After some work time at the CIDA office in Tamale and meeting with Abu it was well toward noon. There are two options when traveling by road between Tamale and Accra. The most common is mostly paved road down the west side of the country, passing through Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest city. The other choice descends down the eastern side of the country along the Togo border following completely unpaved for the first 400 kilometres. The second route is actually shorter and can be faster, except in the rainy season when the road is either so wet and muddy to make risk of getting stuck quite high, or if it is dry it is so rough that you average about 30 km/hr. We were not in a tremendous hurry and had never done the Volta route, but after consultations with colleagues and PSU drivers decided it would be too uncomfortable and we opted for the less adventurous, but still interesting Kumasi option.
Jonathon has done this route for work a few times, but always with a driver. It was the first time he drove himself, and the first time Laura had been down that road. It is a great opportunity to see the landscape change from savannah to more humid forest. If you leave Tamale very early in the morning you can get to Accra by dark but because we were not in a real hurry and got such a late start out of Tamale we decided to break the trip half way at the Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary about 100 kilometres north of Kumasi. It was raining for much of the drive. We crossed the Volta River near its upper reaches, the same river where we had camped on our first night out a month earlier, 300 kilometres further south.
We also went by lots of lovely northern examples of Ghanaian rural housing.
As it turned out, this route also provided some challenging driving, as we found ourselves on yet another donkey track excuse for a road on the 50 kilometres off the main road into Boabeng-Fiama.
We arrived at Boabeng-Fiama just before dark and were welcomed by the women who manages the guest house, where we were able to set up on the extensive lawn near the washroom and showers. Local s have treated the monkeys as sacred for more than 150 years, there is a myth of a hunter that encountered a spirit that urged him to treat them as family members. The 50 hectares are full of Mona and Colobus. In view of the ease of access to the monkeys the Boabeng-Fiama has become a centre for primate research and there were three Canadian students doing research, one a women from Montreal doing her Masters at the University of Calgary. Small world.
In the morning we toured the site after breakfast, packed up camp and were on the road by noon. It turns out that was not early enough because we still faced a too-long drive into Accra. It was for sure the least pleasant stretch of road we have driven in the entire expedition. The unpleasantness culminated in a two hour after-dark struggle through an awful stretch of rough dirt “road” that had been under construction since we arrive in Ghana three years ago and seems to be suffering from not-so-benign neglect on the part of whoever is supposed to be managing the project. There are vast stretches of unpaved, unmarked dirt eight lanes wide with dilapidated, poorly lit cars and trucks and buses weaving around cavernous holes and competing for space in the dark. It was awful, but I was very grateful for the special KC driving lights we had purchased in South Africa and mounted on the front bumper two days before we left Accra. With those and the regular lights on bright we were able to avoid some serious tank traps, some with very close calls. As it was we only got to our house in Accra at 21:00, after driving more than two hours in the dark, which you should never do out of the city in Ghana. It was actually the only time I was scared on this trip, travelling in the dark with no signs there were moment when we felt quite lost, and there was no place to pull over to take a break, if we had seen a hotel we would have taken a room.
It was very nice to finally pull into the drive in North Ridge. We did not unpack anything, just went in for spaghetti and a bottle of wine.