On the continent

May 30, 2015

If you had been following us on instagram (and sometimes our tumblr) you would known that I had been ‘chilling small’ on the continent over Christmas. For the most part of December I was in South Africa, the most part of January I was in Ghana and I have spent longer time away from this blog. Ask me why, I have no idea. Technical issues, no motivation, no content etc etc.

I was in South Africa for my cousin’s wedding and I can’t begin to describe the experience I have just had. Seems so surreal when I look back. I have to check my instagram – personal and Afroklectic just to remember exactly what I did and in what order. I never imagined going to South Africa. I have only ever heard about safari, horror crime stories and suitcases being tampered with whilst going to Ghana via Johannesburg.  In my mind, it wasn’t a place I would say ‘Hey I am going to South Africa by myself! Deuces!’. So when I heard that my cousin was getting married in his mother’s motherland, I didn’t even think twice.

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Upon arrival in Johannesburg we went on a 3 days safari around Kruger National Park and other gamer reserves. I ended up too close to a Lion on a game drive the afternoon we arrived. In retrospect a very dangerous situation thanks to a very ill experienced tour guide. We also drove through a herd of water buffalos as if they were birds, once again thanks to our ill experienced tour guard. Lost one of my contacts somewhere at Kruger National Park. I wear hard contacts, so I ended up wearing one contact and my glasses until my friend from Australia came to Ghana with a replacement. Only God knows how it miraculously flung out of my eye. Surprisingly I was able to spot an elephant with one contact when no one else in the car did. Saw an array of animals I didn’t even expect to see. Our Kruger tour guide who was very experienced, spotted a rhino miles away. Till this day my cousin and I still don’t understand how. This rhino was a good 800 metres away, could be more. Looked like it was a tree and this guide was just casual driving and he suddenly stopped, looked out into the distance and said he could see a rhino. We said we could see trees and then we took his binoculars to confirm that it was a rhino. He had amazing instinct. A true park ranger. We stayed at Themba Sunset lodge where the hosts we too nice to the point that we didn’t want to leave. We had outdoor dinner by the fire on our first night with the other guests where we traded stories about our travels and South Africa, lunch over looking the reserve and the animals on our first night and malva pudding to die for on our last night! En route to the airport, we stopped at Blyde River Canyon – one of the largest canyons in the world. One of the most serene locations I have ever been to.
We proceeded to Cape Town and started the Garden Route Tour along the Western CapeKnysa, Arniston and Wildernis. Walking along the storms river at Tsitsikamma National Park, watching the low tide inside the caves at Arniston and sunset cruise around Knysa. There were times where I had to pinch myself and make sure we were still in Africa. Sometimes I thought we were in Sydney. The coastal lifestyle and atmosphere reminded me of Sydney and made me extremely homesick. It was back to Cape Town, where the exploration continued with Robben Island, Table Mountain at sunset, Kirstenbosch gardens, the wedding at a vineyard, Christmas family lunches, and more exploration – Cape Point and Muizenberg to be exact. When asked about South Africa, all I have to say is ‘WOW’. We only explored the tip of the iceberg and that was unbelievably breath taking.

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Going to Ghana, I was apprehensive. I always write about growing up submerged in Ghanaian culture in Sydney. Living in London, I felt remote to that. I have many Ghanaian friends here and family, but the interaction and dynamic was very different to what I was used too. My Akan wasn’t in motion, I was attending traditional functions, going to an African church and what not, so I felt like I had lost my ‘Ghanaian-ness’ somehow.

I went with two cousins, both half Ghanaian. One who had never been and the other who had been twice, but I realised she hadn’t experienced Ghana to the full extent. So I took it upon myself to make it happen. However, I land in Ghana first night I am a bit unsure. Unsure if I can be the Ghanaian backbone for my two cousins. By the third day one of my cousins says to me ‘Wow you truly are in your element’. I shocked even myself. Just shows if something is embedded in you, it’s hard for it to go away. My Akan was following to the point of no return. Taxi drivers were saying how they were fooled by my appearance once I opened my mouth. One of my nieces even told me that my flow with Ghana was on point this time around and last time (four years ago) it was disastrous. Another Aunty joked that I had become a local now and it was more apparent when put next to my two cousins I came with. I remember telling one of my childhood friends about my nervousness prior to Ghana and she basically said that she didn’t understand why I felt the way I felt because she saw Ghana in me. It was all she ever saw. To me, so many things had happened between my last Ghana trip and now. I didn’t enjoy my last Ghana trip and then I have had a few close relatives pass away in Ghana (particularly in the last two years), my dad got sick and my Mum said she wouldn’t retire there and that was her dream. So in my mind, most of the things that I held quite close to my heart didn’t seem to be in Ghana anymore. So I felt uneasiness towards Ghana for sometime. This trip however just reassured how much of Ghana is me.

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Family rounds along with touristy activities (Cape Coast, Elmina Castle, Bojo Beach, Kakum National park) and party sessions just pumped up the vibe. My cousin’s left and I ended up staying for a little longer to support my friend at his grandparents funeral. I had never experienced a Ghanaian funeral in Ghana. I had experienced a few in Australia, been quite close to the action in terms of being part of the mourning family. But being in Ghana for a funeral was a new experience and BOY was it an experience! Two full days of stuff. I can’t even tell you where, what and when. I was just coming home and crashing out on the bed with my clothes still on.

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After the funeral I continued the explorations. Aburi mountains, boat riding at Aqua Safari in Ada, eating at Burger and Relish thinking that I was in Shoreditch or GBK. As mentioned, I have to check my instagram to remember what I did. Now everything seems like a fleeting memory. Still surreal in my mind. When I came back, I felt like I had be woken up from a dream and was rudely awakened by the London cold.

You can catch up on my visual adventure on instagram (@afroklectic) or vsco (@gilleanopoku)

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