Monday, February 14, 2005

From Goner To Ghana

I don't know if it was more heat exhaustion, the lingering effects of malaria, or something I ate, but Friday night brought a low grade fever, no sleep, and a slight delirium. At seven on Saturday morning it took all my will to get my clothes on.

When I went outside the Harmattan dust was so thick that it looked like the end of the world. A humid, sticky end at that. My plan was to take a cab to the main gare routiere, find a minibus to the town of Po, somehow get from Po to the border, across the border to the first Ghanian town, and so on. Under the best of circumstances it would have been hot and humid and tiring. In my current state I could barely stay conscious in the cab.

We got there and I asked one of the guys standing around for a minibus to Po. Instead he led me to a giant modern bus that in an hour was heading for deep in the heart of Ghana. What amazing dumb luck! I almost cried in my weakness. And what was really astounding was that buses weren't supposed to leave from that part of town.

And so off we headed for the promised land. And at around four I was deposited at Tamale, the largest town in northern Ghana. I went to an air conditioned room at the Catholic Guest House, and then up the hill to a restaurant, where I pigged out on iced fresh orange juice (you can drink the water here!), mushroom soup, and real pizza. Within a few hours of eating something not totally repugnant to my body, my body responded with good health once again.

The next day consisted of a hot, squoosed quasi-bus one breakdown ride to the city of Kumasi, where the first hotel didn't have a/c any more, the second was full up, and the third was too expensive. Not to mention the internet cafe was broken and the Indian restaurant was pretty mediocre. But you don't have to mention those things, because now they're just humorous happenstances, not potentially life threatening incidents.

Because Ghana has an economy!

Now it's still rather like a Central American economy, maybe like Costa Rica 20 years ago, but considering that this is Africa, that's pretty incredible. Also the fact that it's been down without the 'help' of the Lebanese or East Indians, who control the economies of most of the rest of Africa.

In fact, it's fascinating to see layers of economic life being added as I've headed south. Now there are, for instance, print shops. Billboards for tires. Though small, car dealerships. Areas of town that are pretty nice. Even though, please remember, the level of general poverty would be shocking by first world standards.

But compared with what I've been putting up with, it's end of the rainbow land.

Anyhow, here I am on the coast, at Cape Coast to be exact. It's so humid that you're dripping sweat ten minutes after having a shower. And that's with the a/c on!

But the up side of that is that for once the landscape is dripping with green and with life. Not only that, but about halfway down Ghana there started to be slope for just about the first time since Morocco. After a couple thousand miles of West Texas, any undulation makes a place look like paradise.

So now I'm resting. Tomorrow I'll tour the famous local fortress and go walk on a jungle canopy. It will be so nice to be up in the air without a net compared to the other stuff I've been going through.


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