Up at quarter past five and off twenty minutes later to the lagoon behind the beach to watch the sea monkeys. I’m amazed that Pauline was unusually easy to rouse from her sleep – we had a delicious night in the wind and maybe the lure of a few biscuits helped her make up her mind and exit her sleeping bag.
I have had confirmation that the path between Axim and Prince’s Town is a bad idea, and also that the one between Dixcove and Prince’s Town is doable. About that last one I gained an additional bit of information : the road ends at Cape Three Points, and there is only a sandy path between from Cape Three Points and Prince’s Town. From Prince’s Town, the road is found somewhere east of Prusi Akatakyi. But Google Map imagery for that area is dreadful and I have therefore been unable to confirm that visually. Also, it looks like I did indeed reach the village of Achenim – the one after the footbridge – it is there that I missed my turn and followed the crowd’s advice against all reason.
More playing in the waves today, and Pauline plays with the local kids at the fort. We take is easy today. Tomorrow we’ll start early – I can’t wait to see our friends in Takoradi. Siesta on the beach under the shade – but with a strange tickling on my left leg… A violinist crab repeatedly checking if I’m a rotting carcass fit for crab consumption. He beats a hasty retreat to its burrow every time I sit up, and then starts nibbling anew a few minutes later.
The view from the fort dominating the bay on two sides never ceases to fascinate me. I always appreciate high viewpoints, but the comfort of living on the fort’s walls with the ocean’s wind certainly makes it the best accommodation I’ve encountered in Ghana so far – and at 20 Cedis a night including evening meal for Pauline and me it is the best value too.
One of the multipurpose artists introduces himself to me as a traditional musician. When I ask him which region or which people of Ghana his music is inspired from, he claims it is Ghanian’s – which contradicts any claim of tradition : Ghana is a synthetic identity whose tradition as a whole is still dwarfed by what its different people bring to the table.
Pauline likes the multipurpose artists . They are harmless to children, but I sense a teenage catastrophe looming.
The multipurpose artist tells me he usually stays in Krokrobite. I was wondering about that place, but now I know why I’ll avoid it : it sounds like a Ghanaian equivalent of other places I won’t name but whose hashish smoking population I have striven to avoid too. Not that I have any hate toward hashish smokers in general – but in Africa, a significant concentration of them is usually a bad sign, especially if they are equipped with djembe.
On the way back from the beach, we spot a colony of ants forming a living tunnel accross the single track path, covering the moving of the whole complement of larvaes from the colony. The stream of workers carrying larvaes was easily ten per second, and all traffic was one way. Soldiers were patrolling the whole thing, and the stream was using galleries under the humus on both sides of the path. This was impressive. I wonder what pushes ants to move their entire colony in a hurry like that.
Yesterday night we ate sauteed eel with fried rice – very nice. Today we are having calamar in a tomato sauce with white rice and way too much salt – not nice… Its only redeeming value is that the excess salt reminds me of Veronique, my current world record holder for excess salt in food. But generally, you can count on great seafood all along the Ghanaian coast.
Tonight is much quieter than yesterday : no beer swilling Germans and no hanger-on girls… What a coincidence ! We have announced our departure for early next morning, so no one is trying to sell us services anymore. Even the multipurpose artists are absent – only the caretaker and his skeleton staff are with us. There is also a couple of Schwaben farmers camping in the courtyard, a German-Nigerian couple who lives in Ghana on a plantation, and Olly – a citizen of Switzerland. I have a good chat with an Italian girl who is writing a thesis about the divergences between African cultures and how African Americans perceive them.
Ghana Telecom is building a twenty eight meters high cell tower in the high point nearest to an electricity source in the area : right in front of the fort. Considering the value of tourism for the local economy, I have my doubts about how wise that choice of location is. But the unbeatable unobstructed view to the sea which drew the German founders of the fort to this location four hundred years ago may also be the reason for planting a BTS there. Correlation with the announced offshore oil boom may not be fortuitous either. But then, wouldn’t cell sites aboard drilling rigs3 0 km out at sea be a viable option ? The cell tower emplacement is a 18k USD rent every year and it is part of the money flowing directly or indirectly from the oil extraction, feeding the insatiable demand from the local chiefs.
France abolished chieftaincy as an administrative level, replacing it with the Fench direct rule. But the British indirect rule system used it as a leverage. As a result, village chiefs are still important in Ghana. Olly tells me that two chiefs compete in Prince’s Town. Last year, it came to combat and dynamite sticks – and some people fled to the bush.
Former fort caretaker had to abandon his commission under pressure from the chief’s war. Olly says he used to run a tight ship whereas things went downhill with the new one. Not only maintainance, but lack of discipline in the guests behavior, such as the beach rastas patronizing underage girls. Over ten years, Olly was the initiator of the fort’s improvement : repainting, refurbishment, more beds.
Olly claims that the dynamite was obtained through NGOs. NGOs are full of young overenthusiastic people with strange ideas about Africa and a crying lack of management. They often don’t understand local politics and become the unwilling tools of the political forces.
Prince’s Town has changed a lot in the last years. TV antennas have sprung on top of bamboo poles, now the cell towers. The next years are probably going to accelerate : with oil offshore, the town earns back its former strategic importance as Ghana’s southernmost tip. The navy has plans for a patrol base at Prusi Akatakyi. Some day the unsuspecting investors who are getting suckered by the chiefs, thinking they are the first to think about building an hotel will eventually succeed. Some day the dirt road may be tarred. The money, the beach rastas and everything else will come to Prince’s Town too.
The beach rastas are suborning minors and generally behaving like colonials toward the villagers. They piss in the communal showers at night when the toilets are ten meters away. They are so bad that Olly cut his own rastas for fear of being associated with those guys who they lack respect for people in spite of their tourist friendly message.
Meanwhile mosquito repellent does what is says on the tin, but I learn to my dismay that it does not repel blood sucking flies… Time to retreat under the mosquito net !