You don't have to be an expert in Ghanaian culture to guess that the town of Bongo is known for drumming. Just outside the village, you'll find a formation of giant rocks, which are known for the bizarre, musical tones they produce when struck. We embarked on a hike to this natural orchestra pit, and found ourselves amazed by the area's beauty even more than the famous rocks.
After having conquered our fears at the Crocodile Pond in Paga, we felt like a more soothing experience, so wandered over to the nearby chief's palace, which has been set up as a touristic primer to the housing style of the Kassena people, a tribe of about 160,000 people, found along the border between Ghana and Burkina Faso. We were met at the gate by a guide who brought us into the labyrinthine complex.
"Maybe it's a trap," I thought to myself, while watching our guide swing a squawking fowl about, luring a massive crocodile onto the shore. "It could be a trap." Then he was calling me over, asking me to crouch down next to this monster, and every rational synapse in brain was in agreement, screaming, "It's a trap!" But I took a deep breath, and approached. If it was a trap, at least it would be an amazing way to go out.
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.