Killer Kenkey

By Ali

Challenge 3

Kenkey is a staple dish of West Africa served with a soup, stew, or sauce. Two days ago, brave souls of the RAINS office were given the challenge to be the first to finish two servings of Kenkey. Although I was no match to the Champion who ate it all in less than three minutes, I still managed to finish one serving in 10 minutes, and that was the second Kenkey I ever had!


What were the chances I’d live to tell the tale?

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…

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).

Half time, free time

by Ben

The second half of a journey always seems to go faster than the first, doesn’t it? When you meet that milestone, you find the steady incline you were on turns quickly and dramatically into a slippery slope to the end, leaving you wondering where time went. Sometimes the halfway point on a long journey is a moment to celebrate. You can sit back and relax, safe in the knowledge that the milestone is behind you and you’re edging ever closer to your destination. In our case we are incredibly aware of the limited time we have left on our project and in the country, so we are now busy planning how best to maximise our remaining 6 weeks.

IMG_4926On the project front, we’ve nearly completed one set of field trips to the Savelugu district which is just north of Tamale. We’ve visited three communities and spoken to some amazing individuals who have been kind enough to give us their time and share their experiences. The open and friendly nature of these communities is in stark contrast to the introverted nature of city life that I am used to in the UK. It’s been fantastic to listen and learn from what they have to say, and what is most humbling is the gregarious nature of the people. They’re happy to give you their time and share what they have with you in the hope that it will allow our charity to come back and benefit not just them, but their community as a whole. 

Ben does his best Bear Grylls impression

Ben does his best Bear Grylls impression

As far as our personal adventures go, we are quite fortunate to be in a more central part of Ghana than some of the other volunteer groups, which gives us easier access to the country. Last weekend, we decided to travel some 200km south to the Brong Ahafo region to find the Kintampo waterfalls. Kintampo has 3 waterfalls and the largest is one of the highest in Ghana; a towering 25 metres. The area itself, although a tourist site, is secluded and hidden by deep forest and vegetation. Inspired by the Bear Grylls boxset I brought with me, we proceeded to climb over and around the smaller waterfalls like the intrepid explorers that we clearly were in another life. That was until Rhogan lost a flip-flop in the water; it disappeared down into the rocks and crevices and never resurfaced.After a quiet vigil we moved onto the main waterfall where you can go swimming in the pool at the bottom. You could really feel the power of the water as you sat underneath it, it was a fantastic experience and one we would definitely recommend – just be sure to arrive early because once the crowds turn up, the experience is very, very different.

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Next weekend all the volunteers will be meeting again in Tamale before we head to Mole National Park, one of the main tourist sites in Ghana. There we hope to see elephants, baboons, monkeys and all manner of creatures all the while sleeping under the stars (and mosquito nets) in a tree house that overlooks a watering hole frequented by elephants. Needless to say we’re very excited and hope to have many more experiences in our remaining 6 weeks with so much of Ghana yet to be seen.