Sunday, 23 October 2011

Waterfall

Near the Togo border are Wli waterfalls, one of Ghana’s most popular attractions. Our group loaded into the hire car and took the road north from Ho to Hohoe. Hotels in Ho market Wli as a ‘nearby attraction’ – a questionable claim when it is a three-hour drive, but the Volta Region is a beautiful part of Ghana, with forested hills rising above tidy village farms, so the journey is part of the fun.

The popularity of an attraction in Ghana can be roughly gauged by its booking office. At Wli this is a large room with tables and chairs, complete with adjacent snack bar and gift shop, so it must see a lot of visitors. We were assigned a guide and started off along the track to the falls. The path was still slippery following the previous day’s storms, and the fords where it crosses the outflow from the falls higher than usual, but the forest was refreshingly cool and butterflies flew about everywhere.

We heard the waterfall long before we rounded the corner to see it. It was in full spate, the water crashing around 30m out from the cliff and the spray covering the whole clearing. An impressive force of nature, only spoiled by the mounds and mounds of rubbish left in the undergrowth in every corner of the site. The waterfall was too forceful to swim in the plunge pool, so we passed the time trying (and failing) to get good photos, and getting soaked before heading back to the car. There are longer hikes around the upper waterfall as well; worth noting for a return visit.

Amedzofe

The next day we headed for one of the Volta region’s most interesting places, and also one of the most remote. High up in the Avatime Hills is the village of Amedzofe and its nearby peak Mount Gemi.

The walk to the mountain is an easy half-hour pootle; it’s the drive there that brings you out in a sweat. A series of hairpin bends ascend an increasingly bumpy and poorly kept road. Quaysie lurched the car from side to side to avoid ruts and potholes, seemingly oblivious to how close we veered to the very long and very steep drop. I was relieved to reach the village.

We called in at the small tourist office in the village and our guide led us to Mount Gemi. The name is not an ancient Twi word, but named after the German Missionaries, who built the cross on its summit that doubled as a communications device during World War II.

This was about all he managed to explain; his attention was mostly on the village football match. Football is big news in Ghana, even in isolated mountain villages, and this encounter with Fume, a neighbouring village, was particularly spicy. I couldn’t understand the chants at opposition players, but they didn’t sound like friendly encouragement.

I asked our guide how many people visit Amedzofe each week. “Sometimes about 20, sometimes none, but it is fine, they are all welcome”. It’s a refreshing approach to tourism development. While it may not boost the bank balance, it helps to keep places like Amedzofe unspoilt as they slowly adapt to tourism.

After passing a cloud of biting gnats on route – the best technique is to run through swirling a t-shirt – we reached the summit. It’s one of the highest points in the region at 611m, and the views were incredible: miles and miles of dark green hills stretching out towards Lake Volta, with dusty brown villages dotted in every pass in between. Well worth a nerve-wracking drive and a cloud of biting insects.

Before heading off, we bought some cold drinks in the village and sat in stone chairs while a bunch of old men played Damii. This is a Ghanaian game similar to draughts, the main difference being that players have to slam the pieces down and shout regularly at their opponent. They ignored us completely as they focused on the next move or insult, so we drained our bottles and headed back to Ho, and the long drive back to Accra.

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