03 November 2010
I was very much impressed by the location of the Mole Motel and access to free wild life it offers. It also has a swimming pool. But the cost is something which is prohibitive for the volunteer allowances we are getting. We had to leave this beautiful place on the second day. As I had missed the morning walking safari on the previous day, I decided to do it before leaving. I was not very keen on seeing Larabanga Mosque because of the bad reviews and experiences which I read in the guidebook and heard from the people around but our group members wanted to see it so we decided to give it a go.
In the morning walk safari, our group included a group of 4 Dutch women, a Japanese girl, a Belgian girl and me. We were very lucky to see kobs and bush bucks from very near. We saw so many of them that we got bored of seeing them after some time. On the way back we could see a big colony of baboons. Babies of baboons, unlike other monkey babies, instead of holding their mother's bellies from downside, sit on their back. It was very funny to watch them. Near the staff quarters, we came across a big pile of rubbish and we saw many warthogs happily scavenging there. Warthogs are from the family of pigs so I think it was natural for them to be there but I lost interest in that creature after seeing the scene. In the morning as well we could see the browsing done by the elephants and heaps of their dungs but there was no sighting of them anywhere. We were told that it was their season of mating and they do not like to remain near human beings during that time. Like us they also like to maintain their privacy it seems. For the first time after coming to Ghana, I got the bites of Tse Tse flies and Oncho flies. Tse Tse flies are infamous for their ability to spread sleeping sickness and Oncho flies are infamous for spreading Onchocerciasis. Apart from the small swellings, nothing serious happened after the bites. We were told that one needs to bitten by a large number of flies and that too repetitively for some consecutive days, to get the disease.
Colony of Baboons
The walk became boring after some time and I chatted with the Japanese girl for sometime. She was doing her field research in Tamale and was studying in a University in the Netherlands. She had lived in Delhi for two- three months as part of some exchange programme and had liked the Indian food. I asked whether she knew about Masanobu Fukuoka, and to my disappointment she had never heard his name. Fukuoka is Japanese farmer and considered as the pioneer in the development of concepts of natural farming. The name is very popular in the organic and natural farming movement in India.
Osman gave us information about the bus that leaves Damongo for Tamale at 14:00 hours, so we decided to go there by stopping for a while at Larabanga. We chartered a vehicle and went to Larabanga. While in the hotel we were approached by a guide from Larabanga and he told us about the history of the village and community based tourism project which they were having. I personally felt and also realised later that the whole thing is based on not providing proper information and just cashing in on the tourists coming to the Mole Park.
One guide just joined us in the vehicle without taking any formal permission and started to claim that he was a volunteer in the village tourism committee. They help to build the village infrastructure and schools in the village which they are getting through tourist fees. They charged us a viewing fee for the mosque. Being non Muslim, we were not allowed to enter the mosque but saw it from the outside. Had we been Muslims, he was ready to have some discussions on religion and allow us the entry into the mosque. He was telling us that the mosque was built by people who came from Medina but my reading on history of the country had told me that Islam was introduced in Ghana by the Sudanese missionaries. Wherever they went in the western part of the Sub Saharan Africa they promoted building this Mud and Stick type of structures for the mosques, which is very peculiar to them. Then they told us about the viewing fees of 4.00 GHc per person which we told them that we were told that it is only 2.00 GHc for which they later agreed. All this approach was so hypocritical that I had a feeling that it is nothing but just a tourist trap. I have to say that we saw the mud and stick type of Mosque in Africa which I might not get the chance to see during the rest of the period I would be in Ghana.
Mud and Stick Mosque at Larabanga
Later we went to Damongo and waited for the Metro Mass Bus for Tamale which was supposed to come there by 13:00. While we were waiting, we sat near one shop for some time. Unlike other parts of Ghana where we would have got a lot of attention from locals, we got plain blank looks from the villagers. Was this due to predominantly Muslim population in this town? Does Islam make people so serious and cautious about the strangers? These were the questions which came to my mind. While waiting for the bus, Ketan tried to take a picture of the women who were pounding some dough. There were 4 women who had a very good co-ordination amongst themselves. But as one of the woman saw the camera directed towards them, the younger of the lot came near us and told him that he should take permission before taking picture. I think they were right. The woman did not stop after saying that however and checked Ketan's camera to see if the picture was really taken. It was not there. Poor Ketan ended up taking a photograph of a dirty duckling on the street.
We waited for the bus from 11:00 to 14:00 and eating oranges, munching groundnuts, drinking water from the sachets, when one private bus started taking in passengers. While on the road, Metro Mass Bus from Damongo passed in the direction of Damongo. Our bus stopped at many places collecting and dropping passengers. The metro mass bus which started from Damongo very late, overtook our bus when we were near Tamale. As it did not have many passengers on the way to take or drop, it came very fast.
After getting down at Tamale, we went to Mike's, a Lebanese restaurant and I fulfilled my wish to eat Lebanese food in a Lebanese run restaurant. I ate delicious Babaganoosh with Lebanese Bread. Babaganoosh is a lightly spiced mixture of chickpeas and egg plants mashed and mixed together with a dressing of Olive Oil. Lebanese bread is just like roasted Chapati except that it was very fluffy. It was the end of the first leg of our Northern Ghana tour.