Monkeying around

– by Zoe

Last week, we went on an awesome day trip.

After possibly the bumpiest journey I’ve ever been on (and that was in a 4×4, so I can’t even imagine how the people in the taxi behind us felt), we arrived at Boabeng-Fiema monkey sanctuary. The monkeys go daily to the villages of Boabeng and Fiema between 7-9am and 3-5pm. Unfortunately, we arrived at about 11am, so we had to search for them in the nearby forest. We also saw the monkey cemetery, where all monkeys are given a proper burial by the villagers.

Afterwards, we went to Kintampo waterfalls, which may now be my favourite place in Ghana…

 

Jurassic pork

home hog roastWe went to visit the Bolgatanga team at the weekend, and they roasted us a pig in the garden! Have you ever sausage a tasty looking meal? Of kosher haven’t!

Here’s a picture of Molly hogging the glory by helping to baste just as I was taking a photo. What a babe. I’d have done the same but it’snout my sty-le.

Ok, we’d best stop slaughtering these puns before you get boared. Hopefully we won’t barn in hell for them…

8 quotes to sum up my travels

By Zoe

Wli waterfalls, Volta Region, Ghana

Admiring Wli waterfalls

Last week, I took advantage of a week’s break between groups of volunteers to see some of the parts of Ghana that are that bit too far for a daytrip from Tamale… There were some amazing sights, but as always in Ghana, the trip was made by the people I met… and the things that they said…

1. “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers” said E, who was pretty much a stranger when we agreed to get in his car for a trip to Akosombo Dam and Wli waterfalls. While the kindness of this stranger could not be disputed, it was somewhat unsettling that he kept quoting Blanche Dubois, a character who is committed to a mental institution.

2. “I insist that you take my bed,” said L. After we arrived in Nkawkaw at the beginning of the 4 days of Easter celebrations with no hotel bookings, L, who sells phone credit at the bus station, took pity on us and invited us to stay in her own home… and, in fact, in her own bed, while she slept on the floor.

Paragliding Kwahu, Ghana

Paragliding at the Kwahu Easter Festival

3. “I can’t help it that she’s such a big girl” said the pilot of my paraglider at the Kwahu festival after we crash-landed into a patch of scrubland. Followed by “it’s only a scratch” as he rubbed dirt into the open wound I’d sustained when I hit the ground violently, with him on my back. The local children gathered around laughing and taking photographs of the bleeding foreigner on their mobile phones.

Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana

Lake Bosumtwi, a crater lake caused by a meteorite

4. “Oh, I just sold you to that man in the comedy sunglasses” said S, when I asked why everyone on our trotro from Lake Bosumtwi was laughing. “Oh right, for how much?” “Fifteen cows. You fetched a good price, because you’re white.”

5. “I’m ready… but not desperate” said F, in Cape Coast, when asked of his opinion on marriage, immediately drawing a contrast with the UK where a single man in his mid-twenties would be very unlikely to admit to wanting to marry… and also distinguishing himself from those who take more of the ‘desperate’ approach when chatting you up…

Elmina shipyard, Ghana

Elmina shipyard. I don’t work here.

6. “See, you cannot work here!” said the shipyard owner in Elmina. We had asked him if we could have jobs, and he had told us that girls couldn’t do the work. In an attempt to show off our strength, we tried to pick up a small wooden boat… and failed. Guess it’s back to volunteering then…

7. “You have to pay me, that’s how trotros work!” said the rogue trotro driver who had picked us up after our journey to Nzulezu. “Yes, if you take us where we want to go… but not if you tell us that you are taking us to our destination and in fact take us half an hour in the opposite direction.” 13 ½ hours after we had set off, we arrived back at our hostel.

Strangling Fig, Kakum National Park, Ghana

The strangling fig  demonstrates the importance of an equal partnership in relationships. Apparently.

8. “If you are having issues in the bedroom, see me after the tour,” said the brilliant guide of our ‘nature walk’ in Kakum National Park to the rather embarrassed middle-aged father on our group. She had managed to turn information about every tree or plant that we looked at into some form of relationship advice – the strangler fig was a reminder of the importance of giving and receiving equally in a relationship, while the mahogany tree apparently provides a natural remedy for erectile dysfunction.

Thank you so much to T, E, P, L, S, H, I, F, B and everyone else we met on our travels. It was an amazing week and wouldn’t have been the same without you…

Comic Relief relief

by Zoe

I’ve always loved Red Nose Day. When I was younger, I would stay up until the early hours watching all the amusing shows and the seeing the fundraising total reach ever more incredible heights.

But there’s a dangerous side to Red Nose Day – and this is it: for many people in the UK, the stories about a wee girl in the slums who was born with no legs, and her brother who spends every day picking through broken glass to find grains of rice that he can sell (cue heart-wrenching music) are all that they have seen of Africa.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m going to bang on about it again. Africa is not a country. There are 54 African states, in which over 2000 languages are spoken. There is, of course, incredible poverty in Africa. There are also gold mines. There are mud huts. There are also five star hotels.

If you choose to visit ‘Africa’, you can: climb mountains; visit the beach; see the Pyramids; taste locally made wine; go white water rafting; see elephants and giraffes; visit ancient ruins; see a soothsayer; go to the largest waterfall in the world; ride a camel in the desert; go wind-surfing; sit on a crocodile or visit the rainforest.

