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

Yams, Yams, Yams (Yapei Queen, Ghana)

The first full day of the journey across Volta Lake in eastern Ghana was been marked by frequent stops at small towns along the lake. Some of the stops involved quick passenger exchanges but others were yam stops. These stops took a long, long time.

Due to water levels, the ferry would stop just offshore and then women would begin transporting yams from the shore to the boat in wide, metal basins. The basins were balanced on their heads as they waded through knee to waist deep water then climbed the loading platform onto the boat. Once on the boat, the yams would be tossed into crates (the same type that I slept in the night before).

Around 9:00 pm on the second night, we arrived at the last loading port. I was glad to be here as the ferry often moved "blind". The sun set a little after 6:00 pm and the boat does not run with bow/stern lights or other lights. Volta Lake is a manmade lake and trees are still sticking up. A path is charted through the lake with buoys but the ship rarely uses the large spotlight during the journey. At this last port, the wind was howling and white caps raced across the surface of the lake. Securing the ferry to the shore was a challenge as the winds and water fought the movement of this wide boat. On shore, crates were already full of yams waiting to be transported onto the boat. In addition to these crates, huge sacks of charcoal and other items and a truck filled with yams were waiting to board. I finally passed out, tired from doing nothing all day, and awoke the next morning to find that all the crates and the truck had been loaded.

The final day on Volta Lake was another long one though without stops. The boat finally made it to port around 10:30, over 48 hours after we began the journey.