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

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Puking out a Tro-tro

We were up at the ungodly hour of 3:30am to board the 4am Metro Mass bus bound for Tamale. The road was bumpy as always, and Ron started feeling ill in what was to be a very long travel day ahead. Instead of riding all the way to Tamale we got off at the junction and hoped to catch the early southbound bus to Kumasi. Another couple from New Zealand had the same plan, but the STC bus passed 15 minutes later already full. Now what? We could wait 8 hours for the next one or take our chances on the tro-tro, it was a clear choice so we hopped on board the next one paying 20 cedi ($15) for seats and luggage.

Ron had what he would describe as “the worst day ever”, going from bad to worse, as he vomited out the window on the 8 hours of tro-tro travel ahead of us. Thankfully he had a window seat, but the sun was brutal, reddening his neck in a semicircle around his t-shirt. The radio blared so loudly the song distorted beyond recognition, the speakers clearly not able to handle the volume on the maximum setting. Ghanaians strangely relish the principal with music that if a little is good, a lot is better. But this lead me to a sudden epiphany (can there be a slow one?), as I finally realized why they all talk so loud - they have gone deaf from the loud music and have to scream to hear each other. Case closed, Mr. Holmes.

When we arrived at the lorry station, we were approached by multiple taxis all offering the “obruni” discount or three times the actual rate, but I was in no position to bargain as Ron seriously needed a room, and fast. The heat was overwhelming as we crawled in traffic, I fanned him desperately with my pink fan to the amusement of passerbys. Finally arriving and checking in to the nicest place I could find, Catering Guest House, figuring if you are going to be sick better not to do it on a dirty bathroom floor. Also, some AC would probably do Ron good after sweating it out all day long.

After half a Spanish omelette eaten halfway between 16 hours of sound sleep, Ron slowly rebounded. I fixed him vitamin c water with a dash of salt for rehydration and the next day he was well enough for some internet surfing and lunch. I call the backpacks worn on both the front and back, the "double bubble", ain't it sporty?

The first internet café was a sad, sad sight. Old computers collecting dust, brain-dead receptionist, and after every few minutes a complete electrical outage. Like everywhere else in Ghana, we experienced bouts of electricity and water outages on an almost daily basis at every place we stayed. But not at the holiest of holies - the internet café. Have a generator or be gone with you. We found a great place down the street and settled in for a couple hours despite the constant chatter, background television commentary, and 3 versions of itunes all playing simultaneously and on full blast.

We heard about a decent tourist recommended restaurant nearby but had to walk the gauntlet through dozens of scammers, beggars, shifty cab drivers, “art students”, “volunteers”, “teachers”, et cetera, etc all vying for our attention and our cedis. But who, to our astonishment, would we see when we entered Vic Baboo’s Café, but Barry, the catholic priest we met in Kokrobite and hoped to visit later in the week.

An immediately interesting and charismatic man dressed in a traditional gown, he was born in Britain but felt an irresistible pull to Africa. Living in Senegal and Zanzibar, he has settled in Ghana to build an octagonal house of his own design. My favorite feature being an African zen garden, where large carved heads would replace the usual rocks placed in the raked sand. He’s definitely a spiritual heavyweight, intensely devoted but not constricted by religion, someone in which you can just feel their inner calmness. I told him this once and he told me about the zen concept of a duck gliding serenely across the water, but underneath the smooth surface their little duck-legs are going a million miles a minute. What a great analogy to the human mind - we all struggle. It must have been divine intervention, because he was to be at a retreat when we were planning to come for the visit. How very fortunate to have met him again, and he was even kind enough to buy us lunch.


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