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krisek Nzulezu - A travel report by Krys
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Nzulezu,  Ghana - flag Ghana -  Western
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krisek's travel reports

A village on stilts above Lake Amansuri. Ghana.

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Nzulezu is a small community, a village built on stilts above the surface of periodic Lake Amansuri. The villagers are poor and friendly. Their school relies on donations from the visitors. A visit has to be organised through a tourism office in Beyin.


Nzulezu travelogue picture
When I was planning to see Nzulezu for the first, and I can definitely trace it back to the year of 1998, I never knew that it would require me to get very wet even before I was to step into a tiny canoe. I had to take my boots off and walk in the lake for about fifteen minutes. I was not prepared for that. I had no idea what I was walking on and what kind of creatures might have lived in the water. Well, I remained calm, as this was not my first time like that at all. I already famously did that in Mozambique.

The rainy season was late and the Lake Amansuri was actually partially dry, so I could take my car, reluctantly I might add, to the water’s edge. When the lake is full the boat trip normally takes ninety minutes. I was told that my trip was going to take half that if I drove a little. I will not go into too much detail about the slight accident the car had there and that several men had to lift it from the mud hole.

Anyway, the trip to the stilt village had to be arranged in Beyin, at the tourism office. They issued tickets for visiting the village and charged a fee for a guide, who normally waited by the office. The guide was also a canoe man. My guide's name was Dominic. He was a local school teacher, who worked as a guide to earn some extra money. He was very patient, and friendly - typical for a teacher, I might add.

Back to the lake. After wading in the muddy waters and reaching the correct depth, it was time to select a vessel. The canoe Dominic took, was not even his. And when it was deep enough to come inside it, it took about ten minutes to realise that it was leaking. He had to jump inside the lake again to bring another one. Slightly larger one, too. This one was good enough.

Favourite spots:
Nzulezu travelogue picture
The trip on the lagoon, through the thick and lush vegetation before I got to the actual lake, was fun. There were plenty of birds around and the scenery was tranquil and pure. The canoe was moving silently on the sheet of water. It was great. Dominic was, like a real teacher, patiently answering all questions.

The village, which was really just two rows of wooden and reed houses built on stilts along two elevated streets, was quiet. People were going about their business and paid little attention to my presence. Women were cooking, weaving, mending clothes, washing up, making laundry, or relaxing. Boys were playing football at a very small pitch made of reed cane, and young lads were just hanging around doing absolutely nothing. The lads paid the most attention to me being there. There were reasons for that.

What's really great:
Nzulezu travelogue picture
I later found out that they were simply watching their women. The Nzulezu women were reserved exclusively for the Nzulezu men. No exceptions were allowed unless the woman chose to abandon the village and never come back. So, this applied not only to tourists but also to men from all other tribes and places in Ghana. They were really serious about it, and this is was not a subject to negotiations under any circumstances.

But there of course were also other kids, who were not kicking a ball. They just kept running around, teasing each other. And they gave visitors enough attention to make the visit really enjoyable. They were very happy posing for pictures striking all sort of very amusing poses. I wonder where they learnt that.

All the children attended the school, which was in fact financed by the visitors through the tickets paid. The school maintained a book of visitors, and all were encouraged to sign it and give an extra donation, although it was not mandatory.

Sights:
Nzulezu travelogue picture
The village was not the cleanest one. That was surprising since being built on water, cleaning should be rather easy. Hmm?

Yet, a lot rubbish lied around between the houses. Justice, a Ghanaian Ashanti boy from Kumasi, whom I met in Busua and whom I gave a lift to Nzulezu, grabbed one of the young guys (I think he might have chosen one with largest muscles - a leader perhaps) and explained to him that it was important to keep the place tidy. Not only for themselves but also for the tourists, who normally are sensitive to untidy places.

He said that the village had a few meetings regarding this matter yet it remained unresolved for years. There plenty of discussions and opinions exchanged and the rubbish remained still. This young muscle guy proved to be a clever one as well. He said that the truth or an opinion was like a shoe; everyone had their size. And you know what? I am going to leave it without comment.

Accommodations:
Nzulezu travelogue picture
There was a small and rustic guesthouse in Nzulezu, which was a great place to escape the civilisation and an excellent spot for a fight with the mosquitoes. It was more of a homestay rather than a licensed guesthouse, and if one wanted to stay in Nzulezu overnight, it had to be arranged in Beyin at the tourism office. It would cost about US$5.

