Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A land of extremes

(copied from a journal entry made March 21)

We find ourselves today in palm-frond huts perched precariously on a narrow strip of sand sepparating a fresh-water lagoon from the sea. It's a lovely spot, quiet and peaceful, except for the incessant wind that's been blowing since we arrived. It isn't hot, exactly, but the air is heavy and wet. It gives weight to the wind, making it distracting, a presence to be reckoned with.

There is no shelter from it here. The camp of Marantha consists only of ten windowless huts, a shade structure, a reed "bar" and a collection of sun-bleached wooden lounge chairs facing the lagoon. There is a small fishing village nearby and wooden conoes pass all the time, but the effect is nonetheless one of complete isolation. The handfull of Ghanaian staff move slowly, listlessly, and lie about in hammocks strung between the palm trees. No one speaks much, and the sound of the wind makes everything more distant.

We came here on a second-hand tip from someone Mariette (Dutch girl) met. The moment the tro-tro deposited us in the dusty town of Ada Foah, we were set upon by boys wanting to take us somewhere, anywhere, wherever we wanted to go. One had heard of the huts on the sand spit, and offered to provide us with a boat to take us there -- there seems to be no land route. We followed him, and were led into the shiny compound of a private house to wait. The place was called "The Hooker," and proudly displayed its logo of a woman sitting primly on a fishhook.

As it turns out, the Hooker is a fishing business run by two Americans and an Australian. As soon as they heard that three young white girls has arrived, cold beers were produced, a dinner invitation was proffered, and the canoe we were waiting for came and went. The men lent us their little motorboat for the ride over to the huts (a bit aghast that anyone would chose such basic accomodation), and sent it over again to collect us for dinner.

And so we feasted on freshly-caught tuna, ripe avocadoes and chilled white wine. The three men usually have clients to see to -- wealthy Americans over for week-long fishing trips -- but they have none at the moment and seemed glad of the chance to socialize with anyone new and female. The Peace Corps mooch in me couldn't resist. Besides, there is no water or electricity out on our sand bank, and these men have hot showers and South African cable TV . . .

The ride out is extraordinary, by motorboat or canoe. The lagoon -- a good-size lake, really -- is edged with dense palm forests and dotted with tiny villages of fishermen. The reed huts and palm-frond thatch blend into the trees, and at night all you can see of the shore is the occasional winking of a lantern. On the other side of the sandbar the beach stretches for miles in both directions, and the only electric light visible is the distant glow of a town on the horizon.

(We stayed in Marantha for two nights, and just got back to Accra today)

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