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

 
     
     

Dispatch 6 - Western Region

 

The western coastal region of Ghana is sparsely populated, especially near the frontier with Ivory Coast.  As you travel east the towns and village seem to get closer together, until you finally reach the modest city Takoradi, which seems cosmopolitan by comparison.

 
     
 

Ghana, western province Ghana, western province, dusted on a dirt road

In parts of the Western Region of Ghana there are still dirt roads that take you some place.  This isn't all bad.  The traffic volume is low and the dirt doesn't build up heat as much as an asphalt road, and generally the forest isn't cut back as far from the road so there tends to be more shade or at least a little cool air spilling out of the forest.  But when a truck comes by you can really get really dusted!

Ghana, family working coconut oil factoryIn our travel we came across a family working a coconut oil factory.  The identifiable steps in the processing the coconut were: collecting the nuts, chopping off the husk, drying the nut until the liquid inside solidified, cracking the nut and taking out the meat, drying the meat some more, and boiling the meat to separate out the oil.  The husks were used for fuel in for the fire so there didn't seem to be any deforestation involved and the whole process seemed sustainable.

 Ghana, coconut oil factory Ghana, coconut oil factory  Ghana, coconut oil factory

Ghana, Half AssiniGhana, Half AssiniArriving in town, we weren't real sure where we were. Detailed maps of Ghana were hard to come by in the west.  But it was easy to draw a crowd, which helped us to conclude that we were in Half Assini.

Ghana, Pan-African Highway in Western GhanaForget all that earlier praise for dirt roads. At least at first blush reaching the paved road was a blissful experience. 

You don't realize how much rolling resistance there is on a dirt road until you compare it to the floating experience of just arriving on asphalt. The thought of no more dust was also liberating.  The honeymoon doesn't last too long in the tropics.  Hardly before the sun reaches late morning you start to realize that heat is taking aim at you from all directions -- radiant heat raise from below to envelope the road and solar heatGhana, small river in the Western Province bears down on you from above.  With the coastal humidity sweat doesn't evaporate efficiently to lift the heat off of your body.  It can seem like a reflector oven and you are stewing in your own juices.

The humidity is probably hangs in the air in part because there are lot of slow moving rivers crossing the coastal plain.  The combination of a sparse population and the need to build a lot of bridges probably limits the impetus to construct more highly engineered roads in this part of the country.Ghana, grave stone, grave market, funerary

Ghana, grave stone, grave market, funeraryAn eye catching cultural characteristic of Western Ghana is the grave markers.  There are place in the world with bigger and bolder mausoleums but some of Ghana's grave stone seemed to be particularly distinguished and dignified.

Ghana, Axim, 1927 buildingIn Axim the streets are paved -- or were once -- some of the building hint at past grandeur and the power poles have lines strung between them.  In a way this reflects the history of Ghana.  In the early 1960, just after independence, the country had more paved roads and electrification than it did by the end of the 1970s.  At the time ofGhana, Axim, main street independence, 1957, it was considered second world country, far better off than South Korea at the same time.  By the end of the century it had started to turn itself around, but it had lost decades to South Korea.

 Ghana, Axim Ghana, Axim, main street Ghana, Axim, children 

The are other countries in West Africa were rubber is a much more major product.  We passed a couple of large inactive looking rubber plantations. The photo at the right shows a pile of older (brown) and new (white) coagulated latex blocks.  Generally the trees didn't look like they were being very regularly tapped, so it wasn't clear what was going on. 

Ghana: Mame Ahu's Restaurant, near AgoraContinuing the theme of relative scarcity, roadside restaurants are few and far between in the Western Region. So, when we were real hungry and got a great meal at Mame Ahu's Restaurant, near Agora, we were really relived, and they get a spot on the Internet (which hadn't been invented when this photo was taken.)

Ghana, Dixcove, fishing villageGhana, Dixcove, fishing villageTurn south at Agona Junction and go to the end of the road and you will get to the fishing village at the end of the road --Dixcove. It is a very picturesque location.  The town has the look and feel of a place with a steady economy, but not thriving economy.

Ghana, Dixcove, fishing village Ghana, Dixcove, fishing village Ghana, Dixcove, fishing boat

Ghana, Dixcove, fishing boat returning to the villageGhana, Dixcove, fishing boat returning in the morningThe fishermen often go out at night and return in the morning. Their source of light is hurricane lamps attached to a mast (right).

Ghana, Dixcove, fish catchWhen the fishermen return, Dixcove beach can be a hubbub of activity even before the sun rises above the adjacent hill. The fishermen lay their catch out on the beach and sell it to fish mongers who take them to the city markets, like Takoradi, to be sold again.Ghana, Dixcove, marlin fish

[Note: Catches have been decreasing dramatically in recent years so a seller-buy opportunity with a half-dozen marlin fish on the beach are rare these days.]  

