Tuesday, August 26
Kumasi, Ghana

We walked slowly and quietly in the bush, following a Ghanaian guide who carried a large gun.

When he stopped, paused and gestured to his left, I didn’t have to look hard. A pack of elephants!

We moved closer to watch the largest one use his wrinkled trunk to pull branches and leaves off a tree and stuff them into his mouth.

An elephant eats his lunch of leaves in Mole National Park.

An elephant eats his lunch of leaves in Mole National Park.

Those few moments made my stop at Mole National Park worthwhile. I really couldn’t have cared less about going on safari in Africa, since people and cultures interest me far more than animals. But being that close to such a large creature, one I had learned about as a child but never seen in person, was pretty cool.

I visited Mole largely out of convenience. For tourists who fly into Ghana’s capital, Accra, down south, the park is out of the way. But since I arrived in Ghana via Burkina, from the northwest, I had to pass the park on my way to see the rest of the country.

An elephant footprint!

An elephant footprint!

The day before, I had stopped at another animal attraction, a hippo sanctuary. But I left after seeing the information office. Turns out it’s impossible to see hippos during the rainy season, and we’re smack in the middle of that season right now.

Aside from the elephants, Mole National Park was a disappointment. The animals themselves — we also saw warthogs and several animals that looked like deer — were interesting. But I also expected greatness from the information center, motel and restaurant because it’s touted as the country’s greatest safari. Instead, the facility was poorly managed and under-maintained, sold overpriced and unimpressive food, and the staff was less than friendly. I paid hotel prices, but couldn’t shower because the running water wasn’t working. (This is normal for African villages and even cities, but a tourist resort should be better equipped.) With such a remote, beautiful location, that place had a lot of potential it failed to fill.

Our guide requested this photo.

Our guide requested this photo.

I stayed only one night and got a ride to my next location with two German guys who had rented a car for their two-week vacation in Ghana. The small, red four-door was entirely unsuited for the unkept road that connected Mole National Park with the rest of the country. Martin and Wolfgang had tried to rent a four-by-four vehicle, but tourists aren’t allowed to do so in Ghana unless they also hire a driver. (It’s a way to create jobs, we figured.)

We thought we were pretty slick, maneuvering that little car on a dirt road full of trucks and jeeps, until we found ourselves on the side of the road with a flat tire. There was nothing around but bush and road, until a handful of villagers showed up to watch us struggle with the spare tire in the trunk.

We were a spectacle, two white guys and a white woman changing a flat tire.

We were a spectacle, two white guys and a white woman changing a flat tire.

After a day of traveling, including a quick stop to see a waterfall, we arrived in Kumasi, Ghana’s second-largest city. Just a few hours later, we were in a western-looking restaurant, eating pizza and drinking Cokes and beer.

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