Our journey began when the university van drove away after dropping us in a random village. Billy, our housemate, stared out the back, hands open and waving to us as it hugged the corner of the gravel road, disappearing from sight. This scene gave me chills. Adrenaline blitzed through my veins as I shared a little hop and giggle with Ruth. Two girls, off to see the world. All I needed was strapped to my back and dwelling in my heart.
We asked locals for the cheapest place to stay and were directed to Benkum Hotel, a quaint lake-side villa painted sunset peach with cerulean wooden shutters. The room screamed with simplicity. A ceiling fan turned it into a windy city, swirling hot air in circles above our heads. We spent some time at a local spot sipping Fantas with our feet submerged in the crocodile-infested water of the Volta Lake. A few hours later we strolled down the street for dinner, an unfortunately negative event.
See, some people view oburonis (white people) in a certain light- a rich, stupid-tourist type of light. (Which we aren’t any of, by the way.) The owner of the little chop shop tried to charge us nine cedis for rice and chicken with banku, a five-cedi meal, at most. And we knew it. So we managed to talk them down and cut the price in half. Nothing like bargaining for dinner.
The next day we awoke to a rush of mid-morning heat. After catching a cab to the port, we purchased our tickets for the cargo ship heading north. Then the waiting game began. As the three of us (we met up with our friend, Ben, who was traveling the same direction as us) sank into the cement floor, locals’ gazes shifted to our vicinity. Ruth and I broke a loaf of bread and a banana, much to their entertainment. I made eye contact with a woman dressed ankle-to-neck in bright, elaborate African fabric. Her thick, cheery face split into an amused grin as I bit into my bread. We shared a smile and a chuckle as I continued devouring my carbalicious meal.
Several hours and a few cat naps later, Ruth and I were approached by an extremely tan, bleach-blonde-haired man, his socks pulled up to his mid-calves, complete with sunshine-yellow shoes. As I noticed his obnoxiously interesting foot-ware my eyes scanned up his outfit to his face, which was surprisingly aged. “Skipper” was his name. And he “managed” to have first class tickets, which he “managed” to get by “intercepting information,” a skill that you “manage” to get with “many years of travel and learning how to be in the right places at the right times.” The only thing he was “managing” to do at that moment was genuinely repulse me.
“You dress like a 14-year-old,” I wanted to tell him, as I’d flick off his backward cap and laugh in his wrinkled, leathery face. But instead I just smiled and nodded as I looked over to Ruth, who was knowingly staring at me with bambi-like eyes and puffed cheeks.
After a few more hours, Ruth and I began to grow restless. I wandered over to the office to ask if any cabins were left, just out of curiosity. “You are a very lucky girl,” the officer said to me as he handed me the last cabin slip. As we followed Skipper on-board he turned to us knowingly. “There is a nice little area over on your side of the boat that would probably be a nice place to sleep, just to let you know.”
Little did he know we’d be his neighbors. And for 24 glorious hours we set sail up the beauteous, peaceful Volta Lake. Our air-conditioned cabin was a God send. As the sun slipped over the dewy mountain skyline, I rested against the rusting balcony rail and drew in an abysmal breath. The scenery could have almost been mistaken for the pacific northwest. Our night was tranquil. Relaxing. And much needed relaxation before the long, hectic and frustrating journey ahead of us. Because what we were in for, we never would have guessed.
More to come. Stay tuned. 😛