GHANA – The Trip

GHANA Jan 11- ,2017

Hailed as West Africa’s golden child, Ghana deserves its place in the sun. One of Africa’s great success stories, the country is reaping the benefits of a stable democracy in the form of fast-paced development. And it shows: Ghana is suffused with the most incredible energy.
With its welcoming beaches, gorgeous hinterland, rich culture, vibrant cities, diverse wildlife, easy transport and affable inhabitants, it’s no wonder Ghana is sometimes labelled ‘Africa for beginners’.
It’s easy to come here for a week or a month, but no trip can be complete without a visit to Ghana’s coastal forts, poignant reminders of a page of history that defined our modern world.
Travel north and you’ll feel like you’ve arrived in a different country, with a different religion, geography and cultural practices. The beauty is that this diversity exists so harmoniously, a joy to experience and a wonder to behold in uncertain times.

Capital. Accra 5°33′N 0°12′W
Languages. Official – English. National languages – Akuapem Twi, Asante Twi,Dagaare, Dagbani, Dangme,Ewe, Ga, Gonja, Kasem,Fante, Nzema, Wasa, Talensi,Frafra
Ethnic groups. 47.5% Ashanti / Akan (11.5m), 16.6% Dagbani / Mole (4m), 13.9% Ewe (2.9m), 7.4% Ga-Adangbe (1.8m), 5.7% Gurma (0.7m), 3.7% Guan / Gonja (0.3m), 2.5% Gurunsi (0.1m), 1.1% Bissa / Mande (0.1m), 1.6% Other (0.1m)
Demonym. Ghanaian
Government. Unitary presidential constitutional republic. President John Dramani Mahama
Independence from the United Kingdom. Declared 6 March 1957
Area. Total 238,535 km2 (82nd)
Population. 2014 estimate 27,043,093. Density 101.5/km2 (103rd)
GDP (PPP). 2016 estimate Total $121.074 billion (70th). Per capita $4,390 (126th)
GDP (nominal). 2016 estimate Total $38.171 billion (69th). Per capita $1,384 (126th)
When to Go. Apr-Jan: Heaviest of the two rainy seasons (autumn can also be wet). Nov-Mar: dry and easiest season to travel. Dec-Apr: Beest for wildlife viewing with good visibility and animals congregating at water holes.
Tourist Information. As a rule is pretty useless and staff working in offices have little understanding of what travellers need. – community based tourism site. – targeted at people moving to Ghana rather than traveling. Good eating, drinking and entertainment listings, also shipping and transport. – official tourism portal.

MONEY. Ghana cedi (GH₵) (GHS).
Ghana cedi were redenominated in July of 2007. The new “Ghana cedi” (GHS) equals 10,000 old cedis. During the transition period of six months, the old cedi is known as “cedi”, and the new cedi was known as “Ghana cedi”. Be aware that most Ghanaians still think in old currency. This can be very confusing (and costly). Ten thousand old cedis are habitually referred to as ten (or twenty, or thirty). This would, today, be one, two, or three “new” Ghana cedis. So always think whether the quoted price makes sense before buying or agreeing on a taxi fare. If in doubt ask whether this is new cedis.
US Dollars are accepted by some of the major tourist hotels, but you shouldn’t rely on this. As in all West African countries, older dollar bills will be rejected by banks and Forex bureaus. If you intend to take dollar notes make sure that they are all from the 2007 series or above.
Euros, dollars and UK pounds in cash are the most useful currencies to take with you and are easily and safely changed at numerous. It is very difficult to change travellers cheques and certainly almost impossible outside Accra and Kumasi, unless you change them at a major bank. Barclays has branches in Accra, Kumasi, Cape Coast, and even Tamale where you can change travellers cheques. Expect lines. VISA cards are accepted at major hotels and there are ATMs in Accra, Kumasi and Cape Coast which accept VISA.
Jan, 2017: US dollars in large denomination (50s and 100s) got 425 CDs in Accra. Smaller denominations got 375. Euros exchanged for 450 CDs.

