Ho Adventure, Day 1: Getting There

Last weekend Addison and I went to Ho, in the Volta Region.  The whole trip was a big adventure, without too much going wrong, but with enough unexpected turns to keep us on our toes and remembering that we’re not in Texas anymore! (Even if the scenery looks similar).
Our midterm exam was Friday, and I decided not to try and leave Friday afternoon.  For one, we have already paid for or free lodging at Ashesi, and why pay for a hotel when we’d just be showing up to sleep?  But the real reason is that travel on Fridays in Ghana, especially the Accra metro area, is crazy, and our transport to Ho left out of central Accra, so we’d be trying to leave from Accra mid-afternoon Friday at the earliest, which equals crazy.  That’s what people do if they absolutely have to be somewhere by Saturday morning.  Which we didn’t.
Some scenery on the way to Ho.  Both pictures taken on
\Monday because we couldn’t see out of the tro-tro well
enough to take pictures Saturday!
So, Saturday morning we depart.  I arrange with a taxi driver to pick Addison at 8am and then get me and bring us both into central Accra.  Blip #1, Addison and taxi driver have a miscommunication, got that solved.  At 8:45am they pick me and he drops us at the station where I was told by several different people that we could get an air conditioned van (generically called a “Ford” here) to Ho.  The station was seemingly chaotic but really pretty organized and busy.  The way it works to find the right van is you ask someone, they point you in the general direction, you walk that way for awhile, then you ask someone else.  We do this awhile, 20 minutes maybe, going in a complete circle at least once, until we arrive at what we think is the right tro-tro. At that point we were still looking for an air conditioned van, but found a tro-tro loading and figured, well, this works (in CS lingo it’s a ‘first-fit’).  We get on, it takes off pretty immediately, and the mate collects the fares – 50 pesewas each (about 30 cents).  Whoops, wrong tro-tro.  I explain to the lady sitting next to me that we’re wanting to go to Ho in the Volta Region and others hear and soon there’s a chorus of lots of people saying we’re on the wrong tro-tro and the mate gets the driver to stop and we get off – not before he says, ‘you said you wanted to go to Chokra’ (or something like that) and I reply no, I said Ho – to me, Ho doesn’t sound much like Chokra but whatever.  We get out on a busy street and ask people nearby how to catch a tro-tro back to Tema station, where we came from.  They say stand here, which we do for awhile,.  some tro-tros come and go, but none are going to Tema station so eventually we get a taxi back to the station.  And try again!  Same algorithm, but this time I say that we’re looking for a Ford to Ho, in the Volta Region (live and learn!).  We do about two loops through the large yard his time, until we happen on someone who we asked before, and he says, “I pointed you to the right van before!” and I say, “Yes we went there and they pointed us somewhere else” so he drops everything and leads us about 5 min across the whole yard, to where the Ford to Ho is maybe supposed to be, but the people nearby just shake their heads and shrug, and say something in Twi to our guide that I don’t understand, but the meaning is clear – nope, no Ford to Ho.  Hmmm, what to do.  Well, our guide has to get back to his tro-tro, but someone else steps up to lead us to where we can get a tro-tro to Ho.  O.K.  We go out of the Tema station, down a few blocks, into another smaller tro-tro station, where a tro-tro to Ho is loading.  7 Ghana Cedis each (about  $4).  It’s not as bad as I thought it might be, I sit next to a woman with a baby, thinking I am doing Addison a favor by taking the middle seat next to the Mom- baby pair, turns out this means he’s on the jump seat,  and in this tro-tro the seats seem higher than usual, and he’s sitting right where the top curves down, so he can’t hold his head up straight.  And the seats are so high we can’t really see out the window, except to look at the road.  So much for taking in the nice scenery on the 3 ½ hour ride.  By the time I figure all this out we’re an hour in, and it is physically impossible to move more than a few inches  in any direction, so we’re stuck.  Addison insists he’s fine, though, he’s a great, easy-going traveler.  We leave the station about 10:45am, arriving after 2pm in Ho.  I am overheated and thirsty – when no bathroom is available, the best defense is to not drink water, but of course there’s a line between drinking enough that you need to go to the bathroom, and drinking just enough that you don’t get sick from dehydration.  I maybe strayed the line a bit toward dehydration.  I vaguely remember which direction to walk out of the station from my last visit to Ho (maybe 2006 or 2007), confirm I’m right by asking someone the direction to our hotel, and we’re off, stopping for some large bottles of cold water so we can re-hydrate once we get to the hotel.  It’s a hot day and even the 5 min walk from the tro-tro station to the hotel is tough.  But we arrive at the Bob Coffie Hotel (used to be the Freedom Hotel, Steve and I stayed here in 2006 I think) and check in and find they have a pool that looks nice!  So instead of trying to do an outing for the afternoon today, we are both very happy to relax in the pool for a bit – and then a bit turns into an hour, maybe 90 minutes, but I can’t bring myself to get out and at that point it’s too late to see any of the sights we were planning to see anyway.
More scenery on the way to Ho
We’re both hungry since we haven’t eaten lunch, and knowing that food can take awhile to come once we order, and seeing as there are tables and waiters around the pool, we swim to the side, call a waiter over and ask if we can order, he says we can.  We both order pizza, and swim some more.  After about 20 minutes the waiter comes back and says they don’t have the ingredients for Addison’s pizza, he says fine, he’ll have the same as mine. Another 20 minutes, he comes back and says, well, they don’t have the ingredients for any pizza, could we please order something else.  So we look through the menu and order something else.  You guessed it, 20 minutes later he comes back saying they don’t have those things either!  Ha.  Thankfully we’re still pretty happy in the pool so we take it pretty well, ask him what they do have, and order from what he suggests.  30 minutes late the telltale plate and forks come out, so we get out of the pool and sit at a table in time for our food to arrive – and although beef with mushrooms wasn’t what I ordinarily would have ordered, it’s good!
At this point it’s 5:30pm and we’ve already had dinner, so we hang in our rooms a bit and then decide to head out – not much to do but eat (and we’ve done that) or go to a bar, so a bar it is.  There’s one close to our hotel showing one of the Europe 2012 soccer games and we’re in time for the second half.  Germany vs. Portugal.  We enjoy the crowd, mostly cheering for Portugal since Germany was the team that beat Ghana in the World Cup 2 years ago (one man was rooting for Germany since they have a Ghanaian on their team, Boateng). Then back to the hotel to rest up for our big day tomorrow: Day 2, Wli Falls and the monkey sanctuary.
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