28th Feb 2005. Tamale, Ghana.
We are fever-browed with excitement as we approach the Ghanaian border. It turns out to be easily the slowest crossing since Tangier. But suddenly we're in Pineapple Paradise and speaking English, which is like coming home after nearly six months in foreign-land. The guide book says Tamale is a dusty hellhole with a 10pm military curfew. In fact the curfew was over months ago and whoever thought Tamale was dusty hadn't just been through Mali and Burkina. The friendliness level is increasing. I stop for a cig and water break - maybe seven minutes - and four people stop - cars and bikes - to see if I'm OK. 7500 miles from Islington...
1st March 2005. Kintampo.
In a small town halfway between Tamale and Kumasi I stop at a turning with a hotel signposted, and sit on a hillock to wait for Doug. After 10 minutes a guy comes out of his workshop to bring me a wooden chair.
Ghana has scenery! Rolling hills and lush greenery seem to start here. And the termite mounds are like cathedrals...
Unfortunately I forgot to get a photo of the two relief-carvings on the walls of yesterday's hotel, one of a seven-foot bleeding-heart Jesus, the other of a leopard with huge, eye-wateringly tumescent love organs, about to sodomise a horrified crocodile.
It's bloody hot.
2nd March 05. A Monkey Sanctuary.
It emerges in conversation today that Doug committed not one but two crimes against lavatorial decency in Burkina. It pains me to go into detail, but picture the two most revolting scenes from the movie of "Trainspotting". He recreated them both.
Ghana continues to be really startlingly friendly.
In other news, my trousers are starting to fall to pieces and they're the only pair I've got.
4th March 2005. Kumasi.
Drinking beer one evening, we meet a girl called Flora. It takes every ounce of self-control I possess to stop myself asking her if she spreads easily.
6th March 2005. Kumasi.
Two footer matches in two days. Today's is Kumasi Asante Kotoko vs. the Morrocan Armed Forces, a CAF Champions League game. One-nil to Kotoko!
Everyone wants our email addresses. It's becoming ever so slightly OPPRESSIVE.
9th March 2005. Cape Coast.
I stop for a fag somewhere in Southern Ghana and within seconds a man-and-wife team materialise from the undergrowth and offer me two - er - things in exchange for a cigarette. They're not coconuts but they might be cocoa-pods.
All things must pass, as George Harrison put it so succinctly, and we part enriched by the encounter. Ten miles down the lane I'm stopped by an aggressive copper who begins to denounce and shame me in an African language, making it clear that transporting a cocoa (or whatever it is) on a motorbike is AN INFRACTION, and that the fine is 100,000 cedis. I protest in English - a bloke gave me them by the side of the road officer *tremble*. He continues to tick me off, now about the fact that I can't speak "vernacular". Well I'm sorry officer but I was off sick the day we did "vernacular". Then he almost-grins and says
1. Only joking about the hundred grand.
2. I speak English, German, French, Spanish, Latin and two or three African languages.
3. Learn an African language!
4. Piss off!!
10th March 2005. Cape Coast.
Conversations I've had in Ghana:
Young Man - I want to be your best friend. I will follow you anywhere.
Me - Uh, thanks.
Baby - HOWAREYOUIMFINE!
Me - Uh, fine.
Waiter - I really really like you.
Me - Uh, OK.
Mad Woman - These are my children! Come to my birthday! I will follow you to London! Plenty fruit in *indecipherable*!
Me - Uh...
Ghana is extremely friendly and chock-full of nutters.
11th March 2005.
I book a flight home for AB's funeral. One week in England. I fly tomorrow, six months to the day after I left.
I feel a moral weight lifting after I book the flight. Doug and I celebrate by spending the whole day drinking beer and eating three platefuls each - where one would have sufficed - of record-breakingly good spicy prawns. BUUURP.
12th March 2005. Kotoka International Airport, Accra.
"Pissing down" is a vulgar and insensitive phrase used in vernacular UK English to signify heavy rain. I'm waiting to get on the plane to London and they won't even let us on the bus from the terminal to the plane, because - if I may - it's fucking shitting down. Beaucoups de lightning etc. But the first busload of people have made it onto the plane so it must be OK.
Accidentally had 10 large gins on the way, six with Doug in Accra and a further four at the airport. There are only two ways to approach a flight of over six hours.
1. Stone cold sober. I've done this a lot and it's fine.
2. Rat-faced shit-arsed drunk. I've done this as well and it's fine. You pays yer money and you takes yer choice.
Here's the thing with American dudes; when you overhear them talking, for example in an airport, you can't help thinking "Lawks! How brash". But when you actually meet them and have a conversation they invariably turn out to be
A. hilarious, and
Ain't that freaky?
