May 25, 1998

Ghana: Vekima Restaurant, Kumasi

The missionaries did well in Ghana, or thought they did: I'm sitting under "Ignoring JESUS is choosing HELL!" and "Are you living like there was no JUDGEMENT DAY?" signs along with the local beer posters and omnipresent Coke/Fanta/Sprite signs.

Have moved from the land of no-small-money to the land of no-big-money: Ghana's largest bill is the c5000, approx. US $2.20 and falling, so US$50 means el-wad-o-cash.

Just hopped off the Takoradi-Kumasi overnight sleeper: 4 hours late, but, since that meant 4 hours extra sleep, most welcome. Takoradi is a shithole, but Ghana very pleasant. Weird travelling through a place where they speak English, albeit broken and heavily-accented. Feel more a part of what's going on.

Everyone here wants to exchange addresses. I wonder if they'll ever use them.

Flag tablecloths. Everyone calls you "Chef" in Cote d'Ivoire. Tar pits (well, smears) on the beach at the Coppa-Cabana. Wielding a machete in the Ghanaian bush.

Chronology: reunited with the truck, with everyone in fact except Sam & Chong, due to catastrophe - Sam's passport and money belt were stolen by a moped thief in Bobo-Diolassou and he needs a new passport and visas, and some of the latter could be tricky. Least he has Chong, reliable & indestructible, with him.

Headed out from Abidjan to a campsite in the depressing shantytown which stretches for tens of K's along the coast. Quite a nice campsite, though, and a nice if dirty beach, though waves too high and close to the coast for swimming: couple years and the whole beach will be eaten away. Farewell party for Mathias/Jorge & Jo, going home and on-their-own respectively. Did little but read & sit on beach the next day. Dropped the three of 'em off at the airport and headed back, went out for a meal that was OK as a cultural experience but not much in the way of good food.

Next day, off to Grand-Bassam, a decaying old colonial town, huge crumbling buildings and deserted streets, reminding me curiously of New Orlean's French Quarter. Statuary and coconut trees. It's situated between a peaceful lagoon and a violent (but swimmable - great bodysurfing) oceanfront.

Cooked, first time in ages, and headed off for a beer, a real horror-movie walk: a misty night, past a huge cemetery with open graves, occasional skeletons of decaying houses rearing up in the mist, power lines crackling overhead, in the Gulf of Guinea where voodoo was born...

Another, extremely peaceful and uneventful, day in Grand-Bassam followed. Stayed at same campsite, by truck, near Nick-the-perpetually-ill.

Next day - 24th, three days ago - had a final morning in Grand-Bassam, shopped at a craft market in the afternoon, camped at a different beach campsite, had an unnerving encounter with a coconut, took fire duty for dinner.

25th: to Abidjan to get news on Sam & Chong (why we had to go to Abidjan to do this still escapes me). Parked & ate at usual spots, stole a swim at the Novotel, headed to the border with a pause at Grand-Bassam for Brian to get his things and say goodbye to (pay off?) his new woman.

To the border, where two very surreal things happened: first, on the Cote d'Ivoire side, the whole world stopped between whistleblows as a soldier lowered the flag: second, on the Ghana side, official goes from "I hate all British people, your truck must stay here," to "I'm your best friend!" in 2.2 seconds (and no, no money exchanged hands.)

Camped in the bush - hacked the campsite out of a path leading to a farmer's pigpen, actually. Ants & flies & mozzies all over the place, so tented up for first time in ages.

Yesterday, stopped at Axim to look at OK castle and stunning coast, headed to Takoradi to change money, and I abandoned the BYT there. Got train ticket, ate Chinese, had a beer & talked with Mike the Sierra Leonian and Emmanuel the Ghanaian (their advice on Nigeria: "don't trust _anyone_ there"), read by the coastline for a while, ate at a second street stall (first was out of food, but a man offered me his food(!)) for c400, ditched a sob-story artist, caught train. And here I am. Plan to find a hotel, shower, get laundry done, and take a couple days in Kumasi.

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