After paying for a second boat across Lake Volta I was short of money. It wasn’t that the boat was expensive, merely I miscalculated how much money would be needed for the remainder of my time in Ghana. This is something I deal with in every country; calculating how much money is needed until I reach another ATM machine? The trouble is not every ATM machine I find accepts my card or works, and I sometimes naively assume that in more developed countries, like Ghana, ATMs will be available in small towns in the provinces. A currency like the Ghana Cedi is pretty valueless once you cross a border, so having a lot left over is a bit of a schoolboy error in the traveller’s manual.

Approaching Dumbai

There is of course the back-up US dollars that I carry for such occasions. But then you are dependent on finding someone who will change them. Wheeling my bike up the single-street lake-side town of Dumbai was a case in point. I was looking for a Mauritanian, Indian or Lebanese shop-owner, of which there are a surprising number hidden behind boxes of foodstuffs in west African wooden shacks.  These chaps are usually willing to take dollars, albeit sometimes at unfavourable rates. Here however there were none. So I went to the bank, which might seem obvious, but there was no currency exchange booth, and my sweat-soaked skin and dishevelled appearance wasn’t going to do me any favours when I told the clerk I had ran out of money and needed some help.

He pointed me to a closed door. I knocked, entered and instantly noticed the air-conditioning was set at a more suitable temperature for someone preparing a trip to the south pole. The manager was fat, which is not really saying anything. It is hard to find a man of rank in Africa who does not display his wealth by adding several inches to his waistline. Goosebumps had now crystallized the sweat beads on my arm as I kindly asked if he would change the crisp $20 note I was holding before him.

It took several more minutes, during which he telephoned a number of people and received negative responses. Finally I explained that I would have to sell some of my belongings in order to eat and sleep that night (I needed a good reason to sell my waterproof clothes that I never wear). That seemed to clinch it. The money came, I apologized again and cycled off in the rain.

Owing to this stupidity of mine I decided to cycle south to the town of Hohoe, where there is a bank with an ATM. The road to bring me here has been the quietest and most scenic I’ve cycled in Ghana, but also the worst in shape. A Korean company is in the process of repaving it. Whilst they get called ‘ching chong’ (Africans assume that anyone from eastern Asia is Chinese) children in this part of Ghana have taken to calling me ‘father’ (as in a Roman catholic priest) as I wave my way past their mud-brick abode or school.

Swamped

Primary School girl

There are more people on bicycles in this part of the country, which can only be a good thing. I even met three of my own on the road yesterday (Dutch). They were cycling from Accra to Burkina Faso and agreed that the map we were both using was terrible. Other than Hiromu, a German I briefly met in The Gambia, and Mick the underfed wiry Englishman (also in The Gambia) they’ve been the only foreign cyclists I’ve met in  sub-Saharan Africa. Speaking of Hiromu, he e-mailed to say he’s made it to Accra. I wish he would buy a mobile phone.

Dutch trio

A balancing act

My visa for Ghana expires tomorrow, which is a pity. My time here and the hospitality I’ve received will be hard to beat. If I can find the road taking me into Togo I will be there the same day. I wonder if the French left a legacy of bread-making during their short occupancy there? Here in Ghana it’s been bloody terrible.

In case you’re not exactly sure where Ghana is, I passed this map on the wall yesterday, alongside some more interesting wall art.

Ghana in Africa

Local art

Local art