Tag Archives: Ghana Travels

Journey To The North

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

So I got into a bus heading north and though initially I didn’t know the people but I was cordially welcomed and before long we were chatting like we’ve known each other for years. After all what other choice did they have but that they were stuck with me for at least the next ten hours on the long drive to Tamale.

Kpakpo it is said that a man is not measured particularly by what he has but more by the friends he keeps. Here I was the day earlier doing errands for your sister especially to do with some documents she needed from that monolith institution up on the hill with its cumbersome bureaucratic processes. You know how it is in the capital when you want documents instantly then you have to fill some forms which bear The Big Six on the front pages and as letterheads. So there was no way I could get the documents without it taking a hit on my pockets. Meanwhile here I was having to rush back to Tamale for a mentoring program at the local university so I had to rush to the Intercity STC to book a ticket for the next day to travel. But the big sign post in the cashier’s window NO BOOKING WITHOUT CASH really had me prepped for an angina attack. What was going on and where was I to mobilize funds especially since I was told there were only two seats left on the second bus for the next day.

Kpakpo here I was feeling stranded and then after saying a prayer decided to tell a couple of friends and see how it goes. Now lemme tell you why I chose the InterCity STC. The company just recently purchased new Scania buses and these buses are fitted with usb ports and power sockets for electronic gadgets. I know when that our cousin who likes beans a lot hears this he might even try to take his rice cooker into the bus and cook some beans whilst he travels. But yeah! The buses are fitted with usb ports, a freezer and has on-board toilet facilities (which I have never seen in use considering how some passengers will even go to the bush and you can smell them a mile away) and best of all they have wireless services on board. This is what will make social media and internet users wanna ride in these buses and I am going to spearhead a campaign that it becomes our mode of transport of choice at social media events or gatherings.

So yeah that is it.

Kpakpo after an hour of making calls and convincing the ticket lady to hold the ticket for me I walked out of the station with a ticket in my pocket. Every day when I wake up I say a prayer to thank God for life and for his many blessings to me and that includes my friends and then I say a prayer for my friends too for God to bless them as they go through their daily lives. I have some friends and even though are crazy will go to the ends of the earth just to have my back. Look at yourself. Lol

So from the station I stopped over at the Body Temple of ICGC  to see my basketball friends I haven’t seen in a while and I’m sure the receptionist was shocked at how the boys just run out to carry me into the premises telling her I was VIP when everyone else is supposed to pay before entering the premises. It was really good to see them and regrettably I couldn’t stay any more days so we could hang out.

Anyemi, it was just as I got home that I got a call that there was a company bus leaving the Accra Mall in the wee hours of the morning and most of the people on the bus were going to be in the north for the first time and they would love for me to be on board that bus. Wow! What was happening I asked myself? I already had the ticket for the Intercity STC and I had to go return it but still I wasn’t convinced I wanted to leave the comfort of the public bus for some folk I didn’t even know and whether they will even treat me cordially. ‘Human beings are someway’ as a friend of ours will say. But then again, every journey had to be an adventure so why not. Luckily when I called the number for the Intercity company the same lady that served me picked up and she was so courteous I almost said I was sorry for bothering her but I will still take the bus. The lady explained my options to me and even wanted me to hold on till the morning so I make a decision when I came to board the bus but I told her the other bus was leaving around 3am and then she agreed on a refund or I change the ticket to Kumasi for another friend who was traveling there in the morning. Refund won the debate.

Kpakpo, by the time I was done doing all these calls and getting home and packing , it was long past midnight and which meant I had barely three hours to get ready. I called to confirm that I will be on the bus, took a shower, ironed my clothes, switched to news channels to watch what was going on in the rest of the world and lay down to wait for the time so I could leave home and go meet the bus  at the Accra Mall. Oh yes! And for the first time ever I set an alarm so at least I had some noise reminding me it was close to time. I didn’t know this people and I did not for any reason want to create a bad first impression. It was gonna be a long drive.

So at half past 3 I was at the roadside with my bags debating whether to take normal trotro which is cheaper to the mall or to take dropping which was comfy. I was wondering if there were any Uber drivers up by then. Well, since I still wanted to make an impression the dropping won and thankfully the taxi driver was very chatty and we have an interesting conversation on the drive. Within minutes we were at the mall since it was the wee hours of the morning and there was virtually no traffic on the roads. Moreover using the N1 we could almost wish we had another car to race with. There was no sign of the bus when I got to the mall but when I called the contact I was supposed to call I was asked to come into the station behind the mall and there I realized the company had a small office there and that was the pick-up point. The bus hadn’t arrived yet and after greeting those that were around I settled to wait.

