Saturday, September 26, 2009

“Walking above the trees and swimming in the far end of my back yard”

My day started very early with a 5 am wakeup call from GH (another shipboard brother), I woke up gradually and got ready for an overnight excursion to the coast city of Elmina. But first I had a list of students that I told I would call at 6am to make sure they were up so they would not miss their bus.

Off to breakfast and onto buses. I won’t bore you with the details of our bus ride, but will mention there was an “Ugly American” on board which I will blog about later, and that Ghana’s country side is beautiful, riddled with great vistas and vegetation, and plenty of people urinating by the roadside. Women and some men carry everything on their heads, from huge pots with produce, to bins of cans of evaporated milk to sewing machines, basically anything. Ant hills are as tall as the average height man and there is one major road way which means there is a lot of traffic. People also sell their goods walking in the street, think every city you may have been to where folks are selling water, chips, the newspaper, or flowers times 20, because there will be that many or more people walking in the street at intersections trying to sell their goods to motorists. It was all so exciting.

Our first stop was a rest area where we could get soft drinks and snacks and use the rest room, which was much better than the road side rest rooms in Morocco, though the toilet didn’t flush and we had to pay .20 cedi to an attendant woman to use them, (still better than Morocco). It was while in line to get to the restroom that I spotted this lizard he was about a foot long and looked menacing from a distance, he and another lighter not so menacing looking lizard seemed to be playing tag with one another. After a few minutes I realized the lighter colored lizards were everywhere they just blended in well. Anyway, that was the excitement during our rest stop. Back on the bus for the 2 hour drive to Kakum National Park, when we had finally arrived the first thing I noticed was the sign on the lawn in the small round about

“Do Not Urinate Here, use the washroom” I guess the urination thing is a big problem in all of Ghana.

We were on our way up to the Canopy, I was excited for all of 5 minutes until I realized that the hike up included walking up these uneven steps made of small boulders that were unequal in size so that every other step was anywhere from between 1 foot to 2 feet high (and measurements in between). It was a HIKE UP for real, and steep. While I had realized we would have to walk up or hike up as it were, I guess I never considered the conditions. So after sweating from parts I didn’t realize had sweat glands, and hiking for what seemed like 30 or so minutes we were at the entrance of the Canopy area. A group of faculty and I waited at the end of the groups of students and finally about 30 or so minutes (maybe even more) it was finally our turn to take the last 15 wooden steps onto the bridges that would carry us across the top of this amazing rain forest, truly majestic views in every direction. No picture I could take would make the actual view justice. Since we were the last in our group we took our time. It was wonderful. We then hiked down and got back on the bus, just walking through the rainforest and appreciating it much more being on the ground.

Our next stop was lunch with the crocodiles at the Hans Cottage Botel. We ate lunch under a roof surrounded by a small lake where we could see the crocodiles sun bathing. After lunch we watched one of the waitress place some leftover chicken under one of the trees and within seconds the crocodiles came up out of the lake to eat. I didn’t know what I was more intrigued by, watching this magnificent 7 foot creature eat or trying to calculate how many shoes and bags I could get from the skin (sorry if I offend any conservationist that may be reading this). We continued to watch the crocs sun bath and get back in the water, as well as the variety of lizards some about a foot in length run around the courtyard, and then the weaver birds (whose nests looked like Christmas ornaments on one of the trees) captured our attention. It was all so exotic yet seemed so natural to just be sitting there watching this take place. It was now time to head back to our bus. As we got back we were informed that we would be giving up one of the buses that we had because another group’s bus broke down. So as we shifted over to the other bus, some of us sitting three to a double seat, and a couple on the floor, we braced ourselves for the 30 minute ride to our hotel for the evening.

We arrived in Elmina at about 5pm, a coastline village thriving with color and people. The bridge that we had to drive over was like a postcard (some of you may receive one just like this) it was vibrant with colors, there were people everywhere. It was beautiful. We drove a little further and then took a left down a dirt road not intended for a 40 seat passenger bus with 57 people on it. We arrived at our hotel and I could barely believe it. It was breathtaking. We were right on the water with the Atlantic Ocean on our left and our cottage on the right. It was truly a lot different than what we had just driven past, there were no thatched or tin roofs, with wooden plank walls, but instead neatly nestled white cottages. I was in love. As quick as I could I obtained my cottage key (I had been informed that I would not be provided a roommate?) and accepted some milk chocolate drink made of the local coca plant (yes the same coca plant) and shuffled off to my room. When I got there I dropped my bags and changed into my bathing suit, grabbed my camera and blackberry and hit the beach. I got to the beach and immediately decided I would swim, even thought the waves were way over my head and the surf seemed strong. I jumped in swam a few strokes and realized I was not strong enough to do much more and got out. I swam in the same Atlantic Ocean that was in my back yard except I was thousands of miles away. The same Atlantic Ocean that carries the spirits of slaves, these spirits I would feel so strongly the next morning during my meditation (see next blog). As I got out of the water I realized I was winded I walked up the beach and barely caught the sunset. After a nice lukewarm shower in a shower room that was about the size of my cabin on the ship (blog coming soon) I got dressed and headed for dinner. Dinner was AMAZING, chicken, beef, fish, jollof rice, white rice, sweet fried plantains, yam balls, and fries. Everything I had was fabulous. As we ate dinner, I was joined by a couple of students, we talked about our day and about what we were going to see tomorrow and then we realized that a bon fire had been started for us on the beach, a mere 100 feet away. I walked with the students over to the bon fire, watched them play a few rounds of Ha and then decided to call it a night. I knew I was going to get up early to watch the sunrise. What a great end to a great day.

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