Thursday, 8 September 2011

Challenges of Paradise

One night of each week was spent at Mountain Paradise, a remote lodge most of the way up a mountain in the Volta hidden, almost by trees of a wide variety. On arrival we were offered a visit to the mountain waterfall, which we accepted. We didn't ask too many questions and departed in sensible shoes with the guide and handy bottles of water. A mile down the road as we were wondering where the forest walk began, the guide headed down a steep drop into the trees. So we continued for a total of 3 hours navigating precipitous paths and steep wet leaf covered slopes. Even when we needed to lower ourselves on ropes it still seemed better to continue than turn back. Eventually, we reached the falls and they were beautiful. As we emerged on our knees at the bottom of the lodge garden, soaked and exhausted the guide said, "I'm very pleased with you. I didn't think you would manage that when we left here!" We slept well that night.
This area is full of natural treasures. Above the village of Amedzofe, the highest in W Africa, is Mt Gemi. That was a bit of a hike too. It looked glorious from the village but weather is fast moving here and by the time we reached the top the view was obliterated by dense cloud. Shame!
Another village, Liate Wate, home to another impressive waterfall, had local industries to be proud of. We cut through a gap in foliage along the lane to visit a group of men making palm wine. They gather the sap from the inside of a fallen palm tree trunk which has been left for 3 weeks. The white liquid oozes through and is collected in bottles from a hole drilled underneath. It ferments until refrigerated so our plastic bottle of wine needed to have its gas released frequently on the journey back to the hotel. The taste varies and is better chilled. It can be very sweet and also rather earthy tasting. Palm gin was being distilled nearby through a line of huge petrol drums and dripped into a bowl. This can be extremely strong and lethal with no taste but burns all the way down!

Oyster mushrooms were grown in sheds in plastic pockets very successfully. The bagful we bought were kindly cooked for us that evening. We bought black soap made from burned coco pods and palm oil. It really is black and is a wonderful exfoliator, but looks like a ball of sheep droppings. It's not perfumed either!
This girl was pounding palm nuts for soup.

We returned to the Visitors' Centre and, bizarrely, watched replays of Wimbledon Tennis whilst taking a rest and a snack. During our walk we were told about the Fetish Priest. There are many in Ghanaian villages offering alternative healing and release from problems. The priest in this village bathed in the river once a week and had his path swept before him as he walked through the village. He must not speak on his way back home. Many people visit the Fetish Priest but some choose not to admit it and go after dark. They pay something up front, but the balance after 2 years. My guide didn't understand my questions for the obvious clarification I needed on this issue!
We visited a monkey sanctuary where the Mona Monkeys are protected and considered sacred. They can be hard to track down and as we arrived in the morning, the guides had no idea where the families were. After 2 hours walking in the woods we found a large extended family. All members happily come down from the trees for bananas offered by hand.

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