Nii Kpakpo it wasn’t too long when the driver arrived and he was driving a new Ford Transit 14seater van and that put a smile on my face because I knew I had made a good choice. Before long we were chatting like we had met before and we were telling each other stories of travels to parts of Ghana to the delight of the rest of the passengers waiting. We assured them that inasmuch as it was going to be a long drive they will have fun along the way and should just enjoy the journey. The driver told me that he had suggested we leave that early because of the Buipe Bridge that was usually closed for repairs daily at 2pm and we needed to cross the bridge before its closure, else the alternate was to drive to the Bole-Bamboi-Sawla-Fufuiso road that will add at least four hours more to the journey. As for the alternative we didn’t even want to consider it at all so we set timelines and told the passengers that there will be minimal stoppages on the way until we got to the bridge. One passenger that was delaying was left behind because he could not be specific as to where he was as at the time we were ready to leave. At exactly 5am we set off from the Accra Mall.

The women went to the back seat and amidst giggling, gossiping and teasing each other we drove off. This soon petered out since it was obvious because of the time we were leaving peoples’ sleep patterns had been affected and before long most people were asleep. The timelines that I had set were pretty effective by my estimation and I understood why when I told the driver that I was estimating we get to Kumasi in four hours he just laughed. We hit the Ejisu roundabout at a quarter to eight but then the traffic in Kumasi driving through the center of town was crazy and we spent another hour manoeuvring through to get on to the Tamale road via Offinso. We picked up another passenger in Kumasi and by now the women in the car were awake and complaining that they were hungry.

Kpakpo inasmuch as we jokingly say that you can buy anything in traffic in Ghana it is very true for Accra and Kumasi cities. Driving through the traffic there was food that could serve a full British breakfast: oats, toasted bread and eggs, milo, milk, burfloaf, sandwiches and somebody even carried porridge. But alas our women didn’t want any of this but they preferred a local breakfast of some waakye or banku or probably some early morning fufu with some herbs and bushmeat. The discussion of what to eat on the bus also generated its own laughter and truly Ghanaians we laugh at our pain. Having gotten to the outskirts of Kumasi and out of the traffic the driver then stopped at a place where there was waakye for the women to buy breakfast whilst him and another passenger found a fufu joint and went off to have their own meal. They were the last to get on the bus and then we set off again with a further warning of minimum stoppages.

Time for people to start chattering again with food in their bellies but very soon, sleep took over again. The next stop was in Techiman to refuel and have passengers stretch a bit and use the washroom. Whilst they did that I quickly rushed over to see my cousin who was at a shop just a street away. The Linda that we used to know as a little gal is not so little anymore and she has grown into a lovely young woman helping her mother at the store and managing some of the business. She’s become the Techiman La Gata after the telenovela character. I know I should soon introduce her to my other sweetheart in the town, the svelte community nurse Vee but soon. Every time I show up there people are curious as to who I am because I relate to her by the love I have for her and we laugh easily. It was a quick pop in and I just hugged my aunt since I haven’t seen her in a while and told her I was passing by on a journey to the north and wanted to come get a blessed hug from her. She followed me to the bus and when the other passengers saw her and after the introduction one particular man started already calling me in-law mischievously. We set off again heading to Kintampo but passing through Tuabodom which also led the women to sing the old song that had once been a national hit and we laughed over it.

Kintampo is the center of Ghana and the town thrives on traveller trade because most of the buses that ply the north and south stop over there thus there are several rest stops. There was one time I remember we stopped over very late almost midnight and GN Bank van was still working giving announcements for people to come deposit their monies from daily sales for safe keeping. The town never sleeps because buses pass through almost every minute of the day. However we didn’t stop at Kintampo since we had already stopped at Techiman and we drove past heading to the bridge which was now our target because we intended to cross it before the close down time of 2pm. We were on track. We got to the bridge with still an hour and half to spare before closing time and just after we crossed it we were all clapping for our driver. He had made good time. It was then that I suggested whilst we were getting some snacks including tiger nuts, aka atadwe, that we get the driver some guinea fowl (akomfem) eggs to celebrate his feat. Moreover he needed to take a break of at least ten minutes which we insisted on so he had to find a place convenient to park the van.

Nii Kpakpo, just as the driver parked the van and got out I opened the door for those who wanted to stretch a bit to come out of the van and the very first lady who was eager to get out tried to come out of the van. Just as she put her leg down and her full body came into contact with the heat outside she jumped back into the cooler confines of the van. The action was very short-lived but very funny because just as she put her other foot on the ground out of the van the heat wave caught her straight in the face and she jumped back into the cooler confines of the van. At this time just before the rains is the hottest season in the north. The average temperature daily is 38 degrees and the passengers didn’t understand how I was feeling so cool in the heat and I told them that sometimes I felt I was solar because I have always been energized by the sun’s rays and it felt good to be back in the northern sun. One of the ladies commented ‘then we can’t live here oh’ and to which I replied that they will get used to it if they lived here and my experience the first time I visited Tamale.

When we set off again we knew that the next stop will be in Tamale and we even passed the Intercity bus that had left Kumasi at 6am that morning on the way. To impress the other passengers I put my wireless device on and caught the Wi-Fi from the bus to prove that indeed there was Wi-Fi on that bus and why I believed it was the bus of choice. Approaching Tamale and people were taken aback by the development and their impression that the place was a backwater changed instantly to be confirmed the next day when I met them that they will give consideration to a chance to relocate up north to stay.

