Hiking in Ghana’s eastern region, southeast of the mighty lake Volta, provides breath taking views of the flat plains that stretch far and wide. Small isolated hills rise steeply from the otherwise flat landscape, today I learned such a hill is called an inselberg. I’m intrigued by the geology of the area although there seems to be little easily attainable information regarding it, surely water or ice shaped this unusual landscape, I shall need to research more.
Sundays outing with the Ghana Mountaineers took us to the small, but extremely welcoming village of Adaklu. The village is one of several that surround the inselberg of Mount Adaklu, which rises steeply to around 500m.
 The local village guide, Simon, welcomed us warmly and allowed us to use the long drop toilets before the hike. This was our first insight into village life as we were lead through the houses. Some were made from concrete, others from mud, wood and stone. The roof coverings were sheets of corrugated steel held down with stones or a sort of thatch made from a local reed or grass. A few of the steel roofs had some makeshift guttering to direct the rain water to be collected in a tank, making the most of the natural resources. Some of the buildings and open-sided shelters looked like they might blow down with the next big gust of wind. Many of the locals stopped what they were doing and looked on at us in interest. I often find Ghanaian adults will simply stare or offer a welcoming word, without a smile, whilst the children will smile and wave shyly. Goats and chickens roamed amongst the houses and a water pump had been installed near the roadside.
As we started the hike an ominous black cloud was moving towards us, but Simon lead us onward and upwards. He wore wellington boots on his feet and carried a machete to help break trail. The rain remained light and provided the best ambient temperature I have experienced in Ghana. At one stage, as we rested at the top, I even had goose bumps!
Adaklu Mountain is sacred to the villages that surround the base and it is climbed during certain important festivals. The locals also farm on the steep sides. The path first wove its way through corn fields, then on stepper ground we saw tomatoes and okra growing. As we walked through the farm land Simon explained that one lady working was asking to have her picture taken, what a wonderful opportunity!
The top of the mountain is covered in trees but Simon lead us out and round to a viewpoint slightly lower which did not disappoint. Despite the recent rain there was a great view to enjoy, stretching towards the Ghana Togo border and Lake Volta.
The descent was muddy and slippery on the steep ground and we were a bit of a sorry sight by the time we returned to the village. It was then time to visit the village elders and thank them for allowing us to climb the mountain. This was fascinating, we were invited into their hut where they insisted that everyone be provided with a chair. The guide chatted to them in the local language about the walk up and in English one of the village Elders congratulated us on making the summit. Delali, our Ghana Mountaineers guide, then gave us a short introduction in English about how they always used the local guide and came to thank the Elders for allowing us to peacefully climb the mountain. Delali also presented a donation to the village on our behalf.
In total we spent around 5 hours driving in order to go on this hike but the opportunity to escape the city, see these local villages and experience their traditions is such an amazing insight into the culture of Ghana.
More photos on Flickr

Running in Accra

On Saturday I took part in a 10k fun run organised by the Accra German-Swiss International School who were celebrating their 50th birthday. There was quite a small field taking part in the 5 and 10 kilometer runs and I got a little nervous when I saw some people at the start with a printed copy of the map, was I supposed to know the route! With such small numbers I was surprised to find the police stopping the traffic as we passed over the main highway at Ring Road Central. It was just after 7am and already Accra’s traffic was building along with the noise, smells and reeking fumes of cars that probably aren’t particularly road worthy. Accra doesn’t exactly have payments, unless you count some rather hazardous and sporadic sections that sometimes dot the roadside, usually full of rocks and holes.  So it was really more of an obstacle type experience on and off the dirt or paved sections that line the roadside. In many places dirty open drains also follow alongside, adding to the generally unappealing ambiance.
 I tried to keep an eye on a person in front to avoid getting lost, although most junctions were manned by policemen or volunteers handing out water. By the time the 5k runners branched off I was pretty much running alone, not seeing much more than one person off in the distance. As I ran through the poorer area of Nima I was faced with a group of youths taking up the entire road, a daunting prospect in any city. They laughed and shouted the odd thing in my direction but they let me pass without any hassle. Soon I was running past what looked like a scrap yard but was actually are area for mechanical repairs. Piles and piles of rusting parts were heaped at the side of the road and a man was working on sanding down the shell of an old trotro which looked like it had seen better days. (A trotro is an old local mini bus).
As the time approached 8am the heat became more and more intense and each time I thought it might result in some walking I would round a corner to a little breeze of reprieve and manage to continue my shuffle forward. Of course I got lots of stares, some car drivers even slowed down for a closer look. They must wonder why on earth people run. As I passed the street vendors, laden down with goods piled on their heads I felt a pang of guilt. Some days these people can’t afford to eat and some have walked many miles to the best junction for selling their wares and here I was, running, just for fun.
The truth is an hour of ‘fun’ exercise it was not, it was insanely hot, smelly, noisy and dirty. However, the thing about Ghana is that so much of day to day life goes on at the roadside and it’s always fascinating to watch. On a normal day I see it whiz by from inside my air conditioned cocoon. So to be running amongst it, around it, at a slower pace, is really very interesting. It’s certainly something I would like to experience again, although perhaps not every weekend!