Monday, 16 May 2011

Ghana Wildlife Tour V- Sacred Grove and the Journey Back

30 March 2011
We decided that it was going to be the last day of our tour. We had been on the move for more than 8 days. We had not really decided whether we shall head back to our respective bases or spend one more day in Techiman. It all depended on the time which we had with us to spend to reach Techiman. Our flexibility was the advantage in this tour, as we moved from one place to the other with our backpacks in public transport. My bag was getting torn and the opening was becoming bigger and bigger every day. I took that as an omen to stop the tour and go back to Bongo. Also there were restrictions of the budget and pressure to start on work again, since my day to go back to India was coming near as the time passed.
We started early in the morning from Boabeng, when we were told that we would be able to get a tro tro to Nkoranza. We waited at the main bus stop for some time when the vehicle from the monkey sanctuary came to that place. The kind driver gave us a lift to one other bigger town nearby from where there was more possibility of getting some shared means to Nkoranza. We got a one immediately after reaching that place and the taxi driver continued all the way to Techiman. We had saved on time and we had some time in hand before heading back to our base destinations in the afternoon.
The likely tourist spot which we had identified for the morning, if we saved on time, was Tano Sacred Grove. It is situated just 9 km north of Techiman on the main highway to Tamale. When we reached there and asked about the visitor centre, we we were told to sit in a hut for some time till the guide arrived. We were not sure how much time it would take and whether that guide would arrive there in the first place. We flipped through the visitor book to find out that we were some very rare Indians to visit to this site. We found only one Indian whose name was entered in 2009. It is such a shame since there is huge Indian expat population in Ghana and they can be found in majority of the big cities here including Techiman.
The guide arrived at last and we started our walk towards the sacred grove. The sacred grove is a forest protected by local communities. It is believed to be an abode for the spirits of the ancestors. Like Boabeng Fiema, it also protects very old huge trees and good wildlife. After entering into the forest, we came across huge colonies of bats. The guide made some sounds and suddenly bats started to fly around. I also got hit by some bat shit. They were every where in the sky. Then he took us to a cave which is very sacred sight of worship for local Bono people. The Tano River which flows through the sacred grove is considered holy and only traditional priests are allowed to go their.
Bat Colony
The legend goes that people from so called Akan ethnic group came from the north and settled first in the area near Tano river and started farming around. As the population grew there were waves of migration southwards from Tanoboase village. First group settled near the coast and became known as Fante. The next group went towards south east and became known as Achims. The third group settled in the neighbouring forests to the south and became known as Asante. The people who remained in the region are known as Brong or Bono people. All these tribes form the ethnic group called Akan and they speak different dialects of the common language called Twi. Though they share common ancestry, there have been wars in different tribes of Akans over the control of the territory.
The sight of the current sacred grove came into existence after the successful defeat of Asante who had attacked Bono territory of Tanoboase. At the centre of the grove is high ground with huge but beautiful granite rocks. Local Bono king took the shelter in this hillocks and caves in the rocks and used the base to protect and eventually defeat Asante attackers. After their successful victory, the area around Tano River was declared as a community protected area. It is spread over 2000 ha. There is a protection committee which patrols the area for encroachers and hunters. There is a huge diversity of plants with some having important uses in the traditional herbal medicine. Only traditional healers are allowed to take these medicinal herbs from the forests.
In the rock formation, there is a beautiful sight where they hold rock climbing competition and in the old times it was used for winning wives, where the winner would be married to some selected girls. After seeing those granite rocks we were bit scared about how could we climb them, but it seemed very easy once we started on it because it was possible to have a proper grip while climbing or descending these rocks. There are a number of caves in the rocks. One cave in the upper part of the hillock was used as a prison. One cave in the lower part has been used as a shrine and it is also a sight for determining the time of start of rainfall. There is a spot in the cave where water is supposed to come out of the ground just before the rainy season. We saw an earthen pot with its bottom cut out, placed at that spot. The belief goes that if that pot gets filled with water and overflows with the water coming from the ground then there would be rainfall. We found that the pot was dry as the wet season was nowhere nearby.
Tano Rocks
We were informed about possible village tour but we had declined the offer since we did not have much of time and we did not find appealing since we have been living in the village. While returning from the grove we could get peek of a local industry however. It is mostly run by women. They were making Gari. It is made from cassava. Cassava was first cut into small pieces and by putting through a press, water is removed from it. Then these pieces being were roasted on an iron sheet and finally ground in coarse granular form. Cassava tubers after harvesting can not be kept for long, but we were told that Gari can be stored in dry conditions even for 20 years.
After finishing tour we hurriedly settled our expenses and rushed back to Techiman. It was 12:15 in the afternoon when I got down at the Tamale station. The tro tro for Tamale had already left and the hole in my bag had widened. That was the sign that I had to rush back without spending much time here and there. I found the shared taxis to Kintampo. After an hour I was in Kintampo. I was not sure where and when was I going to reach, since I was not able to do any forecasting about time. Fortunately I had places to stay in Tamale and Bolgatanga if I would have reached these places very late in the evening. I got the ticket for tro tro to Tamale and waited there for about half an hour and started for Tamale. With all rushing here and there in the morning and walking in the forest, I was tired. The seat in the tro tro was not comfortable and my back had started paining. I wished desperately for the end of the journey. But after Tamale there was still three hours journey to Bolgatanga. I safely arrived in Bolgatanga but with a widened hole on my bag at around 8:45 pm. I thought I would have to stay somewhere in Bolgatanga that day but just thought of checking at the Bongo taxi station.
I found one taxi parked there but the taxi driver was not around. There was a group of 10 people with their luggage already waiting for the taxi. After a while taxi driver came back. Abdul, the taxi driver knew me and gave me a seat. But the group started to argue with the taxi driver since they had been there waiting for the taxi before I arrived at the scene. Abdul requested me, “Doctor, can you adjust these people in the taxi.” Yes, sometimes I am called as Doctor, since they think that I look like those Cuban doctors in the government hospitals. I said yes, because I was not going to charter it anyway. Thus Abdul skillfully adjusted 10 people in that small Peugeot taxi. Two people in the front seat at the side of the driver, 4 adults and 1 child in the back seat and 4 people in the back carrier. Their luggage was tied on the top. Then started my journey for the last leg of 15 km of dirt road to Bongo.
After arriving in Bongo safely, I called Rahul to ask his whereabouts. He is theoretically near to his place from Techiman than me but his tro tro had got broken down in Kumasi and he had to return to Kumasi so when I reached my house he had not even reached halfway. I was lucky. I had reached back safely with a torn bag through 4 tro tro hops in 9 hours.