The long journey gradually was coming to an end and all I could think about was the food that the boys were going to have at lunch. Every Friday are special days at The Observatory, a particular table set in Club Enesta, a restaurant in the very heart of Tamale. I was in contact with the chef and I had already told the boys to take a photo of the food I’d be missing but they didn’t know that I had made arrangements that just when the food was placed in front of them I will appear to eat some. I could just imagine the look on their faces. And Oh! I achieved that perfectly. Got to lunch just in time to just wash my hands and join in the meal after dumping my bags on the floor.

Nii Kpakpo Thompson, you see how this letter is long, so also was the journey long but in the end we made it. Considering the aftermath of accidents all over the news and casualties I give God the glory and thank Him for traveling mercies all over the nation. It is not by intelligence or might but just by His favour, grace and mercy that we travel as much as we do safely. Keep praying for me that I will enjoy safe travels in these parts as I bring you more stories from up here. And paddy, hurry and get your show on the road. I’m still waiting for the day you call me and tell me you’re heading up here or are here already. Like we will paint the savannah with its own sunset.

Till I write to you again I still remain,

Your Cousin in Law,

Savannah Boy

 

STC Saga

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

As usual I have to travel on one of my weekend trips and the choice of which transport to use is a major headache around here. With the proliferation of transport companies on our roads now a simple journey which hitherto only involved getting to a station and getting a bus is not that simple anymore.

Most of these transport companies have packages for patrons to attract more passengers to them. Usually packages are tailored to suit client needs and also convenience.

Especially when you’re traveling from the savanna most of the buses such is OA, GH & (V)VIP leave in the evenings and drive through the night so that by morning, clients will be in Accra. Leaving after work hours in the savanna ensures that it is possible to report for work in Accra in the morning and go about any business.

There are other buses that also leave in the morning and these include Imperial Transport and our very own STC. They drive through the day and join in the traffic melee in Kumasi and subsequently Accra as their final destination.

Kpakpo our age old STC has proven over and over again to many a Ghanaian that state owned enterprises don’t thrive with mediocre services and constant disappointments. Gone were the days when the state’s transport company run on its ‘proper four tyres’ when we were in high school. Mention their name now and Ghanaians wont even give you a ‘tweaa’ but an ‘apuu’ which is a deeper sense of contempt. You’d be lucky that they wont even spit as they do in disgust as they do in some jurisdictions.

Anyemi as I’m writing this letter on a Thursday it must be coincidental that I’m sitting in the STC yard with a friend talking about the good old days when we get to the “transport yard” carrying yo trunk and chop box and you didn’t have to struggle for a ticket because some influential parents went up to the transport manager and got us a student bus that ‘dropped’ everyone in their respective schools in Cape Coast or in Takoradi.

Indeed! Those Setra buses were built like German tanks and we had absolute confidence in our drivers because sometimes we saw their training driving heavy fire tenders.

BUT NOW! LATELY!!

STC is a pale shadow  of itself and I like to think that only loyalists still take them for one reason or the other. One famous radio presenter friend of mine, a staunch vocal supporter of the company told me his final straw was when he traveled to Takoradi and when it was time to get back he went to the ‘transport yard’ to book a ticket to leave at 4pm but was told even as at 2pm that he got there that those who even booked for 11am were still in the station. There was no bus to convey them to Accra.

WHAT??  THIS IS INCREDULOUS!!  He screamed.

Kpakpo, he said the people looked at him like he was a raving lunatic. What kind of service is this that a bus scheduled to leave at 11am as at 2pm still hadn’t come.

Dude just picked his bags and walked across the street to take one of the Ford vans bound for Accra. Suffice it to say if STC was the last option he’d hire a rental car to his destination.

Nii Kpakpo Thompson just imagine what happened today. When I made enquiries I was told reporting time is 5am and you know the time I go to bed around 3am earliest so I decided to just reserve the ticket and not pay for it.  If I couldn’t redeem it then fine but if I made it too, all the better. So luckily a bad headache as a result of dusty allergies (went cleaning our new place, story for another time)had to go to bed a wee bit after 2am. You know your sister is a tickler for time so latest by half past 4 she’d started her usual wake Kola up routine of kicking me deliberately out of bed.  It is so uncomfortable and very annoying that no matter what you do you have to wake up. Took my shower, got dressed, lay by her side for a while, there was still more time, then she prayed for me and sent me on my way.

Kpakpo, the lady at the counter said reporting time was 5am and when I got in at a half past there was no bus. They were at it again I thought. Went out to get some koko breakfast, came back and still not bus. It was at the scheduled departure time that the bus arrived and started checking in passengers. Would you believe it was now that the lady at the counter had finished nipping her brows and browsing on her phone and was ready to check in passenger’s luggage. Kpakpo isn’t that what you do first even before you check in passengers on the bus?
Here every thing is reverse.

