Last time I wrote we were in Ghana, about to head out along the coast to sample some beaches (.....for a change!) and now we are in Cameroon, doing much the same. Well rest assured it has been a very stressful month in the life of a professional traveller, I mean 'adventure motorcyclist'!!!
So, we headed out of Accra, to sample the 'Gold Coast' and see what beaches we could occupy for a couple of weeks!
The Ghana coast is littered with swanky beach resorts......you know the type, porters to carry your towel, everyone calls you sir/madam.
It is debatable whether we would be allowed into these places in our dusty bike gear, but in any case we didn't come to Africa to spend time in a pseudo-Hilton hotel.......oh and we can't afford them (which could be the REAL reason!). Using Pauls sixth 'beach' sense, we quickly sniffed out our first destination, a place called the Brenu Beach Resort, about 2hrs from Accra and near to the colonial capital, Cape Coast. This is what I call 'affordable paradise'.... no porters or air-con, but beautiful, deserted (except for the goats), sandy, palm fringed beaches and a beach bar serving cold beer.....perfect !
The sea along the coast is very difficult to swim in, with strong current and big waves, so most people just paddle. Brenu was no different and I gave up after the third time the side current took my bikini bottoms and planted my forhead unceremoniously in the sand!!! Obviously, Paul spent the whole 5 days we were there 'body surfing' in the 15 foot waves, giving me a heart condition watching for his little head bobbing out to sea!!!
It was here that we met some fellow Brits, Dwayne, Angie and Martin and so of course we shared a few beers! My only job during our stay in Brenu was to call a KTM dealer in Togo and find out if they had some replacment rear tyres for the bikes. I put it off and put it off , I was dreading speaking French over the phone.....you can't use hand signals! Eventually, I couldn't stall any longer and made the call, in appauling French we found out they did have some tryes which would fit......this was really good news because our tyres were totally bald, in keeping with all the other vehicles on the road in Africa!
After 5 days we decided to head further east along the coast towards Ivory Coast (at the same time everyone else was fleeing the other way because it had all just kicked off again!). The road was great, with lush jungle on either side, the only obstacle being the Police road block where Paul got hit by a passing truck carrying about 20 tonnes of berries and broke his wing mirror!! We saw signs for a beach hotel and decided to check it out. The Axim Beach Hotel sits on one of the worlds top 100 beaches...and you can tell, it was wonderful. The hotel was a series of lodges perched on top of a cliff overlooking the sea and we thought there were 2 chances they would let us camp, but amazingly they let us pitch our tent right on the beach and clutter the whole place up!
Our friend for the week was Emmanuel or 'Manu Red', the hotel life guard, cook, thatched roof builder and deep sea fishing expert!! Manu, who was totally orange, hence his name, also showed us his somewhat disturbing method of catching land crabs, involving a tin can, some elastic and a bit of potato.....shame!
Well, yet again we embarked on a week of swimming and sunbathing, but this time we also added in a bit of boogy boarding on the hotel boards!
The Gold Coast, for all its beauty has a quite sinister past, being a hot bed for shipping out slaves during the slave trade. The coastline is dotted with old forts built by Europeans to defend trading posts, but which were later used to imprison slaves. We had to start making our way back to Accra for our Nigerian visas, but we decided it would be really awful to come all this way and not move our buts off the beach long enough to see at least one fort, so we left Axim and headed to Prince's Town, where you can stay in the old German fort overlooking the town.
We had had glorious weather for our entire stay in Axim, but on the morning we were leaving there was a huge downpour and so consequently the roads were a mud bath.....typical. It was only 12 miles of dirt road to Prince's Town, but it took most of the morning and we arrived at the fort blathered in mud!
