We spent a delightful weekend in the North of Ghana, touring Mole National Park, the largest wildlife preserve in Ghana, and nearby villages. We traveled with our fellow coach, Bill Scull.
Our morning started very early as we had a 6 am flight to Tamale. At the Accra airport, men and women in long white robes, headscarves and dresses surrounded us. We learned these were pious Muslims, returning from the Hajj in Mecca. They filled about half of the plane. The Imam prayed thanks to Allah when we landed and throngs from the community who were welcoming them home met the passengers. They were treated like VIPs – even riding in a motorcade to their mosque or village.
500 Ghanaians make the Hajj pilgrimage each year. After returning, they are known by new names – either “Alhaja” for men, or “Hajia” for women. This signifies “Been to Mecca” and is a lifelong honorarium!
Moses, our driver and guide for the weekend, met us at the airport. He is a delightful 26-year-old who grew up as the son of a park ranger. So, he is beloved by the community and is a local as they come!
In the park, we rode on the top of his 35-year-old Nissan Patrol, named “Struggle Continuously”. The car performed very well over the rough roads and rutted paths.
Ed posed as "King of the World" (but he didn't ride like this when we were moving!)
Bill found the perch on the roof invaluable for photography.
We saw lots of animals, including the kob, waterbuck, bushbuck, baboon, and warthog, among others.
We were expertly guided by Kamale, a wise ranger who identified many species of birds during our rides and safari walks.
We tried to find an elephant, since we heard there are 400 living in the park, but apparently they were feeling shy. The closest we got to an elephant was a sighting of day-old poop and footprints.
We also visited several Gonja villages and were amazed how hard the women were working. They were cooking, caring for children, and grinding flour.
This chief’s wife was drying cassava on the roof of their home, accessed by a narrow ladder.
The Gonja villages are built with traditional mud architecture. Each family has their own compound and some men have multiple wives.
The Chief in each village welcomed us and we expressed our appreciation for the chance to visit by offering a small contribution to their village fund.
We also visited the Larabanga mosque – the oldest mosque in West Africa – dating from 1421.
On the way back to the airport, we had a flat tire, which was promptly fixed by a “vulcanizer” for $1.00!
Most of the locals in the Northern Region live on $1 - $1.50 per day. In the UN Millennial report , they would fall into the category “BOP” – Bottom of the Pyramid.
The people of this area were very gracious and welcoming and we were very glad to experience this slice of Ghanaian life, which is completely different from our urban life in Accra. For more photos, check out Ed's gallery.