Foreign nationals of the following countries can enter Ghana visa-free: ECOWAS countries, plus Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Singapore, Swaziland, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Otherwise, unless in direct airside transit through a Ghanaian airport, all other foreign nationals require a visa to enter Ghana.
There is no such thing as a visa on arrival for Western countries. Ghana is the one country in all of West Africa that will require getting the visa in your home country in advance. The Ghanaian government’s online Ghana list of embassies is out of date, but this list is fairly reliable. I met a Swedish couple on the same trip as us who had gotten a Ghana visa in Dakar, Senegal.
The application requires: 4 copies of fully completed and signed Ghana visa application form, in BLOCK CAPITAL, original signatures on all four application forms, 4 recent passport-style photographs, Letter of Invitation – of which a hotel where you are staying can be the second reference, – 1 copy of confirmation of hotel booking, – 1 copy of passport of invitor or of hotel manager, 1 copy of a return air ticket, or flight confirmation from a travel agency, 1 copy of an International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever,
You must have a yellow fever vaccination certificate which will be presented to customs when entering. Malaria course essential.
If you require a visa to enter Ghana, you might be able to apply for one at a British embassy, high commission or consulate in the country where you legally reside if there is no Ghanaian embassy or consulate.
ExtensionS. Immigration Service early and expect delays in getting their passports back. Two weeks are provided as the guideline.
Visas for Onward Travel.
Burkina Faso. 3 month visas in 24 hours. 3 photos.
Cote d’Ivoire. 3 month visa requires a hotel confirmation.
Togo. 1 month visas on the same day.

Ghana is a sovereign unitary presidential constitutional democracy, located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in the subregion of West Africa. Spanning a land mass of 238,535 km2, Ghana is bordered by the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east and the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean in the south.
The territory of present-day Ghana has been inhabited for millennia, with the first permanent state dating back to the 11th century. Numerous kingdoms and empires emerged over the centuries, of which the most powerful was the Kingdom of Ashanti. Beginning in the 15th century, numerous European powers contested the area for trading rights, with the British ultimately establishing control of the coast by the late 19th century. Following over a century of native resistance, Ghana’s current borders were established by the 1900s as the British Gold Coast. In 1957, it became the first sub-saharan African nation to declare independence from European colonisation.
A multicultural nation, Ghana has a population of approximately 27 million, spanning a variety of ethnic, linguistic and religious groups. Five percent of the population practices traditional faiths, 71.2% adhere to Christianity and 17.6% are Muslim. Its diverse geography and ecology ranges from coastal savannahs to tropical jungles. Ghana’s economy is one of the strongest and most diversified in Africa, following a quarter century of relative stability and good governance. Ghana’s growing economic prosperity and democratic political system has made it a regional power in West Africa. It is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS) and the Group of 24 (G24).

Cote d’Ivoire/Ghana border. The Indian man on the trip had had great difficulty obtaining a Ghana visa (he was given a letter issued by someone from the Ghana government in Accra) that was very unusual. It took several hours and many phone calls to Accra to get the whole mess sorted out. It ended up being dark by then and we camped next to the immigration office in the large truck bay. This was the first time I had power in several days (Monrovia was the last) and stayed up until midnight in the immigration building catching up on several posts.
A large truck arrived at 5 and revved his engine interminably. Music started at 5:30 and nobody was able to sleep.

Ghana – English, English electrical plugs, Christianity (at least in the south) and bad white bread. We left at 7 when all the kids in the towns we passed through were on their way to school. All dressed in attractive school uniforms in a palette of colours, they were a big change from the children we had been used to. Maybe because they are used to white people, they didn’t wave or show any reaction to when we drove by. You could hardly get a smile from them. Most adults on the other hand, waved and said “Welcome to Ghana”.
Signs for the full complement of Christian churches lined the highway. Splashy gas stations were common. Instead of cars junkyards, there were piles of old scavenged motorcycles. Obtaining water is a huge time consumer for the women. They line up at he wells and then carry enormous basins full on their heads. Buildings in the early towns were more sophisticated with several two-story constructions. It was a similar landscape that we had been driving through for 4 countries – green, flat and bush with a few big trees. The frequent police checks were much simpler “Where are you coming from?” and “Where are you going?” and that was it – no checking passports or any bureaucracy. The road was great but every chicken and dog got a speed bump so it ended being as slow as roads full of potholes.
In Sunyani, we visited a Forex Money Exchange and got a much better exchange rate than at the banks: 1 US$ = 410 Ghanian CDs for notes larger than 50$, 350 for notes smaller than 50$, 1£ = 490CDs, 1€ = 420CDs.
Entrepreneurs did the typical African work: metal doors, furniture, plastic household goods and building supply stores, but no Business Centers. Some business names were God is King Barbering Salon, Very Good Wife Enterprises (food store) and Thank God Its Friday Muslim Supplies.
Power poles are treated wood instead of concrete like everywhere in Africa thus far. Cemeteries continue to line the roads just outside of towns.

