The last day… It always seems like a good idea when you look at flights and see you can spend all day there doing things before you catch the late flight home, in reality I hate it, it drives me nuts. Once I’m packed and ready to go I get it in my head that I’m going, I want to go, the whole hanging around waiting thing frustrates me, I end up clock watching all day and just feel generally unsettled. The best way to combat this, do as much stuff as you can, oh and have a beer or two!
First on the agenda; battle our way across town to the arts market then to the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park and then Independence Square. Kwame Nkrumah was the first President of Ghana and the man to lead Ghana away from British Colonialism in 1957 when they gained independence. They hailed him the Osagyefo which means redeemer in Twi and he was and still is considered a hero to the Ghanaian’s and I can understand why. Having now travelled around a few of these West African countries it was clear to see that Ghana was definitely doing better than the others which probably had something to do with them gaining their independence. We were going to pay to enter the Memorial Park in Nkrumah’s name but we decided to peer through the gates and save our last few Cedi for pre flight beers, sorry Mr Nkrumah!
Next up was Black Star Square and the Independence Arch, both are part of a huge square which is used for the countries Independence parade, it was all pretty impressive but I did nearly get run over whilst trying to take a photo of the Black Star Square. Cheat a sticky African death #2!
We wandered back through Osu having an ice cream and picking up some last minute gifts before heading back to the University to collect our bags. All loaded up and ready to go we handed in our keys and headed out to find a taxi to the airport. Whilst on our way to find a taxi I managed to trip and put a massive gash in my toe on a sharp rock, what is it with Africa and trying to injure me!!!! Sweaty, dusty and bleeding we found a taxi, let Gen argue the price down and headed to the airport for our flight home. 😦
The last five weeks had been truly eye opening and a real rollercoaster of emotions. There was the initial excitement and happiness of being reunited with my girlfriend after 6 months of living on separate continents, there was the tiring bus journey’s, the frustration of price fixing because you were severely out numbered, the terror of being involved in a potentially fatal bus crash miles from anywhere, the confusion of being lost in Ouagadougou having no clue where the hotel is or how to pronounce its name, the feeling of being horrendously ill and the knowing that everyone else in the room knows you’re not well either (sorry folks), the sheer luxury of Lou Moon Lodge, the spine chilling stories of Cape Coast Castle and now it was time to leave it all behind and head home to our safe and sterile lives back in the UK, life would almost seem boring without a daily risk of death!
There is only one word I could use to describe West Africa and that would be exciting. Every day I either saw something that made me go “wow” or something happened that made me go “oh shit” and you could never predict which of the two it was going to be. At times I found myself getting grumpy and wishing it could be easier but as time progressed that is kind of why I liked it, it wasn’t an easy place to travel, options were limited, there’s hardly any backpackers in West Africa and those that are around seemed to be mostly on the coast. There is no tourist agencies to sort out your travel arrangements whilst you are there, you have to do it all yourself, travel in West Africa is a challenge but it’s a rewarding challenge. There is something nice about it being a challenge and being somewhere less travelled. Would I go back? Sure, however, if I were going back I would learn more French (You’re fine in Ghana with English but everywhere else speak French and French alone) and I would probably want to hire a 4×4 and drive myself. We travelled Ghana, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso by public transport alone which was fine, however it is time consuming, slow and often unreliable not to mention ridiculously cramped, hot and sweaty. It is definitely an experience travelling on a tro-tro for 10 hours in 40 degree heat however with more money in my pocket I’d rather drive a 4×4 with air con!
If you are thinking of going, do it. But be prepared for long sweaty journeys and language barriers but if you are patient and have a positive outlook at all times you’ll love it. For all of the tough times and pant filling moments you may have along the way, there are ten times more brilliant moments to have.