Posted by: kristinej | July 14, 2013

July 14th, 2013

Happy Bastille Day, and thank you for the kind birthday wishes!  My 3rd birthday in Africa was a pleasant and relaxing day.  In the spirit of birthdays, I dug up a 1987 calendar so that I could see what day I was born on, which tells you what your traditional Ghanaian name should be.  I was born on Tuesday, meaning that my name is Abena.  I think it’s a beautiful name, but if I’m ever called anything other than Kristine it will be my Malian name Fatoumata.

These past couple of weeks have flown by thanks to a busy travel and sightseeing schedule.  After 48 hours of travel/sleeping in the airport, Blake made it here on a Saturday afternoon and rather than let him get acclimated, I had him on a tro-tro headed to a rural village by 7am the next morning.  We couldn’t let Delta Airlines ruin our weekend plans!

Our first stop was Tafi Atome a small village known for the monkey sanctuary it runs as a form of ecotourism.  We had the bus driver “drop” us at the junction and I wasn’t entirely sure how we would get from the main road to the village about 5km away, but I figured things like that have a way of working out when you’re in Africa.  Sure enough, we were met by many eager young men offering to take us to the village on their motorcycles, and after a brief consultation we agreed. Blake was thrilled, since he used to race motorcycles, and I was thrilled since I haven’t ridden on the back of a motorcycle since Mali, and I figured a rural dirt road was a pretty safe place to do it.  We each hopped on the back of a bike and immediately my driver asked me if I spoke French which I thought was odd, but I guess he was from Togo and didn’t speak much English so he just took a shot in the dark.  He talked the whole way to the village and tried to convince me that he and his friend should take us to Togo!  I told him thank you, but we didn’t have our passports with us (nor did we have the required visa, and I sure wasn’t going to sneak across the border!).

Tafi Atome is a pretty typical African village aside from the tourist attraction and the swarms of white high schoolers there volunteering to help build a library.  When we arrived we were shown to the guesthouse which was extremely basic, but at least had electricity and an outhouse with a toilet (though no running water…sometimes I think a hole in the ground is actually better than a toilet when the water is never on – using a bucket to fill the tank and flush is such a pain!).  We then had a very traditional Ghanaian meal of Banku and Okra stew.  I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that less than 24 hours after Blake arrived (and this was his first trip to Africa or any developing country) we were eating corn dough dipped in okra stew in a tiny rural village.  I was very impressed with how well he coped.  It also made me realize how comfortable and self-sufficient I have become in West Africa – a lot of things that I used to think were extraordinary (in a good or a bad way) now just seem normal to me and I struggled to imagine how he must be seeing things.

Our “hotel” in Tafi Atome

For the monkey tour, our guide led us through a path in the woods until we reached a clearing where he started making monkey sounds and we could immediately hear rustling in the trees.  Soon we could see several little monkey faces peering down at us.  The guide took out a bag of bananas, and first showed us how to hold onto the banana tightly and hold it out so that the monkey could peel it and eat the fruit.  If you didn’t hold it tight enough, the monkey would just pull the whole thing out of your hand and run back into the trees. It was crazy how quickly and deftly the monkey peeled the banana.  We each took a turn feeding a monkey in the tree, and then we moved away so that they had to come up to us.  I was prepared to have one jump on my arm from the ground, but I was caught totally unaware when one jumped from the tree behind me onto my back, causing me to scream and drop the banana.  Fail.  Next time I was better prepared and stood relatively still as a monkey perched on my arm and ate the banana, then pushed off my chest to jump back into the tree.  Blake, meanwhile, had 2 monkeys jump on him and fight for the banana.  It was definitely a unique and entertaining experience!


Blake with an eager monkey

Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary

The next morning we hopped on another motorcycle (this time both of us on the same bike!) that took us to a nearby village known for traditional kente weaving.  The village was very quiet, but we were greeted by a guide who took us into the main weaving building where there were about ten men weaving the colorful strips of cloth.  It was amazing to see how quickly they moved both their hands and feet.  The guide told us that kids start learning the trade at the age of 8, and will work after school as apprentices until the age of 18 when they become master weavers.  A single strip of cloth takes 5-9 hours to weave, depending on its complexity, and is exported all over Ghana.  I bought a couple of strips myself, and then we were shown around the village, where other individual weavers were working from their houses.  It was pretty fascinating to see the bright strands of thread stretching out across the otherwise neutral-colored setting.

Kente cloth

Weaver in Tafi Abuife

From there we took the motorcycle back to the main road where we caught a tro-tro to Hohoe, the main town, and then a taxi to Wli, a small town near the highest waterfalls in West Africa.  Since it was a national holiday, the visitor’s center was packed with tourists, most of whom were actually Ghanaian. They had huge speakers and coolers, and were clearly ready to spend the afternoon partying.  We wanted to avoid that craziness, so we waited until the next morning to do the hike to the waterfalls and instead spent the afternoon enjoying the beautiful landscape and more good local food.  The next morning we left early to do the fairly short guided hike to the falls, where there were only a few other people.  The water was not too cold, so we waded in, and after some persuading Blake managed to get me to go right underneath the falls.  It was crazy how windy it was when you got close – I imagine that’s what a hurricane feels like.  From there we headed back to Accra, tired but satisfied with a very fun and varied weekend.

I’ll cover our second weekend trip in the next installment.

Wli Waterfalls


Wli village



  1. Wow! How amazing was all that. For no experience in Africa, Blake stayed pretty calm. Can’t wait for the next installment. Enjoy!

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