KINTAMPO FALLS. These are a series of 3 waterfalls with the lowest one the main attraction as it forms a high cascade. We all brought soap, had a great shower under the falls, ate grilled sausages and washed our clothes.
North of Kintampo, the climate turned much more arid, all the green disappeared and was replaced by savannah-bush – tall grass, spare trees and amazing Gothic cathedral – shaped termite mounds. At Bupe, we crossed the Volta River – the reservoir on the river backs up to near here from a dam almost on the coast. Cattle, pigs and goats became much more common.

The major economy is charcoal production. Huge rows of long nylon bags were stacked on the side of the road at every town, sometimes numbering in the thousands. A corresponding amount of cord wood was piled beside the homes.
The typical African village scene reappeared with thatched, mud-brick homes. Huge tubers of cassava appear to be the main food. Women in every town spend hours crushing it in large pestles. Women pumping water at wells consumes much of their time and energy.
We turned west at Fuhula and set up a bush camp next to the road on the way to Mole National Park. The villages we passed the next morning have probably looked the same for the last 500 years with the addition of green plastic garbage bins, yellow plastic jerry cans and bright print clothes festooned on clothes lines – round, thatched roof mud-brick huts in tiny family compounds and stick fences. The Christian villages had pigs, the Muslim ones didn’t, but this is primarily Muslim country north of the Volta River. The grass was burned regularly producing open areas and a few larger trees. Herds of grey, long-horned cattle were being herded. We filled our jerry cans with water at the village well in Damonga. A submerged electric pump filled a gigantic raised black plastic cistern and 25 women were waiting in line to fill enormous metal bowls and yellow jerry cans. They put plastic bags in the basins to prevent spilling. They preferentially filled our cans.

Bars have a black board standing on the sidewalk announcing that evenings line-up of English Premier League Games. That is the one constant throughout West Africa.
The friendliness of the locals varies with the size of the towns – we are mostly ignored by the children and most adults in the cities but get a crowd of screaming, excited kids in the tiny villages.

LARABANGA. We turned north here, just south of Mole NP has a population of 4,000, 100% Muslim. There are 13 mosques in the town, the famous of which is the mud-and-stick mosque, reputably built in 1431, the oldest in Ghana and one of the oldest in West Africa. Four of us went on a tour of the mosque (10CD) given by a local teacher. The mosque was built by an Arab from Medina of mud bricks, logs, plaster and is maintained once a year after the rainy season. It has 6 large mud supports on each side, a dome on the east side with the mihrab and a conical minaret on the north side. Pointed white, the black sticks protrude from the sides. The south entrance for the men has a pattern of black diamonds on that support. The west entrance is for the women and enters a room not connected to the east section with no view of the mihrab. I had a good look from the north door into the interior – a cement floor, a low wood roof, black logs supports and structural columns making for a dark tiny interior with ony two windows.. An Indian woman had worked in the town for 2 weeks and had donated prayer mats.
After the good tour, we were harassed for donations to the school and then the guide asked for money for the tour as our 10CD fee only went to the upkeep of the mosque.
The local people used the area of the park for hunting and farming and resented loss of their livelihood when the area became protected. As a result poaching continued for several years and still happens today.

