A bit of R&R (rest and relaxation) on the beaches of Ghana

The veterinary inspector
After spending some days at the beach at Ivory Coast’s Grand Bassam, near Abidjan, I headed for Ghana. The road from Grand Bassam is good with heavy traffic and suicidal drivers. I’m taking it easy and stay behind a truck as much as possible.
The Ivory Coast border formalities begin surprisingly easy. The place is crowded with people, coaches have just unloaded their passengers to cross into Ghana. Everywhere people sit with their luggage, a lot of shouting, the beginning of a fight in a small group of men (why is it always men?). A policeman almost literally takes me by the hand and guides me along the desks to stamp my passport and Carnet. What a great service, especially since you wouldn’t know where to start looking. The immigration officer is sitting outside, with just a small desk, a chair and his stamp. The douane colonel (it says so on his impressive uniform) is two floors up in an AC room, and the policeman gently knocks on the door and salutes when he enters. Easy and efficient procedure.

However, they have spotted Thimba in the car. So I’m escorted to the office of the veterinary inspector. A wooden hut with four men in white laboratory coats, prying me from their makeshift verandah. One of them, a middle-aged, potbellied man with an unfriendly round face, walks with me to the car to inspect Thimba. He looks at her from a respectful distance of about 5 meters and commands  me back to his office. He’s already seen my documents and he clearly doesn’t want to inspect Thimba any further, so I am anicipating a request for a bribe. Back at his desk he studies Thimba’s passport again.
“The rabies vaccination has expired,” he tries.
I point at the expiry date where it says: 2016. It is valid for 3 years and it’s an internationally recognized document.
“Not in Ivory Coast. Here it is valid for only for one year, so it is longer valid.”
Just as I am beginning to fear that he wants Thimba vaccinated, he says the problem can be solved with a certificate to prove that he has inspected  Thimba (?!) and that she’s not carrying any diseases.
“It’s an international certificate,” he explains, “and allows you to travel with your dog in Ivory Coast for a maximum of 7 days.
“But I’m leaving Ivory Coast, not entering it.”
“That doesn’t matter. You still need this certificate, or we will keep your dog.”
He wants 20.000 cfa (30 euros). I get up and take a seat on a bench in the room, pretending not to care and just sit this out. Two other men in the room advise me to at least give him something, because the inspector is about to leave his office and threatens not to come back until the next morning. With my papers, Djezus!
“O.k., in the interest of my dog, who’s out there in the heat, I’m prepared to give you 5.000 cfa.”
“Just who do you think you are! It’s a fixed price and there’s no room for negotiation!”
I take two 5.000 cfa bills and put them on the table, and he gives in, writes the certificate and wishes me a “bonne journée”. The SOB!

Busua Beach, Ghana
Lots of umnanned roadblocks to Busua. At one manned checkpoint a young military asks “And what do you have for me? Anything?” I put on my biggest smile. “I give you my best wishes for a prosperous and healthy future, for you and your family!” He returns the smile and thanks me.
Busua Beach is said to have the most stunning, pristine beaches in Africa, and I camp at the Alaska Resort, right on the beach. When I’m shooting some action photographs of Max, Martin and Philipp playing a football game against some local boys, the owner of the neighbouring hotel invites me in and kindly asks me if I can take some pictures of her hotel. For her website. Of course I can.

Pristine phallus at Busua Beach

Pristine phallus at Busua Beach

Her name is Theodora Poots, an Australian citizen who lost her husband (indeed, from Holland) 5 years ago when she was in Australia and he was visiting relatives in Norg, Drenthe. She wasn’t even at his funeral.  She is emotional when she tells me her story. “It took me three years to get over it,” she says. I take some 25 photographs, post-process them and put them on a USB-stick that she has given me. My small contribution to the local economy.

Theodora Poots (right) and her best friend

Theodora Poots (right) and her best friend

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Max, Martin and Philipp playing soccer with local boys

What do I do with Thimba
My indecisiveness about sending Thimba back or not, bothers me. This is not like me at all. So what are the pros and cons:

Reasons to send Thimba back home
-       Thimba’s health and general wellbeing. The driving days are uncomfortable at least  and very tough when the roads are rough. After a hard day she’s completely exhausted.
-       Without a panting and stressed dog next to me in the car I would be better able to shift my focus to the journey itself.
-       I would be more flexible in deciding which routes to take.

Reasons to keep Thimba with me
-       It would undermine the concept of “travels with Thimba”. On the other hand, travelling is all about changing plans and adapting to new circumstances.
-       “Is that your bodyguard?”, a policeman asks me when he looks into the car. “She certainly is!”, I answer. And she really is. Wherever I walk with her, nobody comes near (which is also a disadvantage), and she guards the car and the room when I’m not there.
-       She recuperates fast after a bad day.
-       I have more or less decided on altering the route anyway. Skip Mali and Burkina Faso (sad, sniff, sniff, but hottest time of the year), and forget about crossing DRC from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi, because of the risks. That would mean I will be in Namibia end of May instead of end of June, where the roads are good and the temperatures more agreeable.
And I decided to continue my travels with Thimba!

Big Milly’s Backyard, Accra
I drive from Busua to Kokrobite, near Accra. Big Milly’s Backyard is a well known overlanders hotspot, and a relaxed and budget backpackers resort with live music in the weekends. It’s also one of the few criminal hotspots in Ghana. During the week that I stayed there, a young couple was chased by men with knives. In the afternoon! They barely escaped. Everyone is explicitly warned not to take anything to the beach: what you do not take can not be taken from you! I take Thimba.

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I take Timba!


A short timelapse

I use my time at Big Milly’s to get the visa for Angola (difficult) and Togo (easy), and to have the Land Rover serviced. I ask Seto, the owner, if he can recommend a good garage. He has had several Land Rovers and recommends one near the main road to Accra. They change the oil in the engine, gearbox, and differentials, and change the fuel and oil filter. I have to pay for the oils first, and a boy goes off on a moped to buy them. All work is done in the open air, on a stretch of sand. But they say that African mecanics are the best there are! And with a well serviced car and my freshly obtained visa I head for Togo!

fishermen preparing their boat, Accra, Ghana

fishermen preparing their boat, Accra, Ghana

2 thoughts on “A bit of R&R (rest and relaxation) on the beaches of Ghana

  1. Humperdinck Jackman

    Hi Gee,

    Enjoying your blog, and also VERY pleased to read of you getting the Angolan visa since other people have told me it was no longer possible in Accra. This is good news and I’m very glad you shared it. I’ve put a link only blog for other people to read yours.

    I respect you for considering the needs of Thimba. I hope she can enjoy the journey better – but you have some long days ahead of you once you head south.

    Humperdinck

    Reply
    1. Gee Post author

      Hi Humperdinck,

      Thanks for your message.
      I can tell you that I was also very pleased when I picked up the visa!

      Cheers from Lomé,

      Gee

      Reply

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