After our rough week, Julia and I decided we needed some serious R&R. We headed off to Mountain Paradise, a lodge near the Tafi Atome monkey sanctuary that touted beautiful mountain views and organic coffee.
The tro-tro dropped us in the little town of Fume at the base of the mountain. A sign at the junction informed us that Mountain Paradise was "4 km -- uphill." We briefly considered walking, then came to our senses and asked some locals to call us a couple of motorbikes. While we waited, a nice pick-up drove by. I happened to notice a hand emerge from the window and, with a subtle upward flick of the wrist, make the Ghanaian gesture for "where are you going?" I pointed up the mountain. The truck stopped and we got in.
Our good luck had begun!
The hand belonged to John, a high-ranking government official from Accra who had come for a friend's mother's funeral and was on his way to spend the night in his hometown. He was with Patrick, another government official, who I came to think of simply as John's sidekick.
The road up the mountain was steep, in bad condition and full of sharp curves; I can't imagine having ridden it on a motorbike...yikes.
I. LOVE. GHANAIAN. HOSPITALITY!
We spent the evening with John and Patrick. We stopped to see the tail end of the Rice Festival going on in Biakpa, one of the lower mountain villages where Mountain Paradise is. Then we stopped to check out the lodge itself. Julia said it wasn't so bad, but I was deeply disappointed with our anticipated...well, paradise. It was small, dark and only about halfway up the mountain. John must've seen my expression, and kept insisting we needed to see his cousin's hotel further up the mountain. We proceeded to John's hometown, the village of Vane. He took us to meet a bunch of relatives and friends, who fed us dinner. Then we went to the summit, where, perched on the edge of the cliff, sat the Abraerica Hotel.
If you are ever in Ghana, GO THERE.
The view is astounding, the rooms are comfortably modern, and the food is delicious. And because John's cousin owned it, he arranged for us to get free breakfast the next day and a room for ridiculously cheap. Then, without further ado, he and Patrick left.
Julia and I dropped our bags in our rooms, looked at each other and did a happy dance.
It's common to meet Ghanaians who will do nice things for you - hospitality is very highly valued here. However it is less common to meet Ghanaians (men) who will do those nice things without any romantic overtures or expectations.
Julia and I luxuriously laid in bed and watched CNN for a while (TV that isn't in French! Woohoo!) before forcing ourselves to go back to the terrace and enjoy our surroundings. It was too dark to see much, but we happened to meet two Americans. They were NYU students doing a semester abroad in Accra and invited us to see the waterfall with them the next morning.
That night I took an actual shower and had access to the third functional flush toilet I've had in two months. We watched more CNN- which incidentally ran a feature about one of the Detroit Lions. Now the Lions are nothing to get excited about...unless you're in a hotel on some remote mountain in Africa and Detroit happens to be your 'hood :) - and had the best sleep! Cool mountain air made a fan unnecssary and it was SO QUIET! Aflao wakes up before 5 am, but there- no roosters, no gospel music, no screaming children, no Keta whining for breakfast. I slept straight through to 6:45...which is impressive. I haven't slept that long without waking up since August 30.
The next morning we met up with the Americans for breakfast and went to the Amedzofe Waterfall. The hike to this waterfall is significantly shorter than that to Wli, but in its own way much more treacherous if you can believe. It's lined with ropes that you have to use to lower yourself down or pull yourself up the trail because it's so steep and slippery. I'm pretty sure I almost died at least seven times, which makes it that much more impressive that Julia made the climb in flip-flops. Thatta girl, way to be Ghanaian. The watefall was worth the near-death experiences. (Everything in Ghana so far has been worth the near-death experiences......not that there have been a lot of those, Mom...)
We waded around in the water and climbed over the slippery rocks to stand directly under the spray. The thrill of it made us all euphoric. We were just laughing and prancing around like little kids.
Thoroughly soaked, we hauled ourselves back up the ropes. At the top we split off from our new friends and Julia and I hiked to signature cross at the top of Mt. Gemi. It was an easy 20-30 minutes hike from Vane, and well worth it!
We stood at the top in awe for a long time.
It seemed like the entirety of Ghana was spread out below us. Lake Volta sparkled in the distance. Vane could've passed for a painting if it weren't for the sound of drum music floating up to us from the church. Biakpa sat nestled in a valley lower down. Beyond the lush foothills clustered below us, rust-colored dirt roads threaded through a gorgeous patchwork of farmland and scrubby African bush.
My only regret is that there aren't adequate words to convey the beauty of Ghana.
Hunger finally drove us back to the hotel. I HAD FRENCH FRIES! Legitimate french fries, salted and everything. With ketchup no less! Talk about not having adequate words, heehee. I love, love, love Ghanaian food (too much), but I enjoy the chance to eat some American food occasionally.
Almost as soon as we were done eating, a man said he would take us to Ho in his private car because he was going to pick up his sisters and didn't feel like driving alone. So for the second time in one weekend, a man did something nice for us without expecting anything in return. Forget good luck - that is nothing short of miraculous.
I wore a seatbelt for the first time since I've got here. Blech. A road accident truly is the most likely way I will get injured or killed in Ghana, but I have to admit I hate how restrictive a seatbelt is. Then again I'm also very used to riding motorbikes without a helmet now too. (Pfft, they can't be more than 250 cc anyway...)
I get endless grief over the fact that my "pouffie" camera has a setting just for taking pictures of flowers. Which is admittedly a little stupid...then again I have some glorious photos. As Julia and I sat in the tro-tro on the way home, eating genuine chocolate chip cookies that we had found for unusually cheap, we agreed that if life has a flower mode- this was it.