27-31 October 2010
Volunteering in Ghana has provided me with lot of opportunities and opportunity to explore a new country and its people is one of them. After our successful tour in the southern part of Ghana, our group of Indian volunteers decided to tour the northern part of the country. As I have been working in this part, I had taken for granted that I shall be visiting many places in this part any time but that any time did not come till the time our friend Rahul declared his wish to celebrate Diwali together and his plan to visit the North in the first week of November.
At most of the places of tourist interests, Solemiyas (foreigners) like us have to pay higher entry fees, so for me it was once for all tour, as I would not be going to these places again after visiting once, though they are very near and easily accessible to me. It is also easier to move in group as one can hire taxis as per convenience and the fares can be divided amongst the group. Like the last tour, with my interest in knowing more about the places and selecting the places to see, I was a self proclaimed tour planner for the group. I planned the itinerary and calculated the budget in advance.
For doing this I took help of the guidebooks like Bradt Guide for Ghana, Lonely Planet West Africa and some of the blogs written by the travellers and international volunteers. It was interesting to know about the perceptions of the people about the places they had visited. All of these resources proved excellent in terms of knowing the things in advance and planning the tour in detail but however I have to mention that views expressed in the guide books and actual experiences differed a lot for me as the authors of these resources come from the developed countries with Western culture whereas I and my friends who were travelling with me come from developing country like India which has a different culture. The western tourists especially back packers for whom these guidebooks are aimed at, take a very relaxed approach to touring around. This requires some good amount of cash as one stays at many places and requires more number of days and spends a lot on hotels and food. Having volunteered in Ghana, knowing the culture of the country and absorbing the atmosphere was not on our tour agenda at all. We like to do that on the go. As being not very crazy about drinks and having very less amounts of cash, spending on hotels and chilling out was also out of question. Most of the tours which we have been doing is centred on seeing places on fast track. The guidebooks for sure have helped for it with the necessary information but approach we had taken for the touring was was not the one suggested in the guidebooks. They are guides and not the prescriptions, though they sound like ones when one is reading them.
For us VSO volunteers, one major advantages is that there is widespread network of volunteers spread almost across this country. Most of the volunteers are welcoming and allow other volunteers visiting their respective towns to stay at their houses. After finalizing the itinerary, it was the task of asking people whether one could stay at their houses for one or two nights. I got all the positive answers and the problem was solved.
Then came the task of sharing the itinerary with the group. It was passed without any comments by just having faith in me. Plain faith with no thinking is something which I do not like at all but then I thought that the plan is also serving me and if something goes wrong then along with me all the others will also be responsible as they have lost chance to seriously think about the plan itself. It will also test the flexibility and the ability to face unknown challenges.
The plan for the tour included Mole National Park, Larabanga village, Bolgatanga town, Paga and Tongo Hills. It was to cover these places in the period of one week. It took considerable amount of time to go through the guidebooks and select the places and itinerary though they were very near to the place where I am based. After spending about one hours per day for the one and half week, the plan was finalized and passed. We were all set to start the journey.