Over the last two years (and since our guide book was published) the cedi has lost value to the dollar from 1:1 to 1:1.42, and by converting cedis to dollars, the actual inflation rate can be calculated to be 25%. Where the guidebook says our room should be $17, its 32 cedis. Everything seems to be more expensive, but people seem to have the money, or more importantly, the money to make change. When catching TroTro #2, many people paid with a 10 cedi bill, and the driver could make change for the 2.50 fare, something that would not happened years ago. The further away from Accra we get, the more people are using the old currency language, saying 25, meaning 25,000 (old cedis), which in today’s cedis is 2.50.
We go to Kintampo, a real armpit of a town, to see Kintampo Falls. Once known as Saunders Falls (during British rule), and briefly Nkrumah Falls (before the first coup), today it takes its name from the seedy little town nearby, one the guidebook kindly calls “somewhat scruffy and amorphous.” I’m glad we chose not to lodge here.
[pictures of Kintampo Falls]
The falls are beautiful; Anna says, “perhaps the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
Not a long walk from the center of town is the Center of Ghana, at determined during colonial times. A storm has been brewing all day, and just after reaching the “Centre of Ghana and the Universe” it lets loose on us and Anna finds a place to ride out the store, which we share with several school children, who are not in school, we learn, because today is “Republic Day”.
[centre of Ghana]
[hanging out with the kids]
We sing the Ghanaian National Anthem, and talk about the upcoming world cup game, and they show me their school notebook, and we review their lessons. One boy, Boateng Edmond, we see from time to town as we are waiting for the bus to Tamale. We were told to report to the stationmaster at 1:30p and we were there at 1, still there at 2, and 2:30 and 3pm. It’s a 2-3 hour ride to Tamale, pronounced Tom-a-lee, and because we had been roughing it since Kumasi, I wanted a comfort ride, with my own seat, and AirCon and Anna and I had plans to watch something on the Dell Mini I have been carrying. I would check back with the stationmaster every 20-30 minutes, and finally said he would “never let them leave without you.” It was raining, and mud is everywhere, we’re jumping from island to island avoiding the massive puddles of red clay mud they call roads here. At 3:15 the bus arrives, and there are 6-7 people waiting to board, at 3:30pm the bus leaves, and despite what the stationmaster said, it did leave without us. There was no room, he said. Maybe I forgot to dash him something, and the 6-7 who were waiting are no longer there. Ah! We have been waiting all day for this bus. There is another one at 5pm he says translating in my head to 7pm GMT (Ghana Maybe Time), meaning we’re in Tamale at 10pm.
I hate arriving after dark in Ghana. For one, everything seems more scary, threatening, and the lack of streetlights, and the loud noise put me on edge. I explain the situation to Anna and she says, “its OK Dad, I really don’t mind the TroTro.” What a great traveler. So I’m off to search for a TroTro to Tamale. The guidebook calls these TroTros “clapped out death traps” but it can have us there by 7pm, and then I remember something our Fulbright daughter Sarah Canon used to do on long trips:buy an extra seat!
“So if I buy this seat (the extra one), no one will sit in it?” I ask. I’m feeling all white and touristy, but I am so frustrated being stuck in this crappy little mudwater of a town, its raining, and the stupid STC, with its AirCon, and individual comfy seats has left us, and dark is two hours away. If find the regulated TroTros, so its only supposed to have one person per seat on the bench. So we take a whole row, which I feel so guilty about. Ahead of us there are three University students who each time they try to put someone in my extra seat yell “That man has purchased and extra seat,” one that got sold anyway, and another…so much for regulation. Row two has five sitting where three should be, plus a tall man sitting on the transmission in the front between the driver and passenger seat, and four behind me, crammed in the last seat, hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder, and behind them packages, suitcases, and lord knows what so the back can’t close and is literally tied shut with rope. But we have all the room we need, plus more.
Anna is such a good traveler. These are long essentially dull, hot trips. She plugs in her ipod, and plays with her phone, txting, or playing snake and the hours seems to pass her by like water flowing over a rock. Not me. The hours churn. I try to nap, lose feeling in my seat, and wiggle trying to be comfortable. My legs are too long. I watch out the windows for the regular Km markers that tell the distance to the next town, and pray. I pray a lot.
We arrive in Tamale well after dark and take a taxi to the Pure Home Water house, the NGO that Mary Kay Jackson, our missionary friend in Accra, has there and she has invited us to spend a few days.
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