Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Perhaps We Can Pick Up a Few Bucks, Pay For the Trip

Ortencia's stories of travel in Togo certainly had me curious to see what the trip between Accra and Cape Coast would be like. Our knowledge of where to go to grab a trou-trou came from an attendant at a gas station near our hostel and off we went to Kanesha, where we picked up a car with air-conditioning. It turned out that everywhere we went in Ghana I was always charged extra for my bags - so, if you go try and make your bag look as small as you can. Getting myself walked over to a public toilet was an interesting trip - while the smell wasn't great, I found that toilets in Ghana have toilet paper available more often than in Korea.

There were a couple of notable things on the road to Cape Coast. The first was a series of booths that I saw along the roadside. Now, I can't know for sure what they were, but what I saw were huts with women's names on them. There was nothing else, just a booth, a name, a woman. While I suspect I know what they were, I don't entirely want to assume. On a more positive note, I did notice the incredible number of female police officers, far more than I've noticed in Canada, Korea or Scotland. Upon our arrival, the aggressiveness of the men trying to get our onward business in Cape Town was about ten times as intense as in Accra, but our driver ended up deciding to drop us off right at the Sammo Hotel. Checking in was a very odd experience - the man was really emphatic about giving us a room with TV and we were just as insistent that we didn't want a TV.

Since we only had an afternoon and didn't feel like hitting up the Castle, we headed on a short walk up to Fort Victory. At the bottom of the hill we got a lecture from a rather old man about how we absolutely needed a guide - after all, we might run into some "bad boys" on the walk up. Being fresh in the country and having no real idea where the trail might lead or how long it might be made the decision making process difficult. After all, nobody wants to turn down a guide and then have problems but it seemed likely that someone just wanted some extra money to guide us. In the end, we took the guide, since better safe than sorry, and he didn't really want much money. However, to say that we would have been safe alone is putting it mildly - it's a short, though steep, walk and we didn't see anyone else up there.

When I first planned to go to Ghana, it was strictly because Ortencia was working in the country next door. I had no idea what there might be to see - though I might not have expected how many castles and forts would be on the itinerary. In fact, beyond reading the suggested two week itinerary in the Lonely Planet, I didn't spend much time at all actually planning anything. I'm more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of traveller these days - my style of travelling has changed quite dramatically from my days of inter railing around Europe.

Anyway, Fort Victory was, obviously, very European - something that rather amazed my grandfather when I showed him the pictures. It was cool - lots of looking down cannons at beaches and the Atlantic Ocean and palm trees. In front of the fort there was some corn growing and a fairly fantastic scarecrow - a dead crow seems fairly persuasive.

After leaving our tour guide, we walked back down to Obama roundabout - oh, yes, in addition to endless signs and t-shirts and his own panya design, Obama has a roundabout in Cape Coast as the result of his recent visit to Cape Coast Castle. Walking towards the ocean is never a bad thing and we even managed to throw in some shopping, where I bought the skirt that I would wear for most of the vacation (all my clothes seemed to be determined to self-destruct on this trip, so new clothes were handy.) On our way to the beach we even passed a basketball game. We hung out on the beach with some college students for a bit, watching the waves break and the sun starting to set over the castle.

The next part of the day was to try and find Global Mamas, a store set up by Peace Corps volunteers and apparently now quite the superstars in the eyes of volunteers since. Since it had moved since my Lonely Planet had been published, we spent quite a while looking for it. then we spent ages looking for the touristy restaurants listed and on the map as well - never did find them. Whenever we asked anyone for a restaurant recommendation, the only place we ever heard in response was the Castle Restaurant - there may only be that one restaurant in Cape Coast, as we ended up eating there rather often. One of the guys who suggested it also offered to walk us over to it and stayed with us to have a Guinness Malta. The concept of Guinness making a non-alcoholic product is greatly startling.

I think it's time for a digression of the Lonely Planet - I may have ranted about this already, but then, Ortencia and I bitched about its many failings over and over again. I'm pretty sure after only our two week trip we could have written a better guidebook. Between the lack of decent, affordable hotel suggestions in Accra (and they do exist), the old currency, the constant things that had moved or seemed not to exist, and the fact that the ENTIRE rail system had stopped working since the publication date of the most recent guidebook, it was pretty useless. Perhaps it's time for the folks over at LP to start updating some of the guidebooks a bit more regularly.

When we got back to the hotel we realised that we had broken the biggest of the hotel rules: we had failed to turn on the blue porch light at six o'clock. After the scuffle over the presence of the TV or its lack in our room, the one thing that was made very clear to us was that we had, absolutely HAD, to turn the light on at 6 p.m. and off at 6 a.m. What we were to do if we weren't in the hotel or awake at those hours wasn't covered, just the extreme necessity of making sure it got done. There might have been a few jokes about the prostitution feel to our lovely, blue light.


Cairo Typ0 said...

Love the Obama stuff. My friends back in Nairobi told me Kenya was all Obama all the time after the election.

Weird that you found toilet paper more plentiful there. We *always* carry some on us when we travel because we've had bad luck in that area in the past. LOL

Lonely Planet. What can i say: i totally agree. We've been moving away from LP for a couple of years. Most of our recent guide purchases have been Footprint or Rough Guide. The problem with LP is that their "updates" are just reprints - no one is fact checking. We had an LP and a Footprint in Japan (i think it was that trip) and even the maps were out of date.

Amanda said...

I really dislike the layout of Rough Guides. Should I check out Footprint?