Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ghana 2017 - Day 23. Mount Afadja

Today is planned as an adventure day, so we braced ourselves for a day of hiking and fun. We started with a 2-hour bus ride to the base of Afadjato, or Mount Afadja, which at 885 m (2,904 ft) is the tallest peak in West Africa. It may not seem much, but the mountain resembles a tall mound of banku with very steep sides. The students were chomping at the bit to start climbing, and literally ran up the first slopes. Me, being older and wiser (plus having a tender right knee), took off at a slow pace with the intent of showing that the tortoise ultimately wins the race. I am not sure from what elevation we were starting, so I guessed 100 m (330 ft), and adjusted my pace accordingly. I was not counting, however, that one of our older students was going to be even slower than I was. She is a traditionally built African American woman in her late 30’s, and was huffing and puffing before we even reached the first significant slope. But she wanted to climb this peak, so I hung back with her, teaching her how to set her feet, look for the easiest way, and take judicious break. In exchange she maintained a constant flow of chatter, telling me about her life, her goals, and her future plans to marry this Ghanaian man she met for the first time three weeks ago. She is so quintessential American, so I have a hard time imagining her pounding fufu every morning to feed her family, but to each her own.

Little by little we went up the mountain, and when we were maybe a 100 m from the top met the first of our group, already on his way down. By the time we  made it to the top everybody had already started down, and my charge was ready to collapse and die. So we took maybe 15 minutes on the top, took photographs, and she sent a few snapchat messages to family and friends, proud of the fact that she had conquered the tallest mountain in West Africa.

Then, of course, came the long way down. This gal has no sense of balance, so I had to literally direct her every step, provide a shoulder for her to lean on, and again lend a friendly ear to her never-ending flow of chatter. By the time we were two thirds of the way down we met Kaleb, who was the first scout of the rescue party, and who mercifully had remembered to bring with him extra water. Our arrival to the starting point was received with glee, because by this time it was 2 pm and everybody was starving.

After a delicious lunch we headed for the Wli waterfall, where we were going to swim, walk behind the waterfall, and chill. However, this year there seems to have been a series of very heavy storms in Togo (never heard off before), and the gentle stream that forms the waterfall had turned into a raging torrent. We still walked over to the pool under the waterfall, for about 45 minutes and across a partly flooded series of concrete bridges, only to stare in awe at the immense power of the water, and the drenching cloud of spray formed as the water hurled down over a good 50 meters (this is also the tallest waterfall in West Africa). By the time we got back the sun was setting, and drenched as we were we gratefully sank into the seats of the bus for the two-hour return trip.

It occurs to me that, being the oldest in the group, it is up to me to negotiate the bride price of the gal who intends to marry a Ghanaian. The bride price should be somewhere around 1,000 cedis, so my initial idea of asking for a dozen goats (at 300 cedis each) was untenable. I have now settled on one mortar and pestle so our girl can prepare the family’s fufu early every morning, one pregnant nanny goat so she can prepare the goat soup from the kids that are sure to follow, four laying hens, and 20 bars of Ghanaian chocolate (one for every member of her USAC family). Sounds pretty fair price for a healthy bride, don’t you think?

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