Prettiness and Primates

After a whirlwind weekend I am now recovering with a new limp and some puncture wounds on my arm. Both maladies were totally worth it though, because I got to play in not one but two waterfalls, make friends with monkeys, and climb my first African mountain!

The trip started on Saturday morning as I packed into a tro tro alongside my German friend Karin and Dutch friend Britte. With approximately zero leg room (read: knees near chin), we journeyed to the Volta region and after five hours and three incidents of the tro tro door falling off, we arrived in Ho Hoe and met up with a few other friends who are living in the surrounding area. We dined at an open-air restaurant, and despite a lack of menus and some serious ‘lost in translation’ issues, we rounded out the night with some food, chatting, and beers. 

While we were planning on staying in nearby village that night, we decided to cancel our reservation and simply stay at a place near the restaurant since traveling at night in a place you haven’t been to before is both annoying and slightly unsafe. We were welcomed into a room with a giant bed and a twin sheet stretched horizontally across it. Sometimes I’m really glad I can sleep anywhere anytime in any situation. 

“You can sleep three or four people or whatever,” said the owner, waving us into the fluorescent white room. Numbers mean very little in this country.

The next morning we woke up relatively early, slipped on our sneakers, put our bathing suits on under our clothes, and set out to one of the most popular tourist sites in that region of Ghana: the Wli Waterfalls. 

The falls sit in a wildlife reserve that was created to protect the straw-colored bats that call the area home. We were given the option of simply visiting the Lower Falls, but since my personal motto is Go Big or Go Home, we opted to do the hike to the Upper Falls as well.

Now, I had talked to a few people who had attempted that hike in that past, and they each used words like “tortuous”, “intense”, and “brutal”. Despite warning bells ringing in my head and things like “this is a terrible, terrible idea” on my tongue, we grabbed some water sachets and headed up the mountain alongside a local farmer who would be acting as our guide. 

The beginning was a relatively flat 30-45 minute walk, and I was hopeful. 

“Maybe this is it! Maybe I won’t die! When’s the last time I worked out again? Hmm…I’m pretty sure it was around 2010,” I thought to myself, trying to avoid tripping over the roots and stones covering the path. 

Then we stopped.

In front of us was a little bridge and continued flat land. Totally doable.

To our right was…well, my personal version of Hell. Think a seemingly vertical path of rocks and roots, leading into a dense jungle and up a mountain. 

“We go this way,” the guide said, gesturing to his right. 

Oh no. Oh no no no no. 

Soon he was handing us walking sticks made out of branches. If you need something to act as a third leg to do something, humans probably weren’t meant to do it, amiright?!

Dead women walking.

Dead women walking.

I looked up the winding, vertical path and choked back the dread in my throat, really wishing I had spent more time on that stupid Stair Master. 

Then we were off and after about, oh, 35 seconds, I was panting and sweating profusely. 

“How long is this hike again?” I asked, haltingly between gulps of air. 

“Oh, about 4.5-5 hours total,” the guide said to my horrified face. Ohhhh no. 

The next 2.5 hours were filled with climbing, sliding, sweating, and swearing. It was intense, tortuous, and brutal, and after about hour two I was begging the guide to leave me on the mountain.

“I’ll just wait here for you guys to come down!” I begged, but this farmer was having none of it.

“Our small children do this sometimes! If there is a funeral in the village on the other side of the mountain, we hike all the way there and it takes 12 hours,” he said, standing in the FLIP-FLOPS he was wearing. I growled in defeat and continued on. 

“I grew up in a place where people choose to drive a car two blocks instead of walking. I was not designed for this,” I mumbled to the giant bugs scurrying away from my clomping feet. 

Finally, at the verge of tears, we hit the site we had been dreaming of: the Upper Falls. They were beautiful and we had them all to ourself. The mist coming off the falls was cool and refreshing and soon we were peeling off our soaking wet clothes and jumping in the freezing water. We frolicked and took ridiculous photos and enjoyed not using our leg muscles. 

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Eventually it was time to move on,  and I tried to block out the fact that we would be going down what we had just climbed because I try to avoid suicidal ideation. 

It turns out that climbing down a mountain is easier than going up, but when your muscles are already past their limit of daily activity, any type  of movement is not fun at all.

Thankfully I managed to avoid falling off the mountain (barely), and after way too long (I was going at my top speed, and it was about three steps a minute), we finally FINALLY reached the point where we had begun our journey upwards. I would’ve cried in joy but there was no fluid left in my body. 

Next stop was the Lower Falls, so we said goodbye to our guide and hobbled a little further down the flat path. Soon we could hear the rumble that only a waterfall can produce, and thankfully an entrepreneurial local had step up a stand selling the water that we desperately needed (we had been rationing our six sachets but I could’ve gone through about 15 liters). 

