BootsnAll Travel Network

Cedi Bead Factory

March 20th, 2007

Hard to believe we’re still not done with the tour de Ghana posts, even though we finished the actual trip back in January. Lots of stuff has happened since then, and we will eventually blog about some of it. It would help if we thought that anyone was reading any of this. Anyone out there? Anyone?

On the last day of our tour de Ghana, we stopped at the Cedi Bead Factory. They make recycled glass beads here. Although many Ghanaian men, women and children wear beads, many of the beads made here are exported to Europe, Asia and North America. While we were there, they were fulfilling an order from Japan.

There’s more than one way to make recycled glass beads. One way is to start with glass that is already colored, such as green bottle glass. Another way is to start with clear glass and add color to it. In either case, the glass is ground up into fine particles, put into molds and then baked in an outdoor oven at a very high temperature.

bead oven

When the beads come out of the oven, their color is not apparent. This man places them in a basic cement basin and douses them with water.

before beads are washed

After they’ve been washed, you can see how pretty they are. These are particularly large beads.

after beads are washed

Many of the beads have designs on them. We thought at first that the designs were painted on, but actually they are created when the glass is still in powder form. The bead makers add different colors of powdered glass to the mold and create designs by moving the powder around with small, toothpick-like tools. The result is like a miniature version of those colored sand sculptures inside glass vases that you see for sale in sea shell shops at the beach in the US. When the beads bake, the color sets.

The entire procedure is extremely labor intensive. Each bead is made by hand.

This woman is stringing some finished beads to prepare them for sale.

stringing beads

Yes, we bought some. How could we not?

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From Upper East to Volta Region

March 2nd, 2007

Okay, so we finished our Tour de Ghana over a month ago, but we are only now finishing blogging about it. Sorry.

From Sirigu, we toured around the surrounding area. Near a little village called Bongo, there is a large balancing rock at the top of a hill that resonates when struck. We asked a couple of kids to take us there, but soon more kids joined us till there were about 15. Fortunately, they were nice kids. Some of them did a little dance for us while others “played” the rock. Here’s how they might look on an album cover.

Bongo kids

Our jaunt through Tongo and Tengzug was less enjoyable. When we opted not to take a paid tour, a man on a bicycle chased us down to make sure we didn’t get out of the car to take photos on our own. Can a person photograph balancing rocks in the sunset without paying? Apparently not in Tongo/Tengzug.

That night we slept in a hotel in Tamale. Woke up with a mysterious, itchy rash on my arm. Emily had a salve for me to apply to it, thank goodness. Hooray for thoughtful friends and Smile’s Prid Homeopathic Salve.  Boo for crummy hotels.
We decided to return to Accra via the Volta region rather than retracing our steps. Although the description of the Tamale-Bimbilla-Nkwanta-Hohoe route in the guidebook was discouraging, we were determined and resigned ourselves to an all-day drive. Well, I guess the road has improved a great deal since the book was written because travel time was a LOT faster than we expected. Dusty, though.

The Volta region is greener and hillier than the north, and we enjoyed seeing the different landsape. After a night in Hohoe, we headed to the Mountain Paradise Lodge in Biakpa. They have basic accomodations with no electricity, but it’s actually pretty nice. We took a guided hike. Parts of it were challenging and even required a rope.

G climbing up rope

On the same hike we came across a mound of earth that had something cooking inside of it. It turned out to be charcoal. We learned that charcoal does not come from the supermarket or hardware store after all.
The man who made the charcoal farms cocoa and cassava in the area. He also makes his own palm oil, the most commonly used cooking oil here. Dan raised a bottle with him.

yummy palm oil

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Sirigu and surrounds

February 20th, 2007

Sirigu wall

Sirigu is a village in the Upper East Region (geographically in the far north) of Ghana. The women here paint their adobe home exteriors in bold, geometric and animal designs in reddish-brown, white and black.  We visited the Sirigu Women’s Association for Pottery and Art (SWOPA), where we learned about the crafts made in this area and saw an exhibit of works.   SWOPA has a guest house as well.  We didn’t get to stay there this time around.  Maybe next time.
sirigu woman

At the village market, this woman spotted Dan trying to stealthily take a photo. She was not pleased.

