A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mole National Park

Already baking hot outside, we headed to the bus station at 8am in the morning to ensure we got a ticket for the 2pm bus. This nonsense is due to the fact that you can’t buy advance tickets on buses in Ghana so you drag yourself there the day of and hope for the best. When we arrived before 9am, the ticket guy said the bus was full. How could it be full already?! He said we could stand on the bus, but that was unthinkable for 4 hours on a bumpy road. My heart sank to my stomach, now what? We chit chatted for a minute, even pulled out a little Dagbani, the dialect of the North, that we recently learned from a nice organic farmer named Carlos. Dasiba means Good Morning, to which you say Na.

Then, out of nowhere, he says he’ll sell us a ticket. Now I’m thoroughly confused, and ask him if it was a joke before that the bus was sold out. He says no, it was no joke but his wife manages the ticket process so he’ll give us two. The Metro Mass buses are the size of a greyhound with the comfort of a school bus, and we got seats 9 and 10, reconfirming the bus was never “sold out”. I’m not sure what type of high school system of “you are in the cool club” they use, but I was just thankful we qualified. Two other American girls we would overhear later that day were flatly turned down for tickets an hour before us and had a hellish day long tro-tro ride to Mole. Ron wouldn’t think himself lucky as the Ghanaians standing on the bus leaned on him the entire time but I was happy as a clam with room to put my legs in natural right-angles.

The Mole Motel is the only hotel in the National Park itself and it reminds me of every other hotel with the sole honor of being in the wilds (thoughts of the Awahnee in Yosemite) - overpriced and under delivering . Built in the sixties it has a great location on a cliffside overlooking two large watering holes so you can relax and potentially see animals frolicking in the water (if you are lucky and have binoculars). It could be an utterly amazing property, but the details are completely neglected, and everything else, including the staff, is average at best.

Our room was expensive, at more than double our usual room rate (51 cedi or $36 a night) but it came with several features we have been dearly missing: “working” air conditioning, mini-fridge, plush bath mat, complimentary towels, drinking glasses, clean white sheets, and orange marmalade with breakfast. When a bath mat brings you joy, you know traveling has quite possibly changed you forever.

Our first morning we sat out by the swimming pool and saw a pair of wart hogs mowing the lawn Fred Flinstone-style and then lingering in a long tusk entangled smooch. I thought about sending one home as the ultimate in souvenirs and also to meticulously maintain the grand backyard I hope to have.

Behind us a monkey lept up onto a table of French tourists, hearing their startled cries we turned to see the monkey making off with their toast. Later a baboon came within inches of us, strutting his stuff, while his partner in crime opened the screen door of the kitchen and snatched an entire loaf of bread before bolting past the staff. You could almost hear him snicker, and from the two events, it made me wonder how much they incur in annual bread-loss.

Later we saw a group of three elephants, two black and one grey, grazing by the watering hole in the distance and munching on grass. All this action in the span of four hours.

One day, we rented shoddy bicycles for 8 cedi ($5) and road the 6km to the village of Larabanga. Ron was attacked by swarms of biting flies and had to pull over, waving his hands wildly over his head like a cartoon character. I found this comical, but he said it hurt like hell. The distance wasn’t far but the humidity and hot sun was unrelenting. By the time we arrived, worn down and so sweaty it looked like we had walked out of a downpour.

Against much research and preparation, we still fell prey to the many unofficial guides ripping off tourists visiting the towns mosque.

They say it’s the oldest mud and stick mosque in Ghana but no one quite agrees on the facts, being built anywhere between mid-1400’s to mid-1600’s. It was interesting nonetheless, but as non-muslims we were not let inside to gander around. We begrudgingly paid our “donations”, bought some fried yam and doughnuts from a street vendor and peddled back. We arrived just in time to miss the elephant that strolled up to the hotel giving everyone else fantastic pictures. But not as good as one of the elephants that comes up every dry season to take a sip from the swimming pool.

Olive baboons freely roam near the hotel, and we were lucky to see a whole pack of them coming down a dirt road in the park. We stood still and quiet and let them go about their business only six feet away.

It was pretty amazing to watch their nimble fingers lovingly groom each other and especially the depth of the look in their eyes.

This is definitely what you would consider the bush, where you need to slather on a gallon of repellent, but then immediately sweat it off to be inevitably nibbled alive by bugs. The million winged insects have made constellations of bites on our arms and legs that we compare and lament over on a daily basis (and try not to itch!) At night, mesmerized by the swarms making fantastic acid-trip tracers from around the strung lights, we sit and listen to the crickets and wild sounds from beyond the darkness of our balcony.


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