Ghana: People-to-People
Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours


Dispatch 2 - Akwapim: Aburi, Koforidua


Akwapim is a subgroup of Twi-speakers and the name of a ridge that runs northeast-southwest for about 60 kilometers, between Legon and Lake Volta.  The ridge averages about 1500 feet high.  It is known as a cultural hotspot for the quality of its craftsmen and traditional healers. 


Accra region traffic jams Though I neglected to get a picture of the traffic in the center of Accra, I did take a picture of the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the outskirts of town -- it was about the same.  Accra region traffic jams can stretch for many kilometers.

The University of Ghana at Legon (formerly the University College of the Gold Coast, and Legon University) is on a spacious wooded campus, 12 km north of Accra. It was founded in 1948. The University of Ghana at Legon architecture elements of the buildings draws from a number of traditions, including red tile roofs (Mediteranean), flared eves (Asian), columns (Classic), clock towers, square and round windows, and stucco exteriors (Mission).  Collectively they fit together nicely and have a lightness to them.  The campus seems very relaxed.  Legon has cooperative agreements with a number of overseas universities so it is not unusual to see European and American students moving about on the campus.

Ghana, Akwapim plateau, Accra Aburi Road

Ghana, Akwapim PlateauA few kilometers north of Legon are the foothills of the Akwapim Ridge or Plateau.  Actually the foothills are pretty miniscule and the change is topography is pretty precipitous, raising about 350 meters.  Once on top the road is relatively flat, though at times it rolls along with the ridge line, which can create short steep hills. 

Ghana: Aburi main streetGhana, Aburi, young girlA favorite weekend training ride for road cyclists in Accra is a morning circuit up the hill to Aburi and return (~60 kilometers roundtrip).  If you are in quite so much of a hurry it is nice to go further and stop and visit with the drum makers and craftsmen for which the area is known.

Ghana, Aburi Garden,As you move away from the coast the humidity drops a little and as you rise in elevation the temperature drops a little.  This, in combination, with a picturesque setting makes Aburi desirable destination.  An addition feature of Aburi is its botanical garden.  It officially opened in March, 1895.  The royal palms that line theGhana, Aburi Garden, epiphytes entrance road are more than 100 years old.  Within the collection are enormous kapok trees, a variety of palms, thousands of epiphytes and hundreds of plants from the tropical world. Most of the species are exotics so it is not a Ghana, Aburi Garden, Frangipanigood place to learn about indigenous botany.  The garden has had numerous ups and downs over the century.  It is hard to predict how good a shape it will be in from year-to-year.  Some years it is pretty scruffy and pocked with liter and on other visits it can be in near pristine condition.

Ghana, Koforidua, main street Ghana, Koforidua, main street Ghana, Koforidua, church Northwest of the Akwapim ridge is Koforidua. It is generally a very likable medium size town, but what really stands out and is impressive is the Ability Ghana, Koforidua, Ability Bikes ProjectBikes Cooperative. If you need a bike repaired in the Eastern Region of Ghana it is the go to place.  I have rarely been in a bike shop anywhere were the employees were so focused on their work and the task at hand.  If you asked to take a picture the crew would look up briefly and smile and then quickly put their heads back down and continue to work. The staffs diligence and competency is what is most striking, but with a closer look, masked in the efficiency, all the members of the staff have some physical challenged.

 Ghana, Koforidua, Ability Bikes Project Ghana, Koforidua, Ability Bikes Project Ghana, Koforidua, Ability Bikes Project

Ghana, eating omlet sandwichGhana, refilling water bottles with sterile water from sachetsA brief note here about food and water:  The preferred breakfast was an omelet sandwich.  There were other items available in the morning like porridge, and rice and bean dishes, but when they were available this group went for the eggs and bread. The most convenient source of sterile was is half-liter sachets.  The group was big enough and had enough carrying capacity that they often bought a large bag containing 30 sachets (15 liters of water). Each sachet cost the equivalent of a few U.S. cents.  This all had the draw back of leaving a heap of plastic trash.

Ghana, Eastern region, dirt road, forest Ghana, Eastern region, dirt road, farmland

The back roads of Eastern Region pass through a mosaic of forest and farmland.  The population is relatively sparse so there is still a considerable amount of forest along the roads.  One of the major crops in the area is cocoa, which likes to grow in the shade, so as a bi-product of this industry the forest canopy is preserved -- two thumbs up.

The first cocoa plants in Ghana were planted in Akwapim in 1887.

CRIG (Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana) CRIG (Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana) It is fitting that our next major stop was the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) The institute was started in 1939 as the West Africa Cocoa Research Institute, but since de-colonization has become a Ghanaian operation.CRIG (Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana)

CRIG (Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana)If you are interested in all things cocoa this is the place to go.  At CRIG, the guy were very attentive and took an unusually deep interest in our tour on identifying varieties, preparing and processing the cocoa, but I am sort thinking that it might have something to do with the engagingness of our tour guide.

