Saturday, September 24, 2016

Long road south

After a relatively normal trip back to Abengourou in April this year via my usual Accra route, I found that summer airline ticket prices were astronomical for July to both Accra and Abidjan.  However prices to Ouagadougou were somewhat more reasonable and as a follow up needed to be done for a repatriated child, it made sense to fly Air Algerie south via Algers (an airline that I've always preferred over Royal Air Maroc).

Landing in Ouagadougou close to midnight it was sad to see the lack of tourists, clearly demonstrated by the lack of taxi's available.  Amadou seemed to be the only one around so after some easy negotiation for a price to the St Leon area of town, we shot off on the 5m journey.  As with every trip to Ouagadougou I stay in a small cheap auberge behind the cathedral and as with every arrival, they were all asleep!  Finally waking Alidou the watchman, I paid Amadou, took his number and found my small room.  I then spent an hour in the courtyard talking to Alidou over a Brakina and discovered the horror of what the January attacks had done to the tourism business.  I was the first non-African to stay there since January, a place I've known for 10 years and always busy with budget travellers but only 3 rooms full that night, 2 Burkinabes and myself; I was stunned and upset how bad it had become.

After making several calls about the repatriated girl, it became clear I wasn't going to be able to see her.  She had vanished, unknown if that she was in Ouagadougou or had been trafficked again!  Sadly I walked with my luggage through the hot, dusty streets to the Rakieta bus station for Po and then the Ghanaian border.  Unusually the bus was late, due to a lack of fuel before Ouaga, over an hour after it's scheduled time we finally boarded with the inside temperature showing 45°!  I was sad to be going this route south, hoped to have gone east first to the girls village but it wasn't meant to be.

Just prior to a bridge where I'd had problems before with the police, the drivers mate told us all to turn our phones off.  When I enquired it was made clear that the area has had problems with bandits on the road.  We made it into Po without a hitch, I was happy to think I could make the border before it's closure at 6pm.  With a Burkinabe lady headed for Accra, we scoured around for a taxi to get us to Dakola, the Burkinabe border.  Soon enough we made it to the border village but go find it blocked by trucks waiting to clear customs, I'd never seen it so busy and our driver was unamused at not being able to find a route through! 

The clock was ticking and I really wasn't filled with joy at spending a night this side of the border, eventually we made it through, I raced into the immigration building where one lady officer remembered me and ran out again to find an argument ensuing between the police and our driver.  I begged them to let us continue the 1km in the taxi to the Ghana side ... heads shook, I tried everything to persuade them.  It was only when one of them heard I was due to sleep in Tenkodougo (a small town near the girls village to the east of Ouaga) and what had happened to her, that they let us go!

Ghana was the usual gruff immigration post, TV blaring, officers sitting around ... eventually i was stamped in!  I trudged off to another known bed, 300m from the border post is a small, clean lodge that isn't bad value for money in the small tourist town of Paga, better known for sacred crocodiles than accommodation!  Unfortunately their brilliant kitchen had been closed a while ago, so I sent out the boy in charge to find some jollof rice and chicken.  Wonderful jollof rice but a chicken thigh I could have bounced against the wall!!! 

The following day, I was at the station by 5.45am, in a taxi by 6am and south in Bolgatanga before 8am.  Here I ran into trouble, the driver left me at a trotro station with air-conditioned vehicles.  I paid for my ticket and was bluntly told I was paying the same for my luggage, knowing these typically Ghanaian antics for the 'Obruni' travelling public, I ignored him, ready to negotiate just before departure.  To my horror another 'Obruni' showed up, young girl from Germany or Sweden and immediately handed over the requested amount while I was saying No to her when they quoted what they wanted.  An argument ensued, I handed back my ticket and walked off, very annoyed.  Luckily arriving in the taxi station I spied Emmanuel who'd driven me in the shared taxi from Paga, negotiating a price for him to drive me directly to Tamale, we set off!

Tamale is my favourite place for Chinese food in the region!  However I was going to try to get onto Sunyani or at least Techiman today.  I just missed a trotro for Techiman pulling out so headed to Ghana's government bus company, Metro Mass Transit's station to find a bus boarding for Sunyani!!!  Chinese looked to be off the menu until I talked to the driver who had sold every seat.  I waited to see if there was anything spare, watched it pull out and walked off to find a tuk-tuk to have lunch, at the Chinese!   The hotel I usually stay at has seriously gone downhill, one lady was really sullen, so I headed next door to Hamdallah Hotel to find a lovely room that was cheaper!

Back at the trotro station by 0530 the next morning I had to wait almost 3h for the Techiman trotro to fill.  Yet again, two Obruni's showed up.  Yet again totally ignored me; maybe I'm getting old but before there was a spirit between travellers however it doesn't seem to be the case in Ghana or else I look so worn out from travelling, they stay away?!?!?  These two missed asking to get off at Kintampo Falls so when we stopped at the last stop in town the driver asked me to ask them to get off! 

Almost 6h after leaving Tamale we arrived in Techiman where I found a shared taxi for Sunyani, another hour away, this driver definitely had F1 aspirations but he was a safe driver so I didn't squawk as I would normally!  Dormaa Ahenkro is the town just before the border east of Agnibilekro, I hadn't had any money since Tamale, luckily found a convenient cash machine in Techiman. So on arrival in Sunyani, I agreed to pay for 2 seats for myself to Dormaa if the driver would wait whilst I found food; 2 hard-boiled eggs, a handful of groundnuts and a small packet of biscuits all guzzled at 4.30pm ...

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