ivoire Border – Hippos!

[  ] Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary – “Where monkeys live happily with human beings”

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[  ] Take ferry along Lake Volta – The largest “man-made” lake in the world, apparently it’s possible to take a boat from the North to the South over the course of a few days.

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[  ] Mt. Afadjato/Togo Border – The highest peak in Ghana at 885m

[  ] Kumasi – The capital of the Ashanti Kingdom and home to some other EWBers

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[ X ] Lake Bosomtwi – Meteorite impact crater lake near Kumasi – Done! Read about it here.

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[  ] Kakum National Park – Do the nature canopy walk

[  ] Nzulezo – Village built on sticks on a lake

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[  ] Elmina/Cape Coast – Visit the slave holding fortresses along the coast

[  ] Busua/Takoradi – Surfing!

[  ] Wli Falls – Highest water fall in West Africa (maybe)

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[  ] Out of country trip to Burkina/Mali/Togo/C d’I/the Sahara – Travel outside the country at least once

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Wish you could all come along with me, but hopefully reading about it is at least something. Any other suggestions or must-see things that I’ve missed please let me know. I’ll update this post as I check things off.