In the north of the country west of Tamale, this park was established in the 70’s to protect animals traditional eaten by the local people. There are 300 species of bird, and 94 species of mammal including 400 African savannah elephants (as of the only census in 2007) and buffalo. The safaris here must be the cheapest in Africa. Sightings of elephant are best from December to April and seeing other mammals year-around. The park’s only accommodation is at the Mole Motel with a tremendous location on an escarpment overlooking large water holes.
Buses are avaa ilable from Tamale passing through nearby Larabanga.
Beside animals, Mole offers several cultural opportunities including the famous mud-and-stick mosque, reputably the oldest in Ghana. Ten kilometers east of the park is Mognori, where the people offer cultural tours, a cultural performance, and ecotourism. Villagers also offer canoe safaris on the river great for birds, and opportunities to see shea-butter production, traditional medicine and homestays.
On the first day at Mole NP, we arrived at the campground (running water and showers!) by 10am, secured the truck against the aggressive baboons (put all food from the overhead rack into our lockers) and arranged the jeep safari for four hours starting at 4pm (115CD). We invited a young German couple to join us and their payment covered the tip making 14 in two vehicles. The lodge had a swimming pool (10CD) and great wifi allowing me to post the travelogue from 3 countries. We saw an elephant down at the water.
We sat on narrow bench seats on the roof along with the ranger with his 357 rifle. In the light, we saw 4 African savannah elephants (all males and very approachable for great photos), bushbuck, warthogs (in the bush and then lying in the warm culverts in the town on our way back), roan antelope, pattas monkeys, baboons, and Nile crocodiles. When it was too dark to see, they provided battery-powered search lights and saw one elephant, a black tailed mongoose (in the town) and the eyes of bush babies. The night portion was not that worthwhile and could have been missed. After we returned some ate in the restaurant and 7 of us took part in a traditional meal of fuku (cassava in a big ball) in a peanut/beef sauce (more of a culinary experience than gastronomic) for 10CD.
This is well into the dry season and at least 80% of the park had been recently burned, mostly by the rangers and occasionally by poachers. The best thing to see at night were all the fires – literally a ring of fire. Poachers are a problem, not for the elephants, but for the other animals who are used for bush meat locally and as far south as Accra.
On our last day at Mole, we went on a two-hour safari walk starting at 7am, and saw five African savannah elephants (2 in bush and these two again at the waterhole), bushbuck, kob antelope, vivid grey monkeys (several in a tree and then again along the path), warthogs, the foot prints of hyena, black-tailed mongoose and porcupine, Nile crocodiles, cattle egrets, white backed (very large) and hooded vultures, grey herons, red-throated beekeepers (crimson throat and green back), hadada ibis, butler eagles, hammer kop and many other birds.

After our great experience in Mole NP, we returned on the highway we had come on our way to Mole. Just before bush camping south of Kintampo, we had our daily stop in a city to replenish our food supplies. I had a great time with the locals. A man did a roaring business at the back of the truck selling ice cream for 25¢. A heavy set women pointed to herself and then the ice cream so I bought her one. Not a word passed between us. I needed to buy some bananas for breakfast. It is amazing what hard bargainers some of the women on our truck are. After 5 minutes complaining or the rock-bottom prices, she left with no purchases and I had my bunch in 30 seconds. Life is just not worth the hassle and so much more pleasant for these people making a living selling stuff on the roadside. I watched a crowd of guys playing cards and could not figure anything about the rules. The stakes were a pile of ordinary rocks. I kept asking them what was happening and they seemed to not have any interest in explaining them, but invited me to play. Totally confused, they played my cards for me as if there were rules and I won, earning a rock. They roared when I put it in my pocket. I finally gave up no wiser as to what was going on. Five little kids were standing near the truck watching us intently. I asked them all their names and ages and one asked for some pineapple and I broke the rule of giving stuff to kids. For 25¢, we all got a chunk and I gave them a gentle lecture that begging was not good. Kids here are so cute, it is almost tempting to take one home.

