The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ho Adventure, Day 2: Wli Falls and the Tafe Atome Monkey Sanctuary, by Suzanne

Saturday afternoon after dinner I talked to Bob Coffie’s uncle, who was the hotel’s tour arranger, and who was extremely helpful.  He assured me that seeing Wli Falls and the Tafe Atome Monkey Sanctuary was doable in one day, although the implication was, just barely, and he was right.  It’s hard to tell how long it takes to get places in Ghana because so much of it depends on the condition of the road, but also in congested areas you can’t get anywhere quickly.  So, I arranged for a driver to meet us the next morning, maybe a little earlier than Addison might have preferred, but we had places to go and things to see!
You can see Lake Volta in the distance
It turns out breakfast is included with the room: an egg omlette, dry white toast, 2 small rounds of sausage, canned pork and beans, and either coffee (Nescafe, of course) or tea.  Vincent, our driver, arrived at exactly the appointed time, right after breakfast.  And off we go!  Wli Falls first, since the monkeys are most active in the early morning and late afternoon, but they’re an hour away and it’s not really early morning now, it certainly won’t be in an hour.  Wli Falls is about 2 ½ hours away, and in the taxi we’re able to really appreciate the scenery.  The Volta Region is quite hilly, and although we don’t go too near it, Vincent does stop in order for me to snap a photo of what we can see of Lake Volta; the dam at its base generates a significant portion of Ghana’s electricity. 

Along the walk to Wli Falls
We arrive and check in at what we would call the Ranger’s Station, where we greet all who are present, say where we’re from, sign the registry, pay the entrance fee and camera fee, and are assigned a guide.  I’m pretty sure the people after us get hassled a bit, my take is they’re being a little too all-business-in-a-hurry, forgoing the necessary and expected hospitable exchanges, and from what little I saw, it once again confirms that is it actually far MORE efficient to just take everything at a slower pace, greet people, ask how they are, etc., then trying to bulldoze through and hurry up.  Maybe they also got that confirmation.
One of the bridges along our walk
We head out to the falls with our guide, it’s a 50min walk that feels more like 20.  He gives us a quiz along the way, asking if we know what such and such a plant or tree is, telling us about his schooling (he’s in a post-secondary school that isn’t exactly a University, studying agriculture and IT), and about the path, the bridges – 9 of them on the way, 8 of which cross over the water coming down from Wli Falls, 1 of which is a river that comes from Togo – although surely the Wli Falls water comes from Togo also, it’s right on the border, but it is quite cold so maybe it’s spring-fed on the Ghana side.

Wili Falls
Wli Falls is the tallest waterfall in Ghana and when we get close you can really feel it.  Even pretty far away you get pretty wet from the spray.  I change into a bathing suit to get closer, and am glad I did or I would have gotten my jean skirt soaked, but the force of the water is so strong we really couldn’t get too close under the waterfall – it felt like Niagara Falls, although as you can see from the picture, the volume of water is miniscule comparatively, it’s the force that is substantial.  We get soaked through with spray and enjoy fighting the force of physics, and then begin heading back – Vincent warned me we couldn’t stay TOO long at the falls if we want to see monkeys.   We have an equally pleasant walk heading back, run into several villagers, including some young lady cousins of our guide, who are heading to the falls just to hang out and really want Addison, the young male American, to join them.  In the village we stop in the nice stalls and buy a few things, and then we’re back in the taxi with Vincent, off to the monkey sanctuary.  We decide not to try and stop and eat on the way, it would take too long and it’s not real clear where we’d eat anyway, so we eat bars we brought and plantain chips.
A village we pass on the way to Wli

Mostly the roads from Ho to Wli Falls are very good – far better than the road to Berekuso, which surprised me since we’re in pretty rural Ghana.  But it is true that the last few kilometers to and from Wli is almost as bad as the Berekuso road.  Tafi Atome is about ½ between Wli and Ho, just off the main road.  A very nice road project leading from the main road to Tafi Atome is nearing completion – very wide and nicely graded road, not paved but it is pressed with small stones firmly enough that Vincent says it won’t erode with the rains.

Mom with baby eating banana, another climbing up!
We arrive at the monkey sanctuary around 3pm.  Again we check in and pay our fee, this time to a young lady who isn’t so caught up in the traditional pleasantries.  She tells us that she’ll be our guide, but that we’ll need bananas to feed the monkeys so we give her some cedis and she sends someone off to buy bananas, and we sit outside in the shade while we wait.  Although cooler than the non-rainy season it’s a hot day.  We see a monkey in a nearby tree and think it’s cool, we have no idea what’s coming!

When our bananas arrive I expect our guide will lead us to some landscaped clearing in the jungle, but no, we go to the nice broad road and stand in it and see the monkeys, on both sides, in the  trees and in the brush on the side of the road.  Upon seeing us, they start to gather.  Or guide gives us the instructions – she breaks the bananas in half, gives a half to one of us, instructs us to hold on tightly, and then does a sort of suck-whistle call, which means, “dinner!”  As soon as the monkeys see the banana in our hands they pounce – maybe just one, maybe three or four or five, in which case one kind of wins and perches on your forearm and peels the banana with their little black hands and eat it.  We have to hold it firmly or they’d just take it from us and run off.  Sometimes they linger on our arm or head or back, so we get the chance to take plenty of photos – I have tons more!
Addison with monkeys, including the big daddy

There’s one large male in the group, he’s too big to climb on us so our guide gives him some bananas when he approaches her on the ground.  There’s also a little monkey with a broken hind leg who can’t jump, so all of us try and get chunks of banana to him/her, but the other monkeys are pretty relentless about not letting him/her get any.  We manage to maybe get ½ banana to him/her, in several small pieces, during out 20 minutes or so of monkey feeding can climbing all over us extravaganza.
Our guide also tells us about the history of the monkey sanctuary, pretty much I read in the guide book and on the wall when we checked in:  the monkeys used to be considered sacred, somehow spiritual brings that protected the village and were never harmed, but with the advent of Christianity into the region, the practice dwindled and the monkeys were no longer protected and sometimes hunted.  A Peace Corps effort in the 1990’s turned the village into an ecotourism spot and the monkeys are once again protected as part of the ecotourism effort. The guidebook says that these are the only population of mona monkeys in Ghana.  Addison marvels at how human they seem, and I can’t get over their feet which are just like their hands, and which they use just like their hands, thumbs and all.
We had fun!
It turns out it’s a good thing we came when we did, because toward the end of the feeding frenzy the monkeys are beginning to lose interest and wander away.  Our guide leads us on a 5 minute walk through part of the jungle, then we loop around back to where we checked in and Vincent.  There’s a station for us to wash our hands and I look down and see how filthy I am from all the monkeys crawling all over me!

Then, back to Ho.  On the drive back I ask Vincent where else we might eat for dinner, since although the hotel food was good last night, it would be nice to venture out a bit more tonight – but alas, it’s Sunday, restaurants are closed on Sundays, so he says the hotel is out best bet.  An hour later we arrive, get cleaned up, and as it turns out this really might be about the only place to eat in Ho, judging by the crowd in the restaurant.  I order tilapia and banku which is outstanding, and great end to a great day.


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