The Lower Falls were busier than the Upper Falls for obvious reasons, but they were even more stunning, surrounded by bats covering beige cliffs, and with a rainbow shimmering through the cool mist. It was a beautiful spot and despite my screaming muscles, I was a happy camper with that waterfall mist on my face and huge water bottle in my hand. 

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Eventually we decided to leave, as it was getting late in the day and we still had a three-hour trip to our next accommodation. We didn’t have anything booked, because I had read in a guide book that there was a guesthouse at the monkey sanctuary we were heading to, but there was no contact phone number and no mention of running water or electricity. Thankfully, a local man who overheard our talk of the sanctuary gave us a phone number (okay, well nine numbers…this is Ghana after all) and told us to ask for Mike.

After an hour-long tro tro ride to the nearest village, we jumped in yet another tro tro heading to a village close to the sanctuary and settled in for the hour and a half drive. We were finally able to reach Mike after several attempts and thankfully he assured us there would be electricity, running water, AND dinner, breakfast, and a monkey tour were even included in the price of the room! Not bad for the equivalent of $15. 

We arrived in the small village called Logba Alektepi at night and were quickly able to hire three motorcycle taxis to take us down a dirt road to the sanctuary. In the 23 years of my life I’ve never ridden a motorcycle but this weekend was full of them! I’m definitely not a fan of the whole no helmet thing but TIA and I’ll take what I can get. 

Finally we arrived at the accommodation which even had three separate beds and mosquito nets- luxury! Good thing, because our alarms were set for 5:30am the next morning because monkeys are more active early in the morning and late at night since it’s too hot during the day. 

Bright and early the following day we set out on our tour. The village is basically set right alongside the forest where the six troops of monkeys live, so after a short walk we were welcomed with the inquisitive eyes of Mona Monkeys. Our guide brought bananas, and the monkeys definitely knew what that meant. The guide handed me a banana and instructed me to hold out my arm and hold the banana halfway. Next thing I knew I had not one but two monkeys clinging onto my arm, quickly prying off the banana skin with their cute but sharp little black paws. It was awesome. 

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We brought some bananas of our own so we were able to venture deeper into the forest and offer up our goods to some of the other troops, giving us plenty of photo ops. It was funny to watch how some of the smaller monkeys stood in the trees just watching, for fear of being sideswiped by a bigger family member in pursuit of the precious bananas. One little guy who was all alone at the time sat above my head and swiveled his head to the left and right like an inquisitive dog, chirping a cute little questioning sound as he followed us through the forest, leaping effortlessly from tree to tree. 

An hour later we were out of bananas and heading out of the forest. I loved every second of mingling with those monkeys, and having several sit on my arm was definitely an experience I never thought I’d have. I’m a huge fan of monkeys and would love to work with them someday in some capacity, and getting so close to such smart creatures made me really appreciate having the opportunity to do these incredible things that Ghana has to offer. I may have some puncture wounds in the shape of monkey paws now on my arm, but that’s pretty cool if I do say so myself (no sign of monkey diseases yet!). 

After the monkeys we got on the back of some motorcycles yet again and headed to a nearby village on Lake Volta. Of course the bike I was on broke down, so we all ended up hitchhiking the rest of the way to the shore. Once there, we talked a fisherman into taking us around the lake in his fishing boat for an hour. We all got sunburnt on the way but it was awesome to explore the largest reservoir by surface area in the world in an old wooden fishing boat slowly filling with water (which Britte was forced to constantly bail out from the back of the boat). 

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It was an amazing weekend and while I currently walk like an 88-year old with a bum hip, it was totally worth it. Monkeys, mountains, and waterfalls: three things I had no idea my life would entail when I was plotting and planning my future last summer. Back then I wrote that in 2013 I could be anywhere, doing anything with anyone. It turns out that I’m in Ghana, swimming at the base of waterfalls, feeding monkeys, meeting new people everyday…and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

 

 

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Comments
3 Responses to “Prettiness and Primates”
  1. Paul Parsons says:

    Fantastic honey. I’m so glad you are enjoying Ghana. Just not sure how you are going to assimilate back into the real world!

    Love, Dad

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Axel says:

    Hey Kelsey. I’ve been “trolling” your blog for a while now. Sounds like a wonderful adventure and I’m so glad you are enjoying yourself…excepting the malaria and the bureaucracy.

    Uncle Axel

  3. Taylor Morell says:

    I definitely went through the same emotions going up that mountain. The feeling at the end and seeing the beautiful waterfalls all made it worth it.

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