Saturday, 16 October 2010

Exploration in and around Kumasi II

27 September 2010
We had decided to spend our second day in Kumasi by visiting Lake Bosumtwi and then visiting some more places in Kumasi city if time permitted. As decided our group of three, which included I, Rahul and Damien, headed for the lake. It was a journey by a tro tro to Kuntanase, a small town 35 km away from Kumasi and then a short ride by shared taxi to the village of Abono on the shores of the lake. We had taken guidance from the travel guide book to plan this journey and it was helpful. But one has to be aware about the information provided in the guide books as it gets outdated as the time passes.
We read in the book that on the way to Kuntanase to Abono sometimes there is an unofficial entry fees charged to foreigner tourists by some village youths. We had a lot of argument with the guy at the entry check post. The guy was giving us an official receipt and it turned out that it really was an official post set up by the district assembly and we had to pay the charges. Due to our arguments however, the guy seemed to be very reluctant to give any concessions after showing our volunteer identity cards and we had to pay the full Obruni (foreigner) fare.
There were not many tourists around since it was Monday. The lake has become a popular spot for tourists as well people from Kumasi city and it gets crowded on weekends. The Abono village has two privately run information centres. We entered one information centre as a person hanging around it told us that it was an official set up promoted by the government. After hearing that we entered in it and it had really good information displayed on its walls but then they started asking for some donations and it all started to look like a tourist trap.
We came out of the office. Then the man in the office came near us and started asking for the boat ride. We agreed for the boat ride but we were not very lucky as after completion of the half of the agreed time we started to see the rain falling in the opposite shore and the boatmen started to row back towards Abono shore. The lake is all surrounded by small hillocks and it has very beautiful and serene atmosphere. The lake has been created by an impact of falling of a huge meteorite and is the largest naturally formed fresh water body in the whole of west Africa. Due to rains our plans to walk around the shores of the lake and to take a dip in its waters had to be cancelled and we started back for Kumasi. After the tiresome, bumpy and noisy journey of tro tro we came back to Kumasi and found our way through the crowded central market area to the Cultural Centre.
This Cultural Centre is very well planned and better than its counterpart in Accra. It was first found by Asante King Prempreh II as Asante Cultural Centre in 1958 but then later converted into National Culture Centre by the first president of Ghana Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. The centre has a small museum which displays history of Asante Kingdom, an auditorium and a craft centre where there are numerous shops and also some training facilities. The museum was very good with well informed guides. Outside the museum we found a large calabash bush. The Calabash is a type of gourd with hard rind. The fruits of calabash are harvested and dried after fully grown. The fruit pulp is removed and the rind is carved into utensils for serving and storing food. Generally most of the gourds grow on vines which are annual in nature but the one which we saw there was a perennial woody climber and had almost grown into a bush.
An unusual thing which I came across in the centre was absence of toilets in its majority of buildings. They told me that it is there in the administrative building. I asked the lady at the reception about it and she handed me the key to the toilet. The female section of the toilet was open but the male section of the toilet was locked.
We headed for Zoo afterwards. On our way to zoo we came across huge trees with very big colonies of bats on it. Near those trees at the roadside, there were people selling numerous things. We bought roasted plantains and some tiga nuts. Tiga nuts are actually an underground tubers of a plant which grows in water. These are like water chestnuts. The taste of Tiga nuts is similar to coconut and it has become my favourite pastime munch. The next stall had some animals which looked like rodents and were being roasted on charcoal fire. They were placed on a stick and the woman was yelling something. The whole scene was very disgusting. We passed ahead of it but our curiosity could not keep us walking further. I went back to the stall and asked the woman what was she selling. She and and all the others around could not speak English and were not able to understand what was I asking them. Then a man could guess my question and showed the bats hanging on the tree. The woman started to tell us the price of it but we walked away from the scene. As I have always been keen on tasting new food items in Ghana, Rahul and Damien started asking me whether I wanted to taste the bats. I answered them that it could become my new limit after reaching the limit of eating dog meat which I have not reached yet.
Our experience of the zoo was not as uninspiring as the guide book had mentioned. The zoo was really very disorganized and not very well kept but the animals in the zoo were well fed. There were many animals which we had not seen before in India such as ostriches, grey coloured parakeets, baboons, large lizards, tortoises, warthogs and chimpanzees. We had fun time tossing Susubaras to the chimpanzees and seeing the expressions on their faces. Chimpanzees have lot of similarities with the human body and face as well.
After finishing our visit to the zoo, me and Rahul waited in the central tro tro station for the arrival of Rahul's employer. He is an old aged blind person. Rahul works for the Ghana Federation of the Disabled. We had a very hard time finding Rahul's boss in the crowded central market area. It was doubly difficult as Rahul's boss also has some loss of hearing ability due to old age. But we could at last find the location where he was standing.
One noticeable thing which I have to mention here is the discipline which the Ghana Police is trying to implement on the roads of Kumasi. Walking on the road by leaving footpaths can attract fines here. We did not know that and as per our Indian habits started walking on the road after seeing that footpaths were very crowded when a policeman caught our attention and told us to walk on the footpath. We found that the rule was being strictly followed. People are really disciplined in Kumasi than India for sure. Even in the evening hours where people are rushing back to their homes, in the crowded tro tro station, people were following queues to get into the trotros. India always tries to take the leadership of the developing nations. There are certain things which India should also learn from the nations which it is trying to lead. The discipline at the public places and roads, which even our national capital Delhi lacks, can be found in the remotest interiors of Ghana.
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View of Kumasi city
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Rain in the lake
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Giant Lizard in Kumasi Zoo