(Note: I’m going back and uploading the last couple of posts from Africa, a few months late.)
I cycled out of Lome and cycled beside the beach for about ten kilometres before reaching the Ghanaian border.
I was directed to Togolese immigration, where I got my exit stamp. Next was Ghana’s health authority where my yellow fever and Covid vaccinations were checked. Finally I went to Ghanaian immigration, filled in a form and had my passport stamped.
I stopped at an ATM (well, three ATMs, until I found one that worked). I cycled through an urban area for quite a while before reaching a lake. The road crossed it on what seemed some sort of dike. There were houses on islands in the lake, sometimes accessible by a dirt track that would no doubt be flooded at high water levels.
I wasn’t feeling well. I’d slept atrociously the night before, waking up every 15-30 minutes. By morning I felt nauseous and exhausted, with no appetite. I’d decided to cycle on anyway in the hope I’d feel better, but I didn’t. I was feeling very tired; there was what felt like a strong headwind, and the smallest incline seemed a struggle. I decided to stop at a hotel.
I saw a sign to a hotel and turned off onto a dirt road to get there. I kept asking people if I was going the right way; I was. They said it wasn’t far. In the end it was about 2 kilometres down this bumpy dirt road, which didn’t help my nausea. Thankfully rooms were cheap at 60 Cedi (£6) for a room with a fan and a bathroom. I checked in, though it was only about 9AM.
The hotel also had a shop, just selling drinks. I bought quite a few soft drinks, trying to get as many calories as possible despite my lack of appetite.
I developed a new symptom, dizziness. The shop was about 20 metres from my room but walking there and back was about my limit. On one occasion I had to stop and sit on the floor as I think I would have collapsed otherwise.
I think I got a fever, too. At times I shivered, clothed, in my sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner, under a blanket, and with the fan off. At other times I lay sweating, naked, directly under the fan whizzing at full speed.
I was concerned these symptoms could be the result of Malaria. Since I wasn’t really in fit condition to ride to a hospital and confirm this, I decided to take a course of Malaria treatment. I thought it probably wasn’t Malaria but it was worth taking the treatment to be safe.
I still wasn’t feeling well the next morning, though by that point it was mostly the dizziness and a sense of exhaustion. I continued to stay at the hotel.
By the fourth day I felt significantly improved but I waited until the fifth day to set off. The only issue I had now was that I still had almost no appetite. I didn’t plan to ride for a full day then but I wanted to buy a sim card. Since I had stopped cycling within a couple of hours of arriving in Ghana, I didn’t have one yet. I figured it’d be good to contact people and let them know I was alright, especially in case I got sick again and had to stop for several more days.
I checked at a small kiosk and was unsurprised when the man there could only register sim cards for people with Ghanaian IDs. As usual I’d need to go to one of the bigger offices. He told me which towns would have these. One was about 30km away so I started heading there.
I felt alright while I was cycling. The headwind was strong and after a week of barely eating I wasn’t exactly going fast, and stopped to take a couple of breaks. I’d started late and so it was midday when I arrived, and quite hot.
After asking around I found my way to the MTN office. Although they were able to do more things than the kiosks this seemed to be mostly on the Mobile Money side of things, with loans etc. They could not register me a sim card. I tried asking if I could use someone else’s ID, no dice.
I was feeling pretty uncomfortable in the heat so I decided to find somewhere out to stay. I rode out of town, keeping an eye out for internet cafes. I saw one, but it was closed.
I saw a hotel – a place with a very fancy exterior but where the rooms are by now deteriorated to the point they’re no better than in a cheap hotel. It was 100 Cedi, which was a bit much. I cycled away then decided I was being silly. I didn’t know how far it would be to the next hotel, possibly 10km or so, and I was feeling tired. It wasn’t worth trying to save a few pounds. I turned around, backtracked a 100m or so, and checked in.
In the morning I went to drink from a sachet of water but it tasted bad. I threw it away and went to throw up. It was at this point that I decided to take a bus to Accra, the capital.
It was still about 150km and my appetite was no recovering quickly enough to make that a quick prospect. Cycling it would either take forever or affect my recovery, more likely both.
I wanted to get my Laisser Passer application underway. I knew someone who’d asked here and been told it would take two weeks. I might as well get that started, recover, then return to join the line. Otherwise I’ll be running up against my visa time limit.
I went out to the road with a hotel staff and after a while a shared minibus arrived. I think it may have been called by the hotel worker. We tied my bike on and I got into the front seat of the otherwise empty vehicle. We drove to the other side then turned around and came through on a search for passengers. The driver honks while his assistant (in the back) waves out the window. The driver later told me that waving in different directions represents different destinations.
After a drive through the town we were mostly full and we headed off. We stopped occasionally but made decent progress. Ghana has lots of police checkpoints but they seem a lot less aggressive than those in Nigeria. At least at first.
As we got nearer to the capital, the road got busier and there was a long traffic jam. A passenger wanted to get out so the driver pulled over to the shoulder and dropped them off. He then drove along the shoulder to pick up speed before merging back into traffic.
A policeman decided he’d been driving on the shoulder just to skip the traffic jam. The driver wouldn’t pay the bribe of 50 cedis (£5). The policeman therefore wouldn’t let him go so all the passengers had to get off.
