After a challenging night in prison-like rooms, we had some breakfast and crossed the Benin-Togo border. The semi-abandoned border post was guarded by a bored police officer who spent twenty minutes to copy our names in his logbook, in Greek script!
We continued driving west through the Kran National park, with a quick stop to see the Tamberema UNESCO heritage site. There isn’t much to see here, except from a couple of traditional Tata-somba houses and villagers who aggressively ask for money.
Our destination was Nano, near Bogou, a small town with a busy market, where we met our guide for the visit to Grottes de Nok.
Built during the 17th century by people that came from the Mali area, it consists of a number of carved caves on the vertical rock of the plateau overlooking the valley. The nearly impossible access to the settlement served as protection against raids. At their peak, the caves were housing more than 300 people.
We drove to Dapaong, to checkin a worn down hotel, with a huge lobby and a receptionist that could’t care less. Supposedly the best option in town. The dinner at the nearby Campemen Hotel was a pleasant surprise though. Nothing special, but decent, definitely scarce in this region.
When we woke up, it was pouring cats and dogs, the first heavy rain since our arrival. We drove to the tri-national border – with Ghana and Burkina Faso – to checkout the Tololese border and drove for twenty more minutes on very bad road to the Ghanaian border post. We were “greeted” by four totally bored police officers, who were watching a local tv station. They were not exactly happy for having to deal with visitors. Crossing the borders in Africa is always an interesting experience.
From there to Bolgatanga, it was only 100 km. It took more than 3 hours, as the road is in terrible condition and the heavy rain made it even worse. The Akayet hotel has a good and clean restaurant, serving juicy, spicy chicken. After lunch we continued north to Sirigu, a village close to the border with Burkina Faso where we settled in a lodge owned by a co-op known as SWOPA: an acronym for Sirigu Women Organisation of Pottery and Art.
The mud walls of the Sirigu houses are decorated by beautiful paintings, a tradition that was fading as this remote village was being slowly deserted, its population fleeing to the big cities and neighboring regions in pursuit for a better life. Until a local teacher, Melanie Kasise, recognized the importance of the local culture and established SWOPA together with 54 village women. SWOPA became the instrument for reviving the community and begun attracting tourists and their dollars. The paintings are simple but beautiful and the village is a great place to understand how the locals live in this part of the world. The SWOPA lodge yard is a relaxing experience, if one doesn’t mind the terrible food.
The next morning we set course to Tamale, 160km south of Sirigu.
We made a stop in Tongo hills, to visit an interesting housing complex, home of a single family, led by the 83 year-old chief with his 22 wives and 300 family members.
We made another quick stop in the Green House, in Karimenga, an eco-lodge where we had scheduled to stay, but fortunately we skipped. Eco-lodge translates to no running water and a ta couple of pit latrines instead of toilets.
African Dreams was our lodge in Tamale, a quite nice property, owned by Zibrim, a Ghanaian and his Swiss wife. After they raised their family in Geneva, the middle aged couple decided to return to live in Ghana. Our lunch and dinner were excellent, the only delicious meal we had in this trip. Zibrim worked for many years as a cook in France and Switzerland, apparently a very good one. Before dark, we visited Damankoyili, a village next to the hotel. The muslim population was very friendly and polite, happy to show us around.
The next day we woke up early, drove to the airport and said goodbye to our good friend Sammy who had been an excellent guide and companion, throughout the whole trip. The flight to Accra was short and smooth. We met our driver in the airport and left immediately to Cape Coast. This was my second visit to the golden coast forts, the first one being a couple of years before. You can read about it here.
It was interesting to revisit the castles and to listen again to the disturbing stories about the slave trade and the inhuman conditions that slaves suffered in the dungeons. Frankly, I enjoyed the first visit a lot more, as I had a bit more time to go around and less to worry.
The Golden Parkerhill Hotel exceeded our expectations. Modern, beautiful rooms and a very good restaurant, built on top of the hill, overlooking Elmina. It is clearly the best lodging option in town.
We spent the next morning driving back to Accra. Without much energy left, we settled for a short walk and a late dinner in Little Havana, a good Cuban restaurant in Osu. The next day, we boarded our return flight to Athens, after two very interesting and completely fulfilling weeks on the road.