Third World travel is a dichotomy. Most of what you see are villages which do not have electricity, indoor plumbing or potable water. However, within the cities you can find “luxury” hotels that have all those amenities and more. You will not find many natives staying at these hotels. Who you will find are tourists from First World countries. (I have often wondered where the Second World countries are.)
On my travels through Africa I experienced both sides of the coin. When I did stay at a hotel, however, I could not help but feel a little guilty and spoiled, and very grateful. After our safari we stayed in the TaTa Somba Hotel. The bill for our one night stay was $60. This included sandwiches, wine and three desserts, plus a double room for 4 people and a continental breakfast for five. Most Africans could not afford this.
We left the hotel after breakfast and had our last day of travel with car and driver. At the suggestion of our chauffeur we stopped briefly in a small village so I could photograph a baobob tree. The baobob tree is the original “Giving Tree” because you can use many parts of the tree. Some parts are used for medicinal purposes. The pods produce a candy-like substance which tastes like astronaut food. A villager presented us with two pods as a cadeau (gift.)
Our driver dropped us off in Lome where we spent a night at the American Rec center. The next morning we headed to Ghana. Since we no longer had a car and driver we had to take a bus. What should have been a 3 hour ride took more than four. Our bus was stopped three times and we had to get out of the bus. Each time the bus was searched by guards, for what I don’t know. I believe it was just a way to keep people intimidated. We arrived grimy and hungry at another American club in Accra, the capital of Ghana, where we spent the night before moving on to our next destination.
Transportation for the next leg of our journey was in, what the Peace Corps volunteers called, a “death trap van.” All the padding on the inside of the van, that is, from doors and ceiling, had been removed. I believe this was done to make room for as many passengers as possible. Our final destination was a complex at Kokorobitey (American nickname: Co-Co Beach) which was a campus for a drumming institute. There were no drumming sessions taking place while we were there. We spent our time on the beach and frolicking in the water.
Our rooms, which were labeled an apartment, were very basic. To give you an idea of how basic, the sheets on our beds did not look like they had been changed from the previous tenants. The towels were little more than rags. Sleeping conditions were extremely uncomfortable. We were buzzed by mosquitoes all night; it was very hot and humid and there was no air conditioning. Feeling tired from lack of sleep, I was hit with another bout of homesickness the next day. The next night we were given mosquitoes coils that kept the pests away. It wasn’t a great night’s sleep but it was certainly better than the previous night.
After the harrowing drive in the “death trap van,” I was not looking forward to the return trip. We were thrilled when the receptionist, Fred, told us that we could get a ride back to Accra in a private car. Fred suggested that we be ready by noon. Our ride arrived at 2:00. The wait was worth it, however, to get a decent (and safe) ride all the way back to Accra. Once again we stayed at the American Club and I was happy to be in a clean room with towels and air conditioning.
Heidi and I had three more days in Africa before we would say good-bye to Monica and leave for Paris. During these final days we ate at a Lebanese McDonald’s called Al Donald’s, which was actually pretty good. We had wine and ice cream cake at a French cafe. We went souvenir shopping where we purchased batik wall hangings, pictures made from butterfly wings, masks and other items.
My African Adventure concludes here. It was an experience I will never forget. What made it even more memorable is that I did it with my daughters.
You can read Parts 1-4 of My African Adventure at the following links:
Part 1: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5960100/my_african_adventure_part_1.html?cat=16
Part 2: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5967590/_part_2_of_my_african_adventure_flying.html?cat=16
Part 3: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5980364/part_3_of_my_african_adventure_public.html?cat=16
Part 4: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5991610/my_african_adventure_part_4_customs.html?cat=16