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Krys's Travel log

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Welcome to my travel log! You will find here a lot more than in the travel reports, stripped from political correctness. Enjoy!

Log entries 51 - 60 of 1158 Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

May 03, 2013 04:00 PM Ghana 2013 - Elmina

Ghana 2013 - Elmina I originally planned to go to the Volta region to see the lake. But for some reason, I did not feel like doing it anymore. Perhaps it was the unpredictablity of weather at this time of the year. Perhaps it was something else. I was not quite sure what I wanted to do there. It was still a long way to go, and the breeze coming from the ocean was intoxicating. This is why, I decided to go back to Elmina and stay at the Coconut Grove Beach Resort.

Today, Elmina Sharks were playing in Cape Coast, but I did not make to the game. Isaac managed to monitor the results of the match through an insider on the stadium, who kept sending update text messages. So, I thought it would be a good idea to make a party for the players. At the Gramsdel Bar. I convinced the manager to open the beachside again, and we drank the entire bar dry. This is not the first time it happened in Elmina. A few years back, when I made a party for the players, we drank the entire stock of the Coconut Grove Bridge House... So, I had to send Isaac and a couple of players to a store to buy more stock - mainly lager, malta, coke and sprite. Then, the lads got hungry so we got some fried chicken.

Then, as the extra stock we bough dried out, we moved to the main square of Elmina, the Nana Kobina Gyan Square. There was bar there called Golden Better Bar. The square had a great potential. It was cleaned up with some help of the Dutch government (I think) some 5 years ago. There was still a bit to do there, and it will take some time to reach the quality of central squares found in European cities. But the fact that there was a bar with tables in the pavement under the starry sky was a promising beginning.

We partied until about 2am. It was great fun. I met many locals from Elmina, who only heard rumours about me.

May 02, 2013 04:00 PM Ghana 2013 - Accra

Ghana 2013 - Accra After breakfast, we did not shopping - mainly supermarket shopping, like chocolate, ketchup, biscuits, energy drinks, cheese, etc. Then, we went to the beach at the Trawala. Had some lunch, took pictures and relaxed.

We made our way to the Intercity STC station with an ambition to buy two tickets back to Cape Coast for the next morning. There were supposed to be two coaches runing. One at 08:30am and another at 2pm. The coaches were modern, comfortable, safe and air-conditioned. One way ticket from Accra to Cape Coast was 9 cedis (£3). But for some reason, the tickets were showing all sold out. The lady took about 45 minutes to establish what could possibly be the reason. It turned out that a university hired the entire vehicle, and the service was cancelled. Simple like that. The lady said that if I turned up at 05:30am, I might get on the Takoradi service. Somehow that idea did not appeal to me that much.

The taxi driver, who brought me to the staiton offered to take me to Cape Coast for 150 cedis (£50). That was 50 cedis less than the Elmina driver kept charging me so far. So, it did not sound that bad at all. His car was a bit older but it ran well and the driver was good. At least he knew Accra, and manged to avoid most of the traffic. And that meant that it took at least 30 minutes less to reach Elmina. So, I said yes. Isaac was impressed. But he later told me that this deal was possible only because the car was running on liquid gas and not on petrol. And that was a lot cheaper.

Some basic sightseeing later, I was shopping at the market again. We bought some cooking utencils to add to the cooker and cilinder, and a 100kg bag of rice, which should last a year.

May 01, 2013 04:00 PM Ghana 2013 - on the way to Accra

Ghana 2013 - on the way to Accra We checked out at 2:30pm. Before we did that, we walked along the beaches. Isaac wanted me to check the new Elmina Beach Resort farther west from the Coconut Grove Beach Resort. So, I did. And I really did not like it. The concrete blocks were ugly and it looked like they were still unsure what to do with the grounds and how to shape them. I went to the reception and asked to see a couple of rooms. The owner, a white British lady, was the lest welcoming proprietor of the whole of Africa, I think. She was somewhat reluctant to show me any rooms, and as she spotted the camera swaying from my shoulder, she said: "you will not be taking any pictures of the rooms!". Well, the rooms were aweful - smallish, lacked character and had a strange smell inside.

