GHANA: AND DOWN THE COAST THEY GO, FROM GREEN TURTLE TO THE CAPITAL

May 3 – May 7

Once again, a nocturnal entry into the next country; and again, we just beat the clock on the border closure. I had to rush to get all our paperwork done on the Cote D’Ivoire side while the others crossed the border in the Cruiser.  It’s always fun to walk across a border, and so many borders around the world involve a river or some other body of water with a bridge to walk across.  The lush, vine-filled banks of the Lagune Juen helped create one of best borders crossings I’ve seen; I had an urge jump into the surely warm water below and float off into the waiting jungle while straddling the border for a few hours.  Alas, it was getting dark and those guys were waiting for me.

Woman in Dixcove

Woman prepares a plate of rice and sauce in Dixcove

On the other side of the bridge was Ghana, where I had been back in 2005.  Like  Sierra Leone, I most of all remembered the people there: the smiles; the amazing friendliness, rivaling almost anywhere else on the planet; and also a somewhat annoying tendency to scold people for minor social transgressions.

We stopped in a small town near the border for dinner and decided at that point to continue on to the Green Turtle, a remote beach guest house that Lee and I had passed by on a full day hike. Let me take you back:  In 2005, we had decided to do a trek along the Ghanaian coast from Busua to Princesstown.  With all of our backpacking gear, we set off around 9 am, having heard that it was about 10 kilometers or so to our destination, an old slave fort that had recently been transformed into a guest house.  We walked along a road, at times followed by a dozen or more children, and along the beach.  We saw Green Turtle, at the time a few huts set just off the beach; we took a swim there, ate our packed lunch, and briefly contemplated staying there for the night.  We didn’t and pressed on, being forced inland through a forest trail by a rocky outcropping as it was getting dark, and emerging back onto the beach to a nearly full moon an hour later.  It was several more kilometers from there – with raw feet, aching backs, and a profound sense of relief, at around 11pm we finally rolled upon the fort-guest house above Princesstown.

Former Slave Fort, Dixcove

Remains of former slave fort in Dixcove

Fast forward to the present: we rolled up on Green Turtle itself at maybe around 11 pm that night.  The place had become a full-on travelers’ remote beach mecca guest house, and we were greeted by a wholly wasted English guy who was starting arguments and fights with people, walking into their rooms, just acting like a complete douche.  Immediately upon arrival, we got the same treatment . . .  welcome!  We stayed at Green Turtle for a couple of days, enjoying the laid back beach and the nearby remains of a former slave-holding fort in Dixcove, the likes of which dot the Ghanaian coast .

The English owner, Tom, who loved the story of us passing by in 2005, was looking to sell the place after an apparently successful nine-year run there.  He and his wife had school-age children, and they wanted to get back to England.  Many travelers, including me, have considered the idea of buying a guest house on a beach, making it amazing, and enjoying life, but it was particularly interesting to hear from someone who had done it and was now looking to move on, to re-engage with his native country.   Most ex-pat guest house owners have crazy stories of navigating the local scene; Tom sure had a few including his latest battle to get the local powers that be to improve the horribly potholed road that leads to Green Turtle and service villages in the area.  I forget the exact numbers but he was looking to sell for like 50 or 100 times what he paid for the land.

A Band at a Bar in Accra, Ghana

Ghanian high life: a band playing at afternoon concert in chop bar, Accra, Ghana

We then enjoyed a couple of nights and a full day in Accra; we ate some great local meals at a couple of chop houses, made the rounds at a bar scene that had a large number of ex-pats and foreign students (Ghana has become a popular place to study abroad), and did the inevitable administrative stuff that you can only do in big cities in Africa.  I hadn’t been to a place this developed since Morocco; as I watched a soccer match on flat screens at a trendy sports bar, I couldn’t help thinking we were a long way from the dark, cramped, sweaty, men-only “soccer observation rooms” of Guinea and Sierra Leone.   The developed nature of certain parts of the city was a shock to my system; in certain spots of the city, it was almost as if we had been transported back to Europe, even if reminders of West Africa were never too far away.

Accra marked the point when Dan’s two weeks in the Cruiser were over, except for that when we got to the airport about an hour and fifty minutes before the flight, Dan was told that since he did not get there two hours early, he couldn’t board the flight.  No amount of rational argument, threats, sweet-talking, attempted bribery – to multiple potential decision-makers – could change anyone’s mind, and he had to pay over $200, wait an extra day to fly out, and take a new flight that included a stopover.  Ouch.  This is Ghana’s obsession with rules gone mad; they serve a purpose in a region often marked by lawless chaos, but they still seem to be working on enforcing the right rules at the right time.  But oh well; he got out in the end and he was a good sport about it.   Dan, great traveling with you – I’ll miss the laughs and wish your stay could have been longer.

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