Entry into Ghana was overshadowed by leaving Burkina Faso, which I was a little sad to be leaving.
But the immigration officials were friendly enough. While one slowly and meticulously filled out my immigration form (I could have completed it in a fraction of the time, but time is no matter here), I watched cartoons on the large television in the office. It was strange listening to so much English being spoken. When asked questions I found myself uttering the occasional French word.
From here the state of the roads deteriorated. A lot. The dirt road became bumpy and uneven. Corrugations spread across the whole breadth. They could not be avoided. I shaked, rattled and slowly rolled into Lawra for a late lunch. Energy sapped, I stopped at a bar to ask where I could get some food:
‘We don’t serve food here’. – I know, but do you know where they do? ‘There are many places’. – Ok, can you recommend somewhere? ‘It depends what you want to eat’. – I don’t care, anything. ‘But how can I recommend somewhere if I don’t know what sort of food you like.’ – Rice or spaghetti or… ‘Well you can get rice opposite’. – Thank you.
I’m sure that was harder than it needed to be.
I had already seen the stalls serving rice. But it was next to the road, with scores of men eating in the shade and a loudspeaker blaring out an indistinguishable racket. Noise. I wasn’t going to be able to relax there.
Walking back up the road, I found a chop bar in a compound. After washing the dirt off my arms, legs and face, I ordered rice balls and sauce. Not the tastiest dish, but the only one on the menu. It filled the stomach. I sat and read, trying to recover some energy. Eventually the curiosity of a not-so-white person with a bike got the better of the other customers.
‘Where do you come from?’ – Today, Burkina Faso. ‘Ehh!! By bicycle?’ – Yes. ‘Where are you going?’ – Wa. ‘Ehh!! By bicycle?’ – Yes, by bicycle. ‘You can do that?’ – Yes. ‘Are you sure? It is a long way’ – Yes, I know. ‘Where are you from?’ – England. ‘Ah, so you fly from England to Burkina Faso?’ – No, I travelled by land. ‘By this bicycle?’ – Yes (Sigh). ‘That’s not possible.’ – Well I had to take a boat from Spain to Morocco… ‘But the rest you travel by bike?’ – Like I said, yes. ‘Ehh!!! That’s not possible!’ – Trust me, it is. ‘When did you leave?’ – nearly 10 months ago. ‘Ehh!! when do you go home again?’ – Well I’m going to South Africa… ‘Ehh!!! For the World Cup?’ – No, I will be a year too late…. ‘Ehh!!!’
And so the conversation continued.
The roads in Lawra were tarmac’d. I assumed that the poor dirt roads were behind me. How foolish. Soon enough the tarmac faded and the orange dust returned. My energy levels were low and I struggled. Need sugar. Must stop. Drink coke. Can’t think. A passerby stopped…
‘Where do you come from?’ – Lawra. (not so far away, an acceptable response). ‘Where are you going?’ – Wa. ‘Ehh!! By bicycle?’ – Yes, by bicycle (Sigh, here we go again). ‘You can do that?’ – Yes, but not all today. ‘You stay here?’ – I don’t know yet. ‘You stay here. There is a guesthouse’ – That’s good to know (I shall do that – finally coke has kicked in and I find I can form a comprehensive thought – the brewing storm is not conducive to camping and I am too tired to go further). ‘So, where are you from?’ – England. ‘You always travel by bike?’ – Yes. ‘Ehh!!! ‘You come from England by bike?’ – Yes. ‘Ehh!!! But it’s a long way’ – Yes, I know….
And so the conversation continued.
I found the guesthouse, showered, ate some biscuits for dinner and slept as the storm passed. It was lovely being inside, on a bed. The first time in well over a month. In the morning I set off for Wa. In the afternoon I arrived. I liked Wa. Friendly people. Helpful and kind. I took a day to rest.
I left Wa late in the afternoon. Having been shown a great fast-food restaurant, Mammy’s Kitchen, I was determined to eat there one last time. I cycled, stomach full, until dark and camped on some rocks by the road. I had forgotten how well rocks retain the sun’s warmth. I sweated profusely throughout the night – I may as well have been pedalling in my sleep.
Up early the next morning. Ready to leave at first light. No taking down tent. Just need to pay. I speak to the one other person in the courtyard, a teenage boy:
– I need to pay for the room. ‘Yes.’ – ….. (Hmm, perhaps better to rephrase as a question) Who do I pay for the room? ‘In town.’ – What?! ‘Yes, in town.’ – Is there no-one here I can pay? (I really don’t want to have to go back into town and search for the owner). ‘Not here.’ – I can see there’s no-one else right here. Is there not someone inside? ‘In town.’ – You’re telling me I need to go to town to pay? ‘Yes.’ – Ok (Big Sigh). Where do I go in town? (Silence. I wait for an answer. Eventually…) ‘I am sorry, I do not understand you.’ (Hah, we’re getting somewhere!)
Attempt number 2. The tried and tested method… I take money from my pocket, dangle the room key, point at the door and then my bike and say, ‘I leave. Money for room. Who do I give?’. – Yes. Give me. I in charge.
Success!! Finally. I hand over the money. He gives me change. Easy. But I am exhausted and I’ve not yet gone anywhere. But at least I can now leave.
Life can be a lot easier when you don’t speak (much of) the same language.