Always in the deep woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is an ancient fear of the unknown and is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into. What you are doing is exploring. -- Wendell Berry

The TRIP: GUINEA - wonkifong --> MALI - bamako, djenne, douentza, Dogon Country --> Burkina Faso - ouagadougou, bobo-dioulasso, bala, ouagadougou --> GHANA - tamale, mole national park, tamale, yeji, volta lake ferry, akosombo, accra, green turtle lodge, elmina, cape coast, accra, hohoe and wli falls --> TOGO - kpalime, atakpame, lome --> BENIN - cotonu (transport stop) --> NIGER - niamey, tahoua, agadez, camel trek in aiir mtns, niamey --> BENIN (abomey, grand popo, ouidah, ganvie, cotonou) --> CAMEROON (douala, buea, top of Mt Cameroon, limbe, sangelima, yaounde, kribi, douala) --> MAURITANIA (nouakchott, atar, chinguetti, camels into the sahara, terjit, choume, ride the coal train, nouadhibou) --> MOROCCO (western sahara, dakhla, agadir, essaouira, marrakesh, imlil, summit of jebel toubkal, fes, chefchaouen) --> cross the Strait of Gibraltar --> Malaga, Spain --> fly to Geneva, Switzerland --> Les Grangettes, France
Click for a map. Updated April 30, 2007

vendredi, mars 23, 2007

Crossing to Yeji (Ghana)

Our large motorized, dugout canoe was drifting aimlessly through a forest of dead trees reaching limbs out the water in an attempt to snag the boat when the person in charge of directing the craft and poling in the event of engine failure decided to stop working. He sat down on the prow of the boat, crossed his arms and began pouting.

The problems started with the loading process of this shuttle across Volta Lake to the town where Patrick and I would catch the Yapei Queen, a ferry boat that runs the length of the lake. I have seen people rush buses with wild abandon in order to secure seats, but I thought that given the general fear of water people would calmly board the boat. I was wrong. The boat touched the concrete dock and a mad rush followed of people clambering on to get a seat. I tossed my bag on a bench, put one foot on the gunwale and the boat started to move away from the dock.

"Eh, Brunei," (the name for white people) was shouted at me until I swung my other leg onto the boat. Within minutes, the boat was jam packed with people sitting 3 - 4- 5 or more to a bench. Soon, some passengers began complaining loudly that the boat was overloaded.

A man on the dock shouted, "The boat can have 78 passengers, there are only 76." My quick count easily put the number of passengers over 100. More shouting ensued but the boat soon left, adding one more person instead of losing 30 or more.

Looking around me, I had a brief moment of panic. I was sitting on a boat with my small backpack on my knees, surrounded by a bunch of people who likely do not know how to swim. In this small backpack are all of my belongings in the world, unless Peace Corps manages to recover some of my things from Wonkifong, Guinea). Hoping that the boat would stay upright, I looked forward to the maze of tree branches sticking up ahead. Volta Lake was manmade and the land not cleared before being flooded so there are many trees remaining.

Just at this moment, the engine died. It is soon restarted but dies again. This process continues over and over. Tensions, fueled by overcrowded conditions and fear of water, begin to rise. The people around me begin yelling at the person steering, which leads to his eventual sitting down and refusal to work. As chaos develops, the boat fortunately restarts and makes it to the port of Yeji.