And What an Adventure It Was…

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It began at 5:30AM with Senam’s voice floating through my bedroom window. “Christina? Are you up? We need to leave soon.” The bus was leaving at 6:30, but Senam failed to mention that I had to be there 30 minutes early, even though I already had my ticket and nothing to check-in. So I rushed to get my things together and go to the car. Luckily I remembered to bring two packages of crackers, however. I forgot a book and to charge my iPod.

When we arrived at the station there were many people milling around waiting for the bus to open up. Senam and I said our goodbyes and he told me sternly to take care of myself and always keep a watchful eye. I promised I would, but inside felt even more afraid of the next two days. I boarded the bus first (I don’t remember how this happened), and looked for seat nine. I found the row it was in, but I wasn’t sure if I was the aisle or window seat. So I turned around to ask the driver for help and when I spoke he said “Are you talking to me?” Being the only other person on the bus I thought it an odd question, but answered and repeated my question. He then yelled at me “You are asking me a question and you didn’t even greet me?!” This was followed by a lecture on how rude I was (all the time my mind kept shifting between telling him that I was paying him, and therefore had the right to ask him a question and astonishment at how he could expect people, before the sun has even risen, to be chipper enough for a greeting) and several apologies from me before he finally told me to look on the backs of the seats. After this encounter, my left arm went numb and stayed numb for the next four hours.

Once everyone had boarded the bus, the driver made a public announcement that he was very unhappy about only three people greeting him when entering and asked if anyone had a problem with him. He then said that we would have a fifteen minute stop halfway to Kumasi. I only know all of this because the woman next to me was nice enough to translate. Then we were off.

The trip itself was rather uneventful. I watched the landscape change from shades of red ad brown to vibrant greens as we entered the forested central regions of Ghana. When we stopped for our break I paid (for the first time ever) to use a public toilet. It was quite an odd experience- there was an official ticket stub and everything. Luckily there was handsoap, but no toilet paper however (I remembered my wipes though!). After reboarding the bus I became even more nervous. The owner of the hotel I was to stay at said that I should get off in the town of Ejisu (which I thought was Ajito because of miscommunication). I had serious reservations about this, however, because I didn’t see how taxi drivers there could possibly know this hotel. I thought it wiser to go to Kumasi and hire a taxi from there. At any rate, I went against my better judgment and got off in Ejisu with an old woman. I flagged a taxi, whose passengers all told me that they had no idea where Rainbow Garden Village was, and they drove off. The old woman who came off with me asked where I was trying to get to. She offered to ask her husband, who lived in the area, what I should do. He said to go to Kumasi (ha! Never second-guess yourself) and get a cab there. And that is what I did.

The tro-tro ride to Kumasi was lovely. I decided that it was my preferred mode of transport. I feel quite safe smushed into a minivan with 10 other passenger (sometimes even 15). Even though I know it is highly dangerous and unpredictable, I still rather enjoy the wind in my hair and the miniculture of it. I got off at the central market in Kumasi (where everyone else was getting off), and began walking, proud of my ability to both get and pay for the tro-tro ride. My new plan was to find a bar or restaurant in which I could eat (I had one package of four crackers) and regroup, maybe even have a drink. I walked for several blocks without seeing any sign of such establishments, but I did not want to pull out my tourist guide and give and metaphorically wave my flag of I’M FOREIGN AND LOST! After about 20 minutes of walking I was defeated and sat at a triangular median in the middle of a three-way intersection next to a woman selling pineapples. I took a few deep breaths and was about to pull out the guide when a taxi drove up (cue angelic music, possibly a harp).

I asked him if he knew where Rainbow was and he said yes. To test this, I asked him what the name of the lake was (I could only remember by this point that it started with a ‘B’) and he said a name that started with a ‘K’. I decided to go with him anyway because I couldn’t think of any other options (I also considered his size and possible threat before I entered). We negotiated a fee of 15 Cedis (about $11) and began our journey.

It turns out his name is Stephen and the name of his car, literally translated as “God talk”, represented his ability to converse with God. We discussed the people that we saw along the drive and how long the trip was taking, but we were in good spirits. It turns out the name of the lake is Bosomtwi (even though it looks like boson-twi, it is pronounced bo-SUM-chwee) and we eventually saw signs for it. We drove to a town near the lake where Stephen asked for directions to Rainbow (proving, in fact, that he didn’t really know where he was going) and we turned off the paved road onto an unpaved one. This turned into a dirt road, which turned into a sand road. After this it was really just a path of sharp rocks. We drove (I could have walked faster) through a small village with lots of children, and continued around the lake before finally getting to the hotel. A stop I’d like to forget was having to pay a ‘toll’ halfway around the lake.

The hotel was quite nice, however. After being shown around I went down to the lake and looked out at a beautiful landscape. Lake Bosomtwi is reportedly the youngest crater lake in the world and the only one in west Africa. There were fishermen coming in from the day’s work (by this time it was around 2PM) and birds flying over the water. When I got to the dorm, I asked if anyone else would be coming, and the man said there wasn’t. This made me very sad and I felt quite isolated on the bank of a large lake with no one to share it with.

I laid down and not fifteen minutes later there was a knock on the door. Two white people came in and introduced themselves. They were Zach and Emma, teaching volunteers on the coast who came from Toronto and Vancouver, respectively. We ate dinner together and I had a glass of wine the milky color of melted raspberry sorbet. Then Emma went for a swim while Zach and I sat on the dock, looking at the night sky. Eventually we all hit the sack (at 8PM, woot!).

Ghanaian Travel Tip #35: STC buses are a way to travel in style in Ghana. They are air-conditioned and large, creating a comfortable and bumpless ride.

Ghanaian Travel Tip #36: Remember to carry small denominations of currency when you travel. With the exception of a hotel, dinner, and souvenirs you may purchase, everything else should cost under 1 Cedi.

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