I got onto another minibus and this time my bike was strapped on the back. We drove into the city centre and I got out, and found that my rear tyre was flat. I moved over to some shade and soon found the cause of the flat. The tyre must have been near the exhaust pipe; a hole had been burnt into the tyre. I got a taxi the last couple of kilometres to a guesthouse.
The guesthouse I stayed at is run by the Salvation army and seems to be the only cheap option near the city centre. A private room was 120 cedis (£12) with AC, which isn’t too expensive for a capital city. After checking in, I went to the MTN shop to get a sim card, then made my way to the Ivory Coast embassy.
Initially the secretary said I couldn’t apply for the visa because I wasn’t resident in Ghana, but when I explained I hadn’t been home for a year or so, he let my apply. I repurposed the letter I’d written when applying for my Ghana visa that explained why I hadn’t applied in my home country, and provided the various required documents.
There was a ShopRite nearby so I went there next. It was very nice having access to pretty much whatever food I wanted, rather than just what was available in the local minimarket. I think that definitely helped my recovery!
I felt fully recovered by a week later when I went to collect my visa. Next up I needed special permission to cross the land border. The secretary said he didn’t know how long that would take.
The next morning I set off to cycle back along the section I’d skipped by taking the bus. Otherwise I’d feel I’d cheated! I made an early start to avoid the worst of the traffic, setting off as soon as it was light. I was surprised to pass a Waitrose, an expensive British supermarket.
For about 30km I rode along a reasonably quiet dual carriageway. After that the road shrunk to a single carriageway and was quite congested for a further 10km, before I was out of the urban area and it got quieter.
I crossed over the river Volta, Ghana’s largest. It’s name is on most of the bottled water in the country.
After riding for 140km, I reached the point whence I’d taken the bus. I turned around and was immediately slowed down as the pleasant tailwind became an unwelcome, strong headwind. Almost immediately my rear tyre started to go flat.
The puncture was on the inside of the tube and the cause soon became clear. When the minibus exhaust burnt a hole in my tyre, it also melted my rim tape. When it resolidified, it became quite rough. I swapped it out for a spare, and continued on.
The headwind was very strong and I was going pretty slowly. I crossed back over the river and shortly after stopped at a hotel.
The wind had not abated by the next day so my return to Accra progressed slowly as I traversed this road for the third time. The last ten kilometres before the dual carriageway were one long traffic jam, and for several kilometres I cycled past practically stationary vehicles.
Even when it got to the dual carriageway it was quite busy with drivers that were sufficiently aggressive for me to cycle on the sand next to the road. As soon as I got the chance I took a turning and rode on smaller roads through the city. I made my way back to the Salvation Guesthouse and checked in.
A few days later, the man from the embassy messaged me to say my permission to cross the border had been arranged. Rather than providing me a letter, they contacted the interior ministry who in turn contacted the border officials to give them my details and say I was permitted to cross. This seemed the sort of procedure that could cause some problems but nonetheless I set off for the border the next morning.
Despite having barely cycled for the last month, I wasn’t feeling desperate to get back on the bike. I was feeling a bit tired of Africa and was somewhat lacking in excitement for the remaining couple of months in West Africa.
Heading west out of Accra was much the same as going east had been. For about 30 kilometres there were wide dual carriageway, without too much traffic.
Again it was when the road reverted back to a single carriageway that it became uncomfortably busy. Although it did quieten a little, it never got as quiet as the roads in the east had been.
I was usually within a few kilometres of the coast but it wasn’t until the afternoon that I passed through a coastal town and could actually see the sea.
Later on I passed the site of a crash. I rode past stationary vehicles for a while before reaching the point where a truck and a minibus seemed to have had a head-on collision. The minibus had fared worse.
Pedestrians were allowed past so I made my way around then started looking for somewhere to stay. The first place was full; the second was a bit expensive at 150 cedis (£15). Having already cycled for 9 hours on my first day back on the bike, I didn’t want to spend hours more searching for a hotel, so I took the expensive room.
The road continued to be moderately busy for most of the next day, and the surface worsened somewhat. It was potholed, with some sections having washed away completely. On these unpaved bits there was often a man standing around with a spade, pretending to fix the road – presumably hoping for tips from passing drivers.
I passed through Takoradi, Ghana’s third largest city. I was pleased to find it had a ShopRite so I stopped for some luxuries before continuing on.
A little while after leaving the city, I turned off onto the road heading toward the border. It was much quieter, and very well surfaced having only recently been paved. I rode past plantations of palm and rubber.
This smooth new road was clearly built by the same people as most new African roads. When I passed through villages kids started yelling “China!” at me.
After a full day of cycling I stopped and checked into a hotel. It was a bit more than I’d usually pay but I didn’t feel like riding further.
July 14: 33 km
July 18: 34 km
July 27: 170 km
July 28: 114 km
Aug 3: 165 km
Aug 4: 127 km
3 thoughts on “Ghana”
Good to hear from you after a long hiatus!
Good to follow the last missing pieces of your journey Sam. Where you off to next ? Lynda
Sorry for taking so long to get back to you Lynda. I’m in the Middle East at the moment, then planning on going to Australia, then North America.