I’d bought my ticket and she didn’t have change and so she indicated that the outfit owed me ten cedis on the back of the ticket. Woman at counter says she wont give it to me cos other woman didn’t tell her anything before she went off duty. I was about to explode because here I was towering over a crowd of people trying to get their luggage tagged properly into the buses and you were taking money off them all but still  wont give me my change. Now she tried to call the other woman to make enquiries but I’m glad the line didn’t go through or they’d have got a piece of my sun baked brain even tho the sun was not out yet.

Nii Kpakpo not only did I have to contend wits the other passengers over their luggage claims but also had to contend for seat numbers that didn’t work. And here’s evidence of the result.

So another friend of mine is on leave and wants to spend some time.with his family. Books tickets to go but was later told when he got to station that bus had left earlier due to other factors and he gets to leave on this bus with me.  Whilst he’s trying to tag his bags we are at the counter when news comes that manager says there is an extra seat on the bus so they should fix somebody there. Order from Above syndrome. It needs to be obeyed. Dude gets on the bus and there is no seat for him. Remember he’s been transferred from the bus the day before that had left under “mysterious circumstances”.

Chale! Even the driver of the bus is peeved and goes to call the transport manager to sort the issue out. The manager, who had checked in the passengers explains to the “plus one” that the seat owner has been found so he has to vacate the seat but he  will have the option to still go if he’d sit on the small seat besides the driver. Just when he agrees and gets up to go my friend is waiting to take his seat when the transport manager asks if my friend, being a younger man can come to that small seat with leg cramp options but my friend blatantly refused to which he drew from the manager a few mutterings about children and lack of respect for old age.  Dude just sat in his seat. You don’t know his story so don’t tend to judge. He was very frustrated which is a trade mark of the STC.

Chale Kpakpo I can go on and on including the  worst travel story I’ve heard of one bus with a bad infestation of roaches.  I was told it got worse when that particular bus bound for Accra got to Ksi and an  inferior bug spray was used to try to exterminate them, only made them all come out to play. So I was telling my seat mate we’re only lucky to have mosquitoes on this bus as he gingerly chases one around and tries to kill it. Hope he gets it cos I think I’m already coming down with something that I hope this lone mosquito wont contribute to malaria.

Nii Kpakpo Thompson, well the drive is uneventful apart from the usual picking of passengers on the way and dropping them off on parts of the journey like the bus is a trotro. I’m not quite in a hurry but that is so typical of STC that you think it’s slow but you get to yo destination and you realize you are within the stipulated time range of the number of hours a bus is supposed to take on the road.

Anyemi it is pretty obvious what our famous STC has been reduced to –  a complete sham of its glory days, and they have let mediocrity become their byword but some of us will still ride the buses not only when it is convenient but for nostalgic purposes.

Kpakpo, wish me safe journey like your sister did. Will write to you again soon.

Till then I still remain

Your Cousin in Law
Savannah Boy

Farm Time

Dear Nii Kpakpo,
Well I promised I was gonna tell you about the time I spent on the farm in Drobo and how yo sister was kinda out of sorts on the farm. Well here it is.

We woke up in the morning all excited even more than Pepsi the guard dog in the house we stayed in, who would snap his jaws at your hands when he was excited, and you have to be careful petting him cos he loved his freedom too much and didn’t fancy being chained to the fence.  We had enjoyed the previous night walk so much that we decided not to call a cab, like typical Accra people will do, but walk to the roadside quite some distance away.

Kpakpo the women made quite a sight on the road in their tight clothes and the way they carried themselves especially the healthy banter and playfulness that they were enjoying just teasing each other and sharing jokes and stories even teasing each other with who farts the most.  Yes any3mi these are down to earth gals happy to talk of the economies of the world in one breath and in the next breath talk crap and go escatological on you in a seamless sugue.

The mobile money guy was so dumbfounded and I noticed, albeit looking pretty uncomfortable, he had the utmost respect for them by the way he attended to their needs. Early morning banana and Hausa koko at the roadside for breakfast, stopping at the market to get some items for cooking food on the farm and getting a taxi and we were on our way to the farm which is on the outskirts of the town.

Kpakpo, honestly the drive reminded me of back in the day when me and my dad will leave mom and my little brothers at home and head out from Korlebu to Abokobi to the farm. These days the traditional farmlands that produced food sold in Accra main have all become residential areas and upper class estates with plush housing. If my dad drove his company car we had to park it somewhere and walk for over an hour sometimes not meeting anybody before we got to the farm.

This journey brought out memories because from where the taxi turned off the main road we just kept driving on a dirt road with dust flying all over and then we just got off it onto a bush path, that you had to look closely to realize was even there, and just kept going. The only assurance as we drove through the bush was that our host had lived in these parts for more than half her life and knew the paths by rote. She reveled us with stories of happenings in the bush and the village as she grew up with her parents and brothers. It was both funny and some very insightful.

