Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 1289 - Babooooooooons

On Thursday, we got Mr. George to come pick us up pretty early so that we could do an ambitious two-part (we'd thought maybe three-part, but that turned out to be too much) trip up north of Accra into the hills.

First stop, Shai Hills Reserve!  We almost missed it.  George is a great guy, but his English is the weakest of Mr. Lartey's crew.  So, when my mom and I spotted a gate at what we thought was the right junction and pointed it out, he said, "no, we are not there yet."  We thought that he meant that he knew where we were going, and that we hadn't yet reached it.  As the gate had looked pretty deserted, and I knew there was another northern gate, I figured we had to go up to Sayu Camp to get in.  But it turns out that he had thought we were asking whether we were there yet, and it was only after the third time that I asked him, "are you sure?" and pointed out where I thought we were on my map, that we figured out the confusion, with him saying, "if you saw the gate, why did you not say something?"

Anyway, no harm done and we got back to the gate ahead of the massive (three tour buses full, massive) student tour group there from Volta.  We hired a nice guy named Timothy as our guide and went out looking for animals.

We were not disappointed!  About 500m into the reserve itself, we came across the troop of olive baboons that were reputed to hang out near the entrance, and I breathed a sigh of relief.  Mission accomplished.  Dad has provided dancing and two kinds of monkeys.

Here's a snap of the first one we saw:

We didn't want Ruth to go too close - she was excited after her close encounter with monkeys at Tafi Atome! - because these baboons aren't really properly habituated to humans.  As I told her, "baboons can be grumpy."  But Timothy ended up taking some crackers from my mom and feeding one of them, and they seemed pretty curious about us.  We watched them kind of mill around, and jump through the trees for a while.  Ruth was pretty excited about the baby that was clinging to her mother's fur as they hopped around.  To be fair, it was pretty cute!  I didn't get a good photo of that, but here two more (one with my folks):

After the baboons, we doubled back to see some ostriches.

The ostrich sighting wasn't really a wild game sighting, as the ostriches are refugees from a zoo (I think they said the Kumasi zoo) and still in a large fenced-in area. They're apparently going to be allowed to run wild once they get better acclimated to their new surroundings.  But Ruth still thought they were cool, even if the best snap I got of one was right as it decided to stop looking impressive and start digging for bugs in its feathers.

After the ostriches, the plan was to head up to the Sayu Camp gate to drive toward where there's a bat cave (about 5k from the gate) that was once used as a palace for the chief of the Shai people, before an unfortunate misunderstanding with the British colonizers (the Shai were under the misunderstanding that just because they'd been there hundreds of years before the Brits and were mostly minding their own business, they had any rights).

The guide had said that most of the roads in Shai Hills were accessible only by 4x4, but Timothy seemed game, and he was the guide, so...

After having to push poor George's car out of the mud twice, and then changing to a different road with five-foot high grass growing in the median and rocks that a few times sounded like they were about to tear out the undercarriage (and with Ruth getting a bit tired and hot and grumpy)

we decided that we'd rather have an intact car than a visit to the bat cave.  So Ruth and my mom stayed in the car with George and most of the water, and Timothy took my dad and I out looking for antelope.

Along the way, I just appreciated the beauty of the area.  Shai Hills is an area of coastal savanna, broken up by large (mostly granite) inselbergs.  I hope you think inselbergs are as awesome as I do, because here are a few pictures of them:

We heard there were impressively large rock python in the area, but we didn't come across any.  We did in fact see some antelope!  But the thing about antelope is that they're prey animals, and so evolution (darn you evolution!) has given them very good eyesight.  By the time we were close enough (about 100 miles, by my estimate) to sort of kind of make them out, they had counted our nosehairs and were convinced we were a threat.  Every time we would even move, the herd would bolt a bit further - at that distance, it was actually pretty uncanny.

(my homeopathic antelope picture)

After seeing the antelope, we went back to the car and then on for lunch, where my parents finally tried banku (and at least my dad liked it).  Then, on to Kpong!

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