Sunday, 9 October 2011

Mount ‘Alaska’

After two steep hills on my first two outings with the Ghana Mountaineers, it was time for something different. Mount Alaska made for a pleasant change; rather than pitch up at the foot of the hill and then get sweaty for three hours, we parked a distance away for a leisurely walk in across the plains.

We headed through a village to a mixture of cheerful waves and confused looks from the villagers – where are these obronis heading so early in the morning? Ghanaians are very sporty – running groups fill the streets early morning, and every scrap of land is used to play football – but hiking doesn’t seem to be on the radar yet. Plus Sunday morning is, of course, time for church for most people.

Outside the village, we crossed a mango farm – complete with a nearly-treading-on-snake incident – and refreshed ourselves under the shade of a baobab tree before continuing across the scrub.

The final climb was simple, and the cool summit breeze was thankfully blowing. This breeze is where the hill got its unofficial name, with Felix complaining on a previous visit that “it’s like Alaska up here”. An overstatement perhaps, but anything other than sticky heat is a welcome treat in Ghana.

The hill is also the perfect spot to admire the Shai Hills, a small group of outcrops that hosts an array of wildlife in its forested slopes. Apparently … there was no sign of life in any direction as we gazed across the grasslands. One thing West Africa lacks when compared to the East is the large game wandering about in huge groups. The scenery looks beautiful, but empty and somehow lonely with nothing grazing below.

We did see some animals, albeit not wild ones, on the way back. Three boys were herding their cattle across the plains. Despite the relatively wet climate and abundance of grass, there are few herders in the plains north of Accra (this might be due to Tsetse flies that thrive in these conditions and limit livestock keeping). Mount Alaska may not be the most challenging climb, but the cows, with their long horns and humped backs, gave the walk an African flavour.

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