There were stories that reminded me of how we have disregarded our traditional family values throwing away the extended family system for the western, leaning towards the nuclear family and as such the disadvantages, especially in the area of support that come with it. The nuclear family system leans more towards self dependence.

Furthermore, other stories also made me realize how some of us were privileged to have been brought up in Accra such that our parents already did the struggle for us and we just had to blend in unlike those from the hinterland who had to come and hustle just to be in Accra.  The stuff some people had to go through make some of the stories we hear of people’s sojourn in Accra sound unbelievably unrealistic. Stories of hunger, desperation, neglect, being taken advantage of and a host of others.

Well we finally got to the village, in the middle of the farm, and met our host’s brother who manages and works the farm. Dude is quite a young man and his outfit for the farm is what caught our attention. HE was dressed in jeans pants a sweatshirt and had a jacket over the whole get up completed by his Wellington boots. Albeit the clothes being quite worn, you’d expect that in the heat of the sun he’d be in just some drab clothes.

So in curiousity I asked what his background was only to discover that he had done a stint in Accra as a driver for a couple of years but realized city life wasn’t cut out for him so he’d gone back to the village to take care of his father’s farms and within a year he won an award as one of the region’s best farmers.

Kpakpo when we got to the farm we realized it is pepper harvest season so he took us to walk through the farm to see its expanse. When we walked into the farm we thought it was just pepper and after a few minutes of being on the farm we realized the pepper was just a small part of the farm which had cocoyams, cassava, plantain and ginger. All these had been grown together on the same land so intelligently and I was told that was the mixed cropping.

Any3mi you should have seen your sister, typical city girl, born and bred, walking through the farm almost on tiptoes like she was on a catwalk dodging yam twines and some twigs. Furthermore as if it was consciously by consent, nobody said anything about animals in the bush like snakes otherwise..

Thank God she wasn’t in heels too..

Nii Kpakpo Thompson the best part of the day spent in the farm was the cooking part. Whilst inspecting the portion of the farm the women were picking some on the pepper, uprooted  few (coco)yams and then cassava, plucked some okra too and then brought it all together for a typical village meal having already brought salt, fried fish and oil from the market.

Wow! As my mother’s son who lives in Kumasi always keeps reiterating to anybody who will listen that “in the village your only ATM is your cutlass, just get into your farm and yo meal is set.. ”
He is so right and I never thought of it till I saw it first hand especially after the farmer with flair and finesse caught a cockerel to go with the meal.

From the moment he brought in his lure of corn and started making sounds to attract the fowls on the farm to come eat, till the moment he caught the one fowl he wanted, lasted exactly one minute.

Kpakpo I don’t know what came over me but I recorded the whole process and please remind me to play it to you when I see you. It is amazing.

On the farm we had to use what was around to get comfy and this included a bed of banana leaves for which the gals lay on intermittently and fell asleep on after the heavy meal of fufu and soup. This was placed under the shade of the trees and the breeze was amazing. Apart from the constant buzzing of the insects and flies and the constant presence of the animals especially  the ever stubborn curious pigs just oinking around and eating dirt everywhere.

Well Kpakpo that’s our day on the farm and with the dusty roads we all got back with our stomachs full and our hair dyed brown from dust and me wheezing from the dust allergies. But it was a good day well spent.

After a couple of hours we were on the road back to Techiman to travel further on to Tamale. Your sister truly had a farmland experience and I will definitely show the pictures to her dad when I come visit during the holidays.

Nii Kpakpo it was a weekend well spent and I can say she enjoyed her birthday this year. I’m just happy I was a part of it and she deserves it.

See you when I come for holidays and we should definitely plan something.

Till then I still remain
Your Cousin in Law
Savannah Boy

Drobo Road Trip

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

So in my last letter I told you about the road trip to hideaway in Techiman to mark your sister’s birthday since she insisted on seeing what it was like for me on these Ghana Travel tours. Well,  she got a firsthand feel of my abrupt spontaneity when I made a call to one of my friends who had left Accra to visit her mother in their village barely 4 hours away from our location so I told your sister we were going to spend the day with this mutual friend.

Our friend is what you’d call a typical village gal brought and raised in the rural area and relocated to Accra. But albeit the pressures and influences of city life she has still retained her rural identity and is a person greatly admired by a lot of people in the city not only for her personality but also for her ability to whip out very rural dishes in her kitchen using ingredients as if she was cooking in her village backyard.

Food to tantalize your palate and send your emotions and taste buds back to grandma. It’s no wonder when the BBC wanted to do a story m blending rural and urban cuisine her name came up and she was featured in the BBC story.

Kpakpo your sister is one interesting character. You should have seen her eyes brighten up when I said we were going on another road trip. So off we went to take a taxi for the first leg of three of the trip.

Techiman to Sunxani
Sunyani to Berekum
Berekum to Drobo.

