Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Trekking, Voodoo, Dancing, Waterfalls and Beaches in Ghana, Togo and Benin

We're delighted to have just started taking bookings for our 2016-17 season of overland adventure trips in West Africa, and it's high time to catch up on our recent travels with a blog post! 

We ran our new Accra to Ouagadougou trip for the first time last month, and welcomed Frank, Tracey, Tony F, Tony K and Sam to join those who had travelled with us from Dakar and Freetown. After some initial confusion, it was revealed that Frank was the owner of the trumpet that had mysteriously found its way onto the truck the previous evening!

We visited Ghana, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso on this trip, and this blog post covers the first 2 weeks of the trip. 

One of the highlights of southern Ghana is visiting the coffin makers around Accra, who make some lively and unusual designs. Above are some of the examples we visited. 

A number of the group went on a walking tour of Nima, a lively residential district of Accra for an insight into living conditions and local livelihoods. The guide was the principal of a primary school: as you can see the children were rather excited when we visited their classroom!

From Accra we headed to Ghana's Volta region, a beautiful but relatively little visited area which is sandwiched between the artificial reservoir of Lake Volta and the Togolese border. We enjoyed the cool air and beautiful views up in the hills, a lovely contrast to the weather on the coast. Frank even had some time for trumpet practice!

Above, Janet and Tracey are trekking to the top of Mount Gemi. 

Below, Frank, Janet, Theo, Tony, Tony, Mike and Alice pose at the top of Mount Gemi. The views down to Lake Volta and across to Togo would have been great if it wasn't so hazy!

Above are waterfalls near Amedzofe that most of the group visited after the trek for a refreshing dip.

Before we crossed over the border to Togo, we visited a community of habituated Mona monkeys, revered as sacred by the locals. Jase seemed to be feeding them the tastiest bananas!

Our first stop in Togo was among the cool green hills close to the summit of Mount Klouto. We walked among coffee plantations, explored villages, learnt about medicinal plants and natural dyes, cooled off under waterfalls, and looked for butterflies. 

We enjoyed a great evening of drumming, dancing and fire breathing with plenty of chances for dancing practice which we so clearly needed!

After a brief stop in Lome to visit the famous fetish market, we arrived in Grand Popo in Benin, where we camped on the beach at a stunning spot. Some of us enjoyed boat trips to visit fishing villages, and salt production where the Mono river meets the sea. 

Above and below are photos from the voodoo ceremony we witnessed in southern Benin. Voodoo continues to play a huge role in the culture of  the people in Togo and Benin, fascinating though a little bewildering at times! We were encouraged to try the local palm spirit while watching the ceremony, sprinkled with talcum powder and sprayed with perfume. Al and Jase smelt the best they had in weeks! 

Ouidah is known as a centre of the voodoo religion, as well as having a tragic history as a port from which many millions of slaves were transported across the Atlantic to the Americas. We visited the famous python temple, numerous other temples and shrines, and learnt about how the Voodoo religion travelled across the Atlantic with the slave trade to parts of Brazil and the Caribbean.

We spent Christmas in Ganvie, staying at the famous stilt village on Lake Nokoue, an area originally settled by people escaping the slave trade. After a tour of the village we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening watching the world go by. Frank entertained both the locals and the group by playing Christmas carols on his trumpet! Many people were celebrating by singing and dancing on boats parading around the village; it was certainly a memorable Christmas!

Our adventures into the New Year, through the north of Togo and Benin and into Burkina Faso will be covered in the next blog post. Many thanks to Frank and Alice for some of the photos, very much appreciated!