January 22, 2016 Ghana

"Dawn on the Volta"

After a restless night worrying about missing our 5 AM alarm,

It is finally 5 AM.

Dressed and packed, we are out to the main door.

Only to find that we are securely locked in.

Luckily we find a back door with a key in it.

The early morning is hot and black.

The sky is filled with stars.

We head toward the occasional street lamp 

That casts an eery glow on shuttered shops and palms.

I swing my head lamp,

To help the weaving motorcycles avoid us.

Roosters crow.

They know that dawn is soon.

Our hands and backs are laden with our packs

And extra water.

By the time we arrive at the ferry dock,

We are drenched in sweat.

I use the inside of my hat

To mop up the small river running off my forehead and nose.

We depart Ada Foah

As the sky lightens.

The Volta is hazy with smoke.

Riverside, people are soaping up and washing.

Women hitch up their wraps and wade into the river.

They half-fill enormous water buckets 

And then heave them up onto their heads.

With a smaller bucket, 

They scoop water to completely fill the big bucket.

Men put tiny fish into small wooden basket traps and

Set off paddling in long narrow wooden boats.

Sometimes one man paddles from the stern

And another stands midship with a dip net.

Kids naked, or wearing underwear, school uniforms or

Occasionally a white party dress

(Are these cast offs from first communions?)

Work and play and wave.

When we wave back to them,

Huge toothy grins light up their faces.

The ferry rumbles and lumbers from one side

Of the estuary to the other,

Pulling into beaches and picking up

Loaves of bread, baskets of grain,

Plastic PCV pipe and people.

The river side is low and lush.

Narrow openings in the green,

Lead to sandy brown paths.

Clusters of houses are

Made of dried adobe blocks

With plastic-patched thatched roofs.

Fences, adobe or woven sticks,

Are usually festooned with colourful washing.

Smoke houses sit like statues of giant woven baskets.

Everywhere there are big piles of broken shells.

The community gathers In the shade,

Waiting for the ferry.

Chickens and children seem oblivious to the heat

And peck and play in the full sun.

As soon as the ferry leaves a beach,

We are surrounded by islands of
Water hyacinth,
Lush and green

With beautiful pale mauve flowers.

There are areas of lily pads

Supporting gigantic white lily flowers,

And patches of yellow flowered duck weed,

Dense enough to support the strutting 

Of small rusty orange shorebirds.

The egrets, hawks and kingfishers

Look down from the occasional majestic kapok or banban tree

That towers above the palms,

Or they perch closer to the water on 

The floating blue and red painted oil drums

That are used to contain the day's catch.

After nine hours of watching riverside,

Jim and I decide to have a game of rummy.

Immediate other passengers join us.

We modify the game to suit four players .

We play numerous single hand games and after

Everyone has won at least game.

We play the grand championship round.

It is amazing how card playing transcends language.

We watch the sun go down.

Before we are in total darkness,

We lug our stuff and ourselves

To the lower deck.

At 7 pm in total darkness

We pull into a beach.

We can see the lights of Akuse

In the far distance.

I am struggling with my bags,

When one of the boatmen

Hollers at me to put the big one

On my back. 

I protest that the straps aren't good.

I don't admit that I can't climb

The higgillypiggilly steps
(Or any steps)

With my heavy pack on.

An older woman takes pity on me

And leads the way.

Somehow I make it to top

And then I can drag my heavy bag

On the sandy path.

My headlamp and Jim's are the only lights.

Eventually, we arrive at a road.

There are motor cycles waiting to give rides.

Jim gets on behind one man

I get on behind another.

Someone lifts my heavy bag 

Onto my drivers arms.

I wrap my arms loosely 

Around his narrow waist

And prepare to clutch him

For all I am worth,

If I need to.

Eventually we arrive Akuse

And are taken to the

Volta River Authority guest house.

The man tells us we can not stay.

We do not have reservations.

I wonder what on earth I am doing

In Africa at night with no place to stay.

I plead; it is dark,

We are from Canada, we are old,
I am an artist.

Eventually he calls someone

Who calls someone else,

And we finally get a key.

By now our motorcycles have left.

Two men, Sherif and MacDavis,

Who just happen to be hanging out

Drive us to our lodging.

Sherif gives us water and beer

And refuses money.

They take us to the club house,

Where I am hopeful that they will serve food.

Instead we share beer and stories,

With our new friends.

The day ends with me thinking

How lucky I am to be in Africa.