Thursday, 11 November 2010

Mole and around: Part II

02 November 2010
It was not a good start of the day. But my start of the first day in Mole National Park, about which we all were so excited, started with diarrhoea I lost hope of venturing into the park, as I started to think, that I shall have to see a doctor, if available nearby and take rest for the entire day and may be the next day. Fortunately a call to Mani, our VSO friend in Accra who is knowledgeable about medicines, and availability of those required medicines with Raj saved me and I got well within a few hours.
We took the available complementary breakfast and spent some time at the observation deck. Mole Motel is located on top of a hillock which provides an overlook of vast expanse of forest. There is a big water storage pond near the motel. In the dry season, many animals crowd near this pond since it is one of the major water storage which retains water in the summer season. Since rainy season was just receding, there was abundance of water in the park and it seemed animals did not need to come to the pond near the motel. Still we could see some herds of warthogs and deer near the pond. Near the pond there is a riverine wetland and plenty of birds could be seen there in the early morning. There were many colonies of egrets but most of the other birds were difficult to identify as they were far away and we did not have binoculars. When I was sitting at the observation deck, a baboon came very near to me. It had came to scavenge the garbage can nearby. It was my first experience to get near to a primate of such big size. They are not very friendly at all and quite scary.
Mole Motel
View of Pond from the observation deck

We then visited a small museum in the information centre The museum displays a collection of the specimens found in the park and those seized from the poachers. There were skins of elephants, crocodiles, snakes, python, leopards and lion. There was also an unborn baby elephant preserved in formalin. It was obtained from a dead pregnant female which was shot down by the poachers. Amongst other specimens there were horns, bones, skins and tales of some animals. There were some equipment used by the poachers, such as traps and guns. Fetish and witchcrafts are very strong in most of Africa and there is always a high demand for such items. Due to these, poaching of wild life is a major threat to the wild life parks in Ghana.
There was one interesting specimen of Puffer Fish in the museum. It was found in a river in the national park. When in danger the fish takes in lot of water and makes itself very hard. The fish has some glands which makes it deadly poisonous. In the traditional fetish cures for some bad lucks, meat of puffer fish is eaten along with some plant extract which neutralises poison in it and believed to make man very strong, making him survive through the worst periods in his life. The guide also reported that there have been many sightings of lion and one dead lion has been captured from the poachers in the village of Larabanga. Lions are very rare and are not found in those parts of the park where tourists generally visit.

Preserved specimen of an unborn baby elephant
Our guide, Osman, was very enthusiastic and had a lot of knowledge about the animal life in the jungle. Since I was feeling well, having survived through the travellers' diarrhoea, I decided to go for the guided walk safari in the evening. We were lucky to get in Osman's group. We were group of 7 people. There was a French family of five and two of us from our group, me and Rahul. During the guided walk we could see Kobs, Bush Bucks (both are types of deer), Hornbills (a large bird), green monkeys and warthogs. There were marks of the feet of elephant which indicated that they had just recently passed from the path but certainly we had missed them. We saw a natural salt lick. It was a natural deposit of salts found underground. The animals had dug around the deposit to lick the salt found there. In India, most of the monkeys are believed to be very mischievous and not fearful of humans, but we came across for the first time a species of monkeys which is fearful of humans. Green monkeys look like red faced monkeys found in India and are of the same size. Their face is black but colour of their scrotum is green, hence the name.
Kob (A type of deer)
Natural Salt Lick dug by the animals
Osman was keeping in touch with other guides of other groups over his mobile phone about sightings of the elephants. The German family, which had travelled with us on the bus, had taken a car safari and had sighted a group of elephants. But it was far away. Osman, was suggesting us to take the vehicle which French family had brought with them to go there but they declined and it was very expensive for two of us to hire the car and go to see the elephants. Osman was impressed by my questions on plants. Since there are many similarities in the plants found in India and this part of Ghana. He showed us many plants as a result of this. I found that there is a quite a big range of Terminalia spp. (genus of plants consisting of Haritaki, False Almonds, Bellerica, Ain etc.) in Ghana as well. Sadly he did not know much about their usage. It will be interesting some time to tour around with the local people for knowing more about the plants in Ghana.
In the evening when I was returning to our room, I saw many warthogs and kobs grazing on the grass near the room. Being shy Kobs ran away quickly as I approached them, but warthogs continued as if nothing had happened.
Warthogs grazing near the Mole Hotel
I have always been intrigued by the extremes which I have been seeing in the people coming from the West. Volunteering here has provided me with an opportunity to mix with them a lot and getting to know the way westerners behave and think. I am giving here some of my experiences about some European people whom I met during the visit to Mole and some comparison with the Indian culture.
Rob, the guy who travelled with us in the bus to Mole and helped us secure the ticket, was very friendly. I always had the impression that British people are very reserved and do not get close very easily. This was based on some of the previous experiences but it proved wrong. He was travelling with a partner, a woman. I was under impression that she must have been his girlfriend but it turned out that she was his just friend. He in fact they offered us to share their room with one of us as there were three beds and they would be using only two of the beds. It was an eye opener, as in India it is difficult to imagine a girl travelling alone with a boy who is just a friend and also sharing a room with him as well.
In the French family who was with us during the walking safari had two boys who must have been around 15 years of age and were in the high school. While we were walking, they started smoking. Smoking at this age is certainly not common in India and that too not in front of their parents. Boys and their parents as well did not seem to mind it. The family was friendly but did not seem much interested in actually knowing about the wild life as nobody asked any question and kept on chatting amongst themselves while following the tour. They had hired a tro tro (small minibus) which they were using to go to various places. It seemed an adventurous affair as only the man and one of the boys could speak English and they had plans to travel like that in three countries of West Africa, Togo, Ghana and Burkina Faso. We don't see such adventurous tourist families in India.
The German family whom we met during the bus travel from Tamale to Mole was very interesting. I tried to speak some German with the old man but then gave up after some time as I could not continue with it. The old couple was visiting their son who was doing some kind of internship in Ghana. They were there with their son and his Ghanaian friend. The old man always asked us whether we had seen his son Johannes whenever he went out of their sight. Johannes seemed to like to roam around with his friend, a typical behaviour of youth. He seemed to be very caring and obedient towards his parents however. He was like his father it seemed. The old man told me to close the window while in the bus so that the small baby and her mother sitting in the seat front of me would not have to face wind coming from outside. When he heard that we had planned to go to Larabanga, he warned us as the guidebook suggested that there is a lot of cheating and one can completely avoid that place. It was like a fatherly advice. He told me a story of interaction with an Indian he had had forty years ago when he was in his late twenties. He was telling me that the Indian ate his rice by pouring a yellow substance on it (it must have been Dal). Whenever they called Johannes, it showed their pride and love for their son. The whole affair was very similar to a typical Indian family.