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Canoe ride to a Ghanaian stilt village

My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - My Big Adventure

WORLDWIDE | Friday, 11 March 2011 | Views [328] | Scholarship Entry

I looked along the jetty from the safe shore of Beyin, my skin cloying in the clammy Ghanaian heat. The muddy water lapped at the old, paint-chipped canoes, rocking them steadily against the soft sand. I watched with apprehension as our guide, Evans, dressed in a Bolton Wanderers football shirt, selected one boat from the water’s edge, and waved at us to join him. Such a delicate vessel seemed incapable of carrying three passengers. But to my relief it took our weight easily, and we were suddenly thrust into the tropical marshland.

Evans was strong and skilled with his oar; he stood calmly at the back of the canoe, propelling us forward through thick foliage. Within just half an hour, we were gliding across the wide expanse of Lake Tadane, picking up speed as we neared the stilt village of Nzulezo, enveloped by the lofty mountains.

We clambered off the boat onto a wobbly bamboo ladder. As I climbed up I could see the village’s numerous wooden legs balancing precariously in the water. The ladder joined a long bamboo road leading to smaller side streets, each of which was lined with bamboo huts. The browning sticks rolled disconcertingly each time I took a step, and the structure seemed to sway at every sharp intake of breath.

The villagers stared at me, examining my pale mosquito-bitten skin, and marvelling at my beaded African chastity chains which I had converted into necklaces. Some shook their heads when I pointed at my camera and asked if I could “snap them”, but one middle-aged man who sat chopping wood gave me a toothy grin of encouragement.

Several teenage boys in second-hand sports shirts were so absorbed in their competitive game of Knock-out Whist that they barely looked up to note our arrival. While they played, their younger siblings took the opportunity to enjoy the limelight, posing confidently for pictures.

We bought peanuts from the village’s own mini convenience store; the shelves were stocked with dry foods and washing detergent in bright plastic packaging, while huge tins of tomato paste lined the floor.
Evans led us to the far end of the village, where rubbish had been dumped and sewage was being collected in a large waste pool. He took us into a wider open hut; fake multicoloured flowers were wrapped around the stage pillars at the front and religious posters adorned the walls. Inside, the chief of Nzulezo and two elders greeted us with stony stares. We gave them some childrens’ books, a pack of playing cards and some felt-tip pens to thank them for their hospitality. One elder immediately picked up the cards, while another began flicking contentedly through a copy of Cinderella. We thanked them again and returned to our vessel.

As our canoe pulled away from the jetty, I could hear a baby crying inside one of the tiny huts. Streams of sunlight began to pierce through the clouds as Evans rowed us slowly across the lake and back towards Beyin.

Tags: #2011Writing, Travel Writing Scholarship 2011

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