Under A Pitch Black Sky

NEW Year’s Day on the Ghanaian coast and, barring the surf hitting the beach just the other side of our tents and the occasional giggle from a small group chatting after dinner, all is quiet.

All is dark as well, considering The Stumble Inn at Elmina, our home for the last few nights, has no lights except the couple which make the bar useable after the fairly rapid sunset and a couple of small, unreliable ones in odd spots around camp.

The search for head torches has been as frantic as the ensuing nocturnal race to the facilities for those of us looking after the pet stomach bug, which has affected growing numbers to varying degrees.

So, with the arrival of 2015 and the onset of a fresh bout of clocking up some serious mileage after a week or so chilling out along the coast, time for a bit of a condition check.

Any lasting vestiges of a dodgy stomach apart – and while it has hung around longer than for others, it has never been as severe – all is pretty much fine.

Fine as it can be sat in a deserted bar on a night of, thankfully, reduced humidity with a cold drink (soft), one of the camp dogs curled up asleep on my sandals and the cat cleaning itself on the bench next to me.

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Battle Scars – My feet show the signs of an ongoing contest with the insects

Admittedly, the backs of my legs do look as if one of the dogs has been chewing on them, but as long as you can avoid scratching them (easier said than done), the endless mosquito and insect bites are not that bad, even if they have forced me back into long trousers (and even, briefly, socks for the first time since Morocco) for the last couple of nights.

My reputation as a magnet for any irritating little buzzy, biting creature has been well justified, however much Deet gets sprayed around.

It even seems to follow me into the water with sea lice copping the blame for the latest crop of angry welts on my forearm and ankles after my first attempt at body boarding for about 30 years.

But despite all that, everything is pretty good. One bout of gout and one, mercifully just as short, flare-up of my back problem aside, the stomach issue has been the only health cloud on the horizon.

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Welcome To Ghana – Our first stop after crossing the border at Beyin

And, whisper it quietly, that cloud may have a silver lining as it seems to have helped shift a few pounds – certainly the return to long trousers revealed the need for an extra hole in the belt.

There could be a potential laundry crisis looming somewhere on the horizon (really should have done some while we were in one place for three nights) with the speed with which T-shirts get drenched in sweat and the hammer my sole pair of shorts (accidentally dyed partly blue) is taking.

But even that could lead to a much-needed emptying of my locker on the truck to reorganise my bags, which was always planned for when we reach Accra.

There is, even with my bites staying relatively quiet (helped by the discovery of my tube of Savlon 51 days intp the trip), one itch that needs scratching.

And tomorrow we will start to scratch it as we turn north and get back on the road.

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Shadowy Figures – The sun sets over a stroll along the beach

The last week or so chilling out along the coasts of Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana has been very nice and having, most of the time, access to showers and toilets (although not the great God of wi-fi, which we have been without since Mali until a raiding party descended on the rather posher resort up the beach and some of us actually managed to connect to the workable server) is always welcome.

But can’t help feeling we have been treading water a touch over the festive period and it is time to get back on the road again, especially with our first proper encounter with the African wildlife awaiting in Mole National Park as we turn back inland.

The desire to spend Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve somewhere with a few facilities has meant a couple of cracking days, but has meant spending maybe a bit longer in this neck of the woods than really necessary, rather than heading off to places with a purpose, which is when this trip really hits its stride.

After 10 days or so of having facilities, the prospect of a potential bush camp tomorrow is one to look forward to even if our cook group is up again to create our unique brand of Anglo-Japanese fusion food (with a touch of Aussie and African cuisine thrown in every so often, as it means we are striking out on the road again.

The surroundings, company and temperatures may be unfamiliar (not to mention the distinct lack of leftovers once the last bits of the Christmas pig were hoovered up in no time), but the week up to the new year has had a fairly traditional sense of not much happening, waiting for the turn of the clock to kick back into gear.

Not that we have sat still, chalking up four temporary homes and even a new country as we took a leisurely meander along the coast of Cote D’Ivoire and into Ghana.

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New Year’s Day – The sun sets over Elmina

Sadly, our final stop in Cote D’Ivoire was in marked contrast with most of our time in the country as it was met with a not wholly welcoming reception.

While those who had nothing to offer us but a place to throw up our tents for the night and an unstintingly warm welcome offered exactly that without hesitation, our venture into the more salubrious surroundings of Assinie – replete, as it is, with holiday homes for the well to do from the big cities and further afield – saw us shunted into the far corner of our waterfront lodgings (once they had agreed to shunt us anywhere at all).

Far be it from us to mess up their pristine grass with our unsightly homes for the night.

We were made to feel far more at home in Beyin, our first stop after a pretty swift crossing into Ghana – well, first stop after the duty free shop opposite the immigration office which saw the spare locker on Nala filled with bottles to sit alongside the beer cans which were already there.

There was little need to break into the stocks on discovering the bar at the visitor centre housing us was selling cold beer at even lower prices (at least until we had cleaned out the fridge within minutes of arrival) which helped ease a night on cook group – complete with an almost naked chef – and make for a relaxing evening sat around a bonfire on the beach.

Our morning wake-up call was not quite so relaxing, coming as it did from well before dawn via the television in the bar tuned into a religious music station and turned up to full volume, as it was throughout our stay bar the rare moments we managed to seize control of the remote control and get the football on.

Religion, as we have discovered, plays a major role across Ghana, as shown by some of the business names we see dotted along the side of the road (God Will Provide Electricals being the pick so far, although it is perhaps not the best way to entice people to actually buy) and we had another close, at times fairly loud, encounter with the inhabitants of the mission bus from Kumasi which shared the car park and grounds with us on the second night.

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Mysterious Ways – The driver of the Kumasi mission bus shows his appreciation from our two

Not that the bus was that loud the morning after, refusing to budge to let us get out until Steve managed to fashion a different way out and tug them out enough to get their engine going.

God does indeed move in mysterious ways.

Our wander down the beach continued through Akwidaa (although not at our scheduled stop, which has clearly not been open for a while), Busua (a couple of hours on the beach and in the surf which saw that return to body boarding for the first time since childhood holidays in Cornwall), Takoradi (for shopping purposes only) and our new year base at Elmina.

It was, at least in my case, a pretty quiet, chilled affair with the need to look after the pet stomach bug by missing the football match against German volunteers, taking a lengthy daytime nap on Nala – the coolest place in camp – and keeping alcohol consumption to a minimum.

Strangely, of course, the new year arrived overlooking the beach with all of us having a clear idea about what will dominate the rest of the year. At least the first seven and a bit months of it.

And that’s good enough reason to toast the change of year.

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