ADANWOMASE & KINTE WEAVING. We took an alternate route to Kumasi to visit the kente cloth-making town of Adanwomase. After finding the visitors centre, we had an excellent tour of the entire process of kente cloth weaving and the production of cocao (contact Eric at 233-555028263 or or visit their website: to arrange a tour; 20 CD for both the kente weaving and cacao production tours).
Strip weaving has existed in West Africa since the 11th century. In 1697, the king of the Ashanti people selected weavers from 4 towns to travel to Bonkutu, a trading centre in northern Cote d’Ivoire to study the art form. They returned and created their own designs, giving birth to the cloth known worldwide as Ashanti Kente. Adanwomase has been the home to royal weaving.
We saw the entire process from raw cotton, to thread, thread spinning, warping, and weaving the 6” wide strips. It is all done by men (women are busy looking after the home, are “unclean” when they have their period and if pregnant their belly would get in the way of the loom). The unique kente cloth designs chronicle local history and knowledge and have specific names and meanings that reflect cultural values and historical events. The strips are sewn together to form traditional Ghanian clothes: the huge one-piece cloak worn by men and the three-piece outfit worn by women. The cloth is worn by royals during ceremonies, for worship, outdoors, marriages and funerals (black and white patterns).
After seeing the fascinating weaving, we were taken out to the local cacao grove, we sucked the sweet kernels and the entire process of drying to eventually produce chocolate.
Ghana was the world’s largest producer of cacao until the a mammoth fire destroyed most of the cacao trees in the country. Now Cote d’Ivoire produces more cacao but Ghana is intent on regaining its position.
We then drove about 19kms SW to Kumasi.

KUMASI (pop 1.98 million)
Once the capital of the rich and powerful Ashanti kingdom, Ghana’s second city is still dripping with Ashanti traditions. Its heart, the huge Kejetia market, is the cultural hub and its wares spill into the city so that no matter where you are in Kumasi, it sometimes feels like one enormous marketplace.
Kumasi has some interesting sights but the city’s constant traffic congestion can be oppressive. Consider staying at Lake Bosumtwe, a gorgeous spot just one hour from Kumasi, and visiting Kumasi as a day trip.
If you’re coming from Accra or Tamale, you might feel a pleasant drop in temperature.
I couldn’t get to sleep one night so decided to walk down to the market area after midnight. Two young guys immediately hit on me. I asked if the area was dangerous and they said no. Then after a few meters, they said “Unless you’re white”. I had a beer and walked home past the numerous prostitutes.
Kejetia Market. From afar, the Kejetia Market looks like an alien mothership landed in the centre of Kumasi. Closer up, the rusting tin roofs of this huge market (often cited as the largest in West Africa; there are 11,000 stalls and at least four times as many people working there) look like a circular shantytown. Inside, the throbbing Kejetia is quite dis­orienting but utterly captivating. There are foodstuffs, secondhand shoes, clothes, plastic knick-knacks, glass beads, kente strips, Ashanti sandals, batik, bracelets and more.
Wandering around the market by yourself is absolutely fine: few tourists come here and shopkeepers will be pleasantly surprised to see you. I found this the friendliest, but also the most chaotic market I have ever been to. The market is several streets all with stalls five-deep on either side and share-vans plying the crowd. I bought two shirts and some shorts, all second-hand.
Prempeh II Jubilee Museum (8am-5pm Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm Sat & Sun) This museum may be small, but the personalised tour included with admission is a fascinating introduction to Ashanti culture and history. Among the displays are artefacts relating to the Ashanti king Prempeh II, including the king’s war attire, ceremonial clothing, jewellery, protective amulets, personal equipment for bathing and dining, furniture, royal insignia and some fine brass weights for weighing gold.
Constructed to resemble an Ashanti chief’s house, it has a courtyard in front and walls adorned with traditional carved symbols. Among the museum’s intriguing photos is a rare one of the famous Golden Stool. The museum also contains the fake golden stool handed over to the British in 1900.
National Cultural Centre. Set within peaceful, shaded grounds, it includes craft workshops, where you can see brassworking, woodcarving, pottery making, batik cloth dyeing and kente cloth weaving, as well as a gallery and crafts shop.
Manhyia Palace Museum. Manhyia Palace was built by the British in 1925 to receive Prempeh I when he returned from a quarter of a century of exile in the Seychelles to resume residence in Kumasi. It was used by the Ashanti kings until 1974; the current Asantehene now lives in a modern compound behind the museum.
On display is the original furniture and assorted royal memorabilia. During the festivities of Adae, which take place every 42 days, the Asantehene receives visitors; it’s a fairly formal occasion but travellers are welcome.
One of the fellow travellers and me played a round of golf here. It is the home course of the King of Ahanti and he plays regularly, but usually alone with his coach. He hopefully also helps finance the course because we were the only ones playing that day. We eventually played with the professional; all three of us used his one set of clubs and he supplied us with used balls, tees and a glove. The caddy scouted ahead to look out for our drives. It was an enjoyable round – we all had easy swings and so my tempo was good from the beginning. The fairways were rough grass and we could improve our lie and the greens weren’t exactly smooth. But the course had some pretty holes. Green fees were 20$US and we paid the caddy 5$ and tipped the pro 10$ so it ended up being a pretty cheap round.