In Elmina, before leaving for Accra, I wanted to see some of the Elmina Sharks football players. Well, they actually wanted to see me. So, I convinced the manager of the Gramsdel Bar to open the beachfront. She did and the players and I had a few drinks with a perfect view of the beach and the Elmina castle. Isaac and I left for Accra at 4pm.

We checked into the Novotel Accra Center. I was contemplating an idea of going out for some boogie. But after dinner, the idea did not seem that good anymore. So, it was just the bed and a tv showing Nigerian movies, which went to a great length to find out the ugliest looking people in Nigeria to play these parts. It was incredible. There are so many stunning people in Africa, and yet Nollywood chooses the least attractive to play in their films. Interesting.

Apr 30, 2013 04:00 PM Cote d'Ivoire & Ghana - on the way back to Elmina

Cote d'Ivoire & Ghana - on the way back to Elmina The car came right on time. We were ready. We stopped at one of the ATMs in the new town to take some cash out, so we could pay for the ride. Incidentally, the cash machines in Ivory Coast worked perfectly. Not once was there an issue with a withdrawal.

Now, a tip for the travellers from the Eurozone. Taking cash out of the machines is one of the best ideas for you, since CFA is pegged to the euro, so the only charge you get is for the withdrawal. Alternatively, if you took enough cash, most hotels would change your euros at the pegged rate without any commission. Ibis Plateau in Abidjan did.

The ride to the border was quick. There was almost no traffic. The road passed countless banana plantations. It felt like Cameroon a little, where banana plantations were also so very common. For some reason this was not the case in Ghana...

May is officially the first month of the rainy season in Ghana. So, just as we reached the border. Literally ten seconds before leaving the car, massive rain fell. It was bucketing! But as expected, the rain lasted only about seven minutes. So, we left and began crossing. It was a lot less painlful this time round. Isaac definitely benefited from the fact that he was travelling with me. On this occasion, he did not have to pay anyone to be able to cross. But I spotted a few people, who did.

The car Isaac pre-arranged on the Ghanaian side was already waiting. We did instruct the driver to be there at noon, and we reached the border at 11:45am. So, it was perfect timing.

On the way back, we again stopped in Takoradi, near the airport, so the driver and Isaac could get some food. They had rice with the meat of a jungle rat (aka grass hopper) for 6 cedis (£2), and I had a big bottle of lager for 3 cedis. Then, Isaac had an idea to do some shopping. He asked for a cooking gas cilinder, so he could do some cooking on his own and stop eating contaminated street food. It hard to refuse this request. So, we bough a big cilinder and a cooker.

In Elmina, we checked into the Coconut Grove Beach Resort. It was right on the beach, had comfortable, air conditioned en-suite rooms with fans. It had rather good kitchen, friendly staff, a swiming pool, horse stables, rabbit houses, crocodile pool and an 18 hole golf course. For me the greatest quality was the proximity of the beach and breeze. One of the most attractive beaches in the country, actually. Clean and safe. For Isaac, the main quality was the restaurant and wifi, which was availble in the entire resort, golf course, rooms, and even the beach.

Apr 29, 2013 04:00 PM Cote d'Ivoire - Grand Bassam, back again

Cote d'Ivoire - Grand Bassam, back again It was a bit harder to find a ride from Abidjan to Grand-Bassam than it was in the opposite direction. Perhaps it was my impatience. I just wanted to go back to the relaxed town on the beach as soon as possible. Not that Abidjan had no qualities or anything. But it was just a big city with few sights, and little to do. Except for shopping of course.