Ghana, Dixcove, Fort Metal CrossGhana, Dixcove, Fort Metal CrossFort Metal Cross sits on a hill above the town and predates Dixcove. It is said to have gotten its name because all the slaves that were transported through this fort had a cross mark on their body. This were done by putting a metal cross into a fire and then branding the person with a cross mark for the purpose of identification.

Ghana, Dixcove, Fort Metal CrossGhana, Dixcove, Fort Metal CrossThe short history of the fort is the chief of Upper/Greater Dixcove leased the English the promontory near Inhuman village. The hill is located next to a large and sheltered bay, later designated as Dick's Cove (Dixcove). The Cove's calm waters and sandy beach made it an ideal landing for canoes and small boats while ships could anchor offshore. The Royal AfricanGhana, Dixcove, Fort Metal Cross Company began construction of the fort in 1692 but was unable to complete it until 1698 because of spasmodic attacks by the Ahanta people, which continued well into the 18th century. By 1750, the fort was equipped to carry up to 25 canons.

Various source have the purpose of the fort as a player in the gold and slave trade, and as a repair station for ship, given the easy access to wood in the forest. The fort doesn't have a large holding area for slaves, which might have constrained it role in this enterprise.

Ghana, Discove, Fort Metal Cross, lobster dinner Ghana, Dixcove, Fort Metal Cross, sleeping on the rampartsIn the 1980's the fort was used as a guest house.  The Spartan living quarters made it as or more pleasant to sleep on the ramparts than in the rooms. 

Getting a lobster dinner from the local fishermen cost just a few dollars.  It was a tasty reward for effort to visit.

Ghana: Busua BeachGhana: Busua BeachAround the point from Dixcove is Busua Beach.  It is perhaps the most beautiful beach in Ghana. It is very flat, the sand is fine and it stretches for miles.  It seems to have a stream of beauty throughout the day:  In the morning the beach is beautiful as the mist hangs above the surf.  In the afternoon it is beautiful as the washed sand shines in the sun.  And, in the evening it is beautiful as the sky, waves and beach are painted with a spectrum of color.  Until the crowds come and interrupt the meditation it converges with nirvana.

Ghana: Busua Beach Ghana: Busua Beach Ghana: Busua Beach

Ghana: Busua Beach, fishing villageIt should be noted that at the west end of the beach is a fishing village and several large resorts are planned along the pristine length of beach.

[Note: since the time that these photographs of Busua Beach were taken, several new resort properties have been developed.]

It would seem that the road to between Agona Junctions and Takoradi wasn't filled with photographic subjects.  The only thing that caught my attention was a sculpture at the entrance of someone dream for a new suburban residential area.

Ghana, west of Sekondi, looking west towards TakorakiGhana, Takoradi - Sekondi RoadEast of Takoradi and and west of Sekondi the coast road (not the Pan-Africa Highway) hugs the coast.  The view are delightful and it is nice to linger a bit so that it doesn't end to quickly.

It is possible and engaging to watch the crews pull the fishing nets in from the shore. This is sort of like watching the weather channel -- the process can take hours, and minute to minute nothing seems to change.

For all of the people involved and for all of the time and effort that goes into the setting and hauling in the nets, the quantity of the catch is not very impressive.

Ghana, Sekondi area, fish drying racksGhana, Sekondi area, coastal roadMost of the fish catch from the shore is small fish and most of these small fish are sundried.  For miles along this section of coast you pass drying rack in and surrounding the villages.  Once the fish are dried they are packed and shipped throughout the country, including the far north, for resale.Ghana, Sekondi, fish sculpture

Though it is a much smaller town, I have more pictures of Sekondi than I do of Takoradi -- by exactly one.  Fittingly enough the picture is of a large fish sculpture.

Ghana, Pra River BridgeBridges ahead means the Pra River.  It may be the only body of water in the Western Region that is big enough to require a bridge with a superstructure to span it. The Pra River is near the boundary between the Western Region and Central Region of Ghana.

Addendum:

Now-a-days most tro-tros (collective intercity transport) are white minivans. In 1986 the vehicle of choice, or the vehicle available, was a converted Bedford truck.  And the color of choice was blue.Ghana:  tro-tro (collective intercity transport - taxi) Ghana:  tro-tro (collective intercity transport - taxi) Ghana:  tro-tro (collective intercity transport - taxi)

It is still the case that the newest vehicle are closest to the capital and on the best roads.  As vehicles age the get sold to ply routes further and further out. So the most rickety vehicles are running on the worst roads.

A roadworthy Bedford tro-tro is a pretty rare sight in the new millenium.

 

 Next dispatch.

 
 

 
     
 

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