Among expats working in West Africa, Ghana is a travellers' paradise. People speak English; there are buses, and they work; Ghanians are famously warm and friendly; there are elephants, if you can spot them; the food is, well . . . it could be worse; and of course, the beaches are spectacular.
These beaches have been the subject of many wintery London fantasies for me over the past couple of months, and I headed for the coast as soon as I could possibly get out of Accra.
17 hours after my plane touched down on African soil, I found myself stolling through the gentle surf on the beach at Kokrobite. The light was waning, the air warm and heavy. Few people were about, but I had nonetheless managed to acquire two companions, naked little boys of about 6 and 9. They frolicked up and down the beach like puppies, wriggling on their stomachs in the water and playing with anything that came to hand. After a while the crabs began to run, little translucent darts of motion that scuttled from their sandy holes to the water's edge, and back again. The boys were after them in a flash.
This all seemed very good, innocent fun until a crab was caught, and then the hunt was on in earnest. Isaac, the eldest boy, held his prey out to me as a gift, gamely offereing to rip its claws off for me. I assured him this really wasn't necessary, and suggested that the crab might be happier if he tossed it back in the water. Isaac looked a bit puzzled, then came up with his own sollution -- he tossed it up the beach, where it skidded to a halt in the dry sand. The younger boy shrieked with delight and pounced on the poor crustacean with a wooden plank. That was the last I saw of the creature sacrificed in my honour.
The game of crab torture continued, shells flying everywhere, and the further we moved from the backpacked camp the more rubbish appeared on the beach. After a while I noticed that the black spots among which the boys were hunting were, in fact, human faeces -- like many West African beaches, this one doubled as a public toilet. It makes perfect sense, actually -- every time the tide comes in, the area cleans itself. And this is exactly what began to happen as the three of us turned around. Trying to monitor the boys' kills and dodging lumps of floating poo, I reflected on how Ghana's beaches may be legendary in West Africa . . . but everything is relative.
It's good to be back.