After leaving Bolgatanga our drive down through northern Ghana was a return to the somewhat familiar. We arrived in Tamale, capital of the Northern Region, about 15:00, in time to go by the CIDA Program Support Unit (CIDA-PSU) office there. Tamale is a pleasant city, clean with wide street and good infrastructure. For Jonathon this was to a certain extent a return to work. We were on holiday but being there he was pleased to engage in work-related discussions with Iddrissu and others in the PSU, not a bad way to get caught up after more than a month on the road incommunicado. We have been to Tamale before, Jonathon for work many times, and always stayed at the Marian Hotel, but this time we were looking for something a bit less refined. On the advice of CIDA-PSU colleagues we went to the Ghana Institute of Linguistics Guest House where the manager agreed to let us set up Camp Defender in their lovely garden.
Northern Ghana is where Ghana sheanut is grown, from which many beauty products are derived. The cultivation of the trees and the processing of the nuts is principally a female activity, and the source of income for many women who work independently or in co-operatives. While in Tamale we were able to stop in at one for tour and purchase some of the sheanut “butter” which is great skin lotion. A lot of this is exported, and can be found on the shelves at the Body Shop in malls in North America.
Most significantly is was while we were in Tamale that Ghana’s President Mills died unexpectedly, we learned of it while we were in an internet cafe and may have seen it before most of the rest of the city.
The other item worth mentioning was meeting up with Abu, the Director of Northern Region office of Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Jonathon and Abu know each other through the CIDA-EPA partnership and on this visit they had lots of fun sparring about the Land Rover. As those of you who followed the restoration stage of this blog may know, for the first 15 years of its life our Defender was an EPA vehicle, and as an EPA veteran Abu spent many miles driving it around the extremely rough tracks of northern Ghana to support village environmental education. Abu was very sceptical that this was indeed the same vehicle, it was only when he saw the original GR 1995 license number that they had etched in all the windows that he accepted it was indeed the same vehicle they had driven so hard for so long, and evenatually sold at auction for scrap. Abu said EPA wanted to buy it back now; Jonathon said it was not for sale.
After an unofficial CIDA work-related meeting with the PSU and EPA (Jonathon forgot he was on holiday) we had a much later than planned departure out of Tamale. We knew we would not be able to make it as far as Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest city and a milestone en route to Accra, before dark. The back-up plan was to pull up at a monkey sanctuary about 100 km north of Kumasi a ways off the main road.
A couple of hundred kilometres to the south-west of Tamale is Mole National Park, the place to go in Ghana to see elephants. Although we did not go there on this trip, we could have, and because it is such a great part of the Northern Ghana experience we are going to cheat a bit here and close this post with a couple of pictures from a visit we made there last year.