A Week in Northern Ghana

The mud huts we saw along our way up north.

 The sun beats down on our pale skin, making its mark quickly and efficiently as our pale skin deepens in colour. We are exhausted, hours away from our African home, yet enthralled by the beauty we have found around us. Northern Ghana is very different than the southern half; tin houses are replaced with mud homes covered by thatched roofs, and the sounds of churches worshipping down the hill have been replaced by the Muslim call to worship. Instead of palm trees and hills there are huge canopy trees in the middle of corn fields, and although our skin prevents us from ever blending into the crowd fully, we are less noticed and shouts of ‘Obruni’s!’ are few and far between.

These were some of my thoughts as we travelled up North this past week. We found ourselves transported into another world after eighteen hours of travelling over two days. We were exhausted when we finally arrived at Mole National Park, but even in our tired state we were filled with excitement as we pulled into the Park and were greeted by leaping antelopes and scruffy warthogs. We definitely weren’t in Asamankese anymore!

Warthogs and antelope!
So excited to go on our safari!
The road that goes to the end of the world (not really, but one can imagine!)
Loving the beautiful drive!
A monkey hiding in the tree.

We spent a few days at the park lounging by the pool, getting sunburned even in the shade, and chatting with tourists we met in the hotel. Our days were marked with baboons travelling up to our tables; monkeys swinging from trees; and warthogs ambling through the grounds and dirt roads. At night, we could walk out of our front door and cloaked in darkness, antelope would peek up at the sound of the door, but quickly return to their search for a midnight snack. We took a safari one afternoon and drove through the bush in search of animals, and although we weren’t lucky enough to see the elusive elephants, we were graced with visits from various birds, antelope, bushbuck and waterbuck, and more monkeys and baboons. However, the elephants were kind enough to leave giant droppings and large footprints to remind us that they were hiding somewhere out in the wilderness! To conclude our safari, we saw a baboon running away from our car with its baby wrapped around its stomach!

The baboon dancing in the branches at dusk.
It’s hard to see, but there’s a baby wrapped around her stomach!

After two full days at the Park, we boarded a bus at 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning to head to our next destination, Bolgatanga, and from there to a place called Sirigu. It took about four hours, and if it was even possible, the land seemed to get flatter and drier as we travelled farther north. Once we arrived in Bolgatanga, we bartered with a taxi driver to get a ride out to Sirigu. Our hotel, called SWOPA (look it up – amazing place!) was filled with huts painted with bright African murals. We seemed to literally be in the African countryside, and what made it even more amazing was the fact that we could climb up steps to our flat roofs to lay under the half moon and starry sky! There was a courtyard between all of the huts where we were served our meals, lit up by lantern lights hung in the trees. SWOPA is an organization that provides a place for women in the community to make pottery and paintings, and although they offer lessons in their techniques, they also sell their wares for incredibly cheap prices. I bought four pieces of pottery to bring home and it was only 15 cedis ($7.50!). While we stayed at SWOPA for two nights, we spent time sleeping, reading, laying on the roof.

Some of the awesome buildings at SWOPA.

Thursday, our last day there, we hired a driver to take us to Paga. Paga is so far north that it isn’t much farther before you reach the Burkina Faso border. In Paga, there is a sacred crocodile pond. Here live about 200 crocodiles, and the crocodiles are apparently so tame that the local children swim in the pond! A guide took us out to the bond, holding an offering to the crocodiles of a live chicken. Everyone began calling out the crocodiles, and soon we saw a small croc swimming through the water before ambling out onto the shores. We each took turns holding its tail, but because it was so small we couldn’t sit on it, instead squatting overtop of it for pictures. After we were finished, the croc moved closer to our guide, as if expecting its reward of the live chicken. Our guide tossed it to the croc, and in seconds the feathers and body had disappeared into the croc’s stomach.

Touching the crocodile at Paga!

Afterwards our driver took us to a slave camp, where we were taken through fields to see the places in which slaves had been kept in captivity for years. We were shown rocks in which bowls were hewn out for them to eat out of; the field which they were forced to dance and entertain their captors was eerily empty and it was as if you could see their bodies lithely moving in the fields of grass. We wandered the paths which the slaves would have been forced to take, and it was amazing that such beauty could reside in such a place where unthinkable horrors had taken place. Pictures that I took don’t even seem to do it justice.

Bowls hewn out of the stone that slaves were forced to eat from. It was survival of the fittest; if you didn’t grab food first, you wouldn’t eat at all.

After we were finished our tour, we headed back to SWOPA to rest for the long day of travel we were going to have the next morning. We were prepared to leave at 5 am, but in typical fashion our taxi driver arrived late, and then of course got a flat tire. We still managed to catch our bus, however, and made it to Kumasi late Friday afternoon. We spent the night there in a little hotel with an incredibly helpful receptionist named Earnest, and then travelled the last four hours to Asamankese yesterday. We’ve spent the rest of the weekend so far ‘recuperating’ from our vacation. It’s amazing how travelling hours and hours by buses can exhaust you so!

Beautiful fields at the slave camp.

All in all we had a great week away. We learned so much: we were continually reminded to trust God for travelling mercies, and God continually blessed us by bringing people into our lives at exactly the moment we needed direction or help. We a lot of time just resting; spiritually, emotionally, mentally that  was so needed. I am so blessed by Kylie and Lauren and the way that they encourage me, draw out gifts and remind me of things about myself I never knew were there. We had a great time away, but are so thankful to be back safe and sound and are bracing ourselves for the busy weeks ahead before we all head home.

Love to you all back home,

Angie

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