Thursday, December 13, 2001

On Our Way

The last day in the jungle started off like any other. We were on the steps waiting for the truck to arrive before dawn, however it never arrived. Instead, Lindsay came walking down from the Research Camp. The truck wouldn’t start this morning, which didn’t surprise us. We have been amazed when it starts any morning given how bad the road conditions are here and how hard the truck has been driven. Instead of driving to the intended trail, we went for a walk close to camp while George worked on the truck.

Our last transect was uneventful. We didn’t hear monkeys or see elephants, but we did see a duiker crisscross on the trail ahead. We also saw a huge red and black ringed worm. It was longer than Shelly’s foot and about an inch around! Unfortunately, it was too dark to take a picture.

When we returned to the Research Camp, we were more than happy to see that the truck had moved from its stalled position on the road. Luckily, George was able to fix the problem. The battery cable had come lose.

After a quick shower and a breakfast of tea and bread, we finished packing. Samuel, John and Lindsay came down to the Exploration Camp to say good-bye. We will miss our new friends as we leave knowing that we will most likely only see Lindsay again.

The road back to Accra was as bad as it was coming. We had to take many detours on very bumpy, dusty roads. Along the way we passed many small towns filled with shopping stalls and schoolchildren.

About two hours into our journey, just as we were beginning to think about lunch, the truck stopped dead! Seemingly out of nowhere, a mechanic showed up. He and George had the hood up and diagnosed the problem within minutes. Because resources are so scarce and there isn’t a gas station on every corner, people here learn to fix everything using anything that is handy.

While we waited on the side of the road, many children came to ask where we were from and our names. Today was the last day of school before vacation for the Ghanaian schoolchildren.

After we got on the road again we soon came to our favorite place in all of Ghana—the Mobil gas station. We stopped here on our way to Ankasa ten days ago. We love this place because they have things like frozen Mars bars, Pringles potato chips, olives, and Cokes. After ten days in the bush we exercised no restraint in our purchasing. There was a little girl with a dog playing near by. She tried to teach us a few words in Twi to call the dog to us. It didn’t work.

Every time we got stopped at a police roadblock we were thankful for George. The police always start to ask us what is in the back of the truck under the tarp or where the truck insurance tag is located. George simple replies, “This is a government vehicle and we are researchers.” The police always apologize and we move on.

About half way to Accra, we stopped at a restaurant on the campus of the Cape Coast University, “Dee’s Beauty and Restaurant”. We opted not to use the beauty section although we certainly needed to, but the restaurant was lovely and had air conditioning.

During lunch we had to do our daily transmission from the inside of the truck, placing the antenna on top of the truck. We took turns eating and taking care of the computer and satellite phone. We had to unpack the luggage in the back of the truck to get to our large batteries. George was surprised at how we took everything apart. Kevin and Michael helped George repack. Nothing is easy or simple it seems.

On the road once again, we passed hundreds of people walking along carrying everything from lumber to plantains, to buckets of laundry on their heads. We even saw school children carrying home their desks and chairs for the holiday. Not only do children have to pay for their own education here but they also have to bring their own desks and chairs to school.

Some of the items for sale along the road were Grass cutters. Grass cutters are small rodents that are hunted and sold for meat. The animal is splayed, roasted, and then attached to a wooden frame for display—making them look a lot like flattened road kill. Needless to say, we didn't buy any.

In all the towns we pass through there are brightly colored signs advertising absolutely everything. Our favorite is “Funeral and Wedding Dressings” which is in every town. We aren’t sure exactly what they sell but we find it funny… but, then everything was a little funny today as we rattled and bumped our way across the country.

Just when we were nearing Accra, a large semi truck went off the road and was blocking traffic. Everyone got out to look at the accident. Once in awhile, the tow truck that was attempting to pull the truck out of the ditch would back up making room for one or two cars to pass by. At that point everyone would race back to their cars, start their engines and attempt to be the one or two cars that got through. It was a free for all. George of course, being the adept driver he is, made it through right away.

At last we arrived in Accra—more than nine hours after leaving Ankasa. How could 400 kilometers take so long? We checked into the Paloma Hotel. Hot showers, air conditioning and sit-down toilets...need we say more? We may even have pizza for dinner.

Tomorrow will be our last transmission from Ghana before we leave for home.

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