The hotel taxi wanted 40,000 CFA for the trip, so I had to reject this rather ridiculous offer. I spoke to one of the bellboys and said that I was prepared to pay 15,000 CFA if he found me a car in a good condition. Rather expectedly, he called his brother and our ride arrived within 20 minutes. It was a nice Peugeot 406 in an excellent condition and clean.

Back in Grand-Bassam, Isaac thought that it might have been a good idea to check into the La Playa. He had the free wifi in mind, of course. So we did. It was not a bad place. We took a suite for 55,000 CFA a night. It was of a good size although a bit dark. And the L'Etoile du Sud was cheaper by 5,000 CFA, prettier and their rooms had giant beds and had balconies with a view. The La Playa rooms had no view and their tiny windows were facing a garden in the northerly direction. Their pool was quite nice of which Isaac made full use. However, to his greatest disappointment, the free wifi did not cover the rooms. Only about a half of the restaurant was in range.

Uh, by the way - the guy, who brought us from Abidjan pleaded his readiness to take us all the way to the border the next morning. He drove well, the car was clean so we agreed on the price and time of the pick-up (09:30am).

For the rest of the day in Grand-Bassam, we simply relaxed. Watched the giant waves smashing on the shore, walked along the beach a little, browsed the net, took pictures. In the evening, we looked for a party, but nightlife in the French Quarter was very low key, for some reason. And we did not fancy going out in the new town across the lagoon. It was less atmospheric and simply too far.

Apr 28, 2013 04:00 PM Cote d'Ivoire - Abidjan

Cote d'Ivoire - Abidjan In the morning, we took breakfast at the beachfront restaurant of the hotel, by the pool. And then went on some wandering about the town, discovering one colonial building after another. Majority of them were in a desperate need for repair, sadly. But the shaded avenues and flowering bushes and quiet ambiance were responsible for this incredible magnetism that Grand-Bassam had. Unexpectedly, at the spot where the old hospital stood, there was a meadow with a few horses relaxing and eating their breakfast. Almost a surreal picture.

The ride to Abidjan in a private taxi was 10,000 CFA. Which was not a bad deal. The trip took just over an hour, due to the traffic in the city. We stayed at the Ibis Plateau, in the upscale and once glamorous business district. The hotel was just fine. Typical Ibis hotel, like any other around the planet. Clean, safe without excessive comforts. Although it was already a late afternoon, Isaac wanted to do the mandatory shopping for shoes that he spotted on a boy in Grand-Bassam the day before. He actually took a picture of the shoes with the phone, to make sure it would be easier to ask people in Abidjan, when these could be acquired. So, we enquired at the hotel, took a hotel taxi to a shopping mall only to find out that they did not have the sizes in the colour that Isaac wanted. So, we drove to the other side of the city, where there was a lot more choice for a lot higher prices. But the boy was eventually very happy, and it was a perfect aspect to end the day this way. As the sun was about to set we went to see the highly unusual Cathedral of St Peter, which stands in the vicinity of the Administrative Quarter complete with gleaming skyscrapers unlike any others found in Africa. It was an awesome spot of the city.

Back at the hotel, at dinner, we decided not to travel to the capital city of Yamoussoukro but back to Grand-Bassam. This meant that we could sleep in, and did not have to travel over 625km all the way from Yamoussoukro to Elmina. That would be a long way to travel in a day, which needed to include border crossing as well.

Apr 27, 2013 04:00 PM Cote d'Ivoire - Grand Bassam

Cote d'Ivoire - Grand Bassam We checked out the evening before, so in the morning, there was just straight jumping into the car and off we went. The road from Cape Coast to the border town of Elubo was in a very good condition, with a few exceptions where the highway was being resurfaced following mudslides, and some 20km stretch immediately before the border, which was badly potholed, as if the government did not care about those last miles. The trip took about 4 hours with a 45 minutes stop-over in Takoradi for early lunch. It would have taken about 30 minutes less to complete the entire trip if the road was in excellent condition all the way.

