Archive for June, 2012

Swimsuits and Umbrellas

Being well and truly in the wet season has not stopped us getting away to see more of the country at weekends. One fine Saturday we decided to go to Aburi, a hilltop town to the north of Accra. On the way up the steep winding road (quite unusual for Ghana) we had some good views back towards the coast, but of course the tro-tro didn’t stop for us to take photos!

At Aburi

The Botanical Gardens at Aburi are quite pleasant, if not terribly exciting (mainly trees). Our chief complaint was the price you have to pay to use a camcorder there – 35 cedis (about £14). While wandering through the woods we came across some derelict buildings, rather like a film set for Lost, which we’ve been watching (for the second time) on Ghana TV. This was highlighted when we came across a wrecked helicopter in one part of the gardens – why?

Avenue of palm trees at Aburi Botanical Gardens

Flower and insect at Aburi

Surely a scene from ‘Lost’?

In Aburi we also visited the Hillburi Hotel, reputed to have great views and an infinity swimming pool open to the public. The views were certainly good (though we had to pay to get in to see them) but the pool was filled with green slime and not in use.

View from Hillburi Hotel

Shopping on the move

One thing we’ve discovered is that in Ghana you can do a lot of your shopping while travelling around.  Whenever vehicles stop (for traffic lights, or traffic jams) hawkers immediately start walking down the lines of traffic, with goods to sell (usually carried on their heads).  These can include food, toiletry items, toys and household goods – we saw TV aerials being touted recently.

The so-called ‘lorry parks’, where tro-tros start their journeys, are a cross between a bus station and a marketplace: think lots of stalls with decrepit minibuses squeezed into the small gaps between them.  There too you find many wandering sellers.  While sitting in a tro-tro, waiting to leave for Aburi, we saw a guy wandering past with a display case of watches on his head. As Ian’s watch had gone phut, we called him over and very soon Ian was sporting a smart new watch for a reasonable price. We calculate that if you sat in a tro-tro long enough, you could get not only your weekly shopping but probably all your Christmas presents as well.

Traders at a tro-tro stop


 Last weekend we were away overnight, travelling along the coast road to the Anamabo Beach Resort. We packed our swimwear and took umbrellas – a strange combination perhaps, but a wise precaution in light of the unpredictable weather.

We had heard good things about the resort, but were rather disappointed – no problems, but it was not particularly special, despite being pricier than other beach resorts we have visited.  We were lucky with the weather, however, and on Saturday afternoon we managed an hour on the beach in the sun.

Anomabo Beach Resort

We also walked into the town and saw some of the local posuban shrines, including a colourful one in the shape of a ship. Others were less well-kept, and mainly used for drying washing.

An elaborate posuban shrine at Anomabo

On Sunday it rained in the morning, so we stayed in the hotel and went to Cape Coast once the rain eased. We had lunch there and caught a bus back home.


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The Wind (and Rain) of Change

Our life in Ghana is changing in various ways. For a start, we are now sharing the flat – on and off – with James Tooley, who founded Omega Schools.  James is a professor of education at Newcastle University, but visits Ghana (for days or weeks) fairly frequently.  He usually stays in a hotel not far away, but as our apartment is larger than needed for just two of us, it makes better sense for him to stay here.  Our second bedroom – empty until now – has therefore been equipped with furniture and curtains.  James arrived while we were in the UK, but headed off to Lagos (where he has research interests) the day after we got back.  He will be with us for another week or so, and the arrangement is working well.

Drinks on the balcony with James

Moving offices

Omega Schools is expanding; there are plans to open ten more schools later this year, and this means hiring more staff.  So the office is going to move to larger premises, more suitable for a growing team.  This will be a mixed blessing for us.  We understand there will be better equipment, which is badly needed, but the office will be some ten miles from our flat, instead of just down the hill.  The move is scheduled to take place in June, but we do not yet have a definite date.  We suspect that ‘Ghana June’ will actually be July or even August, so the move may not affect us that much.

Changing weather

There have also been changes in the weather.  We are now in the wet season, which so far seems to mean thunderstorms or heavy rain about twice a week.  Occasionally we work at home, to avoid getting saturated. The weather is still hot, but not always sunny; some days are quite cloudy.

Working at home to avoid the rain

The Saturday after our return to Ghana was one such ‘grey day’, so we went to the Accra Mall, for the first time in six months.  At the Mall there are shops, restaurants and also a cinema.  We took the opportunity of visiting a Ghanaian cinema, and found it very similar to western multiplexes, complete with popcorn and noisy teenagers.  We saw the film Dark Shadows, which we both enjoyed even though Sandie is less of a Tim Burton fan than Ian.  The next day we had beautiful sunshine again, and we spent it on the beach at Kokrobite.

Akosombo in the wet

Last Saturday (June 2) dawned bright and sunny, so we set off for a planned weekend in Akosombo, the site of Ghana’s largest dam, which created Lake Volta, the largest artificial lake in the world.  It lies north-east of Accra, and the journey there involves going into the city and out again: three tro-tro rides, and some walking inbetween.  With poor roads and heavy traffic, it took us four and a half hours.

We had booked overnight accommodation at Aylo’s Bay, which fully lived up to the guidebook description.  It is situated right on the Volta river, with beautiful gardens and tables on floating pontoons.  Our room was a chalet built right over the water.  We had lunch and looked forward to a pleasant weekend of ‘chilling’.  But then the rain started – and didn’t stop for the rest of the day.  Most of the time it was extremely heavy – real tropical rain – so it was impossible to go anywhere.   We ventured no further than the main covered bar for dinner – and got soaked going there, despite the huge umbrellas provided.

By the Volta River at Aylo’s Bay (before the rain)

Fortunately the rain stopped overnight.  We had breakfast in the sun, sitting on the pontoon provided for our chalet and the two next door.

After the rain – from our balcony in the morning

During the morning we took a boat trip up to the dam, which was enjoyable even though the sun had by then disappeared.

Our relaxed boat captain

Then we went into Akosombo itself, and had lunch on the terrace of the Volta Hotel, which overlooks the dam.  After a post-lunch stroll in the direction of the port, it was time to head home.

Akosombo Dam and Lake Volta

On the terrace of the Volta Hotel

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