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

samedi, mars 17, 2007

Mole National Park

After a day of walking safaris where elephants, crocodiles, bush buck, antelope, guinea fowl, wart hogs and other animals were seen, Patrick and I were sharing dinner with several other travellers at Mole National Park in Ghana. It was the eve of Patrick's birthday and as 11:00 pm approached the idea of hiking out into the park reserve and onto an oberservation platform for the night was hatched.

Rule of the Park: Avoid going in the Park without an armed guide.

With Sam and Katie (two travellers from the UK), we returned to collect the items for the overnight in the park. Sneaking behind buildings to not be spotted, we soon gained the trail into the park. The lodge where visitors to Mole stay is located on top of a hill that provides stunning views of the landscape below and two watering holes that the animals of the park frequent during the current dry season. Keeping our voices down we used minimal light to descend down from the hilltop into the park. 100 meters later is the first, and larger, of the two water holes. At this time, my biggest concern was crocodiles. I was fairly confident that elephants would not be around because they seemed to arrive at the water hole in the early morning (maybe the way out the next day would be tricky), but where do crocs sleep at night? We gave a wide berth to the pond to avoid any potential run-ins. I think that we were each a bit on edge as we left the security of the hill and ranged further into the open grasslands.

Once in the open and past the first hole, we had to now skirt the second and find the observation platform that is located just behind the second pond. This would mean getting closer to the water of another croc-filled pond. The night was dark, with cloud cover blocking starlight and no moon visible but we managed to spot the water of the second pond. Walking quickly over the uneven landscape (elephant footprints make huge indentations in the ground) we began rounding the pond. With crocodiles still in our minds, we also began thinking about the enormous python spotted earlier in the day wrapped around a bush near the shelter. Seeing the shelter, our pace increased until we reached the stairs and rushed up. Hearts pounding, each of us gave a sigh of relief that we had reached the shelter without incident.

Falling asleep was difficult as I kept thinking about the python at the base of the shelter but I managed to rest a bit and slowly the night sky began giving way to dawn. We needed to leave early in the morning to get back up the hill before the morning safaris began and to avoid the return of elephants. We raced across the open areas looking for the early morning crocodile and then up the hill to join the group leaving for safari in the morning.

When not entering Mole during unauthorized times, I went on several walking safaris with an armed guide. It was great to see elephants in their natural habitat. Typically, the elephants would travel in pairs or two adults and several small ones. The watering holes were amazing to sit beside. Staying at a respectful yet close distance, I watched the elephants play and relax in the water. Photos coming eventually!