The Road to Akosombo and Back

2-6-10

I woke up at 7:30AM after trying to sleep in. I called the STC bus company to see what time the buses to Cape coast run, and the woman kindly informed me that they run at 7:30AM and 3:30PM Monday through Saturday and at 9:30AM and 3:30PM on Sundays. After I hung up I looked at the time- 7:32AM. I considered going later in the day, but realized I would be going to sleep and come back. So, I got my tourist book out of my suitcase and pondered. I stumbled upon the section pertaining to the road between Accra and Lake Volta. It seemed interesting. The towns of Kpong (pronounced Pohm) and Somanya had bead factories and markets and Akosombo had great views of the lake. And so I decided to go to these places.

I had breakfast, packed my day purse (including tourist book), and asked Hayford for directions to Somanya. He wrote them in my journal, and then walked me to the road to get a shared taxi to the town of Kwabenya. The taxi driver was kind enough to show me where trotros to Madina, my next stop, could be found. I stood for a while, confused about how to know where the trotros went, and eventually one that had a sign for Madina in its front window pulled up. I got on, hoping that it would cost very little (I had only GHC20; appx $15) and started my adventure. The trotro only cost 50 pesewas. When I got off at the lorry station, the mate (man who collects the money, opens the doors, and loads the trunk) told me I had gone too far. He gave me directions that I didn’t follow (something about turning left at the next road and right at the building…) and ran to catch up with the leaving trotro. What I needed was Madina Station.

I walked following a line of trotros and found a paved road. I used common sense to guess that the town’s major station would be on its paved road. I asked a man selling phone cards where it was and he pointed behind him. I was right, if I had walked 10 feet further down the road I would have seen it.

Trotro stations are cleared areas, sometimes with signs placed around the space for different destinations, that have dozens of vendors and loud music. This particular one had a little building in the middle of it, and so I set off for that. The men there pointed me in the direction of the trotros to Somanya, and I bored through a crown of women to get a seat on the bus. I sat in the back row next to a college-aged student who was kind enough to find out how much the drive would cost. It was 1.80, which was much cheaper than I expected.

The drive was beautiful. Just like when I traveled to Kumasi, the terrain quickly changed into hilly forests with mango and orange trees lining the road. We passed numerous small villages and upscale hotels. In one town I saw a taxi named “Holy Jesus” and in another a store named “Stomach Shopping Center”. At one point in the journey shallots fell on my head from the sack in the trunk space behind me (keep in mind that the ‘trunk space’ is just the back part of the van that no more seats could be fit in; the back doors were tied partially open because the sacks couldn’t really fit). Eventually we got to Somanya, where I looked for vendors selling beads. I figured, the town is very big, so I want to get off as close to what I am looking for as possible. I didn’t see any. In the market section there were clothes and vegetables and on the outskirts there were metal items. I decided to keep going with the trotro. It cost an additional 20 pesewas to go to Kpong, which had more of the same things. I got off the trotro and wondered aimlessly for a bit (I’ve gotten very good at pretending to be deaf when people yell for my attention) looking at what people were selling until I got to the end of the town. A trotro stopped on the opposite side of the road and asked where I was going. Naturally, I said Akosombo (I figured since bead shopping was a bust I would go see the lake). He said to get in and so I did. I handed the mate a five note and he stared at me oddly. After some time he gave me four Cedi back with another weird look, and I knew he was considering ripping me off. After a few more seconds he handed me 40 pesewas and I gave him a knowing smile. I think it was supposed to cost 50 pesewas, but I wasn’t going to argue with him. Had I known they would kick me off in the town before Akosombo, however, I would have put up more of a fight.

When I got off I thought I was where I needed to be. The Volta river was a few yards away and there were small bars and eateries lining the road. I walked for ten minutes or so, from one end of the town to the other, then realized I hadn’t seen a hotel anywhere. My tourist book said there were supposed to be a handful. I got my bearings, and decided to walk up the road, heading north along the river to try to find the next town. I got to a ritzy hotel with a name I recognized, and the security guard kindly helped me. I asked to take pictures of the river and he told me to go ahead, so I did. I went down to the water and took pictures (the river is absolutely beautiful) and then found my first bead seller. A woman was selling overpriced necklaces to the tourists staying at the hotel. After this I went to the bar to get water- I hadn’t drunk any all day for fear of having to pee on the trotro- and looked at the white guy sitting with a beer and a science magazine under a powerful fan.

I was tired. I wanted to take a shower and sleep. I decided to go home.

I walked back towards the town I was dropped off in and on my way a car pulled off the side of the road in front of me. There was smoke coming out of the window, and the passenger got out of the car and said hello. When I got next to the driver’s window, the smell of marijuana slapped me upside the head. The passenger continued to talk to me, and I just kept walking. I was quite afraid because I was on an isolated strip of the road with no cars coming, but I knew if I had to run I could get to the corner where town started before he caught up. Luckily I didn’t have to resort to this.

From town I took a trotro to Kpong, where I was supposedly able to get a trotro directly to Madina. All of the ones that passed were to Somanya, so on my fourth attempt I just got in. The driver dropped me at Somanya Station for an extra 10 pesewas (in rush hour traffic this was actually a loss for him) and told me to get a trotro to Accra, which would stop in Madina. I got a roasted plantain because I was starving, and found the van I needed. I paid GHC 2 and got on, happy to be on my way home.

In Madina I met a very nice couple who were going to Amasaman (the town next to Pokuase), and they help me find my way. When I got off the trotro in Pokuase, however, I had no idea where I was. I also realized I didn’t know how to ask for directions since I couldn’t think of any landmarks near the house. I wandered around, getting more frustrated as the sun went down and I decided to get a taxi to drive through Pokuase until I found the house. A man I asked about the taxi suggested I go to the Festus Hotel and see if I recognize anything. I did this and recognized nothing. I crossed the street and explained my situation to the taxi driver. The plan- drive towards Accra (the direction I thought the street I was looking for was in) and if I don’t see it turn around and travel away from Accra. My sense of direction was correct, and I was back home in five minutes. I paid the driver well for getting me home and went directly to the shower- where I cried, partly out of frustration and the emotions that go with being lost for an hour in a strange country, and partly because the water I had been fantasizing about since the afternoon ran out when I soaped up.

So I slept and watched a movie after drinking a liter of water and eating dinner. What a day!

Ghanaian Practical Travel Tip #47: Transportation providers are very helpful 90% of the time. It is worth asking them for directions since they know the areas on their route well.

Ghanaian Practical Travel Tip #48: As I have proven, it is possible to travel in Ghana for under GHC20. I returned home with GHC7 in my pocket.

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3 Responses to “The Road to Akosombo and Back”

  1. Mom Says:

    The power of an only child! Your adventure seemes as if it was worth it. I have a survival tip for you, before you take your next shower, fill a bucket with water and keep it in the bathroom in case the water runs out or gets cut off. As usual, food took first billing in your story………not surprising.

  2. Chelsey Says:

    oh my! I dont know how you do it! Besides the fact that I could never go to another country by myself, I could never wander around by myself.. your crazy! lol I dont even like going to Walmart alone…

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