Accra, 23 February 2009.

While I had breakfast, the manager was struggling to set up 802.11 Internet access, but I carefully omitted to mention I could probably fix that. Sometimes I manage to suppress my benevolent urges for voluntary technical support.

For me, the first order of the day is to go fetch a seat seat post for the bike. The trip starts at the auspicious 777 km mark on the odometer, but I take no account of that : superstition is bad luck.

The hotel boys believe that I might find spare parts in the Madina market, but having them explain how to get there is another matter. If you ask someone how far a place is, the first answer you’ll get is not a distance but the price of the tro-tro ride. So with the barest instructions I head out of East Legon toward the Madina market on my seatless bike while Pauline remains at the hotel using the staff as her playthings. The suburban roads are a mix of tarred and partially corrugated surfaces leading to a minaret dominating a market town on top of a small hill. With such a name, the place is of course Muslim. Interviewing locals about that, I learn that it is the largest coranic school in Ghana – quite a surprise considering that the south is mostly Christian.


Making my way haphazardly across the market, I find a car mechanic which, as I suspected, knows where his pedal tightening colleague is hiding. I cross the town in the other direction, turn near the post office and find Moses’ Cheap Shop. Moses has quite literally a heap of bikes and parts, and it does not take him long to unearth a properly sized seat post for me. And I even get to chose among dozen of seats to top it. And it cost me a grand total of ten Cedis ! I’m ecstatic to find my bike in complete working order again. I thank everyone, take a picture and head back toward East Legon at full blast, maybe a bit too fast considering how I slid ten meters a the bottom of a corrugated downhill, narrowly missing a turning tro-tro.

After that sobering moment I stop at a store for water and a tube of super glue to fix the on-board calculator’s support that got smashed during the flight in. The two girls sold that to me with smiles and giggles, plus while I was living one of then was singing a song about love descending unexpectedly. Along with smiles while underway, this is not the first time I get that sort of response – but the experienced traveller knows not to take the flattery too seriously. But more important, my bike is now is 100 % operational ! With the calculator now online, I can tell after riding home that Madina is 8 kilometers north-west of East Legon.

Back at the hotel I paid 150 Euros for two nights, drinks, dinners, breakfasts and airport pick-up for Pauline and me. I have never paid that much for two nights in my entire life, but the place was so nice that I would have done it again, if only because Pauline enjoyed herself so much there and I got excellent advice for what I had to get done.

It is one PM and we are now invited for lunch by the owner so it is two PM when we hit the road. On the way we ride past the presidential palace again. Snatching a few bad pictures under pressure from the guards who seemed slightly unhappy enough about it that we did not overstay our welcome.


On the way to the STC bus station downtown Accra, Pauline attracted huge interest from tro-tro drivers and street peddlers sometimes barely a few years older than her, who sell plantain chips to sunglasses, water, sweets and even chocolate tablets that miraculously resist the sweltering heat.

14 kilometers later we buy tickets at the STC state owned long distance bus station. This company is very well organized, with fixed price, booths with well kept books, uniformed personnel and due process for everything in sight – a relaxing experience compared to many means of transportation around the continent. 6.5 Cedis for me, 3 Cedis for the bikes, 2 Cedis tip for the bike handlers and Pauline travels for free. What a great deal ! That, the bike parts and today’s food make the the hotel price ludicrous in comparison. But in Africa, anything remotely related with tourism has nothing to do with local purchasing power.

On the bus ride out of Accra we went past the huge Kanechie market. Heavy traffic jams follow all the way after Dansoman, hinting the overgrown village that Accra is often said to be might outgrowing the local infrastructure. While I’m stuck in traffic dreaming about how fast I would overtake it all on my bike, here is how I write my travel diary. I take notes whenever I can, mostly on the E71. In the evening, I transfer my notes by Bluetooth to the NC10 where I rewrite them in a text editor. It is also in the evening that I usually perform the first elimination of unacceptable pictures on the 50D to lessen the burden of sorting when I get home.

Keyboard input lag on the E71 is mightily annoying. This problem has been solved twenty years ago in PC word processors that ran on CPU less powerful than this mighty PDA. Nokia may build fine phones, but the general purpose computing aspects of their products is a big disappointment.

With 7k Euros worth of equipment and a budget of 60 Euros a day for two, this is not shoestring travel. But most of the equipment is photography and IT, with the bikes being a distant third. And the budget is that high because with a kid around I have to ensure a level of comfort that I would certainly would not care for had I been alone or with weathered adults.

The STC bus is impressive : only four people in a row and it even features air conditioning that works – although it is used with way too much enthusiasm. The bus was scheduled for 4:40 and started ten minutes later, on time and not when it is full. This is nothing like the stereotypical African bus stuffed with sweaty people, assorted bags and bundles including smoked fish and live poultry with goats and extra people on the roof. I’m surprised that people travel with few luggage, but maybe those upmarket lines are too expensive for the small traders who are often encountered with heavy bundles. The STC matches any long distance coach service in Europe – this is a great surprise that I had never had in Africa before.

But what still African about this bus are the encounters. When I’m riding my bike, meeting people in buses is something I often miss, even though the bike is a great conversation starter for when I stop in villages. Today we met Arama, a 20 years old first year banking student in Accra who goes visiting her family in Takoradi for the holidays. She offered to help us find a quiet hotel, advising against the ones near the market whose idle boys might be hassling.

Arama took a taxi with Pauline and I pedaled like a madman behind to follow them to our destination. We ended up at Akroma Plaza, a clean and secure big anonymous hotel with Chinese furniture and Chinese toilet paper – Chinese ownership would not surprise me. The rooms look like they could be anywhere in the world, and they are quite comfortable. At 50 Cedis a night I’m still grossly over-budget, but arriving at ten PM in an unknown African city, I won’t complain too much about not finding the optimum. After we entered our room, Arama left to join her family. Tomorrow she’ll be our guide around Takoradi. And for tonight, Pauline and I still have our clothes to wash !