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Mary Beth’s Part II: Ghana Beach Holiday

It seems as though 30 minutes have passed as we sit in the car while my husband banters back and forth with the Ghana police.  

I finally see him motion and he begins walking toward our car. I am looking for body language, someone following him, anything to help me decipher what just happened.  He strolls right past the driver’s seat, and instead opens the back door grabbing something from his bag and holding it up for the police officer to see. I see the officer nod in agreement.  My husband opens the door and starts the car.

“What was all of that about?” I ask.  “I was wearing flip flops and apparently it is illegal to drive while wearing flip flops.” “Are you kidding?” I chuckle, “That whole ordeal was over flip flops?” “Yeah, finally I mentioned I had sneakers in the back and they said if I changed into them immediately, I could go with just a warning.”

The decision to leave the house prepped for our beach vacation in flip flops turned out to be a poor one for the driver!  

Now in proper driving attire, we continue on our road trip destined and determined for our beach holiday weekend. I peer out the window and think how in just a few moments, the country we were starting to settled in now again feels very foreign. Flip flops and driving…who knew??

We have so much to learn down to even basic driver’s education.  I feel as though our car continues down the road with a flashing sign, “foreigners approaching” and fear what wrong move we will make next.

The road turns and suddenly we can see the water we knew was close.  The blue water reflecting the sun’s rays and an empty-looking beach scattered with just a few fishermen and little to no trash is immediately calming.   

Vendors stand on the roadside selling crabs and smoked fish.  As you look out into the ocean, you see scattered fishing boats.  

By fishing boats, I am not referring to the vessels you would see on an episode of Deadliest Catch or even a small “mom and pop” fishing boat by the pier of a fishing port in the US.  I am referring to large wooden boats, hand-carved from large trees in the Northern Ashanti region of Ghana. They have no motor and are powered manually with oars through the rough water of the sea. Amazing.  

We see Elmina in the distance.  Once-colorful buildings of the fishing village are now washed out from the salt water.  We enter the city and the road narrows. The two lanes continue, but significantly thin as our large SUV squeezes and slithers through the town.  

Our flashing “foreigners sign” becomes brighter…Our poor vehicle gets more and more compressed and the road becomes more difficult to navigate as it becomes populated by vendors, fishermen, carts, people…

We cross a bridge and have an aerial view of the fish market.  Hundreds of boats sit anchored with flags from nearly every country. The contrast of the dark wooden boats and the colorful flags is remarkable.  Men are pulling fishing boats in and others pushing boats out.

Every muscle in their body, even their faces flex as they work to get these boats in and out.  We roll down the window to take better pictures and the aroma is overwhelming.

The perfume of fish, trash, and standing water fills the thick salty air. We roll the window up relatively quickly as we come to a complete stop in the fish market.  Our car is now surrounded by people. Fish are being cleaned outside the window on the sidewalk next to a woman secondhand t-shirts and shoes, followed by a vendor selling tomatoes, woman gracefully dance through the crowd with steel bowls full of fish on their heads. We inch our way through as our eyes move  rapidly in response to the stimulus coming from every direction.

We finally make our way to the end of the market and now see the homes of residents of the village.  Rickety shacks made of wood and recycled shipping containers are stacked on top of each other. Inside you can see trays of fish being smoked and women cooking with large pots on open fire. Baby goats weave through the homes and run across the street in front of the car and chickens snack away at crumbs and trash laying along the roadside.

We slow to make a left turn to our hotel and see 4 hogs standing on piles of trash stuffing themselves with holiday dinner. We are now on a curvy bumpy dirt road and finally approach the entrance to the resort.  We are now outside of the village and the trash has significantly lessened as has the strong fishy aroma.

We now breathe in fresh sea air and see lush green foliage.  

We enter the well landscaped spacious resort full of beautiful flowers.  The ocean is to our left. The golden sand, waves crashing against the black rock along the shoreline, hammocks, umbrellas, and chairs lining the beach are a relaxing break to our eyes which are ready for holiday after the abundance they’ve taken in on the drive.

We check in and are escorted to our room.  We enter a small house at the far end of the property.  The front porch rests on the sand, you can hear the waves crash on the shore from the bedroom.  The girls unpack their dolls on the front porch as their feet dangle onto the beach below. We sit in the chairs on the deck and watch them play with the backdrop of the sea behind them.  Our holiday has begun.

Mary Beth Coffin

Author Mary Beth Coffin

Mary Beth is a medical professional, wife, and mother of two girls. She has spent the last 13 years working as a Physician Assistant. She and her husband have recently relocated their family to Accra, Ghana from Denver, CO. She is now taking a hiatus from medicine and enjoying more time with her children, coaching gymnastics, writing, and exploring Ghana.

More posts by Mary Beth Coffin

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Sue Harding says:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences-I enjoy reading each and every word. Look forward to many more. Best wishes and safe travels.

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