Monday, September 28, 2009

Volta Eco-adventure part 1: A crappy situation.

Wednesday morning was another early start as we boarded our bus heading to the Volta Region for an eco-adventure tour. While the bus ride was longer than anticipated I was on the small 15-passenger van as opposed to the other 50-passenger bus and our guide Sam was amazing. He taught us a handful of words in Ewe (one of the many different languages of Ghana, although English is the national language, a result of being colonized by the British) as well as a traditional song. On our way to Mount Afagjato, we stopped at a small village while the large bus stopped someplace to pick up our boxed lunches. The village was exactly what I felt I had missed out on in Morocco, a genuine cultural interaction. Curious children walked up the hill to greet us and slowly the adults joined as well inviting us down to see their small fishing village along side the river. Children ran around and some almost jumping into our arms along the way. The children loved having their pictures taken and seeing it after.

A short time later we were back on the bus approaching the location of our hike. The rainy season has just ended in Ghana and the dirt roads show the damage of the season. While our driver Moufaw was excellent we got stuck in the mud at one point so we all had to jump out and help push. The large bus behind us seemed to unload as well with fellow SASers taking pictures and offering their pushing power. With a few strong “Heave Ho’s’ we were out and without any damage besides one very muddy shoe (not my own). The situation was a fun part of the adventure and actually served as a nice team builder for us (Yea, I said it)

Not long after we arrived to Mount Afadjato we realized that the hike was more strenuous than we were anticipating. The field guide description only said “climb to the highest point of Ghana, without the need for climbing gear.” Ok, so maybe gear was not need but rope handrails were provided in multiple locations. A number of our students struggled and I heard one student who was not wearing appropriate shoes say that she didn’t even know we were hiking. I wanted to punch her in the face, but more on her later. At that point I was very thankful for the fact that we did not have any life long learners on our trip. It was pretty hot and most of us worked up a very good sweat by the end of it. Taking my time to support the students who were struggling along the way I had to check my ego as I finally reached the summit and students were congratulating us for finally making it up and some already on their way back down.

The view was nice and in the distance we could see the waterfall that we would soon be standing under. On the way down I had some nice conversation with Bridget and MacGarret, two other LLCs about our next job opportunities and our experience so far on the voyage. The student who wore the bad shoes had some trouble as her body fought back against the lunch she had eaten. While we hiked a bit down the mountain to give her space to take care of things she yelled down to us “Can we keep this a secret?” As didn’t respond to her request I don’t feel guilty sharing this story but don’t tell anyone I told you.

When I thought the hike could not get anymore amusing the guide’s cell phone began to ring. His ring tone, My Heart Will Go On, and no it was not just cheap digital ringtone, it was the Celine Dion Oscar winning, downloaded ring tone. 1- I was amazed that he has service in the middle of nowhere Ghana and 2 – this huge Ghanaian brick house of a guy actually had My Heart Will Go On for his ring tone! MacGarret and I were fighting back the laughs so much so that we almost faced the same ugly fate as our previously mentioned student.

Back on the bus and after a short drive to the waterfall we had another 45min walk through the Agumatsa Forest Reserve to the Wli Waterfalls. Bridget and I again found our way at the back of our group and took our time taking photos and having great conversations along the way. When we finally made it to the falls the students were already making the most of it, climbing the rocks and standing under the 1,600 foot falls. It was a wild experience walking backwards into a waterfall while shielding my eyes trying to keep any visibility I could. The spray was hitting me with quite a bit of force and felt like I was being sand blasted. Some compared it to being in a hurricane or a monsoon but it seemed that everyone agreed that it was a great way to cool down after the hot and exhausting hike.

Back to the bus one last time on our way to the hotel, day quickly turned to night as being so close to the equator they don’t have any day light savings time business. The sun rises around 6am and sets around 6pm, no ifs and or buts about it. Without fail I existed someplace between asleep and barely coherent on the bus ride. We finally arrived to our hotel and had dinner much later than expected but it was a great meal. I spent sometime journaling and watching BBC world news before falling asleep after a great day.

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