Chale it didn’t come as a surprise to me that your ever cautious sister when it comes to money didn’t talk of how we were going to finance the road trip. I’ve always been trying to tell her that the fun involved in such spontaneous trips can never be quantified and even if one hits a snag, getting out for it was part of the fun. This was an opportunity to see a part of Ghana she hadn’t been before and she wasn’t ready to pass this one up.

The road trip was uneventful until we were told to get down at Jini Jini since our host was waiting there to take us to a program. As soon as we got out of the taxi we were whisked off in another car down a pretty dusty nondescript road into a settlement we were told was the hometown of the former electoral commissioner of Ghana. Oh man! These “big men” indeed neglect their homesteads but who am I to say?

What was the occasion?  It was the ordination of the new district Catholic priest and all the churches had come together for mass. So inadvertently we went to church on Sunday and stayed the whole time.

After service it was a tough call getting a direct car to Drobo so a friend had to drive as back to Berekum to take a car and that’s where we were told that the road to the town was so bad and the drivers didn’t want to drive that road since it gave their cars problems. But one driver decided to take us and seeing we were obviously tourists, even including our host who had lived in the area most of her life, he gave us insights and filla into happenings on the roads and the various town culture.

Kpakpo the guy reveled us with story after story of what happened in one town after the next, his own personal experiences, dealing with people in and around the towns and also the youth culture in relation to life in the big city like Accra, since he’d lived in the big city for a while. He even gave an interesting rendition of how to point out wealthy people based on the designs of their buildings. Most of the finest buildings around the area have absentee owners. Very interesting journey indeed.

Finally we were home. It was obvious that the planned return trip would now become a sleepover. It was time to hit town and see what the pubs had to offer. From the little I saw, I know one thing for sure that I’m keeping a lookout for when the town has their festival or any occasion that warrants some kinda homecoming and I’d be there to share in the fun..

Nii Kpakpo Thompson so that’s the gist of the spontaneous road trip we undertook. We were told whilst we were walking home, excited and tired from our night outing, that we were going to spend the next day at the family farm before we left later in the evening. For city dwellers this was exciting especially for me since I wanted to have a first hand experience of what goes on in a typical village farm the whole day.

Any3mi don’t get too excited to imagine how a typical city dweller fares on a village farm. Your sister was in her elements walking through the farm delicately like she was on a catwalk.

All in my next letter.
Till then I still remain

You’re Cousin in Law,
Savannah Boy

The African Winter

Dear Nii Kpakpo,
It is here again my brother it is here. The one most dreaded season up here in the savanna. Oh yes please your guess is as good is mine and to leave you clues it’s the season with the most ghosts in the savanna,

Kpakpo yes its the harmattan. This is the season where people walk around with globules of Shea butter in their noses just to reduce the dryness and the nosebleeds and if your nose is as big and funnellike like mine then you have to invest a small fortune in the purchase of Shea butter including the one that you will use on your body too.

Any3mi this year it started pretty slow then all of a suddenly woke up one morning and you were lucky to even see your fingers when you hold it out in front of you. Well,  I know you know thats pretty much an exaggeration but the fog this year is so thick that one can’t see after twenty to fifty meters ahead of the road and all the buildings and people walking in the street have become shrouded in the fog hence become ghostly. Now it’s not like at first where the weather settled on the skin when one wasn’t too careful but this time it is the whole atmosphere looking whitish.

Nii Kpakpo did you hear that flights to Tamale have been grounded due to poor visibility? Why not? Honestly I’m not surprised. At the kinda speeds plane fly and you cant see even fifty meters ahead of you pretty much spells doom to me.

Annoyingly however with this kinda weather you expect a drop in temperature but temperatures remain above thirty during the day and hit pretty lows of like 21 degrees at night. Some areas even record under 20 degrees and these are the typical wooded areas that get pretty cold between 7pm and 8 am in the morning.

Oh! That daughter of the soil in DC who visited recently says she’d take a weather like that any day as compared to the cold winter she went back to meet. She says the weather is now in tandem with the people around her – cold. See the number of shootings that have made the news recently from that part of the world but well, what is our concern my brother. 

You also know that our barefoot non dross wearing genius of a brother also has a song titled “Help Amerika” in the album where he’s sleeping with a sheep?  Like I asked wetin concern me self?

So Kpakpo as for me I’m walking around with pounds of Shea butter in my nose and I’m constantly washing my face to get the dust off my face and out of my eyes. The weather is not favorable too for my allergies and I know I have to start aromatherapy and get all peutic on myself else by the time this weather ends, I might be ending too. All it takes is being careful and I see on the various social media platforms people are spreading education on how to handle this “African Winter”.

Nii Kpakpo Thompson yes African Winter oh. The term was coined by Kwame ,our friend who just got back on assignment from Gabon and already report writing makes him wish that he had more hours in a day. Dude says he spent most of his days indoors but seeing the white ghosts of this African winter is very ghostly. With winter elsewhere everything is white whilst with African winter only the weather and the people are whitish – not even white. Makes the humans look like ghouls in daylight.

