A birthday to remember – a tetse bite from ankle to knee, 6 hours stuck in the mud, and we had to leave the truck behind overnight and walk 7k to the hotel …….
We arrived in Ghana via the madness of the Noe/Elubo border crossing and headed up to Ankasa Nature reserve, the ’emerging eco tourist destination’ in west Ghana. There is apparently wildlife in the park but we didn’t see any! Some of the truckmates got up early to go on a forest tour but they didn’t see any either. However, it was lovely to get to run through the park, in the evening and morning, enjoying the peace and quiet.
We stayed at the Frenchman’s for a night, a simple but spotlessly clean guesthouse owned by one of Ghana’s most feted movie directors and photographers – Paul Kodjo, originally from Côte d’Ivoire. After packing ourselves another overland lunch with a delicious array of fillings including Texana luncheon beef – yum!, (not! I was too scared to try it,) we headed into the park to see a cathedral of bamboo.
The road bought back memories of Sierra Leone and Jason and Zoe had to dig us out countless times from the slippery mud. It took us three hours to cover the 10k on the road to get there as once we started into the park there was nowhere to turn the truck around!
We used our waiting time during digging to engage in a hotly contested competition to kill the Tetse flies on the truck. My roommate won the competition in the front of the truck with a count of at least 24 with the US approach of ‘kill first and ask questions later’. Our Dutch truckmate won in the back of the truck, with an unverified count, by wholly abandoning her typical diplomacy and turning into a murdering tetse maniac (with some collateral damage to her seat mates). I lost with a score of 5 and a huge bite on my leg and one on my foot. The floor was a carnage of smeared Tetse carcasses!
We arrived around 1pm, it took us 5 minutes to walk to the ‘cathedral’, 20 minutes to walk around it. Ironically not everyone on the truck came to see it, so it was a rougher day for them. It was nice but not that dissimilar to the bamboo forests we had seen on the Guinean border, so there were a few grumbles on the truck about the time invested to see some bamboo – ‘I could have gone to Bunnings and bought some bamboo, that would have been easier’ (from my favourite sardonic truck mate.) The time check was also made frequently by a few sharp observers that ‘we could have been at the beach by now’ as we had been planning to get to Akwidaa on the same day.
The humidity was unbelievable and everyone was dripping sweat whilst sitting still in the shade. It’s pretty manky. My roommate has invested in some knock-off jaguar balm and uses it liberally to keep herself cool, and this has the bonus upside of eliminating some of the sweat smells on the truck.
After the ‘cathedral’ visit we had to figure out how to turn the truck around. That entailed another three hours of digging, mostly on one interminable slippy slope to get to a junction where we could turn. In the end we were all enlisted to haul gravel from 400m up the road back to the truck using any receptacle available. Some of us looked like santa’s elves using the old baguette sacks to haul rocks. It was a reasonable work out. So by 4.20 pm we had managed to turn the truck around.
All went well for about twenty minutes of driving until we hit a quagmire which we had passed successfully this morning, but weren’t so lucky this afternoon. When Jason (the driver) says ‘holy fuck’, you know you are in trouble. In the meantime the bite on my leg had swollen to epic proportions and reached from my ankle to my knee – ouch! (Thanks Ann for the medical advice, Su for the antihistamine and Becky for the cream).
So we spent 90 minutes digging channels to drain the water out of the bog. A landrover with two American tourists came up behind us and wanted an ETA on when they could pass. Hmmmmm. In the end they gave up, left their 4wd behind us and started walking back to town. Night fell, which at least meant the tetse flies buggered off. We managed to finally get the truck out of the bog and to a stable place 50 meters further in but Jason rightly didn’t want to proceed further through the muddy road in the dark, as if the truck slid off the road we would have been in real trouble.
So, we ended up having to walk out of the park. It was 7.5k back to the hotel on muddy roads in the dark and my roommate and I made it 6.5k before we got a ride the final km to Frenchman’s. Nothing like an impromptu hike in the dark with a swollen leg. So at 8pm we were right back where we started this morning at the Frenchman’s, rather than on the beach at Akwidaa where we had planned. But we were grubbier, without any luggage (as we couldn’t easily get it out of the back of the truck) and we had left the truck on the road (with Jason sleeping on it). They managed to rustle us up some food which arrived 2.5 hours after we ordered it, and we all crashed out.
Another corker day overlanding! While it sounds horrific, these days are actually quite fun and the group tend to be less grumpy and more friendly after days like this! It’s a powerful bonding experience hauling gravel through the mud while covered in fly bites.
Ankasa, December 10 & 11, 2016