One or two of the many things that Africa teaches you is patience and the need to be flexible with plans. I began arranging my trip back to Fulani four weeks prior to my return to Ghana, but messages I sent to my local contacts were largely ignored or met with belated and casual responses. The last minute flurry of activity, from them, became condensed into the period after my arrival when connectivity is at its most tenuous. Sadly it was all too late.
So my best laid plans were scuppered, this lack of communication meant that rather than take a two day trip ‘up north’ I found myself undertaking the long road journey and back in one day. This meant an early 5 am start and those that know me will be unsurprised to learn that I only emerged from my blissful sleep at 5.05am after 18 missed calls from my driver Kwabe. Yes, he was being a little too enthusiastic, but I was also a little late!
Kwabe is easily the most entertaining driver I’ve travelled with in Ghana and as we made our way out through the Accra suburbs in the darkness of the night we shared anecdotes and laughter. Before too long we were on the main highway between the capital and Ghana’s second city Kumasi. In parts dual carriageway, the road quickly descends into a non-macadam surface and the ride becomes as smooth as a roller coaster.
In this the dry season the earth surface kicks up clouds of dust like the worse foggy morning with visibility almost impossible. I am so grateful to my friend Graham, who writes the excellent insideotherplaces blog, for his last minute advice to pack dust masks. This could well be the best piece of packing advice I’ve ever received!
While Ghana is undoubtedly largely poor with most people existing at subsistence level, in Accra there is overwhelming evidence of a significant middle class and the countryside hosts large modern holiday houses for weekending Accra residents. It is beyond debate that there is money in this country and it is against this background that you have to ask the question of the Ghanaian government and its Ministry of Works: “Why cant you sort your shit out and get a fully macadamed highway between your first and second cities?” The lack of an effective and essential infrastructure link, causes unnecessary attrition to vehicles, whether trucks or cars and must be such a barrier to the movement of peoples and goods and a significant inhibitor to economic development.
As we approached and passed the familiar towns of Nkawkaw and Mpraeso, with Fulani now within touching distance and the memories of my earlier time in Ghana come flooding back and a smile filled my face. So many happy times have been spent in these environs and I’ve been so very priviledged to meet, work and play alongside some of the most fantastic selfless people you can imagine.
For the first time in our three hours in the car the conversation between Kwabe and I dried up as I reflected on these earlier times and contemplated my arrival at Fulani.