Boss, it’s your sister’s birthday and I’ll do the usual wishing her on social media and rally her friends to show love then I’d whisk her away to some hideout location, I’m looking at Brong Ahafo, and spend weekend with her. Chale it’s a coded location but you know I’ll broadcast it over my social media sites so when I go out of communication area just know that I have put up a sign that says “Men @ Work”.

Enjoy the long weekend Kpakpo and long live our farmers. Happy Farmers Day!

Your Cousin in Law
Savannah Boy

Rabbit Soup

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

My journey to Nakpanduri has been a very eventful one. Right from the moment when the rain set on us in the Benz bus as we entered the town and the bus didn’t have windows to protect some of the passengers from rain, I knew that it was going to be an adventure.

We had already been teasing one young man for sleeping most of the journey and sliding his head on to a fellow female passenger’s breasts and the lady had complained, no, more like protested, almost every twenty minutes of the whole journey until the guy had tried to keep wide awake after some time and didn’t go back to sleep. 

Kpakpo, me and my volunteer friends named the guy Commander and named the female passenger Commander’s wife jokingly and she also happened to be our guide on the journey listing the town names and consulting on how far we had to go.  It was at our stop that Commander told “his wife” that he was tired of her complaints and even the bus he was on, so he was getting off with us.  We had a good laugh with that because apparently he had also gotten to the end of his journey. Dude got down and took out a set of keys, exchanged pleasantries with a couple of young men around and jumped into an Opel taxi and sped off laughing.

Any3mi! The guy had just done the Nakpaduri version of Park and Drive.

Oh! I was impressed to say the least. Later on we met in the evening when we were having indomie at a wayside joint and he was all his jolly self. Guy is a good sport and a fine young man quite popular in the town.

Nii Kpakpo, the volunteer mentors for the mindshift program were so pumped up for the event that albeit being Muslims and fasting we were al awake by 3am and everybody was psyching themselves up for the event. It was really fun being in a room full of young intelligent Muslims seeking to make the world a better place one person at a time and all of us preparing for the same event.

In the morning, before we left for the event, we went hiking in the hills in search of the sunlight. The previous day when we arrived, we had already gone chasing the sunset which precipitated our decision to chase the sunlight too.

So Kpakpo, we ended up on a rock with a clear view of the sky to the east and waited for the sun to rise and OH MY GOD! it was worth it. Check out my Facebook photos to see some of the pictures. Nature is so beautiful and in this order I wonder how one would think that it just happened and there is no one responsible for such order and beauty.

God is indeed good and mighty.

Being this pumped up, inspired by nature and highly motivated, no wonder the program was a success. Apart from a few technical hitches, which were swiftly covered up with other events, the launch of the MindShift Foundation came off very well and the invited high school students were given an experience of a lifetime.

Kpakpo, can you imagine an unplanned musical interlude leading to the MindShift Foundation team led by the founder taking over the microphone to give the audience present some songs and before Long the excitement turned into a special request for one of the latest songs from Don Jazzy’s Marvin Records title GodWin which the team used for a dancefest.

What a day. Action packed from beginning to end even to the group photo sessions.

Nii Kpakpo Thompson I’m sure you’re wondering when I’ll get to the main ingredient of this letter – the “wabbit soup”.

In the morning on our way to the event we noticed a slaughter house and curiously went looking for the butcher in charge. They were slaughtering livestock and we noticed that there was rabbit too so we asked if it was for sale. We were then directed to a chop bar where apparently the proprietor was the one who had ordered for the animals to be killed to be used for soup. Upon further enquiry we were told that we could preorder if we bought one of the animals and it will be reserved for us.  I said a silent Amen in my head.

Any3mi you know me and you have a personal rule that when we travel on an adventure like this we won’t miss any of the local delicacies that are within that community and Ato Ulzen-Appiah also shares the same sentiments as we do. So with the choice between rabbit and pig I preordered and rabbit soup and all the time I was at the MindShift program my mind was on the soup that was going to crown my day.

Secretly I was thankful that my Muslim friends were fasting and wouldn’t share in my delicacy.

Kpakpo, we had so much fun at the program and the people that were with me were tired and some had to travel back so in the end I had to share the soup with only one other person. I must confess, the cook did a good job with the soup and it was when we went for it that we realized that the joint wasn’t a chop bar but rather a drinking spot specializing in pepper soup to go with the drinks sold off the counter.

You know that means that by the time we were done, after sending for the gari which we soaked to go with the soup, our noses were running as expected.

What a meal.  The last time I had rabbit was in high school in GSTS when the sixth formers used it for the A Level biology exam and afterwards took it to the dorms and roasted them. One of my seniors had given me a taste and it’s been lingering in my subconsciousness for over 2 decades. Imagine that.
Kpakpo, this trip has been very interesting and adventurous and the pictures I posted on some social media sites are making waves with people wanting to come visit with me again. I know there are other places around the north like this and I hope the Ministry of Tourism and even individuals take note of such places. With the vast lands available in this area for example, a state of the art retreat centre won’t be a bad idea at all. People can come over and just enjoy some hiking trails and the natural greenery all year round.  As for me I know I have found another beautiful spot in this country to rave about and that rabbit soup was to die for.