The border in Elubo is very basic. Ghana and Ivory Coast have their border stations on their respective sides of the river. So, once one completes formalities at one of the stations, then there is a five minute hike across the bridge to the other side. There were many hawkers and touts offering private taxi service to Abidjan (40,000 CFA) and across the bridge. But unless you have major difficulty walking there is absolutely no need to take a car over the bridge. The ride would have been too short and entirely too expensive.

The Ghanaian formalities were rather quick and painless with no extraneous questions asked. It looked like the countries had a joint health station. This is where they checked the yellow international vaccination book. It turned out that I did not have meningitis jab, which they delivered on the spot for 2,000 CFA (one could also pay in Ghana cedis). Isaac had no vaccination card, so we had to purchase one and they gave him a couple of jabs. I was actually happy they did. This way he will be better protected, since he often scoffed street food. In fact, he was still recovering from typhoid, which he got from a street food vendor. Then, the formalities at the Ivoirian side were more chaotic. Actually for me it was almost normal. And since I engaged in conversation with the immigration and security officers, I found out that the ride from the border to Grand-Bassam should only cost about 30,000 CFA. They told the driver off (who was waiting for me), but I told him that if he drives well, then he would get the 10,000 CFA bonus. But with Isaac, the corruption and bribery was definitely in play. One of the immigration officers demanded 2,000 CFA fee from him – the so called ‘immigration fee’. I told them that Isaac was travelling with me and he had no money. So, the corrupt officers separated us, claiming that it was ‘dangerous’ for me to be waiting for Isaac in the building.

Anyway, the ride to Grand-Bassam took about 2 hours. The road, except a few miles immediately after the border, was in excellent condition. We reached the town at about 2:30pm. I decided to accommodate ourselves at the L’Etoile du Sud Hotel, right on the beach, in the heart of the French Quarter. It was a great looking hotel with a nice swimming pool, colonial feel and had atmospheric rooms with giant beds and balconies overlooking the beach and the ocean. Yet, their beachfront restaurant was already closed for lunch, so we had to find a different place to re-fuel. Right opposite of the hotel, in between the shopping stands, there was a local bar/restaurant frequented by the locals. They did great fried chicken and awful prawns. The service was excruciatingly slow but the lager was cold and the scenery was very animated. The local boys, girls and families were wrapping their day at the beach and preparing to go home. When Isaac and I finished eating, the sun was already low in the sky. It was time to take a walk on the beach, and see if there was going to be any action for the night. The beach was long and there were numerous bars/restaurants/hotel alongside. One after another. After sunset, we stepped into the La Playa for dinner and drinks. They had ice-cold drinks, a good size menu with my favourite brochettes de capitain and brochettes de crevettes. And, what mattered to Isaac the most, they had free wifi. I loved Grand-Bassam’s relaxed atmosphere and colonial feel that I did not want to leave. But the hotel reservation in Abidjan for the next night passed its cancellation window, so it was best that we went to see this once very glamorous city of West Africa. And Isaac wanted to make some shopping, of course!

Apr 26, 2013 04:00 PM Ghana 2013 - Cape Coast

Ghana 2013 - Cape Coast Sleeping in was the plan for the next day. Followed by doing absolutely nothing. Just relaxing on the beach (not frying up in the sun, no), watching the fishermen pull giant nets, watching the fishermen repairing the nets, watching the fishermen pulling the fishing boats onto the beach. I had a quick look on the other side of the castle, where there is normally a greater concentration of local fishermen, but there was almost no action there at all. So, in the afternoon, Isaac and I went to Elmina, so Isaac could drop all the things I brought for him from London in his room. A quick look at the impressive Elmina Castle of St. George, a few photos, dinner at the Coconut Grove Bridge House and the final arrangements for transportation to the border with Cote d’Ivoire and it was time to go back to Cape Coast, which had much better beachfront facilities, complete with the soothing ocean breeze. There was a party already cooking at the Oasis Beach Resort. Isaac and I did not party for very long, since we made plans to leave for Ivory Coast at 8 am.

