There’s something magical about waking up when it’s still dark outside. The world is asleep. It’s almost like all life is put on pause while the universe takes a moment to breathe.
Ruth’s alarm went off at 2 a.m., way too early if you ask me. But we had a plan. The bus was coming in just two hours and we decided to “use” the motel’s pool and changing house to get refreshed before we began the last leg of our journey.
We tip-toed towards Magnus’ door as I pulled it open just a little too hard. It hit the corner of his sleeping pad and he jolted up-right.
“Is the bus coming? I will walk you both,” he offered.
We replied no, it’s only two in the morning. And we just needed some time to “prepare” for the day. Some “quiet time.” Code for “we just want to break into the motel pool and if you found out you would hinder our mischievous scheme.”
After many thank yous, we started on our way down the dirt path to the motel from the staff bunks. It was dark. Too dark. Ruth used her phone’s flashlight to guide our feet. I looked up. No light pollution from a smoggy city. No airplanes. Nothing. Just us and the wild.
Just as I was really beginning to embrace our complete isolation, something in the bushes around us rustled. Me being the baby I am, hid behind Ruth. We both stopped dead in our tracks, terrifyingly staring into the bush. It was moving towards us. Just as Ruth was about to shine her light on it, I pushed her hand away and began to run.
A second after I split, I heard something. I looked back- it had Ruth. A hyena about half her size (keep in mind, she’s six feet tall) had grabbed her foot, causing her to fall on her side as it began to rip apart her keen sandals. She screamed out for help as I grabbed a fallen tree branch and charged at the animal… okay, so maybe this didn’t happen. Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit.
In REALITY, we heard the rustling and picked up our pace. It was probably a baboon. Anyways, we made it to the motel safely. Don’t worry!
Inching towards the pool area, we checked right and left for signs of security officers. There was one Ghanaian man strutting around the entire property. After he passed we skipped behind him- into the pool house, changed into our suits and repeated this process until we got to the pool deck.
We were swimming for about five minutes when the guard spotted us. I got this, I thought to myself. He power walked over to the pool’s edge.
“Did you read the sign board?” he strictly questioned us.
“Oh! That. He he. Ha ha. Um, no actually. We were just hot and wanted to refresh before our bus came,” I replied. I’d always been a terrible liar.
“What room are you in?” Crap.
“Um, that one! Over there. On the far side. The dorms,” Ruth sheepishly said.
And then he disappeared into the office. We were guessing he was checking reservations, trying to find who these crazy, white, rule-breaking girls were.
Two minutes after he left, the power cut out. That’s right- all the lights on the entire property. So there we were in the pool, at 2:30 in the morning, against the board sign regulations, in the middle of a pitched-black African safari. Because Mole Motel was the only establishment within six kilometers, the night turned eerily dark. Everything disappeared. My ears’ sensitivity heightened: the buzzing of a moth on the other side of the pool, caught in the water and struggling to somehow make flight again; the crickets in the trees, forming a repeated melody of chirps between their wings; my heart, pounding beneath the water in paralyzing awe.
For minutes we were silent and motionless. After the lights came back on, we decided to get out. I bathed in the sink, threw on the last clean shirt I had, and headed out into the sunless morning.
The bus came, surprisingly on time, and we were the first ones on board. And then the craziest, most unreal and unexpected thing happened- we left. Within 30 minutes! It was the start to a beautiful day.
As much of a pain as Mass Metro can be, I love riding in those buses, especially when the sun has yet to be seen for the day. Watching it rise through the open bus windows, dawn’s sticky breath caressed my face as a sweet purple and violent orange painted the horizon. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. I’ll miss that. I’ll miss that more than anything.
The sun rise is a welcoming event, but everything after it is not exactly pleasant. It turns hot. Fast. The bus ride back from Mole was taking so much longer than on the way there, and our bus was having issues. We’d drive for five miles, stop, they’d wiggle something in the engine and drive again. This process would repeat multiple times.
Until this one time that we stopped. The conductor opened the engine panel and it… exploded. No joke. In our faces. Hot liquid came spewing from the front, just a couple rows away, and splattered all over us. The windows filled up with steam.
“Screw this,” I said to Ruth. “Screw. This.”
One look from her and I could tell she agreed. I grabbed my backpack from the floor and tossed it out the window. Ruth gave me hers and I did the same. We climbed over all the passengers in the front and jumped out into the harsh day.
“What are you doing? We go now. Let’s go,” the conductor said to me.
“Thank you, but no way!” Ruth replied.
I fully intended on keeping my face in tact that day. So we grabbed our bags, latched them on our backs and headed towards Tamale. We were only about 15 miles away and luckily the bus stopped on a pretty busy road.
Then, I did something I had always dreamed of. I stuck out my thumb, and hitch-hiked. (I believe that’s #8 on my bucket list.) And not only did I hitch-hike, but I successfully did it. Within two minutes a tro-tro pulled over and the mate flung the door open. Ruth and I jumped in, looked back at the bus still sitting there, smiled, and took off.
The rest of the day was a total blur. From Tamale we took a tro-tro to Kumasi, about a six-hour ride. From there, we took a bus to Accra, about a five-hour ride. All together, we spent a total time traveling on the road: 19 hours. Impressive, don’t ya think? 🙂
So that was our adventure. Not what I expected, in both good and bad ways. It was anything but easy, and totally worth it. Between hot hotel rooms, Mass Metro (a death wish), sleepless nights, nearly getting attacked by baboons, a bus engine exploding in our faces, befriending bartenders, taking a boat up the Volta Lake, breaking into a motel pool and bathing in sinks, it was a journey that will never be forgotten.