Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 5 and 6 - A Weekend Trip to Hohoe

As this is the last weekend for Tara and Jennia, we decided to take one last road trip with them before they leave Africa. We had wanted to go up to Mole National Park, but it is a 12 hour drive and decided that we didn't want to drive that much when we only had a weekend. Hopefully Andrew and I will have an opportunity to get up there sometime. Mole is the only place in Ghana where you can go to see elephants. Mole is the place that you go if you want to do a safari while in Ghana, although it pales in comparison to the safaris that occur in other parts of Africa.

Instead of Mole, we decided to take a trip up to Hohoe, which is about 4 hours northwest of Koforidua. As we were heading out of Koforidua, we came upon a group of cows that were being herded down the road. It was quite interesting to see cows, as there are not too many of them here that I have seen so far. While it seems that everyone has cows and goats (yes, there are goats running all over the place), there aren't too many people who have cows. I haven't yet figured out why it is, one idea is that because you can't just have a cow wandering loose. With the goats and the chickens, they can wander and take care of themselves. It is a little harder to have cows running around, knocking things over, etc... The cows here are a little bit different, as shown in the photo below.

As we continued our drive, we stopped at a bead factory. Ghana is known for their beads and there are different places throughout Ghana where they make beads. Here in Koforidua, they have the largest bead market in west Africa. Many people come here from all over west Africa to purchase beads. We stopped at a place called Cedi's bead factory. They indicated to us that their family has been making beads for over 200 years. The current family member who is running the place has traveled all over the world to present and showcase the beads that they make. We learned that there are 4 different kinds of beads:
1) Beads made from pieces of old beads
2) Glass beads (made from pieces of old bottles)
3) Recycled beads (made from pounding up glass into dust, and then adding pigment)
4) Clay beads

I have a video of the process, but will have to upload it when I get to a high speed internet connection (more than likely when I get back to the US in July). Afterwards, we were shown some samples of many of the different kinds of beads that they make. Some beads are very very old. They had some beads that sold for about $200 per bead. Imagine how much a necklace made of that would cost???

From the bead factory, we continued north, crossing over the Volta river. It was a beautiful area. Andrew and I will probably head back up there some other weekend. We have heard that there are places where you can rent dug-out canoes and paddle along the river. That would be a lot of fun.

Our next stop was Tafi Abuipe. Tafi Abuipe is a small village that is known for its kente cloth. Kente cloth is a woven cloth that is used in some traditional clothing that is worn here in Ghana. In addition to clothing, it is also used for table runners. This village has been producing the kente cloth for hundreds of years. It was interesting to see the process. Each youth is able to start making the cloth from the age of 7. When they start, they make the cloth using patterns that have already been created, but are able to start designing their own patterns. When they reach age 18 or 20, they are given the freedom to start making their own cloth with their own patterns. The picture at the top of my blog was taken in this village.

From Tafi Abuipe, we headed just up to the road to the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary. More than a hundred years ago, there were a group of people who lived in a different part of Ghana. They were forced to move, and took with them a group of monkeys. They settled in this region, and the monkeys have stayed around. There are 5 different families of monkeys in the area, each with up to 60 monkeys. The monkeys are not indigenous, but stay around because they are fed food each day. For those who come to the sanctuary and go on a tour, they have the opportunity to feed bananas to the monkeys. You are given a banana and hold it out. The monkeys then come up to you, peel the banana, and then eat it. Ideally, they would be nice and gentle with you, but it usually doesn't happen that way. In most cases, several monkeys will come up and fight over the bananas. I wanted to feed the monkeys, but got too afraid of getting bit by the monkeys so passed. However, Tara and Andrew feed the monkeys, and I have some great video clips. However, once again, due to slow internet, video uploads will have to wait until I get back. Here are a couple of photos in the meantime. The first is off a group of monkeys waiting to be fed. The second is of the head monkey of this particular family. We learned that he is very particular about his bananas. He knows that he is in charge of all of these particular monkeys. If you give him a banana, if he doesn't think that it is big enough, he just won't eat it. Go figure!!

By this time, the sun was starting to go down. One thing that we have learned here is that we want to be off the roads by the time that it gets dark. Unlike US freeways and highways that have lamp posts and lights, very few Ghanaian roads have lights. To make matters even more interesting, the headlights on the cars are not the brightest. So it is just safer to stay off the roads. As we started heading up to Hohoe, we were pounded with a rain storm. This was my first African rain storm. To help pass the time, we created a music video as we drove to the tune of "I bless the rains down in Africa." Once again, the video will have to wait.

Arriving in Hohoe, we tried to find the hotel that we had called about, but were unsuccessful. We ended up at a place called the Evergreen lodge. When we first got there, all of the electricity was out. Lights in the entire town were off. The place was nice, but we wanted to check out a couple of additional places. After driving through the dark and looking at a couple of other grungy places, we ended back at the Evergreen Lodge. It was a nice place, rated 2 stars according to our guide book (it was supposedly the most luxurious place in Hohoe). What sealed the deal was the ice cold air conditioner that each room had. They had a restaurant onsite (better said, they had an employee that would cook food if requested). After eating dinner and showering (they also had hot water which is a plus, however it is so hot here, that I always shower with cold water; in addition, the cold water comes out of the tap not that cold), we hit the sack.

We were hoping to go to church in Hohoe this morning, but after calling the second counselor in the mission presidency (he happens to live in Koforidua and is the one that we ate dinner with the first night that I arrived in town), we learned that the nearest branch was more than an hour away. Not wanting to do so, we weren't able to make it to church this morning.

On our way back to Koforidua, we stopped by Wli (prounced vlee) falls. According to some, it is the largest waterfall in western africa. At the very least, it is the tallest waterfall in Ghana. There is an upper and lower falls. We took a short meandering walk to the lower falls, and were pleasantly surprised. It was a nice waterfall, probably 200 feet tall. Up on the cliffs near the falls were a bunch of black spots, which just looked like part of the rock. Every once in a while, we would see a bird like animal fly around up there and then land on the side of the cliff. It took a few of these sightings to realize that all of the black spots were bats that were hanging upside down on the side of the cliff. There had to have been several hundred or more. Luckily they were a couple of hundred feet up from where we were.

We took off for home, and got back this afternoon. All in all, it was a fun weekend trip. Lots of driving, but some great sights and photos.