Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Why I love Ghana part 2: Kumasi

Last Wednesday was my last day at CDD…I can’t believe I will be leaving in one week! I still have so much to do!

Friday, We left ISH around 9 to the STC bus station to catch a bus to Kumasi. The next bus, however, wasn’t leaving until 4, so we had 6 hours or so to kill. So, Karen and I found a used book store, bought some classic literature for two bucks, then sat in the Paloma Hotel’s air conditioned lobby until 4. We left Accra at around 6, got to Kumasi around midnight. Stayed in the Guestline lodge right around the corner from the STC bus station, slept in a dorm room with an Australian girl and a Scottish girl for 55,000cedis per bed (which is kind of pricey, since the fan didn’t work).

Saturday, we left the hotel around 8, and following the map in the Bradt guide, began to walk to the cheaper hotel in the center of town. Travelers to Ghana will soon know that the Bradt guide is horrible, especially the maps, so of course, we got lost wandering around Kumasi, but it was okay because we got to see a lot of the second largest city in Ghana. Our hotel, Nurom Annex, was nice for 70,000cedis per room, very centrally located and had a nice clean toilet. We called the Anglo-Ashanti Gold Mines in Obuasi to see if they were open. They didn’t answer the phone, not at all a surprise, so we decided to head there to see if they were open to give “free” tours, according to the Bradt guide. We take a metro bus for about an hour south of Kumasi to the mining town. We get to the reception a little after 12 to just find out that the visitor’s center had just closed, but come back Monday for a tour! So we head back to Kumasi, check out the cultural center and Prempeh II’s museum there. We then attempt to check out the Ashanti sword, which is stuck in the ground at the place where the golden stool fell from the sky and if it is removed from the ground, the Asante empire will fall. The sword is on the grounds of this hospital. When we enquired about the sword, they said it was closed. Feeling pretty unproductive, we consult the Bradt guide map again to make our way to the Asantehene palace, Manhiya. In order to reach the palace, you have to either cut through or circumvent Ketjita market, the largest open air market in West Africa. And let me tell ya, I have never been somewhere so overwhelming before in my life! It was around 5, so it was extremely crowded with millions of people pushing you, pulling carts full of stuff, dragging sheep through the crowd, driving and honking in their vehicles, there was little to no sidewalk to walk as people were selling goods on the walkways and shouting prices at you (10,000 10,000 for shoes). I can’t even count the number of times I was wedged between people and a stack of crates, between a moving vehicle and the open sewer full of …. I didn’t feel like I could escape the hordes of people in the market. Whoa, it was insane! Not to mention, we were walking in the wrong direction to reach the palace, so we had to turn around and were fortunate enough to circumvent the petrifying market, but we never found the palace. We ate dinner at an Indian owned restaurant, Vic Baboo’s, which was really delicious and not too pricey.

Sunday, we got up and headed to Ejisu, Yaa Asantewaa’s hometown, to visit her museum and the shrine she prayed at before going to war with the British. We walked about 2km down the road to the shrine, which was small but interesting with a funny little man as the caretaker. We then went back to Ejisu and began to trek the 2km to the Yaa Asantewaa museum. According to the Bradt guide, it was a small orange building to the right of some cocoa boards. We saw a building that was orange but didn’t have a roof, and I didn’t see any of the so called cocoa boards, so we kept walking. A man in a car pulled up and asked what we were doing. We told him we were looking for the museum, and he said we passed it, get in he will take us there (now, I know we aren’t supposed to get into cars with strangers…but, he seemed okay). When we arrived at the building we had passed, he told us the building had been destroyed by a fire a few years back. He asked us where we were going next, we told him Lake Bosomtwi, and he said coincidently he was headed that way, he would take us. The lake is in a crater created by a meteorite. It’s pretty sacred, you aren’t allowed to use canoes on the lake, you can only use a piece of a log and paddle with your hands to fish. The man, Maxwell, hired us a tourguide who showed us around and told us the legend of the lake. We then ate lunch at one of the lake resorts. Maxwell said he would like to show us around and took us to a Kente weaving village, Bonwire. It was overwhelming as well, since it is the most touristy Kente weaving village in the Ashanti region. We pretty much got assaulted by boys trying to make bookmarks with our names on it or sell us a piece of Kente. Maxwell then brought us back to our hotel, problem-free.

Monday, we get up early to head back to Obuasi, but the bus took forever to arrive at the station, so we waited an hour, then it took an hour to get there. Upon arriving at the visitor’s center, we were told that we needed a car to take the tour (not a taxi, a car). Since we didn’t have one, we were kind of disappointed. We told the security guard our troubles, and he said that when he closed at 12, his brother would bring a car and he could drive us as long as we paid the petrol. We were very excited about this prospect, so we waited for Budu to close. He told us that we would need to get a guide from the visitor’s center, then we could leave. We went back to the visitor’s center, and the woman told us it would cost $15 USD per person, to have a tour guide. We were like what the….? Bradt guide said it was free, and we most certainly didn’t have 15 dollars to blow on a tour. Extremely disappointed at the waste of time and effort, we headed back to Kumasi. We didn’t have enough time to do anything before we had to be at the STC station at 4, so we headed there to wait an additional 2 hours for our bus (STC is never on time). When the bus arrived, it was an ordinary bus instead of the luxury bus it was supposed to be, which is fine by me for a couple reasons, A) no A/C at full blast, B) its cheaper. But apparently the Ghanaians were not happy about this. They really wanted A/C, so our bus only had five people on it. We each stretched out in our own row for the 6 hour drive. It was extremely bumpy (the Kumasi-Accra road is horrible and under-construction for the majority of the ride) and I was almost thrown from the seat a few times. We got to Accra at midnight, to darkness in the hostel, so we just went to bed. I love Ghana because, even though our plans failed, there was always a nice Ghanaian there to help us out.

Updates on campus life: for the past two weeks or so, we have felt the effects of water rationing the rest of Accra has been suffering through for months. The girl’s bathrooms rarely have water, so you either go to the boy’s (which apparently isn’t very acceptable by the African females) or all trek downstairs where the whole floor is girls, so there is a girls’ bathroom. We also were spoiled because we always had lights due to exams, but recently they have been taking the power a few nights, because of the rationing. I also learned that it is a kind of taboo for girls to eat at night market, as it shows that they can’t cook for themselves. They are supposed to be discreet about it, if they order food there, and get it take away. I always wondered why only Obruni females were sitting out there eating…

3 comments:

Anna said...

Interesting. Thank God for adjectives...they help to "see" the adventure.

Surprised to read you two rode with a stranger and happy to know that things turned out alright.

I look forward to your return to the States.

Papa said...

You scared me when you talked about getting in a vehicle with a stranger even if it did turn out OK.
Be careful

Phil said...

Thanks for the blog - it took me right back to my time in Ghana.

Good luck with the rest of your trip.

Phil