The excitement of crossing borders is part of the adventure of traveling. Since |I arrived in West Africa I have traveled overland from the borders of Benin Togo as far as forty kilometers from the Ghana Cote d Ivoire frontier.Overland across the coast of Togo is only three hours by car but Ghana stretches four times the distance. Traveling between Cape Coast and Accra is one of the more unpleasant trips which I made at least eight times My search for a reputable eye surgeon and visas for Mauritania and Cote d;Ivoire and the untraveled region east of Accra on the way to Togo,have made me feel like a part time resident of the region My travels were made easier after I discovered the AC vans which cost one dollar more than the broken down vehicles with broken windows,and sweaty travelers squeezed together,almost on each others laps. I choose my transportation mode depending on how many bags I have and if I am in a hurry.
I decided to hire a private taxi to take me to my last Ghanian beach resort before I traveled to Abidjan since I knew if I took a trou trou, my bags would be crushed under sacks of cassava or gallons of palm oil and it would take me twice as long to arrive.I had my choice of taxi drivers since it was easier to do a long distance trip than spend eight hours working as a shared taxi and picking up 50cent fares. I ran into Richard, the driver who had taken me to the eye doctor weeks ago, who begged me to let him drive me to Beyin,,about 120 km from Cape Coast, We agreed on seventy dollars for the trip on Sunday but I warned him not to tell Wallace,the father of my Ghanian family,that I was taking a private taxi all the way. He would have been angry I was spending so much money.After spending the last evening cooking dinner for my Bulgarian,Danish and French Canadian friends,I sadly left Cape Coast Sunday morning around 9 am. Within an hour Richard, the driver,was complaining as most taxi drivers in Ghana do, that he wasnt getting paid enough and he thought we were going somewhere else. SoI agreed to pay him 75 dollars until we arrived at the end of the paved road,after traveling for three hours, The car bumped along through two villages,going five km an hour on a dirt tract. Finally we stopped a van going in the opposite direction, to find out how ,many more villages were ahead of us and I decided to look for another ride. At that moment a small taxi with three Ghanaians came by who were heading to the village of Beyin where I was going. Knowing that five dollars for me was incidental, I paid Richard 80 dollars and the shared cab five dollars and finally after four hours,arrived at Beyin Beach Resort.
This is probably my favorite beach hotel in Ghana after having tried seven others before. Delicious food,a tropical beach,lovely accommodations at a reasonable price, hot showers and other interesting guests,made this memorable. The owners are an British Ghanian with his lovely British wife and two cute young boys. While I was eating a delicious BLT sandwich,devouring each bite ,I overheard the couple next to me speaking a language I could not identify. Curiously and without shame,I asked them what they were speaking. Disbelieving I had not recognized my favorite language, I immediately began a conversation with the Italians as to what they were doing in this remote village in Ghana. They had been sent by an NGO from Italy,working in a joint project with the Ghanian preservation society ,to restore a 300 year old fort.He is an architect,she an engineer. The Italian NGO was investing millions of dollars to restore a useless building in the middle of this poor village of mud huts which has no running water. This is the typical absurd use of money by NGOs in the third world. One of the other travelers had been volunteering at an orphanage near Cape Coast, paying the NGO 300 dollars a week for room and board,and having to go an buy food for the children because the Ghanian supervisor had not sent any money for a week. I also have a story about the organization I worked with but that will be a later story.
Finally Tuesday morning it was time to ,leave Ghana and travel to Abidjan. I still did not have my ticket to Mauritania and my flight left on Friday. Thrity kilometers to the border did not seem that long but fifteen of them were on dirt roads after the heavy rain the day before. I again opted for a private car.
We passed 7 or 8 villages,all of them out of reach of the phone networks and any connection with the outside world. Many of the adults in these villages had never been to school and spoke only the tribal language. My driver actually lived in Takoradi, a large town four hours away. He was visiting friends so he decided to earn some money and drive me to the border. After an hour and a half and thirty kilometers he out did himself,as most Ghanians being as gracious as they are, by parking his car and taking me through passport control in Ghana as far as the beginning of Cote D’ivorian soil. I had been told by several people that the trip from the border of Cote d’ivoire to Abidjan was the slowest in West Africa. The actual crossing was civilized compared to the Ghana Togo border which felt like a war zone. After I had been yelled at and minimally ripped off by the boys who hang around the border crossings,grabbing your bags and trying to get you to take their friends taxi, I was lucky to be in a car with two lovely Ghanians also going to Abidjan. As we drove into the countryside of Cote d’Ivoire,it was obvious that the French had a much stronger influence here than Togo. To be continued ….