Friday, 27 December 2013

Day 70 - Accra to Shai Hills Reserve

We woke up pretty early as planned. I remember listening to music from Kinza's laptop (the first time we had heard anything that wasn't on my very limited iPod playlist since Gibraltar). Me, Chris and Tom sorted out our belongings into 2 sections (stuff that we would leave at the hostel and stuff that we would need for the next 4 days until we got to The Orphanage/Summer School in Santrokofi). As Kinza had already planned for us to stay in accomodation each night we happily ditched the camping stuff as well as unnecessary clothes. Luckily for Chris Kinza had some clothes that her brother had donated that were his size. He opted to carry the absolute minimal amount of stuff and leave his extrawheel behind, carrying only a handlebar bag and a few clothing items bungeed onto the pannier (the idea of this was to minimise the chances of getting a broken spoke by not putting any additional weight on the back wheel). Tom decided to bungee one pannier bag on top of the pannier rack, taking only clothes, pump/multitool and pillow. I kept the trailer and both pannier bags, one of which contained the Iberia blankets and pillows and the other containing clothes. I left the Lycra and cycling shoes behind and took a couple of pairs of casual shorts, t-shirts and running trainers knowing that it would be an easy 4 days. After getting all the stuff out of the room and down to the storage area we set to work re-assembling the bikes. Whilst doing this we got talking to some Canadian guys who were also staying at the hostel who were doing a work placement in Accra. They had been there for some time and it was good to talk to some other foreigners about what Ghana would be like. We were also joined by Jones (one of the ex-students from the summer school who RHF are now supporting to do an electrical course at a college in Accra). Jones would be joining us for the remainder of the ride. After re-assembling all of the bikes we got going with Jones and Kinza leading the way. Accra turned out to be a congested, noisy, smelly nightmare. At one point Chris went too far ahead and got separated from the rest of us - typical of Chris. His phone wasn't working so we waited at a junction whilst Tom rode off ahead to look for him. He came back not too long later having not found Chris. I then had a look further along the same road, with no luck. Thankfully when I got back we had been able to get in touch with Chris, and he had ended up at a famous landmark. Thankfully Jones knew where this was and we were soon reunited with Chris. We posed for a few photos before carrying on. As well as the traffic chaos, pollution and noise we had to contend with at times very poor road surfaces and massive potholes. It soon dawned on me that given these conditions it would take considerably longer to cover the same distance that we would be able to on decent roads. Our route took us along the coast for a short distance before escaping the worst of the chaos of the city. We stopped for some food -it was still very busy. Before this we had to exchange the American Dollars that we had with us (we mistakenly thought American Dollars were the currency used in Ghana) into Ghanaian Cedis. Thankfully this was straight forward. This was my first experience of the sachets of water, pasties and bread dough balls (the dough balls became a favourite of mine and I would describe them as being like mini plain doughnuts without the sugar) from street sellers that are available everywhere. Everything was very cheap, the food was very good and people all very welcoming - we were invited to sit in a shop to eat what we had bought despite half of what we had having been purchased elsewhere. We probably stopped for about half an hour before continuing. We stooped again for more food about an hour later. This was weird - we were in the habit of stopping less often and eating more during in each break. It felt like we were making very slow progress and we were behind schedule for today, but it didn't really matter due to our low daily mileages. This time I had grilled corn on the cob, more bread dough balls and some liquid ice cream thing. Again all very nice and all very cheap. This break was probably another half an hour or so. We still had a little way to go until we were completely out of the city and the roads for this area were particularly bad, with Tarmac reduced to dust track in places. It was far nicer when we were finally free from the city altogether sometime in the middle of the afternoon and we could enjoy fresh air and nice green scenery. At around 4pm we decided to stop at a guesthouse in The Shai Hills Nature Reserve. We may have had a couple more hours of daylight left and hadn't covered as far as intended, but we weren't sure whether we'd find the next guesthouse before it got dark. After agreeing a reasonable price (according to Kinza as we hadn't got to grips with the Ghanaian Cedi's yet) one of the rangers showed us to the house. It was very big with 3 bedrooms, 2 showers and a large living area. We all congregated in the master bedroom. The bed was massive and could have probably have slept all of us in. One of the first things I saw was a little lizard running up one of the walls - I asked Jones about this and this was very normal. After taking it in turns to have a shower/use Kinza's shower gel we headed back out to the main road in search of food. There was a shop/restaurant on the other side of the road so went there for a meal. They had the music blaring (something I had already noticed was popular everywhere). We sat down on what I think was the only table there and they were happy to turn the music down when we asked. There were fairly limited options (it was a case of asking what the woman could cook for us rather than getting an actual menu). Out of the options I went for goat with some rice this was something new to me and a typical Ghanaian dish. I was tempted with a beer but decided against it thinking of my budget. I can't remember what everyone else had but do remember the goat tasting like liver (It was OK but I wouldn't rave about it) and the sauce being very spicy. The sauce and rice were good. I had a sip of Chris's beer which was really good. After being reasonably full we walked back to our guesthouse (Tom sensibly brought a head torch out as it was hard to see where we were going along the tree-covered track in the dark). We congregated again in the master bedroom messing about on the bed and discussing the days ahead. Jones then walked in sporting a new haircut. He had got it done for a very reasonable price in a barbers next to where we had dinner. I was starting to get hungry again so borrowed the head torch and walked back to the shop to buy a pack of biscuits. I was also in need of a haircut - the barbers had just closed but would be open again early in the morning - I decided I would go back first thing and get the hair sorted before we set off. The biscuits were consumed within an hour before I went into one of the smaller rooms and went to bed.

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