It’s true that every picture tells a story. But it’s also true that every picture omits to tell a different story. For example…

…these are both photographs of African children:

Ghanaian lady and childCrying Ghanaian baby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…these are both photographs taken in African cities:

Rubbish heap GhanaCairo

 

 

 

 

 

…these are both photographs of African wildlife:

giraffe kenyaboat goat pelican Gambia

 

 

 

 

 

…and these are both African businesses:

nandosMabiley Pork Show Ghana

 

 

 

 

This Red Nose Day (Friday 15 March), please give generously. Comic Relief does amazing work, and we’ve been lucky enough to meet some of the beneficiaries during our time here.

But once you’ve given generously, try to do just one small thing to spread the word that there’s more to Africa than slums and starving children. Tell your friends about something or someone African that has inspired you. Put a positive photograph depicting somewhere or someone in Africa on Facebook or Twitter (#awesomeafrica). Help to spread the word that this continent, which accounts for 20.3% of the world’s landmass, is far more beautiful, diverse and inspirational than you might ever realise if you only watch the sob stories between Rowan Atkinson and Peter Kay’s Red Nose Day appearances.

Into the woods

by Ben

Throughout our time in Ghana we had heard people talking about and recommending we visit Mole National Park and so last week the whole of the ICS Ghana team got together to see just what all the fuss was about. Cramming into our little bus, kindly lent to us (driver included) by our host charity, we set off on a 200km journey down ‘Death Road’ to see Ghana’s premier tourist attraction: elephants.

The Mole Motel and its swimming pool and restaurant are pretty nice, all the rooms have air-conditioning and there’s western food on the menu. The restaurant and swimming pool overlook a watering hole used regularly by the elephants and you often see baboons and warthogs poking their noses around. You can sit and enjoy your breakfast,watch the elephants bathing in the water and have a cheeky dip in the pool yourself before nipping back to your air-conditioned room and heading out on your safari. Sounds great doesn’t it? Not to us. Being the first ICS team in Ghana has empowered us with feeling of being intrepid explorers – we’re path finders, we’re trend setters, we’re reckless and we’re out of control . Letting our guinea pig instincts take over, we turned our nose up at the luxury on offer and we opted to stay in Mole’s treehouse. Air-conditioning is for the weak. Real adventurers sleep under the stars.

Mole treehouse Mole National Park treehouse

Real adventurers sleep under the stars…

To be honest we had no idea what we were signing up for. We’d found out about the treehouse through word of mouth. There’s no website for Mole and our attempts to find out about the treehouse online resulted in some nondescript blogs and a picture of a staircase. When phoning Mole, the whole arrangement for booking it seemed so casual that we weren’t even entirely confident that we wouldn’t turn up and find another group claiming they’d also booked it. Like Robert Scott and Sir Ranulph Fiennes before us, we pushed on in the face of doubt and uncertainty.

Mole treehouse maximum 10 people

10, 12… what’s the difference?

What we found out in the jungle was a treehouse befitting my childish aspirations, although it explicitly said it held only 10 people. According to the person on the phone, though, they’ve had up to 19 in it before, so we persevered; surely our band of 12 (including the guide who stayed overnight with us) would not be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? Being the organised group that we are, we had brought foam to sleep on, so we didn’t need to take up the offer of ground mats – and we threw caution to the wind and opted against putting up mosquito nets, which we’d brought with us but were also available to hire.

Mole treehouse sleeping platform

Plenty of room for everyone!

The guide told us that if we were quiet would be able to hear baboons, hyenas and all manner of creatures in the night; All I could hear was one of our team leaders snoring and incessant laughter, which no doubt scared away anything in ear shot. The treehouse itself has a raised central ‘table’ which can double up as a sleeping platform, and benches around the outside that you can sit or sleep on whilst watching the animals go about their business. The whole experience is certainly one none of us will forget. At points it was about as uncomfortable as you can imagine, even if some of our group were adamant the wooden bench they slept on was the African equivalent of memory foam. However, that didn’t take anything away from the experience – in fact it’s hard to suggest it didn’t heighten it. The shared experience of sleeping under the stars and waking up in the jungle is one none of us is likely to repeat again and while some of our friends stayed in the hotel and enjoyed it, they won’t be writing a blog post about it any time soon!

Mole National Park treehouse

Fresh-faced after a night in the treehouse

Despite it all we’d thoroughly recommend it. You can’t put a price on the experience or the laughter that we shared; there are too many private jokes to even list from that night and its antics. In the morning we set off from the treehouse on a walking safari where we stared death in the face as an elephant confronted us and then attacked our guide – but that’s another story for another time…

PS. The treehouse costs 30 cedi per person per night, and sleeping mats or mosquito nets can be hired for 3 cedi each. It took us a while to track down the telephone number for the Mole treehouse… send us a message if you would like it!

Always room for one more…

…seems to be the most popular policy when it comes to loading vehicles here in Northern Ghana…

Always room for one more, transport Ghana

 

3 fish that died

Kenkey with fish, Tamale, Ghana This fish died, dried and then hung around (for probably a bit too long to be hygienic) in a glass cabinet, before being served with our favourite lunchtime staple, kenkey (made of fermented cornmeal).
Groundnut soup banku and fish, Tamale, Ghana This fish unfortunately drowned in my groundnut soup. And was served with banku (which is made with a mixture of fermented corn dough and cassava dough).
Boiled rice, stew, fish, Tamale, Ghana I’m not sure how this fish died, but he wasn’t happy about it.
(Served with plain rice and stew).