It was a long drive from Kumasi south to the coast and then east along the ocean to Milly’s Back Yard in Korkavite, about 45kms west of Accra. It is a backpacker beach resort on the ocean and there were many foreigners here. The beach is dangerous with a high chance of being robbed – never go left anytime of the day but going right is apparently ok for a short distance and never carry anything of value. I wandered 10m to the right before I was offered some ganga to buy. I am not really interested but the toke was surprisingly good. Buying bud in any of these countries is not possible.
The resort has cultural shows most nights and we were entertained after dinner by a great drum and dance troupe. It comes with Milly’s but everyone tipped.
This is a big change from the higher land inland – very hot and humid and argh, mosquitos again. We had so spoiled as there have been no bugs of any description for the last week.

Ghana is an extremely religious country. By far the most common billboard sign is for revivalist conferences and American evangelical/fundamentalist churches along with Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons. I wonder if their mission is charity or proselytizing? Probably the latter. Every little town has at least 2 churches, even where the population is Muslim. I also wonder how apostates are treated here – quitting Islam is punishable by death in many countries and saying you are an atheist receives a hundred lashes with a cane.
The names of businesses belie the religious character: “The Lord’s Grace is Enough Beauty Salon”, “Gospel Winners Computer Services”, “By His Grace Beauty Salon”, “Almighty Beauty Salon”, “God’s Time Plumbing and Electrical”, “Hope for the Hopeless Guest House”, “God’s Favour Welding Supplies”, “What a God Metal Works”, “Come to Jesus Chop Shop”, “Love and Born Again Metal Shop” – I think you get the idea.
Some of my other favourite names were: On a mosque “Thank God It’s Friday”, “Big Brains Accounting, and “I Love My Husband Enterprises”, “My Good Wife’s Restaurant”.
Billboards are big business and most have a religious bent. But education schools and colleges, natural medicine shops, building supplies outlets are very common. Other unusual ones are those that celebrate the life of so-and-so, with a big picture of the revered dead person.

Christian cemeteries line the roadsides. They are elaborate, tiled raised tombs often with a picture of the deceased. The Muslim graves are more likely simply a pile of dirt with no marker, especially in the primitive areas. The most basic homes are mud bricks or simply mud between a lattice of wood with thatched roofs. The income disparities are huge with most living in rural areas suffering extreme poverty.
I talked for some time to the head chef at the restaurant at Big Milly’s. He is 27 and spent two years in Culinary School. He has worked there for 4 years and works 12-hour days, 6-days a week – all for the grand salary of 500 CDs, or about 120US$ per month. He wants to work cooking on a ship but to work for a Ghanian company requires connections – usually family or tribe. He applied to a Russian company but they didn’t want to black guy working for them. He speaks 6 languages: English, French, and 4 tribal languages (two Ghanian, Togo and Benin). It seemed to me that his main problem was socialization – he simply did not know how to think outside of Ghana. I gave him my email address, told him how to write a resume and suggested that he Google cruise ships, freight and fishing companies and apply in writing including his schooling and the extensive menu at Milly’s. He wants to work on ships for 13 years, save money and open his own restaurant. You could palpate his frustration.

About admin

I would like to think of myself as a full time traveler. I have been retired since 2006 and in that time have traveled every winter for four to seven months. The months that I am "home", are often also spent on the road, hiking or kayaking. I hope to present a website that describes my travel along with my hiking and sea kayaking experiences.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.