Takoradi and Busua, 25 February 2009.

First mission of the day is to ride downtown to replenish my provisions of cash. The withdrawal limits displayed on the screen are grossly inferior to what I can actually withdraw – 200 GHC seems to be the limit. While taking back my card from the ATM, I fumbled with two thick 200 Cedis worth wad of notes freshly spat out and I broke the card in two pieces. Ooops – not good. Mission creep hits us – we have barely started our day, and now on top of our program we have to find a way to withdraw cash for the rest of the trip. I already have enough for a week so I’m not overly stressed, and in an emergency you can always count on the expensive money transfer operators.

My first thought is to get in touch with my credit card company through a local bank. Staff at various banks bounce us from branch to branch and it increasingly looks like this is not the way to get in touch with my credit card company – the normal way seems to be to call them directly or go though the issuer bank. We ride eight kilometres around Takoradi and through the harbour until I find the main Barclays branch there. Barclays employees reassure me that cash can be issued given just my credit card number and my personal identification. That informative and efficient branch was just one kilometre away from the hotel, but of course it was probably the very last one in the whole town that we visited. At least I had a nice tour of Takoradi and its harbour, with highly exotic moments of being stuck in the trading chaos of Market Circle. We also caught a glimpse of a school marching band with a couple hundred pupils in uniform following suit – but I was too focused on my cash problem to take a picture. Next time I’ll redund my credit card – extra cash would be nice too, but I don’t want to risk carrying too much.

I was planning to start at seven thirty, but with the slight logistical complications it is ten thirty when we actually head out of town. Telling the story of such boring matters may appear mundane, but this sort of situation is what travelling is mostly made of, especially outside of the most developped countries. After paying the hotel bill and loading the pedal mule, we head due east to Busua and Dixcove. I miss my Takoradi friends already, but travelling is always like that too : meeting wonderful people in wonderful places, and then having to move on to discover the rest of the world. This is a story that I keep repeating, and the urge to move on always win over enjoying where I am. Anyway, the smiles and compliments of Lauricia at the Standard hotel nicely helped us get underway.


It is getting hot and a succession of small hills is sapping my energy. I can pedal fast forever on level ground, but the hills are considerably more tiring, especially with the sort of load I’m pulling. I have to make a good figure though because some people along the road have an even harder job : they are sitting in the sun next to heaps of rocks, using rudimentary hammers to break the rocks into coarse gravel. Is a rock breaking machine that expensive or are these people that cheap ? This is the sort of occasion when I want to take a picture, but then decide to leave the camera idle in the handlebard bag : I am not (yet ?) shameless enough to photograph distressed people so easily.

With the sun hitting us hard, I have to constantly remind Pauline to drink – she does no yet have the drinking reflex. Ten kilometres out, on top of Dixcove hill road we stop to pick drinks and biscuits. Because it is on a main road, the petrol station has a nice assortment of quality products. What passes for an orange juice in the dinky village shops would make the lyophilized drink in mountain rations taste like luxurious fresh nectar, and the nutritional value of the biscuits is usually close to zero, except as a source of glucose. At the petrol station, we turn left to take the road to Dixcove.

Along with stone breakers, the roadside has its usual assortment of biscuit and drinks micro shops, mechanical workshops, schools, brick makers and and incredible number of churches of all denominations : it seems that 20% of the GNP of Ghana is generated by religious activities. We also spot a yard with a line of large pots full of roasting unidentified beans with mounds of those beans all around the yard. I’ll later understand that these are palm nuts.

At a large crossroads with lights, we ask locals for directions and then turn right past the barracks of the 2nd infantry bataillon – we had inadvertantly taken quite a detour out of town. The road runs straight on undulating terrain for at least ten kilometres. What we did not know at the time is that it led us to Agona Junction – which is probably not the shortest way. Another road seems to exist, but Agona Junction is the tro-tro hub of the region, so as we’ll learn later, all roads lead there – or at least all driving directions ! Asking the locals for directions may sometimes help, but checking the compass is always necessary as a reality check. Sadly, it is only after forgetting that a second time the following day and suffering worse consequences that we understood the wisdom of that reflex.

I’m drinking like a crazed camel and I’m still pissing yellow and not often… Need I mention that it is hot and that I’m drenched in sweat ? Luckily, a rainstorm soon provides us with welcome refreshment – a mild one tough because the water is lukewarm.


