When we have finally managed to arrange transportation, it takes us a couple of hours to drive from Accra to the Volta river. Continuing north, the road deteriorates, but we see baboons walking on the road as compensation. It is sunny, and pretty warm in the car. Hills on our right hand side, in the east, grow into a mountain range: the Avatime hills. When we take a turn, to head south into the valley between the mountains, the first rain drops start to fall. We decide to first arrange accommodation, find a great place right on top of a mountain ridge, which has splendid views of the mountains and the valley below. When we get out, torrential rain is hammering on the tin roof, and we take a light lunch. Whenever we want to talk, we need to shout: the noise the rain is making is overwhelming. At the end of the afternoon, we make a small walking tour, our eyes glued to the mountains which are re-appearing from the clouds, patches of fog swirling around the base of the green carpet-covered flanks of the mountains. We discover a small opening in the forest, atop a hill; when asked, the locals tell us this is a church. It turns out that these hills are often used for prayer, as they are considered closer to God.
After a good night, we have a good breakfast during which the remaining clouds seem to slowly climb against the steep slopes and then disappear. As a consequence, the views always get better. Before leaving, we walk around the grounds of the lodge, with both beautiful flower beds and quirky stuff like rusty dumbbells in an open-air fitness area. We squeeze ourselves in the car with our guide, drive downhill, and we stop at a bend in the road. At first, it seems hard to believe this is the start of our hike: there is no sign of any trail. But our guide knows the way, takes our his machete and hacks some tall grass away, and down we go on what seems to be a trail that cannot be used very often. Despite the heavy rains of the day before, the trail is not too slippery. We follow the steep path, through the thick forest, stepping over trunks, holding on to branches, until we reach a fork where we take a left. We can already hear water rushing down - the waterfall must be nearby. We now hold on to a rope that is attached to one of the formidable trees, and make our way down a very slippery cliff on which water is running down. We are now at the small river where water turns around in a big bowl under the Kulugu waterfall that comes rushing down through the forest. Our guide wants to show off, takes off his shirt, and dives into the raging water, to reach the other side of the natural pool, where he stands up and cools off. Ah, how much I want to jump in, too! But I have no towels, don't have swimwear with me, and with the humidity, I am afraid to be walking around in wet clothes for the rest of the day if I do. So I chicken out, leaving the girls in awe at the well-built young Ghanaian.
We inevitably have to climb the steep cliff which we just descended, after which we have a most pleasant walk through the forest. Twice, we have to wade through the river that must have taken a lot of water the day before, past wild cacao, banana, and other trees and plants, until we suddenly find ourselves back at the lodge. Our driver is waiting for us, and we drive up to Amedzofe village. We pay our entry fees, and one of the guys from the office come with us. Even before we reach Mount Gemi, the goal of our short walk, we enjoy walking through the very pleasant and interesting village. Young kids are stunned by our strange looks, and want to touch the blonde hair of the girls, my nose, our skin. After passing the football field, we walk a well-marked trail up the last part of the mountain, until we reach the iron cross that marks the top. The views from Mount Gemi are fantastic. We see villages on the folds of the mountains around us, we see green valleys, plains, and we see Lake Volta in the distance. Our Ghanaian friends take turns to kneel at the cross, and pray. The guide tells us how these places are sacred: the mountain is full of sacred places where people come to pray, not just the summit of the mountain. Indeed, on our way down, we see two women, one with a child on her back, singing in a ruined house - near an open-air church. We greet the villagers on our way back to the car. Around a big tree, a group of elderly men is quietly sitting and watching us, the intruders in this mountain village that supposedly survives thanks to foreign aid. It is time to leave, head back to the big capital with its noise and pollution, where most of these people have never been, and probably do not even want to go. The Avatime hills offer them peace, tranquillity, a clean environment, and plenty of places to go and pray.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Avatime hills (Ghana). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Avatime hills.
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