Thursday, 22 July 2010

West African Road Trip - Day 6

We had breakfast outside. The temperature was just right, at about 24, and was the coolest we had experienced yet. They gave us omelette, beans, toast, and some cooked mixed vegetables. While we had breakfast, Sammie said that he had changed rooms in the middle of the night because so many things in his room were not working, they upgraded him to a better room. Also, he had finally got hold of Kwaku Owusu, whose MSc dissertation I had supervised in Reading a few years ago. Kwaku was on his way to meet us over breakfast, as he was keen to meet up again. He took us one or two kilometres down the road to visit his workplace, Sunyani Polytechnic and meet the Rector. Kwaku had become vice-rector since we last met him. We went there and sat in his office talking about PhDs and other things for half an hour, and the Rector was on his way, but had not arrived by the time we realized we needed to get back to the hotel to check out. So we bid our farewells until WABER next week, and got back to check out and I put the room back to how it was and packed my still-damp laundry.

We left Sunyani shortly after noon and drove to Kumasi, arriving about 3 pm. We checked into the Engineering Guest House on the KNUST campus, which we had visited on the way North and had lunch with George Intsiful, an academic architect who had also designed and built this Guest House. He’d done very well, as it was spacious and nicely appointed. We went for a late lunch to the Joful restaurant – familiar to me because we went to another of this chain in Accra last year. These are really good restaurants with a good choice of food, local and international. It was nice to have wine with the meal, rather than the lifeless beer we have been drinking recently.

After our meal, we got a local taxi to the town centre so that we could have a lightning-fast tour of Kumasi with Sammie, who had been an undergraduate here. We started at the palace of the Ashanti King. It closed at 6 pm so they did not want to let us in, but Sam told us about some of the history, and how the Ashanti were the last to hold out against British colonial rule until after a few bloody wars. From there we walked to the centre of town, on the way pausing to watch a football game, on gravel, with eight players per side, and the goalies not wearing shoes. They played well and we saw a goal scored, but we soon moved on. And then to the market, which was huge and noisy and cramped. It occupied an enormous area and was a real spectacle, dusty, loud and incredibly busy with people walking in a great hurry here and there, occasional shouts of “hello white man” and other shouts in local language that did not make any sense to me (probably a good thing, too). The first place we tried to enter the market was the entrance and exit for the local minibuses (tro-tros) and we stood and watched for a bit while I tried to take pictures. But it was difficult to catch the endless stream of vehicles in and out, papping their horns endlessly and moving people around who were crammed into buses way beyond their legal capacity. It turned out we could not get into the actual market that way, so Sam had a chat to some locals, who really did not want me to take photos, and then we walked at great speed around the edge of the market, trying to observe the goings on through a sensory onslaught that was dizzying and overwhelming. After that, the rest of the town was fairly unexciting, and after walking a further 30 minutes, we got a taxi back to the guest house, bumped into George again, and joined him for a few beers at the bar. I am getting fed up of the local beer, so I has small bottles of Becks, which normally I don’t like, but it was a welcome change from the local stuff. We finished near midnight, and I was glad to get to bed after all the travelling and sightseeing.

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