Apr 25, 2013 04:00 PM Ghana 2013 - Here we go again

Ghana 2013 - Here we go again Landing in Accra during the hours of darkness is never a pleasant feat. The arrival hall is still rather small and some of the hawkers manage to bribe their way all the way to the luggage carousels. Then even more hawkers and taxi drivers wait right inside the terminal past the customs and even more of them crowd the exit from the building. All of them want some business, which is aimed at extracting some money from you. None of them are too aggressive though, yet it may take a couple of rounds before they take ‘no’ as an answer.

I did not check any luggage, so I managed to eject myself from the terminal building within 15 minutes after touchdown, most of which was taken up by the wait in the immigration line. My African son, Isaac, was waiting for me with a driver. This way, I could quickly transfer all the way to Cape Coast. Depending on traffic and driving skills the trip takes from 3 hours to 4 hours. The ride was uneventful. There were not that many police checkpoints either. And the longest wait en route was around the road toll booths.

When I arrived at the Oasis Beach Resort at the Victoria Park in Cape Coast, the bar party was still going on. It was a great scene to arrive to: plenty of young people having great time dancing, chatting and sipping drinks. I got quickly accommodated in one of the rather basic round, self-contained concrete huts in the front row overlooking the beach. The hut had a small shower room, ceiling fun and a large bed with a mosquito net. There was also a small dressing table by one of the four windows.

I quickly joined the party. There was a great mix of people, ranging from locals with sufficient money to afford the drinks, well off locals, long term expats, weekend trippers from Accra, foreign workers, and travellers. Everyone looked like they were having loads of fun – all well mixed up. The resort had a little stage by the bar, so every now and again, there was someone jumping on it and performed hysterical dancing routines.

Mar 02, 2013 08:00 PM Marrakech - the third day

Marrakech - the third day The flight back to London was scheduled for 16:45. It therefore left almost an entire day for wandering about the city, peeking inside the souks, sipping sweet mint teas, chatting to the Senegalese vendors with awful wooden sculptures, fake watches and mobile phones (including the new Samsung Galaxy smart phones), teasing the snake charmers and water sellers, both of whom were just too eager to have their photographs taken for a fee, slagging off the monkey masters for the animal cruelty and chasing tourists away, who condoned this sort of behaviour by allowing their pictures to be taken with these poor animals, annoying the horse-drawn cart owners and taxi drivers by echoing the late Amy Winehouse by saying ‘no, no, no’.

The sun was up for most of the time, so it was a jolly good day for walking. It felt good to refuse all the taxi drivers, actually. The air was much clearer today as well, so the High Atlas peaks appeared much closer that the day before, and the snow on the slopes seemed to be glittering or glowing in the sun. It was rather a fantastic sight. I remember that back in 1996, we did not see that much of those mountains. I guess there were a few reasons for that. One was that there was no snow on the mountains then (it was September), the air seemed dustier with lesser visibility and we never got up early enough to catch a glimpse. I remember Marrakech from back then almost exclusively at the night. But of course I was 17 years younger then.

I ventured back to the southern ramparts again. I needed to see whether the pictures would come out better today. And I think they did. There were no sheep by the city walls today, though. Yet boys played football exactly in the same spot as the day before. And again they paid no attention to me, wandering about and snapping those palmtrees, which, as the optical illusion would have it, were almost as tall as the mountains in the distance.

The flight was one hour late. Which meant that there was extra time for sipping sweet mint tea from a number of balconies and terraces overlooking the infamous Djamaa el Fna. One of the terraces offered an excellent view of the High Atlas, too. Funny thing was that for almost an entire day I ended up coming across the same people. All the time! In the streets, in the restaurants and cafes. And even souks. Spooky. But When I got to the airport, they were there, too!

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