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

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tro-tro to Atinpoku

It was sad to go but it was time. We had spent eleven nights at Milly’s and it was time to bite the bullet and try to navigate the country on our own. We took a taxi in to Accra and made the poor driver stop at five banks before we could withdrawal enough money for the next leg of our travels, either the machine was broken, it wouldn’t accept our card, or we could only withdraw fifty dollars each. Again, it was Barclay’s to the rescue.

We arrived at the tro-tro station that so daunted us the first morning we arrived in Ghana but this time had Mike as our guide. We bid him farewell on this trip to his families house in the Volta region and loaded our bags and ourselves on to the tro-tro. Soon we were surrounded by mobs of street sellers carrying their wares on their head (which is a quite ergonomic way to carry a heavy load): sachets of water, yam chips, gum, laundry detergent, toothpaste, ice cream, kola nuts, you name it. It’s a study in micro-economics as there are few stores as we know them to be, here the goods come to you.

We were smushed on board with every available space taken by person or various carry-on item going to or coming from the market. Microsoft Word does not believe that smushed is in the dictionary but I politely object, citing clown cars and now Ghanaian tro-tros as objects of evidence. Three people shared two person benches, as I misfortunately found myself wedged between Ron and a regal looking grandmother wrapped head-to-toe in bright orange and blue fabrics. My knees crushed into the seat in front of me. My feet, stuck at unnatural angles between a spare tire, a bucket of paint, and a large bowl of fresh fish, thankfully lost circulation after a few minutes, though my nose couldn‘t say the same thing (if it could talk). This was not a temporary inconvenience, as the ride lasted a full four hours. But I can safely say I will never ever complain about flying coach again. I never actually thought long distance travel could get worse, but oh boy can it, in a most tortuous and uncomfortable way. Give me a delayed 17 hour Southwest flight any day of the week and I’ll be happy as a lapcat sprawling out with the spacious leg room taking long, unnaturally deep inhalations of sweet pressurized air. Ahhhhhhh.

Arriving to Atinpoku in early evening, grateful we were still alive with most limbs still working and even our backpacks intact, we went in search of accommodation. Our fist pick, Aylo’s Bay, we knew was booked because we called in advance, so we tried a similar place down the road, it too was full, we learned with an unpleasant greeting by the receptionist, so we took a shared taxi a few kilometer further to Sound Rest Motel where I reprimanded the driver for trying to overcharge me and stuffed what I thought a fair price in his greedy hand before departing.

The guest house was basic but livable for two nights at an unbeatable price of 15 cedi ($10). Little did we know it should have been renamed [Loud] Sound [No] Rest Motel due to housing most of the local military presence that were up chattering about at 5am every morning outside our makeshift window. All over the North, they love the glass slat windows that don’t quite close all the way and are extraordinarily early risers so you are up bright and early with the locals, the sun, the roosters, and inevitably the woman sweeping the dirt path making soft shushing sounds with her broom. The next day on our walk back towards Atinpoku we saw two signs placed most ironically next to each other.

We went to Aylo’s Bay that I recommend on multiple levels - the seashell paths, the quaintness of the landscaped patio, the floating pontoons you can dine on, and of course the proximity to the Volta river. It was warm and humid, when we exuberantly waded out into the coolness of the river, scolding the wake boarders zooming by disturbing the glassiness of the waters surface. Damn obruni.

Afterwards, hammocking lazily and reading away the afternoon in a slow rock back and forth. We stayed for dinner, mostly more of the same continental fare but also sampled a local specialty of fried shrimps freshly fished from the lake. When we finished, the sun was down, the bugs were out en masse and we had a long, dark walk ahead of us.


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