Daniel decided to travel through West Africa in his 3 month Travel Period. His first stop in Africa was Ghana, and the first impression almost made him quit. Now travelling from city to city, and country to country, he’s grateful he gave Africa another chance.
I must admit, my first impression was that I hate Ghana. Accra, the capital, is noisy, unorganized, chaotic, dirty, hot, and not even close to being a beautiful city.
My first mission in the city was to get my visa for Mali and for Burkina Faso. Searching for the Mali embassy got me really tired. I even thought about giving up my travel period in the very first day!
No person who’s never been to Africa before can arrive prepared on the continent. I traveled a lot before, but this level of chaos still had a powerful effect on me. I could only describe it with the phrase “cultural shock”. Fortunately, it only lasted until I met my CouchSurfing host. Once I had a reliable local along me, everything looked more simple, and I started to understand their way of being, their lifestyle. Finally, due to my host, I was able to communicate with anybody and I even got my visa to Burkina in only 20 minutes!
If I said that in the first day I hated Africa, I can continue by saying that on the second day I accepted it, and on the third day I fell in love with it. It’s not the places (honestly there aren’t many places to visit), but the people and their easy going and free way of living. In Ghana there are something like 50 different languages and also that many ethnic groups. Many – many religions and many different people! Yet, they all have this same vibe, the same “African style”. Therefore they manage to live together in peace. This is what I love about them.
During my stay in Accra (the capital) I volunteered at a library for disabled people. I painted its fences, organized its books and cleaned the shelves. In exchange I could taste one of their local dishes, called Kwachi. Kwachi became my favorite food ever since.
After Accra I visited Cape Coast. Cape Coast used to be the capital of Ghana, or better said of Golden Coast – as it was called back then in the colonial times. Cape Coast has a powerful and disturbing history of slave trade. The castle here was the prison where the slaves spent their last few months before being shipped to America. I learned a lot about slave trade here; I would make it a must for everybody to pay a visit here once in their lifetime!
Thanks to my CouchSurfing host, I also got an introduction on how to stay healthy by only eating local food. He is an expert of that. I tried moringa tea, fresh mango and many, many other fruits and vegetables. I don’t even know the names of all these fruits and vegetables in English, or maybe they don’t even have names in English.
After Cape Coast, I took a tro-tro. Tro-tro is the local name for the poorest condition bus, often called “bush taxi”. I arrived in the tro-tro to Kumasi, the second largest town of Ghana. Kumasi is the capital of the Ashanti region. Ashanti was the most powerful kingdom of West Africa before the colonialism. The Ashanti people and the Ashanti culture is still a very important part of Ghana. All the Ashanti people are proud of their roots. A little known fact is that the Ashanti kingdom still exists! The royal family is still living in their castle, and there is still a king. The king of Ashanti is more powerful than the democratically elected president of Ghana! Other than their royal roots, the Ashanti region is world famous for its gold mines. This is also the reason why it was, and still is, so powerful.
After visiting the Ashanti region I took a very long bus ride to the north of Ghana. It was a 9 hours trip, but it wasn’t boring at all! I could see through the bus window how the landscape changed from tropical rain forests to savanna, how there are always more mosques than churches, how different the people dress and speak from those in the south.
In the northern region, I was hosted by a person I met on this bus. He also helped me a lot to explore his area. Thanks to him I’ve seen elephants, crocodiles and antelopes in their natural habitats for the first time in my life!
After the short break in the area where this host I met on the bus lived, I continued my journey to Wa, in the very north of Ghana. Wa is the capital of the poorest region of Ghana, and this is where I spend one week of volunteering with Lucas, my teammate from the school in Norway. I taught geography at the local school, and I also helped with the construction of new classrooms. Here, I met many locals and had some excursions to nearby places. I saw the oldest mosque of Ghana, and some hippos. In one of these excursions I also met the elders of the region.
After the volunteering week was gone, I started to travel back to the south, to Accra, where I left my laptop and other unnecessary weight. On the way back, I visited North Ghana’s largest town, Tamale, and a lot of interesting places around it, including a village painted by the local women. I also saw Lake Volta – which is the largest artificial lake by surface area on the planet.
In Accra I recovered my “unnecessary stuff” and I made one last short visit to the city center. There is a castle built by Danes and a fortress by British, otherwise everything is just a large dirty market. After this, I took a bus to Togo.
I arrived in the Togolese capital Lomé late in the evening. At the border they somehow managed to steal 200 cedis (roughly 340 NOK) from my wallet. How they did it I still don’t understand…
Lomé is very different from Accra. More lovely urban landscape, but worse people. It can actually be quite dangerous, as I heard. In Lomé I visited a very interesting voodoo market. After Lomé I started my journey to the north of Togo: Atakpamé, Sokodé and then to Aledjo. In Aledjo I planed to volunteer for a few days, but unfortunately I got quite sick: very bad fever and diarrhea. So instead of volunteering, I ended up at the regional hospital for a malaria test. The test was negative and I got healthy soon after that.
I continued my journey to the northern end of Togo, to a town called Dapaong. This is the place where I’ve been spending the last days. I visited nearby towns, ancient cave dwellings and traditional fortresses around. Today is my last day here and also the last day in Togo. Tomorrow I plan to enter Burkina Faso. During the next month I plan to explore Burkina and Mali, but I have no fixed plan. Everything is flexible.
Daniel – May 2016 Team
After the Traveling Period, our students also volunteer in one of our projects. Read more about Vali during his volunteer time in Zambia.