5th April 2005. Accra.
Having returned to Ghana courtesy of BA's "Upgrade That Idiot To Business Class" service, we have spent 18 nights on the trot in Champs sports bar. Oh boy it's good.
I had a dream last night in which I was Mr Inappropriate. Mr I. travels from school to school, singing songs for the under-10's. He is dressed in a glittery clown costume and his song goes like this:
"At the top of my legs
There's a funny little man
With curly black hair
And a light brown tan."
At this point Mr Inappropriate is dragged away by uniformed officers.
One of the nice things about Champs is that, if you so desire, you can while away an evening playing pool with hookers. And they're always glad you came.
8th April 2005. Accra.
Dennis is the "Norm" of Champs. Micky is the "Cliff". Micky left a bar at 5am on Thursday morning and made it to Champs for 10am. The following conversation took place on Friday night.
-What happened to Wednesday?
-Uh, what happened to March?
9th April 2005. Accra.
1. Ghanaians are seriously into Christianity. They really really love the Lord.
2. Ghanaians tend not to smoke. It's seen as something bad people do.
So! I have invented a Ghana-only brand of cigarettes called "Kingdom". The cover of the pack features a dramatic photo of rays of sunlight bursting through cloud. The slogan for the poster campaign is "What would Jesus have smoked?" There may also be a low-tar version called "Eternal Life".
19th April 2005. Accra.
The Champsathon continues, but now we have visas for Togo and Nigeria and we're feeling the call of a new and unsoiled (by us) country. The Togo elections are days away and the smart money is on some fairly extensive post-ballot rioting, so we're keeping a close eye on the BBC Africa news website while we sit in Champs watching live Arsenal games and playing darts.
25th April 2005. Aflao, Ghana/Togo border.
We arrived three days ago to find the border closed. The Togo elections were yesterday and we think the border will open tomorrow.
Quite hungry now as the restaurant in the hotel only serves food in the evening and the only other place to eat in Aflao serves cat. I had some meat on a stick from a roadside stall this afternoon. Couldn't say what it was, but it definitely wasn't chicken, pork or beef.
We had an encounter on the way with Sergeant Amusing of the Ghana Police Service. It didn't seem to be going too well initially, when, on finding out we were British, he said "Ah well, you are our colonial masters."
I could sense a fine, perhaps based on the heinous infraction of Conducting A Motor Vehicle With Top Button Unfastened, but again I was wrong. He followed up with the observation that Germans are "tall and very thick" (he may have meant strong), while British people are "short, like Tony Blair". By the end he was imploring us to come and live in Ghana. Nice!
Gin is $2.50 a bottle here. Must leave soon...
My front tyre is ready for the knacker's yard, various pieces of the bike are held on with duct tape and cable ties, and the handlebars bend to the left. Mechanically however it's as good as new. As far as I can tell...
Unhappily, the default sauce in Ghana is called "Shito".
26th April 2005. Aflao.
The border is still closed on the Togo side, apparently to stop Togolese people fleeing violent riots. The election results are out today. It's no big surprise that the son of Africa's longest serving ruler (30+ years) is "elected". We take a stroll to the border in the morning. Lome, Togo's capital, is 2km from the border. A huge column of black smoke is rising from that general direction.
27th April 2005. Aflao.
The border is still closed *sigh*. It may or may not open tomorrow. We are told this every day. Rioting and attacks on people and businesses who seem to be French continue (due to Chirac's friendship with the dodgy dead Prez and his son, the dodgy new Prez.) We can't even find out if the motorbike shop - which has much needed tyres, is open as the phone lines have been cut. The last straw is that Doug's Ghana visa has run out, so we've decided to head back to Accra and wait two weeks to see if the situation improves. Bah! Hate going backwards. But at least we can have a game of darts in Champs...
29th April 2005. Accra.
It'll be no major hardship to stay here a fortnight. I even managed to get a nicer room at the same hotel for the same price (Four and a half quid a night). Thunder rumbles, rain pours, humidity briefly drops. Them rains are coming.
It's happy hour at Champs tonight - half price Star from five to eight. It's essential to be at the bar, ordering, at 4.59pm. Wise men take an early night at 8pm. Even wiser men buy a four pint pitcher at 7.59. It doesn't do to feel too ropey on Saturday though, as there's live Premiership football on the big screens from midday.
10th May 2005. Accra.
Perusing the specials board at my favourite lunch spot, I see "Gizzards Provencale" is available today. After careful reflection I opt for the club sandwich.
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