On the way down to Busua, we ride along big lush palm plantations. But ever since we started, roadside plastic littering is just as prosperous as the vegetation. We keep gathering our own trash for disposal in trashcans. But from what I see, the collected trash is at best burned, and most of the time dumped in an apparently quite unregulated way.

The lush vegetation is everything but wild. There are plantations for bananas, plantain, cassava, palm, bamboo – the whole leafy landscape is in fact cultivated, leaving very few wild areas. But all these agricultural riches do not seem to lift the area economically – the high proportion of pisé mud houses does not indicate well distributed wealth. But whatever the economic success of the villages we cross, our minor celebrity status is intact – the superstar is Pauline on her trailer and I’m in a mere supportive role as Pauline’s father.


A fork in the road gives us a choice between Busua and Dixcove – we choose Busua based on the opinion of our friends in Takoradi. By the time we reach Busia, all semblance of humidity is a long forgotten memory and we are getting parched again, but the day’s pedalling comes to an end. The Lonely Planet gave Busua at 30 kilometers from Takoradi, but the distance measured by my bike’s computer today is 50 kilometers. That is more than a slight difference – I wonder which turn I missed. We rode the distance in 2H45 thanks to the excellent (if hilly) roads.


Busua is a small fishing village backed by a long beach. The touts that immediately chase us are proof that Busua is a tourist destination. We meet Nana, the manager of Zweite Heimat and drink fresh smoothies in front of the restaurant. The fruits are fresh pineapple and banana, but as usual in Ghana, the milk is the canned concentrated stuff which I’m not yet used to. But after such a ride I can swallow anything liquid that contains a source of glucose.


Nana offers us a room for six GHC. That sounds more like my prices. It is a bare room with a mattress, in his own two rooms house. Squat toilets are outside and there is no water nor electricity. But after days of splurging, this is a welcome change. We spent the evening and night for twenty GHC, food included ! The house lies on the flank of the small hill behind Busua. Pushing the loaded tandem uphill across the steep tilled fields was mercifully not too long, but the view from the top is worth it.


We then head towards the beach for a dip in the ocean. Pauline attempts to get local boys to play in the waves with her, not understanding that being unable to swim they won’t get far from the shore. She gets her sinuses whashed clean while being tossed about by the rip curls. Meanwhile I catch the big waves for body surfing runs. The beach is huge and very sparsely populated, sand and water are clean (not a given in Africa near a village), temperature is ideal, and the surrounding vegetation completes the picture. After the effort of the day, fun and refreshment in the waves feel great.


I walk around with the camera, but fishermen loudly refuse to be photographed unless money is paid – I pass. Later I manage to sneakily take a couple pictures – bad quality, but I enjoyed the transgression !


Nana’s restaurant is covered in graffiti from satisfied travellers – in several languages so it is difficult to fake and that is what finally convinced me of using his services. Nana cooked fufu and groudnut soup for us – not bad. While we eat, a guy walks by with a loudspeaker, broadcasting political propaganda in the streets. We meet Anne, a French woman quite experienced with Africa. We chat away the evening while downing beers, the way it ought to be in a real maquis. By the way, the local name for a maquis is a “spot”.


As in many small villages, toilets are a series of closets laid over a large septic tank were the users relieve themselves through a hole in the ground – with no lighting at night and paper only available if you bring your own. Pauline has a slight case of culture shock, but a few laughs with the local children makes help her see the place in a better light.


A few street lamps light some corners, but the village is mostly unlit. While we walk away from the village to Nana’s home, Nana hears one guy saying “this is the one who came with a bike” – and this somehow worries Nana who wont let us be alone at his home. I get the capsaïcine can out of the backpack I carry – if only to reassure Nana. Locked inside his house we should do fine come what may. Against an ambush or a sudden attack, reaction time make the spray wholly useless especially if the spray is in the bag – but out of the bag, with the edge of readiness, and in a locked house we have a credible defence against the most willy opportunistic thieve.

We climb back on the hill under the stars with my headlamp. The insects and frogs sing all around us. This sort of environment is a first for Pauline. The bed is unequivocally dirty – the only unknown is the number of generations who have slept on it with no washing; so we use the linen sacks we brought along for such gruby occasions. We still have salt and sand on our bodies, the room is stuffy, the linen sack is too short for me… I’ve slept in more comfortable places. I’ll put that on account of the cultural experience !