Heading back to Tamale now,  my ass hurts from the seats of the Benz bus and I’m all brown from the dusty roads. It would’ve been worse if this wasn’t the rainy season.  I’ve indicated several times that the roads to such places and the transport be improved to harness the potential of these places as money making ventures. Let’s hope, really hope it gets better.

Almost home now and I can’t wait to hold yo sister in my arms. Wasn’t feeling too well when I left to go have all this fun and it kinda feels selfish.
Kpakpo, will keep you posted on any activities up north and don’t worry too much about the conflicts you’re hearing about. Even the inhabitants of the other parts of the savanna are pissed at the people of Bimbilla for the reckless and senseless fighting giving rise to the negative reportage on the north in general. Let the journalists have a field day. Their time will come when all the twists and turns they’ve added to create sensation will be exposed as lies. 

Enough said!

Your Cousin in Law
Savannah Boy

Mindshift Mentors

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

So here I find myself at 3 am wide awake humming hymns and ironing my clothes just waiting for morning so I can go out on the knoll of the hill where I’m lodging in this guest house just to watch the sunrise on the wonderful view of the escarpment and plains of Nakpanduri in the Bunkprugu District in Northern region of Ghana.

And now I remember that exam question “and one may ask what am I doing this far up north?”

Before I tell you Kpakpo lemme give you a brief history of where I’m staying now – this guest house. You know being a history buff I will delve into it small.

As narrated by Mr. Bidzakin, the octogenarian father of the pretty young lady,he was a Young Pioneer at the time and they had to line up to welcome Dr Nkrumah as president of Ghana when he visited up north, stopped over to rest in the house and then continued his journey to Kulungugu where they later learnt there had been an assassination attempt on him. He didn’t spend the night in the house though.

For his visit, he had a house built for him on a hill with the view of an escarpment and a wide valley for miles around. It is said that the builders used only 15days to get the house ready from scratch for the then president to stay in. Even though just a rest stop for the president, the house still stands with the the same furnishings that the president used on his visit and that is where I am sleeping for 2 nights.

It has since been known as the Nkrumah House.,

I think maybe I’m even sleeping in his bed even but I’m not too sure of that.

Now Kpakpo, what am I doing here?

You know since moving up north I have been doing a lot of volunteer work in various aspects for various organizations and one main area apart from the reading that I’m extra passionate about is mentoring young people so they can be better people, not necessarily leaders, in future. The future they say belongs to the youth.

Kpakpo, couple of months ago I met a pretty young woman at BlogCamp2015 who shared her experience with what her organization was doing with young people in conflict prone areas and I was touched. With a little knowledge of what has happened in conflict prone areas all over Africa (young people taking to arms and fighting in wars)I thought her work was very important in channeling the minds of these youth away from what is going on all around them into their own personal goals and mindset to achieve something for themselves. Inasmuch as we didn’t talk much I made a mental note to find out more and do what I can to help out.

Nii Kpakpo Thompson, when I tell you nature has a way of setting things right you know I ain’t joking. A few weeks ago I get a call from somebody else within the Swag Volunteers that they need mentors to come talk to the youth in some far away conflict prone area and I think I was the first to jump on it based on what I know and now even helped convinced other volunteers to sign up and make it not only a working trip but also a fun trip.

Hey! The place is a 5 hour drive from Tamale by rickety bus on uncertain roads. But still in the northern region.

Any3mi little did I know that it was this girl’s organization that was organizing the event dubbed MindShift Seminar. The seminar is aimed at talking to youth in this area not to heed the wranglings and dissenting views that lead to conflicts in their area but rather act as ambassadors and peer leaders so that they can live their lives to the full and achieve their dreams. With their personal dreams on hand it’s hardly possible for anybody to convince them otherwise to take up arms against each other.

Kpakpo, so after a 5 hour wait for the bus to get full in Tamale, and another 5 hour drive, meeting the retired Telecom professor who’s now fertilizer salesman (that’s a story for another day), here I am wide awake just waiting for morning so I get to meet the young people.

Nii Kpakpo we already seen the view in sunset and it’s to die for and now I want to see the sunrise.

My colleague volunteers are already having breakfast being Muslims fasting in this Holy month of Ramadan and we’re already making plans of how the day is gonna go.

One thing is for sure, this is one thing we all love to do. Shaping young minds.

Kpakpo, will keep you posted how the event goes and the adventure we intend to have before and after the event. 

Will write again soon.

Oh! And being a conflict prone area there is a curfew here from ten pm to four am and our house is just a few meters away from one of the military outposts. Being Nkrumah house that’s to be expected.

Later then. 

Your Cousin in Law,
Savannah Boy