June 08, 1998

Ghana: Hotel de California, Accra

We can check out any time we like, but we can never leave.

A good week: the beaches and coastal castles of Ghana. Are due to rendezvous with the truck in four hours. Have met up with the long- elusive Chong, who's been bouncing from country to country doing visa & money paperwork: Sam's whereabouts are still a mystery.

Although we're theoretically deep in rainy season, there's precious little rain to show for it.

The Cape Coast/Elmina day trip was fun. Especially the transport. Ghanaian taxi and tro-tro junctions have to be seen to be believed: a field of dirt hacked out of the bush at a crossroads, attendants raising and lowering chains to make sure that no vehicle escapes without paying the fee, a massive congestion of taxis and Jeeps and tro-tro vans and pickup trucks, held together by spit and baling wire, all horns blaring at all times, with sacks of food and boxes of toothpaste and trays of smoked fish lashed to every conceivable vehicular extremity, women walking around with bowls and boxes and barrels and baskets full of food and icewater on their head, a whole eye-level food court, hawking their wares over the horns and the dozen shouted driver-passenger arguments going on at any moment, while goats and sheep and chickens pick their way unconcernedly through the chaos. People dress in polyester business suits or shorts and American T-shirts or traditional African robes & dresses, riots of orange or indigo or grey or green carved into complex geometrical patterns by neat black lines.

Cape Coast was a bit of a dump, but Elmina was nice - excellent beach, fun people, and an extraordinary if disturbing old castle, the first European settlement in sub-Saharan Africa, complete with shiver-inducing slave dungeons.

Off to Kokrobite for a few days, a backpacker's paradise, a small fishing village with "Big Milly's" elysial enclave in the middle with the African Academy of Music & Arts Ltd. just a klick away. Met a host of Peace Corps workers, Finnish overlanders, Dutch backpackers, New Age Californians and ron, an ex-military brat ex-civil rights activist ex-coke dealer ex-UA emergency procedures designer who is there studying drumming for a few months. Took drumming lessons - illicit and black-market, because drumming is taboo until this Thursday - from Afro, a virtuoso master drummer who's played the Royal Albert Hall. Took long walks amid the rolling hills and stunning coconut-laden beaches. A good time.

Came to Accra yesterday and promptly bumped into Chong. Drank at a clifftop cafe and splurged at a hilarious expensive dinner. Too many menu choices, but no beef. Delicious hummus, bleah main course. Gleaming Bavarian coffee china set out...followed by Nescafe packets. Of course they take Visa...but not today.

Today, sorted out last night's bill, ate pineapple, checked Chong's e-mail, and now we'll head back for the cliff-front cafe for a while before the rendezvous with Big Bertha.

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