 CRIG (Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana), cocoa pod CRIG (Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana), cocoa processing CRIG (Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana), cocoa processing CRIG (Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana), basket fermentation CRIG (Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana), box fermentation CRIG (Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana), draining off sweatings CRIG (Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana), cocoa drying CRIG (Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana), cocoa drying CRIG (Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana), cocoa drink

In case you want to know, to make chocolate you start with a cocoa pod.  Out of this comes the "nib".  The nib must be roasted or fermented and dried.  We were told that one of the secrets to good cocoa is in the fermentation -- on which Ghanaian producers excell.  There are five methods of fermentation; heap fermentation, basket fermentation, box fermentation, and tray fermentation. Finally the prepared nib is ground and refined into a paste or "liquor."  It is from the liquor that chocolate and other products (i.e. cocoa butter, cocoa soap, etc.) are manufactured. CRIG is doing research on other uses for cocoa.  In the garden outside of the headquarters they sell a cool refreshing cocoa drink. 

Ghana, very young cocoa pods Ghana, young cocoa pods

These two pictures show very young cocoa pods. The picture to the left shows a few pea-size white pods.  The picture on the right show there more mature color and shape, but when they are fully mature they will be several times bigger and when the are ready to pick they will have more of an amber color.

Ghana, Osiem, water tower and main streetGhana, Osiem, main streetContinuing our tour we passed through Osiem, a typical small town with a cross-roads, shops lining the main street, market area, new water tower (running water), electricity, Ghana, Osiem, main streetand a couple of buildings that are architecturally a cut above.  Compared to Accra, and even Koforidua, the pace of life in these towns is relaxed.  It is typical that the young Ghanaians who live in these towns are trying to escape to the bigger cities, but if you are looking to land in a place with a modicum of creature comforts and where you can hear yourself think these small towns have a lot of appeal.

Ghana, Bunso ArboretumGhana, Bunso ArboretumJust down the road is the Bunso Arboretum.  In contrast to Aburi Botanical Garden, a larger proportion of the collection at Bunso Arboretum is indigenous.Ghana, Bunso Arboretum As part of the collection there is a butterfly garden, and a herb garden (with medicinal and aromatic plants). The Arboretum is home to over 110 species of birds, some of which are very rare.  Bunso was established in 1905, so it is slightly newer than Aburi.

Ghana, colony of village weaver birdsThe Collins Field Guide to the Birds of West Africa lists more than fifteen varieties of weaver birds.  They are all about the same size, often gregarious, often noisy and about half of them are predominantly yellow.  If you are a good birder you can distinguish one from another by the shape of there nest, or the habitat, or the behavior.  Not being a good birder but knowing that "village weaver birds" have black heads, yellow bodies, large colonies, noisy, ruckus conversations, and like trees around farmland and in villages, I am going to identify this as village weavers.

Ghana, BambooseroAbompe is home to one of the bamboo bike frame building teams of the Bamboosero project.  The engineering for the bikes and the trainer of the teams is U.S. master frame builder Craig Calfee.  Craig has supplied the frame builders with plans, jigs and manuals with exhaustive details for each kind and size of bike they build.  With a tape measure, bamboo and epoxy the team should be able to build a bike.

 Ghana, Bamboosero  Ghana, Bamboosero

Ghana, bauxite bead makingGhana, bauxite bead making, drilling holeA second, and much more traditional, output of the area is bauxite beads.  The aluminum oxide stone (bauxite) is mined from Bepoben mountain, behind the village, and has been for at least a century.  Ghana, bauxite bead necklace jewelryHistorically the making of bauxite beads was more wide spread, but now-a-days Abompe is the only village carrying on the craft.  The bead is made by chipping the stone to the proper size and then using a bow-drill to punch a hole through it. The beads are then polished.  The final step is to string them into necklaces and bracelets.  If you are in Abompe you can purchase one directly from the producer.

Perhaps it was the afternoon heat which prompted these gentlemen to take a break from whatever they were doing to compete at the seed game.  The game, with slight variations, is played across sub-Saharan Africa.  The main difference from place to place is the name. In the Twi speaking part of Ghana the game is called owari.  Some of the other names is West Africa are: wori (Malinke, Mali), gbo walo (Bassa, Liberia), ma kpo (Mano, Liberia), tay gbo knongi (Gbandi, Liberia), mana (Kpelle, Liberia), wrah (Kru, Liberia), wosley (Ivory Coast), ajato (KoGbe, Benin), aju (Ewe, Togo), ayo (Yoruba, Nigeria), bmang (Grassfields, Cameroon), and, mankala (Disney).

Ghana, sunset A few clouds in the sky are always good for enhancing the sunset.


This building shells and construction crane sat frozen in time just north of Legon for more than a decade. But here is proof that time changes because the housing project has now been finished


A sign for a rural women's soap manufacturing project.  Unfortunately limitations prevented us from getting down the road to visit or learn any thing more.


 Next dispatch.



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