I was at my girlfriend’s site, which is located at the point where the Lower Volta/Greater Accra/Eastern Regions meet. There is a mountain there called Mt. Krobo that I have always wanted to climb since I saw it. Kirstin had climbed it a few weeks earlier and really enjoyed it other than having to go through some thick grass. So we had a free day and decided to go out there and try and make it up the mountain. We take a taxi close to the mountain and then walk the rest of the way. We ended up on the complete opposite side that Kirstin had climbed previously and we were thinking of walking around to that side but it was a long walk so we decided to test our luck with the side that we were on. We should have known better because this side was made up of numerous boulders and rock faces that at the time made us think it would be a more exciting hike-it was and a little too exciting. Our climb began going over very large rocks and then around the cliff faces if we had to. We were having a blast climbing and every once in awhile we would even go down into a cave and then climb out to progress up the mountain. As we get around the middle of the mountain we start getting into the elephant grass but keep trekking through it (elephant grass is about 10-12 feet tall and supper thick so when you are in it you can’t really see anything). At about the same point we we’re running into larger rock faces and cliffs that we had to go around walking through this thick grass. After about an hour an a half we make it to about the top, walking around on the rocks we find a good place to have lunch. The plan was to have lunch and then take the journey back down the mountain finishing in another hour or so. Well, what was expected to be just a 3 hour hike total turned into over 8 hours.
When we were finished with lunch we tried to find where we had come up and couldn’t find it. We went down some other ways which made us have to walk down beside cliff faces and through elephant grass where we couldn’t see anything. With each effort we would keep on getting lost or stuck looking down a cliff and not being able to get down, then we’d go back up find a different spot try and go down and get lost again. After a couple hours we were panicking a little bit when were in the middle of a field elephant grass and beside a cliff face. Kirstin yells “JASON…. LOOK” I turn around and see her looking at the ground, following her eyes I see a snake skin that by the looks of it had been shed within the last two days. It was it least nine feet long and very wide.
….So now we are lost, cant see where we are going, and feel like a giant snake is hunting us-watching us while hiding in the thick bush. We decided to just walk straight up the mountain and with the idea that we would walk around the mountain to the side where Kirstin had gone down the first time. After trying to this we realized we would have to go back down through more elephant grass and by more cliffs. We then proceeded up the mountain and realized it is a double peak with a big valley in the middle…great..the grass was much shorter and there were no cliffs so we just keep walking. Now it seems there is somewhat of a path and the grass is about knee to waist level. We just keep going and going-at this point I really thought we were going to be sleeping on the mountain. After walking for hours and hours we finally find a road and about an hour later reach the roadside, as it is getting dark. Once we were at the roadside we had about a two-mile walk and then we were able to catch a tro back to her village. I cannot remember a time, even hiking in the backcountry snowboarding or sky-diving, where I have been that scared.
On another topic I recently I received a letter from my mother’s fried Lyn who had some questions about Ghana. (Thank you for the letter as well as the mosquito repellent you sent a while back.) The questions were about access to schooling, the existence of a government grant that allows all qualified Ghanaians to attend University for free, and whether Americans and ex-pats make a positive contribution to society. Before I answer these questions let me start by saying that as a volunteer working with the local government I can say that Ghana’s government is extremely corrupt. For example in April we received our first storm that tore the roofs off many of the schools in my area as well as many houses. It is now August and the roofs still are not repaired, meanwhile Ghana Educational Service gave new motorcycles to their workers and the government gave all of the District Chief Executives brand new vehicles (to their already one year old vehicles). There is a common perception among the upper class or educated class that once they get the education and are doing well for themselves that they are somehow above the people who are in the village or the less educated, this is a perception that is ever apparent in the government and prevents Ghana from developing as much as it should be. Most people are not this way but it is common enough to be very frustrating working here. A lot of people talk about how they will make a difference and promise to do so many things, but in actuality they do very little. As far as access to schools, most people have access to basic education although they may have to walk several miles to get to school. The government scholarship program for qualified students to attend University probably doesn’t exist, it least I have not heard of it. With ex-pats there are some who are here for profit or other motives but I would say a majority are here trying to make a difference and develop the country. All of the best-run businesses and NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) have been started and are overseen by ex-pats (foreigners).
I do not mean to be overly negative about Ghana; it is a great place with a lot of opportunity. The District Assembly that I am stationed is also probably one of the better run local governments as well. I have really enjoyed my time here, but there are definitely frustration some of those that I wrote in the last paragraph. There are also a lot of people who do a lot and do work to make a difference. For example the church that I attend occasionally has a well digging project and have put over 90 wells across the District giving people better access to water. The people are also very hospitable and generous. If there are any more questions feel free to send me an email.