Hannah and I went to join Chris and his friend Mike at the beach for Independence Day weekend. We went to the Green Turtle Lodge, between Dixcove and Akiwidaa on the coast west of Accra. There is a lot of turtle-related activity there: conservation, night hikes to see them laying their eggs, etc, but we never quite got around to any of it and instead lounged a lot.
Getting to the beach is always an odyssey. You go from a big bus with air conditioning to a trotro that goes quite fast on a real road to a tiny trotro that looks as if someone has taken a sledgehammer to it, on a dirt road that is hoping to turn back into a river. Waiting for this bus to leave, in the eighth hour of the journey, I took out a wet wipe to clean the dust off and offered them around to the others in the bus. It was a big hit, particularly with one guy who had come to town to buy a new machete. He was initially suspicious, but became such a convert that he collected about ten people around the trotro to show them how great it was. He particularly liked the fact that it didn’t fall apart or cease to smell nice no matter how many people you lent it to. Eventually he asked Hannah to marry him – apparently I can be the bridesmaid. I promised to bring more wet wipes.
This weekend was part of my ongoing study, ‘how much deet is enough?’ For those fortunate enough not to know, deet is a particularly virulent insect repellent, and the answer so far is ‘more deet’. There must be an optimal point of saturation somewhere between enough to get chemical burns and so little you get malaria, and I am resolved to find it.
The beach around there fills up on weekends with obrunis (white non-Ghanaians). They are volunteers, travellers, NGO workers, all sorts of people who come to wander around, swim, lie in the sun. The locals, meanwhile, live by fishing, which they do all night, then they sit around during the day mending nets, discussing their boats, and getting ready to fish again. You can see the obrunis and the locals looking at each other, wondering what each does all day. How can they just sit around, doing nothing? How lucky they are. Then the fishermen get back in their boats and go off to haul nets around all night, probably wishing they were the obrunis, and the obrunis go back to their full-time jobs elsewhere, wishing they lived by the beach.
The four of us helped a crew pull their boat up the beach (‘Heiga, heiga’), then we walked down to Ezile Bay with many, many children holding on to one of our fingers each.
In other news, there’s a new dog at Ezile Bay. Her name is Rapido, and she likes tourists and doesn’t like locals.
it was a busy weekend, in a completely lounging sort of way. first, someone nearly drowned – a girl from where we were staying got swept out in a rip current and six people had to go in and save her. It reminded me of what one of my Ghanaian interviewees told me about the difference between England and Ghana – ‘in England you have the emergency services, but in Ghana we have each other.’ Fortunately everyone survived intact and the girl lived to drink another mai tai.
I went for a run at dawn, something that isn’t so amazing at home but here is quite an achievement. I got a bit carried away and was laid out for half a day with heat exhaustion, but it was worth it. Oh, and my feet are temporarily not working. But it was good to run.
Then we hauled ourselves back to the city on Monday morning. A driver from the Green Turtle took us to the bus station in Takoradi. Packing into the back seat, we discovered the windows didn’t roll down. ‘Yes, there is a small problem,’ he said. ‘But don’t worry, I will drive at 80.’ So the Ghanaian road accident rate turns out to be related to a lack of air conditioning.
We made it back in one piece. Here are two historic photos. The first is of the moment I got chilly at the beach and got goosebumps (no one in Ghana has ever had goosebumps without artificial assistance from malaria). The second is of the moment Hannah found she could touch her toes after three days of yoga: