Mole National Park
6 Mar 2008
|The bus to Mole progressed slowly but steadily, dropping the odd passenger off and picking the odd passenger up at villages along the route. At one village a woman got on carrying a chicken and Texan DD was impressed as it was her first "chicken on a bus" incident. At the same stop two big cages of chickens and a couple of smaller baskets of chickens were put into the hold, this must have been chicken town. As the journey progressed the bus gradualy got fuller until there was no more standing room in the aisle.
Then at one village there was a flurry of activity when someone remembered the chickens. the baskets were taken out, the first basket contained 7 dead chickens and the second had 6 very nearly dead chickens. Then the cages came out and the situation was similar, one of them had many dead birds the other was full of rapidly expiring fowl. The next scene was both tragic and hilarious as they tried to revive the barely breathing birds. They then started a flurry of throat slitting, naively at the time I thought they were putting the chickens out of their missery, it was only later that I realised that being in a Muslim area that they were making the meat halal, the birds that died of (un)natural causes would not be halal. I guess that village had a big Chicken feast that night.
After the arguements and blaming sessions we set off again now with the hardier birds who'd survived riding in the bus. After dark we stopped at a village where more people than could possibly fit on the bus were waiting, this is Africa, somehow they all got in. Next village was chaos, at least 100 schoolkids stormed the bus. Being Independence day they had all been to this town for the celebrations. When we moved off again I would guess that there were in excess of 200 people on a 40 seater bus. Kids were sat on top of seats, on top of eachother, hanging out of the windows. I managed to defend most of my space but DD had one kid sat on her knee and another one sat on that kids knee, 2 stood on the seat behind her and one in front and apparently another 2 random hands holding hers.
At Larabanga, the village before the park everyone except the foreigners got off, I had to make a decision whether to stay there or risk the park accommodation. I decided to risk my chances at the park figuring that at night and 15km from the nearest town they couldn't send me back, at worst I would have to pay for an expensive room or sleep on a floor. We wasted even more time entering the park when a group of Dutch girls all started arguing that they should have the Student discount even though most of them had no student card. This winded most of the rest of the bus up, myself included, the entry fee was minimal anyway and I bet they expected the facilities to be good but weren't prepared to pay for it. It was close to 10pm by the time we all piled out of the bus and into the reception of the Mole Motel. I decided to let all of those who had rooms booked go first and then see what was left. A few people said they had booked the dorm and they even saw their names on a list on the reception desk but now the guy behind the desk told them that it's not possible to book the dorm. I had agreed to share a room with Jonus from Sweden but then the group of Dutch girls came back and said they had a plan, half of them were in the dorm and half in a room but they said that if they could give them a couple of matresses they would all go in the room. As this would free up 3 dorm beds we decided to wait for the outcome, when they had their matresses and this was settled we asked about the dorm but now found out that there was a male dorm and a female dorm and the spare beds were in the female dorm. Promising to keep our eyes closed didn't work so we asked for the room but he had just given it to a German girl and her parents. He then said he could move 2 more matresses into the dorm so eventually we had beds. The staff at reception were completely humourless and far from the friendly smiling Ghanaians I've been told about. We had heard that they hae to give out dorm beds until they have sold all of the rooms, maybe that was what happened. At least the bar was still open.
I actually had a reasonable and thankfully mosquito free sleep on the flour although I was first up at dawn. When I was stood outside the room a Canadian, Patrick, who was the only tourist to get off the bus in Larabanga turned up having taken a motorbike into the park. We had plenty of time to get coffee and breakfast before the guided walk into the park at 7:30. I suppose the walk is timed to have the best chance of seeing the elephants - sensible creatures elephants, certainly more sensible than the average Ghanaian bus scheduler. Everyone gathered at the Park headquaters where we were divided into groups of about 10 people and given an armed guide. A woman came round taking orders for lunch from the park canteen rather than the Motel so Jonas, Patrick and myself signed up for ride balls and fish soup.
The motel is at the top of an escarpment and the main park area on the plain below so we started off by treking down into the plain. Very soon we saw antelopes and bushpigs/warthogs but no elephants. We trecked to a waterhole where there were lots of birds and some crocodiles but still no elephants. A group of lardarse Americans turned up in a 4x4 and would have embarassed DD they were so loud. I jest not, one of them even shouted out to his guide that he couldn't see any animals, the rest of us just looked at eachother. The Shermans then wanted to have their photographs taken with the guide's gun. We pleaded with our guide to take us somewhere else. We trekked on, we saw many more antelope and pigs, a watersnake at the next waterhole and lots of elephant shit but not a sniff of an elephant. The walks are supposed to last about 2 hours but after 2.5 hours with no luck we headed back towards the escarpement and the motel. The main waterhole in the park and the first one we'd visited is directly under the motel, when we got back to it there they were five or six enormous hephalumps having a bath. I never worked out if this was luck or whether that is how the guides plan it. I did wonder if they had radio transmitters on the elephants and I soon got my answer. As we sat and watched big flappy eared, trunk snorting, showering beasts an alarm went off and the two guides who were there at the time jumped up in obvious alarm. From further along the pool one of the Dutch girls was running along the path with the king of the elephants close behind. She got back to the group and Sir Elephant wandered off into the pool to join his subjects in the bath. It turned out that she had gone further along to get a better view but had stood in the elephants main track into the pool. The guides went ballistic, she had been very lucky, even luckier I found out later that she had left her camera on video mode and caught some of her flight on video.
That was our time up and we made our way back to the Motel for second breakfast. The elephants left the pool soon after so my guess is that the guides know exactly when and where they are going to see them. Most of us spent the ret of the day in and around the pool at the Motel, it was DD's birthday so the drinking started fairly early. After two breakfasts I really wasn't ready for lunch at the time we'd said but having agreed with the woman we went off to get it. We were the only three to have signed up, I guess everyone else knew something we didn't. After cleaning the very dirty plates with slightly less dirty water she dished up three huge lumps of nearly solidified rice mash and then asked if we had ordered chicken or fish. Jonus is vegetarian so we'd gone for fish, she ladeled the soup out of a pot, putting it over the rice if she caught fish and back in the pot if she caught chicken. It was awful, I ate a fraction of mine and then gave up, we declined her offer of dinner and said we would be having it at the motel.
Back round the pool we shared a few beers, one at a time to get them before the alcohol evaporated in the heat. When they came round for orders for the evening meal we were told that there was no chicken as they couldn't get any from Larabanga - I think we all know why.
The worst news I got all day was that the bus which I thought went back at the stupid time of 5:30 am was going back at the crazy time of 4am and I was told to be there at 3:30 for a ticket. If I'd been sensible I would have stopped drinking and gone to bed before midnight but I wasn't. My 3am alarm was a shock to the system but I made the bus.