Sirigu market

The market was packed with people and busy with activity.  We saw some women with intricate, spider web-style facial scarring.  Alas, we have no pictures of them.
Sirigu family

The girl on the left approached us and asked us to take her picture. Her name is Lydia, and she would like to go to America. Her brother also asked us to take him with us.

goat bus

On our way out of Sirigu, we happened upon a bus with about 30 goats riding on top.

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Larabanga and Paga

February 11th, 2007

After leaving Mole National Park, we headed to Larabanga, famous for its Sudanese-style mosque. It supposedly dates from the 1400s, but there is no documentation from those days that supports that claim. An agressive crowd of “guides” led by a guy in parachute pants (a sure sign of sleaziness, according to our friends) assailed us for admission fees in addition to “voluntary contributions.” This was the least appealing interaction we had with Ghanaians during our whole trip. We were not allowed to enter, but we were allowed to take photos of the exterior.

Larabanga Mosque
Parachute pants guy tried to shoo away the hangers-on, but these kids still hung around.

kids closeup

The wooden posts sticking out of the mosque are structural supports, according to parachute pants guy.

kids in Larabanga

Nearby, a girl in a school uniform gave a smaller child a piggy-back ride.


We left Larabanga and drove to Paga, on the border with Burkina Faso. Paga Pio’s Palace is the compound of a local chief. We got a tour of the mud buildings around a courtyard. One of them contained a tiny kitchen, pictured here.

Paga kitchen

It must’ve gotten mighty hot in there because there was only a tiny hole in the ceiling for ventilation.  The opening to the outside, which was only about 3.5′ tall, was located in the next room.  In the kitchen, there is no chimney from which smoke could escape.

We asked if people still had kitchens like these. The guide laughed and said no. However, on our way out of Paga Pio’s Palace, we glanced in another mud building and saw what looked like a working one of these kitchens.  Hmmm.

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Mole National Park

February 6th, 2007

Tour de Ghana, leg 5: Mole National Park. Mole is famous in Ghana for its wildlife, and justly so, we discovered. Minutes after our arrival, we saw elephants!

elephant with bicycle

We were very excited but needed to eat, although it was a little late for lunch. Fortunately, there was a restaurant on-site.  Alas, the waiter said they only had one thing available at that hour — chicken and rice. We agreed that we’d all have chicken and rice. Somehow, the waiter was very confused by our order of 6 plates of chicken and rice, one for each of the 6 people in our group. We went over it many times, but he insisted on asking each individual what their order was. Finally he brought over a supervisor, who was able to figure it out.

At dusk, four of us went for a safari (a drive in our cars through the bush with a guide). We saw crocodiles, kob (a type of antelope), bushbuck (an antelope with white markings on its body), roan antelope, green monkey, ibis, gray-headed kingfisher (with a blue stripe on its wing), African golden oriole, ground squirrel (big thrill), storks, jacana, francolin, purple glossy starlings, baboons, tse tse flies (even got bitten by some), and even more elephants!

elephant on safari

Wowed by the safari, we decided to stay for another day. We didn’t really need to go far to see wildlife, though, because some ventured quite close to the Mole Motel, where we stayed.

Near our room, a family of warthogs ambled by. Dan was able to get pretty close to one of them.


This patas monkey (aka red monkey) checked out the contents of a trash can, then politely closed the lid when he was done.  One can do a lot with opposable thumbs.
trash picker

The terrace of the motel overlooks a watering hole that the elephants use for bathing. This place is great!

elephants bathing

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The Road to Bole

February 4th, 2007

Tour de Ghana, leg four: Bui to Bole on Jan. 16. Saw some calabashes for sale on the roadside. Dan got out of the car and was surrounded by kids wanting their picture taken. At first this lady wasn’t interested, but then she insisted that her picture be taken as well. Dan was not about to refuse.

calabash lady

The roads near Bui are pretty rough — washboard surfaces on unpaved, dusty roads. On our way to Bole, Jillian and David got a flat. We travelers soon became the biggest attraction around.

flat tire

Eventually we got going again. We stayed at the Cocoa Research Center, which has several locations in Ghana. (Their guesthouse has clean rooms and hot showers!) At this location they research not cocoa, but cashews and shea butter (important export products from Ghana). We toured the place and learned about cashew processing (unbelievably labor intensive — please savor every cashew you eat from now onward) and plant propagation. We also bought lots of cashews.

