...back to Accra
January 4 2004
Not even an hour north of Accra is Aburi. This is a small community
located on the top of a mountain which is noticeably cooler and
breezy-er than the lower lands. The town itself is rather shanty
like, and everything lies on a slope. In the middle of Harmattan
there is no view to see from here, you look down and only see grey.
However, without Harmattan apparently one can see all the way to
Accra. The drive up to Aburi is a mountain path that winds around
many twists and turns, with a large cliff on one side of the road.
I made this trip in a rickety old van whose doors don't close and
with a driver who doesn't seem to mind driving on the wrong side
of the road even around blind corners...
...An adrenaline rush to say the least.
In Aburi there are two main attractions, the Botanical
Gardens and the Aburi Bike tours.
The garden was instigated over a century ago. The front entryway
is lined with immense King palm trees and takes you breath away.
Once inside there is a beautifully landscaped lawn with many varied
of trees, bamboo, and plants. Each tree is labelled, and has a brief
history associated with it. For example, the "traveller’s palm"
is called such because if you cut away the lower stems, a traveller
can find a good supply of water stored in between to rehydrate themselves.
Rows of King Palms line the entry road to the botanical gardens
There is a nice open air restaurant that serves good, but somewhat
pricey food overlooking a steep incline that holds a preserved forest.
A variety of trees exist in the botanical garden, some are VERY
This forest contains many kilometres of paths leading you through
the forest, with signs up everywhere describing the vast variety
of trees that can be found within. I did not realise that the paths
were quite so extensive until I had already been hiking for about
half an hour, all down hill. It was at this point that I realised
that it STILL hadn't started doubling back yet. So, I turned around
to do the second half of the accidental hike... All up-hill of course.
Once out of the garden, we went to take the Aburi Bike Tour.
This was truly a highlight since I have come to Africa. Aburi bike
tours is run by a Swiss man named Hans. He was extremely friendly,
and guided us on a three hour tour through the mountains on many
farming foot trails, dirt paths and forests. He would stop us regularly
to give us an education lesson on Ghana and the things in our surroundings,
such as the how the vegetation is used for food and construction,
wildlife, and environment challenges faced by the region. There
was one small section on the tour, maybe a hectare, where the original
forest has been preserved because it is a village chief burial ground.
Looking at this small section of forest and the looking at the sweeping
landscape of the mountains really underscored the immense damage
that had been done to the region by over-cutting. Apparently on
2000 of Ghana's original 8000 hectares of forest remain.
Hans, our swiss bike tour guide explaining something to me that
is probably interesting.
Hands pointed out to us a few large beautiful trees scattered throughout
out the mountains, whose name eludes me at the moment. He said that
they provide a fair deal of wood, but it is very soft and can only
be used as a cement mould, and even as such it will break after
one use. Really, the trees are beautiful on the landscape, but nearly
useless for practical purposes, and get cut down because there really
isn't anything else to cut down for wood!
Biking up and down skinny dirt paths was a blast; I fell off my
bike a few times. I have never really done mountain biking before,
but it was tremendous fun. I'll have to pick it up this summer.
We passed through some villages too during our trip, seeing many
mud huts, with many children running after us chanting "Abruni
Abruni" which is the word they use from White Skinned person.
Fofo, Amedzi's son on his mountain bike. That kid in the background
is probably about to start chanting "Abruni Abruni Abruni"
to me... except that at the moment he looks a little bewildered
at the presence of a white man.
As we were biking by, I heard one kid cry out "Abruni, give
me your bicycle. When you are done you will come back and give me
your bicycle." Just ridiculous.
After biking extensively through the mountains, the last stretch
was of course, steeply uphill. We were drenched in sweat and exhausted,
but we were happy. They proved us with a shower and freshly cut
pineapple when we arrived. Yummy.
At this point night had fallen, and I realized that I'm not allowed
to travel at night, so I had to stay in town. We found a small hotel
out of the way. At first they told us the hotel was full, but I
don't think that the receptionist was really all there, if you know
what I mean. As we were leaving one of the men at the gate asked
us where we were going, we said the hotel was full, and which point
he marching back in there and told us there was a room for us. Go
Fofo had to leave at 4:30 am the next morning to get to work in
Accra. I slept in, which was nice because I was sick with a cold
and slight fever. Eventually, I got up, sniffling all the way and
went to pay my bill. Unfortunately for me, I only had CFA francs,
and Ghana uses Cedis. The hotel didn't take francs, which was weird,
but this left me in a bit of a bind. So, I left my passport there,
and told them I would return with Cedis once I found a bank.
So, after wandering aimlessly around the town, sniffling and feverish,
I managed to find two banks both insisted that I would have to go
back to Accra to change me money.
Well, I hope I don't have to spell out the nature of this particular
So, at one of the banks I put on a sympathy face of despair and
tried to work up my cold sniffles a little bit to make me look more
pathetic. Eventually one of the ladies working of the desks in the
back of the bank had pity for me, and exchanged money for me on
a personal basis (at a rate good for her, but I wasn't exactly in
a position to call the shots), even though it was against bank policy.
Whew, disaster averted, I was very grateful.
So I returned to the hotel, paid off my bill, and headed back into
town to find some breakfast. The only place I could find was rice
with chicken place. I asked them for a menu... She said they served
rice with chicken. "Ok" I said, "I'll have rice".
This confused her extremely; I don't think anybody had every just
ordered rice before. But, eventually we worked out a deal.
January 5 2004
I need to go... somehow...
After that it was up to me to figure out how to get back to Accra.
There isn't really a bus station, you just have to know at what
corner of which block in the town that the appropriate van stops
at to take passengers to Accra. Of course, I didn't know this. So,
I asked a Ghanaian, and the answer seemed incredibly complicated,
and after 5 minutes I still had no idea how to catch a ride, so
he said, "You just sit here, I tell you what to do when the
time is right". So eventually, he shoved me off towards a vehicle
that looked just like every other vehicle, and somehow I ended up
back in Accra at the end of the day.
All in all though, it was an excellent little excursion (and the
driver for the return trip was much more sane).
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On to Cape Coast...