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Sunday, 1 April 2012

Ghana, part 1

Day 1 – 25/3/12

The immigration formalities were done in a friendly manner. It was strange to speak English again. Out of habit we said merci - the policeman said we did not need to bother with that any more. They insisted on giving us 30 days entrance, cause, they said we were going to have such a nice time we would need it. Then, seeing Avril lust after some bananas on their desk, they gave her a full hand of them.

Customs was fun, the fella had not done a Carnet before, so some introduction was needed.

Initially the roads were OK, but deteriorated quickly into potholes etc.

It was quite dark and then the skies opened up. We had our 1st rain (and it was very heavy) since Mayumba, Gabon.

We arrived at the Waterfalls Lodge, Wli (eastern Ghana’s best known attraction) in the middle of the storm. Ray wandered into the common area whilst Avril waited out the storm in the car. Ray got chatting to Luke, another overlander camping at the lodge. He had been following our blog and wondered if we would meet. Luke’s wife, Shelley, is an Aussie from northern NSW, Tweed Valley. When the rain stopped Avril joined and we had a great time chatting and swapping information and stories.

Ray driving. 170 km. 7 hrs (& most of this was driving) N  070 06’ 57.0’’ E 0000 35’ 18.1’’

Day 2 – 26/3/12

We entered the Waterfall park as soon as it opened at 07:30 and walked over the 9 foot bridges to the lower falls. The falls were in a wonderful lush, green tropical setting. The fall is ~ 50 m and whilst not very wide, quite beautiful. There is a thin stream of water cascading down a series of small steps behind the main falls.

We decided not to tale the hard walk to the upper falls.

We then swapped some GPS data with Luke & Shelley. After that we drove to Accra. The drive is along some small mountains/hills all green and tropical. The road is bad until 100 km past Hohoe. It improves a little after that, but the huge number of mini busses and taxies cruising slowly along and the villages with speed restrictions and speed humps every ~ 2 kms makes for a frustrating and slow drive.

We got into Accra too late to apply for any visas but managed to locate the Sierra Leone & Liberian embassies.

We drove way across town to the Crystal Hotel. Due to the poor absolutions we decided to rent a room rather than camp.

Ray driving. 257 km. 6 hrs N  050 35’ 32.2’’ W 0000 15’ 12.1’’

Day 3 – 27/3/12

Mmm, so, after the less than clean facilities (bit grotty and cockroaches etc) and pubescent backpackers and the carpentry shop next door starting work < 06:00 we decided to spend the money and go upmarket.

1st thing we went to the Sierra Leone embassy and were given a lecture by an official on how hard and expensive it was to get an Australian visa. Clearly some Aussie bureaucrat had given this bloke a very hard time. We needed accommodation and lots of other stuff. So, suitably chastened, we went to get a hotel reservation for Freetown – quick call the home office (Peter) to get onto this.

Then to the Liberian embassy. We were a bit more successful there, but we needed to have a type written letter explaining our situation. So, we then went to the local equivalent of Chadstone shopping center to get some telecommunications equipment (phone & 3G for the iPad) and type a letter, get it printed and get some photocopies of our passport & Ghana entry stamp. We could not con them into a same day visa. But got a visa available in 24 hours – we cannot really complain about that. US$ 100/person, ouch.

We then checked into the Blue Royal hotel. It is in the more upmarket OSU suburb, with lots of nice restaurants, shops etc. It is cleaner and has a/c. unfortunately we have to park on the street. Dinner at a sports bar watching the European soccer.

Day 4 – 28/3/12

After some Skype to home, we set off for the shopping center. To be honest, it’s not all that like Chadstone; 2 RSA supermarkets, lots of electronic shops and some take away food places. But more like home than anything we have seen since RSA.

We arrived a bit early for the Liberian visa and had our passports in hand quite quickly. We then went to the Sierra Leone embassy with a similar letter to the one we used for Liberia and the details of some hotels in Freetown, but no reservation (thanks Peter). After a meeting of the consulate powers, our approach is deemed acceptable; phew. US$ 80/person + US 100 express charge (but still cheaper than an extra night in the hotel). We can get the visa at 11:00 tomorrow.

They said our Carnet is OK for customs, but we still need a Lassier Passer (?). We have heard this from other travellers, but it still hurts: Cedi 100 = $ 60.

Then we tried to find the Guinea embassy. It is not where the guides book say (there are different addresses in the different books) so we hired a taxi and followed him there. We then made arrangements at the embassy get a visa tomorrow.

We then went to Little India Sunshine salad bar for a wonderful salad. Apart from tabbouli we have not had a real salad for ages. The wonderful owners were there and we chatted to them for a while.  

Talking of food, we went to a great fusion Japanese restaurant for dinner.

Day 5 – 29/3/12

After a lazy start we turned up at Sierra Leone embassy at 10:30, a bit cheeky to turn up early, but the visas were ready. We then made a quick dash to the Guinea embassy. US$ 100/person for a multi entry + US$ 20 for express i.e. same day.

After a bite of lunch, Avril went for another hair job. Hopefully they can rectify the issues from Niamey. Ray, tactfully, now elects not to say anything about hair.

Ray took the car to a Service Express place next to the hairdressers for a grease & oil change. The folks there were very professional and checked everything. They also changed the gearbox and differential oil. The mechanic comments on the brakes, mmm, we need to replace the front & rear pads. So, off he goes to buy the parts and gets to to change the pads. He finally finishes all this work after dark. As this is a personal job we need to pay separately for the brakes. The mechanic way undercharges, but we make up the difference. After this he was one very happy mechanic. And, we were very happy to have every thing checked and ready.

Halfway through the service, Ray had to take the car and go and get the Guinea visas. They were ready at 15:30. So, we now have the next 4 visas. 3 visas in 3 days in Accra is a great result. Though a bit expensive.
We have to comment on the Accra traffic. This is probably the worst traffic we have struck thus far. Hugh/mega traffic jams and very aggressive drivers. Here the old joke about the definition of a split second being the time between a traffic light changing to green and the person behind you

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