Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An afternoon at Lake Bosomtwe

A few Saturdays ago (October 30), we took a day trip out to Lake Bosomtwe, the largest natural freshwater lake in Ghana.  Leaving Kumasi, once we passed by the edge of town, the country opened up into a verdant, lush landscape of grasses and coconut trees and the bizarre, twisted African trees that remind me of drawings in a Doctor Seuss book.  We passed through a few small towns, slowing to a crawl each time for the speed bumps and the people crossing the street.  Since it was a Saturday, every town was full of women dressed in their best black dresses and men in their suits on their way to the funeral of their aunts or brothers or cousins three times removed.  Many of the buildings are brightly painted with the slogans and names of a random assortment of businesses, from the NC State red of Vodafone and Indo Mie (instant noodles) to the daffodil-yellow of MTN (another cell provider).  Whenever children noticed our car, they shouted “obruni” to share their excitement with their friends.

The lake is in a meteor crater, with walls that jut up to 1800 feet above the surrounds hills.  Akmed’s Nissan sedan creaked and groaned its way up the slope, with first gear needed to keep us moving up the slope.  I had similar trips with my Toyota Corolla during my years in Colorado when I would drive a car full of people to the ski slopes.  Since we are obviously foreigners, we were charged 2 cedi a person to enter the lake area, as compared to the 1 cedi for locals.  After we crested the top and began our descent, the road narrowed to one-and-a bit lanes, but luckily for us there were few other cars on the road.

Upon arriving in Abono and parking the car, we were almost immediately greeted by a man wearing a badge who told us that we needed to visit the information hut.  Another man, looking much less official, also herded us over there.  I was a bit suspicious but was willing to take them at face value.  Inside the hut, the supervisor told us that they started the information hut to help visitors learn about the lake and to keep them from being hassled.  Then they asked us if we would make a donation to a fund to help pay for tree planting to prevent erosion around the lake.  Dorella and Nela each donated a few cedi, which seemed like enough to cover our group.  I chose not to donate at that time because I didn’t appreciate the bait-and-switch of saying we would not be hassled and then hassling us for “a donation from your heart” but not really accepting it when my heart said “zero cedis”.  I really wish I had thought to ask what they do with the money they collect at the entrance.

We set off on our own to do some hiking near the lake.  Our first attempt was a glaring failure, as the path we tried ended in the lake.  We headed back up through Abono and found the turnoff for a dirt road to Lake Point Guesthouse, one of the places recommended in the Bradt Ghana guide as a good place to eat.  The 2.5 km to Lake Point sounded like an ideal distance, so we set off.

Coming from the hustle and bustle of Kumasi, where there’s party music blaring from the local bars every weekend, the relative solitude of the walk was quite refreshing.   We were met by various village children on our walk.  A couple of times they asked for money, which left us in a tough spot.  The first one said “Please, I am an orphan”, but given the number of tourists walking through there, it’s hard to know if she was telling the truth.  It was a much simpler decision for Dorella when she saw a woman whose children needed some water.  Along the walk, we saw interesting bits of life in Ghana, like cocoa beans laid out to dry and the cacao trees where they grow.  (More pictures of the trip can be found at this link.)

Upon arriving at the Lake Point Guesthouse restaurant, we took a seat at a table underneath a thatched roof and enjoyed a refreshing Coke, followed by a leisurely lunch.  During our stay, the weather took a turn for the worse, with the sky threatening rain but never following through.  However, when we walked over to the lake beach, the winds had whipped up the glass-like lake so that waves were lapping at the shore.  Even though the sky was a gunmetal grey, the sound of waves made for a relaxing visit.

Our return trip went much more quickly than the walk there.  Just before returning to the village, I saw a couple of snow-white baby sheep.  They must have been newly born, because any animal that has spent more than a day in the dry, dusty orange-brown soil takes on a rust-colored patina.  Akmed was waiting for us when we got back.  He had spent the afternoon snoozing by the lakeside—not the worst way to make a living.

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