Otherwise, there was a very spartan guesthouse in the Beyin's fort. It was extremely basic and it looked like no-one ever stayed there at all. It was actually scary. There were no doors and the communal ablutions were so dirty and forgotten, and had not seen water for centuries, it seemed.

Alternatively, one could stay in Axim, a few miles east. There were a few more agreeable options there, like the Axim Beach Hotel, Frankfaus Hotel, Hotel Monte Carlo and Ankobra Beach Resort. The latter was also able to arrange trips to Nzulezu.

Nightlife:
Dominic
Dominic
There was no nightlife in Nzulezu. The only place to socialise were the two alleys where one might have gotten invited to join the villagers for a nightcap. It was best to try one's luck with the young lads or the school's headmaster, who knew absolutely everything what was happening in the village and obviously knew everyone. He could set up any kind of party. And that would involve story telling and chatting to the Nzulezians. This is what I call nightlife!

Other options, like cafes or clubs were scarce in this part of the country. There was nothing in Beyin either, and the only music playing regular cafe and disco-cum-club was in Axim - immediately next to Ghana's second oldest fort. It was actually one of the best ones along the cost, with very chilled atmosphere and really very funny portraits of Bob Marley. The paintings were so bad that had they not been signed whom they represented it would have been impossible to guess.

Hangouts:
Nzulezu travelogue picture
Well, my favourite hangout space in the village was the school. The headteacher had the best stories and anecdotes about life in the area. He knew a lot about the villages in this remote part of the country, their inhabitants and many visitors, who had come to Nzulezu before.

For the locals, there were a few spots for hanging out. There was the reception area, where all the visitor boats normally docked, and a few flat platforms sticking out of the main avenue into the lake. Kids normally played on those, building simple toys from anything they could find; reed, wood, pieces of plastic and fabric, rope, etc. Sometimes, their mums would sit with them knitting or mending something, preparing ingredients for a meal.

Restaurants:
Nzulezu travelogue picture
The guesthouse/homestay in Nzulezu had no restaurant, but it was the only place to get some food cooked by someone else. This had to be pre-arranged as well, as the villagers would need to make sure they have enough provisions. And they could cook almost anything simple one desired - within reason, of course. Fish or chicken were normally very easy and rice should not be a problem. Food was easier than drink. The Nzulezians would have some of the own brew available but if one did not have a stomach for that... well.

Otherwise, one had to bring their own food and drink with them. There was a simple shop and a market in Beyin. The shop sold bottled water and beer. This is a remote area and one should not count on getting the usual favourites. In 'emergency' it is worth asking around, as the locals would often sell their home provisions in reasonable quantities for reasonable fee.

Other recommendations:
Fort Apollonia, Beyin
Fort Apollonia, Beyin
Visiting Nzulezu was a great experience and fun, as expected. It was very different to everything else I was doing in Ghana by that time. The village was not a fort (like the majority of places in Ghana I had seen by that point). The houses, although hard to access, were every bit fragile and had to be rebuilt every eight years. To get there I was travelling slowly in a dingy canoe, had to get seriously wet before I actually saw anything, opposed to speeding comfortably in a large and fully air-conditioned estate two-litre-engine car.

The last fort along the western stretch of Ghana’s cost was Fort Apollonia in Beyin. The small but exceptionally strong fort was the very last one constructed by the British in 1770. It served as a slave trading post only for thirty or so years until slavery was permanently outlawed by the United Kingdom.

Published on Tuesday November 18th, 2008


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Mon, Nov 24 2008 - 10:05 PM rating by jorgesanchez

I think that your African reports are your best's

Thu, Nov 20 2008 - 06:08 PM rating by rangutan

Great report and well described African life. Good to read about private backwater adventures but I was wondering if memories like this are useful other travellers? Anyway, interesting to read and very exotic. [4.2]

Thu, Nov 20 2008 - 03:13 AM rating by robynallen

There are some amazing communties around the world. Your report was very informative.

Tue, Nov 18 2008 - 09:13 PM rating by pesu

I agree with Isabelle - this time including nice words about teachers.

Tue, Nov 18 2008 - 06:31 PM rating by frenchfrog

As always, what a great report Krys! Very inspiring!

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