We visited the market in Bole, which was pleasantly free of aggressive hawkers. People didn’t seem to care much that we were there, which we quite enjoyed.

Bole market


market in north

Bole is in the Upper West region of Ghana. Village buildings typically look like this.

Upper West

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Bui National Park

January 31st, 2007

On to leg three of our Tour de Ghana. We left the Baobeng-Fiemi Monkey Sanctuary Guesthouse, stopped in Techiman for lunch, and reached Bui National Park before sunset. We camped near the river with many blackflies for company. They loved biting my hands in particular. My left hand alone had 10 itchy bites on it. The blackflies didn’t keep us from enjoying a game of cards on the dock, though.

Bui cards

We were up bright and early to go see some hippos. Our guide, Peter, led us to a spot where 13 hippos basked in the river. One of them let out quite a yawn.

hippo yawn

Every once in a while, a hippo would make an incredibly loud, scary sound, like a roar. I had never heard such a sound before. We’re not sure if they were angry or happy or just saying howdy to their friends.

The road from the river back to the park headquarters is extremely rough (Dan’s favorite kind of road).

bui rough road

On the way, we passed a village. Our guide’s kids ran out of the school to say hello to him, and soon all the other kids followed.

Bui kids

René took the opportunity to play some soccer.

Rene running

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Baobeng-Fiemi Monkey Sanctuary

January 31st, 2007

The second leg of our Tour de Ghana took us from Lake Bosumtwi to Baobeng-Fiemi Monkey Sanctuary.

Along the way we passed between the two halves of a giant tree.

driving between tree halves

We’ve seen a lot of big trees cut down or bulldozed down, sometimes due to the widening of roads and sometimes for purposes unknown to us. What a shame. [Read about our own neighborhood’s loss of several near-hundred-year-old trees on our friends’ blog.]

The villages of Baobeng and Fiema are part of the sanctuary. The monkeys are sacred to the people here.
girl in doorway

mona monkeys and babies

The sanctuary is home to 2 species of monkey: mona monkeys and black-and-white colobus monkeys. The monas spend a lot of time on the ground and come quite near people. We saw a lot of mothers and babies. The babies hold onto the mothers’ tummies as the mothers bound from ground to branch to other branch.

mona monkey

Looking for colobus monkeys, who tend to stay high up in the trees, we explored the sanctuary’s trails. We saw many, but too high up to get good photos.

Saw some beautiful trees, including mahogany, kapok, dahome, and ficus. This huge ficus once encompassed another tree, upon which the ficus was a parasite.  Now the other tree has died, and the ficus trunk has a space in the middle big enough for a person to stand in.

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Accra to Lake Bosumtwi

January 30th, 2007

We’re back from our Tour de Ghana. We’ll do a series of blog posts about it, beginning with the first leg.

On Saturday the 13th, we left Accra and headed northwest to the Ashanti region. We stopped in Bonwire to see Kente weavers in action. Lots of kids immediately surrounded us. “What is your name?” they asked. Dan said “Kwame.” (In Ghana, many people are named according to the day of the week on which they were born. Kwame means “male born on Saturday.”) This never fails to provoke smiles and laughs. Usually someone present says, “I am Kwame, too!”

We did see some weavers at work but were not able to watch them without constant requests to look at this or that item to buy. Not being used to such aggressive sales tactics, we were a bit turned off.

Back on the road, we came to a roadblock due to construction work. Jillian asked one of the workmen if the delay would last a long time. He replied, “Oh, we don’t use time.” How straightforward and honest!

Eventually we were able to move forward and continued on to Lake Bosumtwi, where we found Rainbow Garden Village Guesthouse. It’s a peaceful spot with a portrait of Bob Marley hanging above the bar. Before sunset we floated on planks in the bilharzia-free lake. (The lake is sacred to the Ashanti people, and here, using the fishing boats normally used in the rest of Ghana is taboo.) Each of us shared a plank with a local fisherman, who paddled with his hands.

After dinner we relaxed in the gazebo.

friends in gazebo

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Tour de Ghana

January 12th, 2007

We are going to take a lap of the country.  Be back Jan. 25 if you want to come over and rob the place.  Just watch out for the robot pit bull.  Oh yeah, and the flying scorpions that are trained to go for your eyes. Wait, that is not a good idea to say we are going away.  We are not going anywhere.  We just will not be answering email or the phone. Yeah.