I slept in my clothes last night: just collapsed on the bed, and woke up in the same position. I felt great. A new day was starting--and an African one at that! I crouched under the cool shower spigot for a few minutes to wash up and ran downstairs for breakfast. A dark, moustached man wiped glasses behind the bar while a loud Ghanaian soap opera blared from the tv. The breakfast buffet was interesting: sweet, non-acidic spears of white pineapple, hard-boiled eggs, the same thick, sweet bread we had eaten the night before, watermelon, baked beans (for some reason), and pineapple jelly.
I ate quickly and went outside for a walk. Accra reminds me of Mexico: every street looks like a back alley; open sewers flank the sidewalk; plywood shops are set up everywhere, selling anything from bottled water to clothing and even dog collars. I walked down the street to Barclays Bank to break a few large bills. I broke out my camera and took a few pictures of city life. People walking around mostly ignored me politely, and the ladies in the shops were very nice. I ambled around and chatted with people. A sign on a passing truck proclaimed "Satan is a liar." I spent 15 cedis ($11 USD) for a beautiful handbag made from colorful scraps of batik cloth. (I found out that if something has a price on it, you just take it. no haggling there.) I stopped in another shop to buy some water. Prices in Ghana vary widely--I got a bottle of water for 20 pesewas (14 cents) that would have cost 1 cedi (69 cents) at the hotel.
We met Isaac and Mr. Narteh at the hostel. They had brought a van to take us to the island. We piled in and headed toward the temple site to drop our large suitcases off with a friend. We stuffed into our backpacks what we would need for the island and left everything else there.
The temple in Ghana is very striking. It sits in downtown Accra on one of the main streets by the embassy neighborhoods. The temple itself is flanked by a variety of dramatic palm trees that I've never seen before. On either side are three story buildings. One is a meetinghouse and the other contains a visitor's center and dorms for visiting temple-goers. We met a nice man who would be holding our stuff for a few days and drank a few malt pineapple sodas. After Ray and Jasmine arrived, we all hopped back in the van and headed out of Accra.
We stopped at a shopping mall (the only one for maybe a thousand or two miles) to pick up some food for our trip. One of the larger stores inside is a shopping mall much like Smith's or Safeway. I bought some bread, cheese, and hummus, and some juice and chocolates as a gift for the chief in Pediatorkope. At the other end of the mall I found a place to change dollars to cedis. The rate wasn't amazing, but I got enough to last a few days.
I am amazed at how beautiful Ghanaians are. They wear bright clothing in every color, and have clear, beautiful skin. The kids are adorable; women usually carry the baby on their back in a tightly-wrapped length of fabric. You'll often see a woman walking with something on her head and two little baby feet sticking out on either side of her waist. Men usually wear nice shirts and slacks, but I saw a wide variety of men's clothing--even a few in Middle-Eastern shalwar kamis.
Everything in Africa takes twice as long as it does in the U.S. We finally gathered our missing group members together in the van, then had to find our driver who had wandered off, and then had to go get the other group members we sent off to find the lost ones. We finally set off out of Accra for the African countryside.
Once you leave Accra you really notice that you're in a different place. Strange baobab-looking trees stick out above semi-tropical scenery. There are huge red ant mounds and mountains in the distance. men in bright purple shirts and pressed black slacks doze on wooden pallets under a tree, next to a herd of scrawny goats. Women sell pyramids of yellow mangoes on dingy wooden tables. Almost-naked children run around between the tin-roof shops, which bear names like "The Grace of God Barbershop" or "El-Shaddai Tires."
Eventually we came to Big Ada, a picturesque town of colorful buildings, narrow streets, and corrugated metal roofs. Ada used to be a powerful kingdom, controlling the salt trade up and down the Volta River. Now it's a fairly quiet place where few tourists go, but a short jump to the south is Ada Foah, a small town at the estuary of the Volta River. Ada Foah seems to be the "Ghanaian Riviera." There are nice resorts, expensive houses, and tourist-friendly places.
We got out of the van and trekked through town. People smiled shyly at us when we passed, and the children would raise both hands in the air and scream with excitement. It was as if no white person had been there in years, and we were only two hours from Accra. We came down to the riverbank, where children played soccer between rows of colorful canoes. We were so excited to finally be here, and nervous about what it would be like.
Just across the water lay a maze of islands, the largest of which is Pediatorkope. In the distance a coconut tree swayed in the wind, as if in greeting. Egrets and hawks criss-crossed the sky, and small canoes with bedsheet sails drifted up and down the blue Volta.