The Long Ride Home

Our hotel… More little huts!

Another travel day! This one was actually longer than the one on Friday because we had to go from the lake to Kumasi before we could start moving in the direction of home. I’m getting ahead of myself though. Yesterday, we all took guesses on how long trip home would take, so I kept track of all of the times of the different parts of the trip. Most of the others insisted that it would take 8 hours (excluding a couple who abstained), but I put my money on 10 hours. Yes, technically it should take closer to 8, but when it comes to traveling here, how often do things actually work out the way you think they should? Answer: never.
Here’s how the day went:

Once people started getting off the first tro, I was loving life. Plenty of space to stretch out! Plus I had a window seat.

6:30AM – My alarm went off, I grumbled my way out of bed, and we got ready/packed our stuff.

7:15AM – We all met at the reception desk and started the walk back to town. This time wasn’t as miserable because it was so early and the sun wasn’t too hot yet.

7:30AM – We arrived in town and tracked down a guy who knew a guy who drives a taxi. He called his friend to come get us. We bought crackers to eat for breakfast (nutritious, I know).

On the way out of Kumasi

8:00AM – The taxi arrived, we fought with the driver over the price and lost, and we started making our way back to Kumasi in a taxi driven by a maniac.

9:20AM – The taxi dropped us off in Kumasi, near Central Market. We asked around until someone pointed us in the direction of the tro we needed, and luckily it filled up soon after we got on (though not so soon that we didn’t have time to buy and eat some Fan Ice).

9:50AM – Our tro left Kumasi. Hooray! It was probably the most intense tro I’ve ever been on. It actually had a functional TV playing some weird movie that all of the guys got really into .

Mountains!

12:15PM – We found out that the mate (the guy who collects the money on the tro) lied to us, and the tro we were on wasn’t actually going to Kpong. We pulled over and he stuck us in another tro that he said was going there.

2:40PM – We found out that the first mate and the second mate both lied to us, and this tro was only going to Kofridua (about 45 minutes from Kpong). They stuck us in another tro.

4:10PM – Tro #3 finally arrived in Kpong. We got off and transferred to one that would take us the rest of the way to Frankadua.

4:18PM – Tro #4 left Kpong.

5:10PM – We arrived in Frankadua, almost exactly 10 hours after leaving the lake.

It’s amazing how exhausting traveling can be, even though all you’re doing is sitting for hours on end. I’m completely wiped, so I should probably get to bed. The only issue with sleep is that our fan broke this weekend, and it hasn’t been fixed. We currently have some wires hanging out of the ceiling where our fan should be. It’s going to be a hot night…

Lake Bosomtwe

 

The pedestrian bridge

The market is even better when it’s in full swing! We went back this morning, and it was seriously so cool. Around the market, everyone is just walking in the street and making the drivers angry, and shops fill every available piece of sidewalk. There’s a pedestrian bridge that would be plenty wide to accommodate the people walking across except that people are selling things on both sides of the steps and on the bridge, and you’re left with maybe a 3-4’ wide path through the middle. I was constantly afraid that I was going to crash into people and knock whatever they were carrying off their heads.

The sidewalks on the way to the market.

Inside the market is the same except minus the cars and plus very narrow passageways. There isn’t even space for two people to walk past each other, which is inconvenient when you don’t know where you’re going and are trying to keep a group together and don’t have space to move out of everyone else’s way. We survived it though. Besides just looking at the general chaos around us, we did some shopping and all of us bought fabrics. This is one of my favorite things (I have a lot of favorite things)… When people are wearing clothes made from printed fabrics, they’re often custom made by a tailor. So instead of going clothes shopping for your fancy clothes, you go to the market, pick one of the million fabrics they have, and take your fabric to a tailor to order clothes that fit you exactly and look how you want them to look. To give you a sense of how much it costs, I got a pair of shorts made. The fabric cost 15 cedis and it cost another 15 for the tailor (which would probably be less if I was local or went to a different tailor). The conversion rate is about 4:1, so the shorts (that fit me perfectly) cost me about $8. Not bad!

Inside the market passageways.

Anyway, after we finished shopping, we wandered around again until it was time to head back to the hotel to check out and attempt to locate a tro to the lake. We got directions to the correct station from the reception desk and set off on a quest to find it.

All I can say is, thank goodness for google maps and functional internet. Once we got close, we asked the nearest guy if he knew where we could get a tro to the lake, he went and talked to a nearby tro driver, and he came back and told us to get in because the driver agreed to take us there. I think it was another one of those situations where the tro wasn’t planning to go so far, but since there were five of us, he said yeah sure.