It was worth it though, the fort was great. It was perched on the top of a cliff overlooking the beachside town on one side and a stretch of palm fringed beach backed by a Mangrove lagoon on the other. Part of it had been converted into a hostel, but it was all falling apart with long dusty corridors and creaking floor boards.....fantastic!! When we arrived the caretaker, John, was so excited to see us, he almost woke up...but not quite...he fitted in perfectly. It is like a place that time forgot! We decided not to take a room and slept on the ramparts overlooking the town under a bamboo shelter, which was lucky because it rained in the night!! The next morning we wanted to give the road a little bit of time to dry before we left, so we walked into the town and managed to borrow a dug out canoe for a quick trip into the mangroves. The river was beautiful, but the dug-out was a nightmare to steer and we had these useless paddles that looked like they were made for a Cindy Doll's House canoe.
Luckily, a large group of locals gathered to watch us as we struggled to get away for the river bank and then proceeded to go around in circles until Paul finally got the hang of it!! As soon as I stepped into the dug-out tree trunk and sat on the piece of wet bamboo/seat, I instantly remembered how much I hate canoeing of any description, especially with a tooth pick for a paddle!! Nevertheless we soldiered on up the river and Paul saw 2 mongooses attacking a massive snake in a tree, but after 30mins we decided to head back to the fort, to pack up and get on our way. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas and as soon as we were on our bikes ready to leave there was a HUGE thunder storm! When the rain finally stopped it was late afternoon and the road was imassable, so we had no choice but to stay for another night and hope the rain held off........it did and we spent another night outside on the ramparts, watching the sunset, then the stars!
The next day was, November the 13th, a hugely important day in the calender....my birthday! We woke up with the sun rise and Paul had arranged with our entusiastic caretaker to have a fresh fruit salad breakfast delivered. Normally we have coffee and biscuits, so the fresh fruit was a real treat, and we ate it sitting in the castle walls, watching the sun rise over the beach. Next thing Paul has produced a ring and proposed........ as you can imagine I nearly had a heart attack and almost ended up falling off the wall into the banana trees below!!! What a birthday! All this romance aside, the weather was dry and so we had to get out of Prince's Town while we could, so we packed up and set off before anymore rain clouds appeared over the horizon!! Well, the road was BAD......my job was to scope out puddles with a stick or if they were too big, get my shoes off and wade in to find the best route through...great, I always get the good jobs!
The biggest one was about thigh deep and 50m wide with a wet slimy mud bottom...oh I didn' t mention my other job is to push the bikes from behind through deep mud. Consequently when we finally hit the tar road I was covered...and I mean covered from head to toe in thick red mud...nice! Instead of going straight back to Accra, we decided to celebrate my birthday and our engagment (I said yes by the way!) at a place we had heard about called the Green Turtle Lodge owned by a young English couple.
The place was yet again paradise and we splashed out on a slap up meal and we even paid for someone to do all our washing......I wish it was my birthday every day!
Well, it is all very well celebrating, but we had to get down to the serious business of getting a Nigerian visa, which we had heard can be a bit tricky, so we reluctantly headed back to Accra. Like good British citizens always do, we arrived at the Nigerian embassy bright and early Monday morning only to find it was a National Holiday for Ramadan.....typical ...and they only issue visas on Mondays and Wednesdays...typical again! This is the Nigerian embassy we are talking about though, and true to form the security guard said he could organise for the visas to be processed on Tuesday, even though it wasn't visa day...if we 'made him happy'. We wanted to get out of Accra asap, so we took him up on his offer and came back the following morning. It seemed a lot of people had been offered the same priveledge because the place was crawling with people getting elicit visas!! After parting with an extortionate 55 dollars each we also had to produce proof that we had enough funds to finance our trip and an invitation letter from someone living in Nigeria, proving they knew we were coming.......it is clearly the job of emassy staff to protect their lawless, corrupt state from happless travellers without any money turning up unannounced on the doorstep of unsuspecting Nigerians!! A quick trip to an internet cafe and half an hour on Word and we produced very professional proof of our healthy financial situation and a letter of introduction.....isn't word processing fabulous! So after making the guard 'reasonably' happy (it was a Yorkshire bribe!!), we picked up our visas the following day and headed out along the coast towards the Togo border stopping for the night at a place called Cocoloco Beach, which was 'allegedly' owned by one of Bob Marley's Wailers.
The place was a bit like a prison compound on the beach and to be honest I would have been a wailer if I lived there too!
Next stop Togo...
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