Out of Accra

March 21st

Arrived at Akwidaa, a tiny fishing village of mud huts with palm thatch rooves, towards 4 after 9 hours’ travel in various trotros. A little hot and sticky. The sound of the sea was encouraging, and the kids helped us find the track to the next bay, each holding one finger as we walked through the forest. They are very sweet, and many are ill with various types of growth or other complaints, but they carry on regardless.

Ezile Bay is beautiful – one of the few spots along this coast where you can swim safely without being pounded by Atlantic waves. The owners bought it as a retreat from their real enterprise at Busua, a few towns away. They’ve been trying to get solar energy put in for two years, but there aren’t enough electricians around who know how to do it.

March 22nd

Ten or fifteen boys and a couple of men are clustering on the rocks at the end of the small bay, peering intently into the water. After a while, one of them throws in a charge of dynamite, and a huge boom echoes around, a column of water rising ten feet in the air. Everyone jumps in to collect fish. Jacob, the manager, a local man, shakes his head. “If they continue doing that,” he says, “in two years there will be no more fish. I’ve told the chief, but he won’t stop them.” The kids seem to be enjoying it, despite its unsustainability. Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Give him dynamite, he’ll eat for precisely seven hundred and thirty. Meanwhile, as if to prove it’s all relative, the village fishermen continue to row and motor in and out of the harbour in their wooden pirogues and boats, as they have for thousands of years.

After a week in Accra it’s good to just float. We visited the next beach down for a while, which has proper Atlantic waves and where you can swim as long as you enjoy the sensation of being inside a washing machine on spin cycle. We lasted about an hour before returning to loaf in our own bay.

March 23rd – Easter Sunday

Apparently fish-dynamiting waits neither for god nor man. The kids are hard at it by 8am while adults walk from village to village in their Easter best. I had slept out on the beach to avoid the heat, and was waking to find that the parts of me that had touched my mosquito net, through a sheet, were bitten. Still, definitely an improvement on sleeping inside.

A pair of vultures lives at the beach. They bumble around looking scruffy and uncertain, like professors with something more important on their minds. They are benevolent and vague. The other couple here is Austrian, and you can tell the time of day by how much they wear to swim. Morning – bottoms. Noon – a swimsuit. Evening – nothing. We steer clear, but the vultures watch hopefully.

By evening Fiona and I were the only ones left at the resort. Jacob sent the cooks home and made us bouillabaisse for dinner, something he had learned on his travels as a sailor. He has visited more than twenty countries, and returned with eclectic taste in food. He tells us that the village people are gradually selling all their best land to foreigners. The only piece left is the peninsula at the end of the spit where the village sits. They farm the first part, then there’s a graveyard where they bury their chiefs, and finally on highest point sit the ruins of a German castle from the 17th century, destroyed almost completely in the battle with other colonial powers (the Portuguese, French and English have all been here) for this section of coast. One wall remains, with a huge tree growing out of it. The people have resisted all offers to sell so far, but Jacob assures me they will in the end.

We talk politics over the fire on the beach, as the moon rises. There is some nervousness in Ghana about the coming general election, later this year. The president is ending his time in office, and eleven of his minsters are standing to take his place, something many are worried might result in the same political violence just seen in Kenya. The solution many favour is the return of Kwame Nkrumah’s son, who is thinking about leading his father’s old political party in the 2012 elections. It illustrates the logic of family politics here in the developing world, where the success of elections are likely to be measured by how few die, rather than by the opportunity for fair competition.

The world may be needing Ghana soon, however. The country still has gold, and the global recession will only result in more demand. Somewhere out in the bush behind Ezile Bay there’s a guy prospecting for gold, hoping to open up a new mine.

March 24th

This place is full of nocturnal creatures that fling themselves against the door of our hut, making a noise like squeaky toys. They’re probably bats, but I can’t get rid of the image of tiny soft toys bouncing repeatedly off our mosquito screens. We were woken by a small herd of lost goats, roaming from the village in the next bay. One tiny kid sat down on our porch to scratch, making me want to take him home with me. Before I could, the fishing boys shooed them away into the forest the way they had come, the kid bopping along beside his mother maaa-ing excitedly.

Goats and fish are not the only sources of income here lately. West Africa is becoming a major transport hub for cocaine, which travels from Latin America to England via this coast. Recently a boat loaded with bales of cocaine was approached by a patrol and had to ditch its entire cargo not far from Ezile Bay, and when the packets started to wash up, tightly wrapped, on the beach here, the locals figured out what was going on and spent the next few days collecting thousands of dollars’ worth of cocaine. The owners had to make their way around the neighbourhood buying it back from them. Everyone profited except one fisherman, out fishing in his canoe, who was the first to find a sack floating around with bundles of substance inside. He opened one up, decided it must be poisonous, and threw the drugs back into the sea. He kept the sack, which was valuable for carrying fish, though. I asked how he felt when he realised what had been in the sack. “I think his head exploded,” Jacob said.

March 25th

A long hot day getting to Kumasi by trotro. The guys who run the vans won’t tell you if another one is likely to leave first, so I sat in a deserted van in 95 degree heat while one across the road loaded up and set off. It took an hour and a half to fill the one I was in, and I was not amused. 5 hours later we arrived in Kumasi, the Ashante capital, in a tropical downpour. My hotel (a fairly nice one for once, after a weekend spent sleeping out and taking bucket showers) was not fully operational due to the rain. The shower spat brown solids then refused to work at all, the satellite tv showed only fuzzy images of a woman, presumably Ghanaian, possessed by devils and being exorcised by her family, and the University of Ghana’s football captain being interviewed in Twi about his team’s recent victory. Welcome to Ghanaian luxury.

The manager is from Memphis, and describes himself as a pan-Africanist who wants to promote the tourism industry and help Ghana move forward. After I was here a few hours I could see he was doing a good job – the staff are fairly responsive, there are some touches that are American (slippers by the shower, free internet access), and he imbues the place with an air of calm and capability that’s impressive considering the circumstances. Ghana needs more like him.

Off to do some interviews today…

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