All I can say is, thank goodness for google maps and functional internet. Once we got close, we asked the nearest guy if he knew where we could get a tro to the lake, he went and talked to a nearby tro driver, and he came back and told us to get in because the driver agreed to take us there. I think it was another one of those situations where the tro wasn’t planning to go so far, but since there were five of us, he said yeah sure.

 

Here’s the lake’s location in relation to Kumasi. Look at how round it is since it’s a crater lake!

The street.

Lake Bosomtwe is a crater lake located southeast of Kumasi. The lake has a diameter of about 5 miles (and it’s pretty round since it’s a crater) and a maximum depth of 260 ft. It’s a weird lake because it’s fed by rainfall and doesn’t have any outlets, so the water level keeps rising. It has flooded and forced villages to move multiple times because of that. We arrived at the lake around probably 3PM, and after a half hour trek in the hot sun to our hotel, we were ready to swim. After getting settled, we headed to the lakeside (I would say “beach”, but really I don’t think it could be called that), and James, Nick, and Anna went for a swim while Yara and I sat and talked. Apparently the water was warm, so I didn’t feel much like I was missing out. I was just happy to be sitting and enjoying the view because the lake is absolutely beautiful. Maybe I’ll go in tomorrow.

 

I’m telling you, we should really start carrying things on our heads.

Once it started getting dark, we headed back to the hotel for dinner and card games. We made friends with a couple more Germans, Josie and Peter, who are volunteers in Cape Coast (I say “more Germans” because Anna and Yara are from Germany as well). The plans for tomorrow are still up in the air, but the seven of us are probably going to try to do something together. It should be fun! And hopefully also relaxing.

In the tro on the way to the lake… Anna, James, Nick, me, and Yara.

Kumasi

Out of all the trips we’ve taken thus far, the trek to Kumasi today was the longest. Kumasi is one of the largest cities in Ghana and is the only real city that we’ve been to besides Accra. It also has a massive open-air market that’s the supposedly the biggest in west Africa, with over 45,000 stores. The traffic in the city is ridiculous, and in the main areas of the city, it’s incredibly hectic. It also didn’t seem to be terribly touristy. It is a tourist destination, but it wasn’t overrun with foreign tourists like so many of the other places we’ve visited on weekends. Obviously that’s helped by the fact that it’s a huge city, but still. Besides at our hotel, I haven’t seen a single other white person.

The bumpiest dirt road in the universe.

Our trip started with a 5AM wake up and 5:30AM departure from the house. We were trying to make it to Kpong to catch at 6:30AM tro to Kumasi, but by the time we got there, the 6:30 tro only had three seats left and we were five (James, Nick, Anna, Yara, and me). They put us on the next tro out, and we ended up having to wait two hours until it filled up before we could leave. These are the things that you can’t really anticipate, and it’s too bad because we could have eaten breakfast at home and had a much more relaxed morning had we known. Instead, we sat for two hours on a tro going nowhere and ate some nutritious donut balls for breakfast.

Here’s Kumasi. We had to go south first, to Kpong, and then took an endless and very bumpy road northwest to Kumasi.

The view off one side of the pedestrian bridge.

We FINALLY left the station at 8:30AM. That was exciting, but the drive to Kumasi is not short. We arrived at about 2:30PM after 8 hours on the tro (2 not moving and 6 in transit). The roads for the first 2-3 hours were HORRIBLE. We were weaving through a bunch of small villages, and the road was dirt and beyond bumpy. So much for sleeping on the ride! I slept a little, but every time we hit a bump, my head smashed into something and I woke up. Not the most restful sleep I’ve ever had, that’s for sure.
As you might imagine, by the time we got off the tro, we were starving. We walked to the hotel, dropped off our stuff, changed clothes (because after 8 hours on a non-air conditioned tro, a clothing change is essential), and went to eat. I got a cheeseburger, and it was awesome. I think I probably could have eaten 10 cheeseburgers at that point, though.

Random market shot. This is in the outer area that isn’t as congested as the main market area.

Even though it was getting late, we decided to walk around the city a bit and go to the central market (called “Central Market” or “Kejetia Market”). People were starting to shut down their shops, but there was still enough activity to get a good sense of what it would be like in full swing. Once you get into the depths of the market, it’s like a labyrinth. There are rows and rows and rows of shops that all seem to be selling the same things. I honestly don’t understand 1. how any of the shops stay in business with so much identical competition nearby and 2. how anyone finds anything. I think there is some sort of large-scale organization of the market, but even so, it’s nothing beyond clothing and fabrics over here, pottery over there, food over there, etc.
I’m glad that we got a chance to scope things out when the market wasn’t as crazy as I’m sure it gets during the day. We’re planning to go back in the morning before we leave the city and head to Lake Bosomtwe, a crater lake to the east of the city, for the rest of the weekend.