As you might have guessed, after staying out until 2AM on Friday (technically Saturday), there was no way I was waking up at 5:30AM on Saturday. If you ask me, I’ll swear that my alarms never went off. As a result, I woke up in a panic at 6:36. Though I was packed, I was supposed to be meeting the group at 7AM… and where I was meeting them was about half an hour away from me. I was freaking out. Also, although I only had three drinks the night before, the fact that I don’t eat much here had left me majorly hungover. I threw my butt into gear and was out of the door and hailing a taxi at 6:40.
I texted Michael and Robert, the group leaders, about a million times each: apologizing and saying that I was on my way. Thankfully, I was only about 5 minutes late to our meeting spot, and the group was actually late to picking me up. Robert met me at Las Palmas (I had given him my description: “I’ll be the only Obroni for miles”) and he took me to the group’s van.
While I was expecting to be led to a coach bus (Mariana told me that the buses that travel across regions are quite nice), the van we were taking was the same type that is used for tro tros. What’s more, there were not enough seats for everyone (though there would have been had I not been there), so I had to share a seat with Robert. (Constant) note to self: don’t even have expectations here because they will most likely change and quick. I turned around in my seat to say hi to the students, though I think they were a bit sleepy (and might not have known I was coming?) because I didn’t receive much of a response. Robert and I chatted a bit and then I took a pretty long nap.
The drive was much longer than I had anticipated (about five hours) and we were apparently going right from Lapaz to the Mount Afadjato (the tallest mountain in Ghana). This was a little intimidating to me because I had nothing to eat for breakfast and had no water on me. I expressed my concern to Robert but he said I would be “fine.” Soon other students were speaking up about how they really felt that they should eat before such a long hike, and that it’s quite dangerous to not bring water, but Robert didn’t really address our concerns. As I found out later, this was Robert’s first time leading a group… obviously, as he was so unprepared. Luckily for us, our van overheated four hours into our drive and we needed to stop to let it cool down. We used this opportunity to get crackers and water bottles from a nearby shop, and I also started to get to know the other students. The exchange students came from a multitude of countries including Iceland, Slovenia, Spain, England, Austria, Denmark, Turkey, Spain, and Sudan. Though I didn’t get to talk to them much before we got back into the van, they all seemed very nice.
We got to Mount Afadjato around noon and, immediately, it started to rain. We were quick to shove our cameras and phones further down in our backpacks, though unfortunately many of us (me included) had forgotten to pack raincoats. When the rain lightened up we started our trek—a leisurely walk that quickly turned into a tougher hike and then an all out climb. I hadn’t done my research before signing up for the trip, so I was really not prepared. The climb was so steep that the only thing I can liken it to is taking stairs two or three at a time… for three miles. My legs already hurt two minutes in (I’m out of shape…sue me), but thanks to the motivation of the rest of the group (and by that I mean that I embarrassed myself into keeping pace with them), I was able to keep moving along.
The rain held out for most of the hike, but 45 minutes in it started to pick up, and fast. Within minutes, it was pouring and I scrambled to put my camera back in my bag. The rain made the hike even harder than it already was, as it quickly dissolved the mud and made it very hard to gain footing. Though, in retrospect, it might have been a good idea to turn around and go back down, I was too far deep and wanted to go all the way to the top. Scratch that, I needed to. I continued on and made it to the top of the peak in one hour: not a bad record for a three-mile uphill climb (I think)! Everyone was soaked at this point and we had a good time laughing about our circumstances and taking in (what we could) of the view. When the rain let up for a few minutes we all hurriedly took out our cameras and phones, but it wasn’t long before the rain started up again. I was a little worried about the lack of waterproof protection my camera was receiving… but I was also really excited to be at the top of this mountain.
When we started hearing thunder we decided to head down. Though I had assumed that the hike down would be much easier than the hike up, this wasn’t exactly the case. Since the rain had continued to fall, the ground was even more slippery and it was hard to take even a few steps without sliding. It took a lot of energy and concentration to balance your weight correctly and avoid taking a tumble, so I moved very slowly to be cautious. By the time that we all got down to the bottom, it was around 3PM. We were wet, muddy, and starving (since we barely had breakfast and didn’t have any lunch), so we headed off to a hostel to grab a late “lunch.”
We arrived at the hostel around 4PM, and were served our food around 5. I was one of the last people to receive my meal of chicken and French fries, so I was practically ravenous. The meal was delicious and I was quick to finish it. All the while, I was getting to know the group a bit better and had amazing conversations about psychology (one of the girls from London was a practicing psychologist), modern medicine (all of the students on the trip besides me and the psychologist were med students), language, and more. At the end of the meal we were a bit surprised to find out that the hostel we were eating at was not the hostel we were staying at, so we packed up again and headed to our real hostel, which was right down the road.
We got to our (real) hostel around 8PM and split up into groups of 3 or 4 to each room. I paired up with Ayse, a really awesome girl in the group from Turkey, and her friend Toby (who is from Austria). Our group soon added another roommate when Dom (from London) was forced out of his room due to lack of floor space. Our room featured one double bed but had room for two “mattresses” on the floor, so Ayse and I quickly claimed the bed and gave the boys the floor. After we each took turns showering with the frigid water available to us, and changing into clean (dry!) clothes, the four of us joined Victor and Ignacio (from Spain) and played cards until 10. I had a really great time with them and Ayse, Toby, Dom and I were cracking up all night. As we went back to our room I lamented that I was having so much fun but would probably not seem them again, though they promised that we would get Turkish food during the week and reconnect. We put in our order for breakfast the next morning and fell asleep quickly. Unfortunately we did not have access to mosquito nests at this hostel, so I hoped that I would not be eaten alive by the morning!