After hopping out of the trotro, we stopped for a lunch of Tuo Zaafi at a roadside stand, and then asked the 14-year-old girl who had served us about the location of Wulugu's famous house. Rather than simply point out the way, she grabbed her brother and the two of them led us there directly. They also hunted down the son of the local imam, who was in charge of tours. In Accra, we had been impressed by the friendliness of the people, and were discovering that this hospitality is no different in the north.
About an hour north of Tamale, the last town of any size before hitting the border with Burkino Faso is Bolgatanga -- referred to almost exclusively as "Bolga". (The full name is so rarely used, you might be met with confusion when saying it.) We spent four days in Bolga, using it mainly as a base for exploring the surrounding area. On the day we arrived, though, we spent the afternoon seeing the sights. Such as they…
Sometimes, I just feel stupid. Sure, I completed high school and graduated from college. I was even a Cub Scout! But my practical knowledge pales in comparison to the people of northern Ghana, all of whom seem to know how to create things which are immediately useful... with their hands! I might be able to write code, giving your website a blue as opposed to white background. But this little 80-year-old lady? She can mold a jar, make butter, and sew you an outfit, all before breakfast.
When you're in Ghana, you're going to be drinking a lot. And I don't mean "alcohol" ... I'm talking replenishing, nourishing liquids of any sort, above all water. Because -- you might have heard, or seen one of the 8129 times we've mentioned -- Ghana is hot. And eventually, water won't be enough... you'll want other liquids to soak into your body, if just for a change of pace. Here are some of the beverages we consumed metric tons of, while in the country.
One otherwise lazy afternoon, we were walking from our hotel toward the center of Tamale, when we heard the sounds of drumming. The last time we'd heard distant drumming, it was right before encountering a terrifying parade to welcome the new Dakpema. But this drumming sounded somehow friendlier, so we followed our ears to the Center for National Culture, where we found a troupe of dancers in the midst of practice.
Having spent a week among them in Tamale, we feel fully qualified to write the internet's definitive article introducing the Dagomba people. If you're looking for hastily-formed opinions and hardly-researched facts, you're in the right place! But here's the thing -- if you read this, you'll almost guaranteed know more about the Dagomba than 100% of your friends. Probably, even if they're African!
Having taken a long taxi ride to reach the wrong Kukuo a couple days prior, we were irritated to realize that the right Kukuo was right down the street from our hotel in Tamale. Well, irritated but also relieved that it was so close. Unless there was a third Kukuo in the area (which wouldn't actually have surprised us), this was surely going to be the pottery-making village we had heard about.
We had just finished our tour of the leather workshop in Zongo, when we heard the sound of drumming, quickly coming closer. And was that a gun shot? Hafiz, our de-facto guide for the day, ran over excitedly to us... "Let's hurry! We can see the new Dakpema!" We followed him out to the main street, and ran smack dab into the most insane parade we've ever seen.
If some dude in the USA says, "Oh yeah, some friends and I get together to cure leather in my back yard", your instant and one-hundred-percent-accurate reaction is going to be: "Whatever, hipster". In Ghana, though, there's nothing hipster about it. We visited the Tamale neighborhood of Zongo, whose DIY leather "factories" would be the dream of so many bored Americans. Here, though, they're just another way to make a living.
We had heard about a village near Tamale, by the name of Kukuo, known for its pottery-making. It sounded like the perfect opportunity for an excursion, so we went to the bus station, and asked for "Kukuo". Before long we were rumbling along dirt roads, toward the northwest, until our taxi dropped us off at a smattering of adobe huts. It took us about twenty seconds to realize that no pottery-making was taking place here. But there was a group of villagers, absolutely baffled by the sudden appearance of these two white guys.
r one month in Accra and two weeks in Kumasi, our "easy" time in Ghana had come to an end. From here on out, we wouldn't stay in any place for more than a week. Ghana might be small by African standards, but it's still a substantial country, and we had a lot of ground to cover if we wanted to see it all! So we made our way to the north -- first stop, Tamale: the largest city in this half of the country, and a major transportation hub.
When we initially visited Ike's Bar and Grill, on our first day in Kumasi, we weren't expecting to immediately discover our favorite hangout spot in down. And we definitely weren't expecting the performance in the sky: every night, thousands upon thousands of bats launch from trees in the nearby zoo, and take to the air.