Wednesday, December 5, 2001


We are learning that things don’t always go as planned here in Ghana. “Okyina” means “I will see you tomorrow” in Twi, the first language of roughly half the population here. It also means “later”. We are learning to be patient and focus on the moment as so much here is not in our control and everything takes three times as long to accomplish. The heat and humidity slow everyone down and the slightest movement results in torrents of sweat.

We arrived at Ankasa tired, sweaty and very dirty late last night. George and Lindsay led us to our cabins in the dark—there is no electricity here. The Exploration Base, where the four of us are staying, was recently built for wildlife education. School children are brought here to learn about conservation.

There are a number of rooms built on stilts connected by wooden pathways. Each room is 12 X 12 feet with two single cots and nothing else. On the wall beside each door is a painting of a unique forest animal. These serve to identify the cabins. Two of the cabin walls are mostly screen, which makes it seem like we are sleeping outside. All night long we hear a symphony of nocturnal animals as they announce their presence to the world. Last night there was a constant chewing noise in one of the corners. We didn’t get up to look.

The bathrooms are outhouses located down one of the wooden pathways. There are no toilets—as we know toilets —but instead concrete poured over holes in the floor. Lindsay felt compelled to tell us about the time she saw a black cobra climb out of one. These toilets are going to take a bit of getting use to no doubt.

Lindsay and George stay about a kilometer (.6 miles) up the road at the Nkwanta, the patrol and research base. Lindsay’s room is much like ours only she sleeps on a mat on the floor. At Nkwanta there is an outside kitchen with running water. There are showers (only cold water of course) as water is plentiful here. A solar panel is used to pump well water to the surface. Here at the camp we can drink the water without boiling or otherwise purifying it. Elsewhere we buy water sealed in plastic bags to drink. Drinking water from a bag is an art that needs practice.

There are tame duikers (sounds like “biker”) here at camp. Duikers are tiny antelope. This morning they were right outside our door and we could pet them. Duikers have large scent glands on their faces that they rub up against things to “mark” them. They continually rub their glands against our hands leaving a very strong odor. Lindsay said that whenever she takes the trail behind the camp they follow her into the forest like dogs would do. Duikers are not usually so tame. The duikers at Ankasa were confiscated from someone who was keeping them as pets. The
Wildlife Department has confiscated many animals like the duikers and released them in Nkwanta camp where they will be protected. There was even a tame mona monkey released last year.

This morning was spent getting ourselves organized. With daylight, we could finally see where we actually are staying. Out of the forest is cleared a large area for both the Exploration Camp and Nkwanta. The grounds are kept clear of most trees and other plants. Everything is clean and tidy. Beyond this however, is a veritable wall of jungle.

When Lindsay left a week ago there was plenty of fuel for the cook stove. We discovered this morning that the tank was completely empty. We had to use the charcoal stove to cook our oatmeal and heat our water for tea and coffee. Getting charcoal to light and then burn is no small task. The matches are more often wet and don’t light and then the charcoal has to be fanned until it gets a good burn to it. This takes time, patience and a strong arm. Sounds like we will have to cook over charcoal for a few days as there isn’t much fuel in the area. What there is gets sold over the border in Cote D’Ivoire. George will go look for some tomorrow.

No matter what we cook though our meals will be very simple here. Michael is our de facto chef. He was a safari chef in Kenya for two years so we have confidence that he can turn rice, bean and the few spices we purchased at the market into gourmet meals. We bought a few fresh vegetables at the market yesterday but we will have to eat them within the next few days as everything rots here so quickly. By this afternoon the tomatoes had already started “going off”. Occasionally we will drive out to get more fresh vegetables but these will be limited, as the local markets don’t have much. We would have to drive too far to get a variety of fresh produce. Lindsay says she eats mostly rice with tomato sauce. Yum! Already we are dreaming of food.

Kevin serves as our resident “everything” expert—from the constellations we see at night to the soil and geology formations around us. Because there is no electricity here the night sky is brilliant with stars. We can see Orion’s belt and sword, Gemini, Pleiades, Cassiopeia, and so many other constellations.

In camp with us are a number of Wildlife Department personnel. They are very friendly and animated. When talking to each other they speak in Twi, their native language and they tend to speak very loudly. To us they seem to be arguing all the time but they are laughing too much! Plus, Lindsay assures us that it is just friendly banter.

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

The bugs here are two types, biting and not biting. Of course, it seems like there are more of the biting types. Even though it is really hot and we would rather be wearing as little clothing as possible, we have to wear long pants, socks and heavy shoes to protect our tender skin from bites. We are determined not to repeat the same mistakes as in the Amazon last year. These biting flies are tiny but pack a big and itchy bite!

There are also beautiful butterflies, moths and impressive spiders. Whenever we walk, the ground erupts in grasshoppers and other grass dwelling bugs. Perhaps because there are so many bugs, there are also lots of lizards. They are beautiful and scamper all over the ground. We think they eat the grasshoppers and bugs.

Today we had to set up the solar panels and the batteries as from here on out we must rely on solar energy to charge our computers and satellite phone. Like the Amazon trip, we have three solar panels and two super batteries. The wiring on the panels wasn’t quite to our needs so Shelly had to cut off the end of each wire and rewire it. She daisy chained two of the panels together and then attached the cigarette adapter end to the single panel and to the end of the daisy-chained panels. This way we can plug the batteries directly into the panels for charging. We also spent time talking with Lindsay about her research here. We will start posting her data in a day or so. This afternoon we will be going on our first official monkey survey. We are excited! We are practicing our silent walking.

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