The third episode of Kofi Akpabli’s Wechiau Adventure
Having seen all I wanted to see I signalled to my party. Before we set off, our boatman decided to scoop out water from the canoe. Shortly after we set sail, we met another boat with a white couple. They wove gingerly to us. Getting to Wechiau is a rugged adventure still an encouraging number of visitors manage to come for the experience.
Our river safari ended at Talawona where it had started. The name of this place means ‘‘I do not ever want to hear again.’’ It expresses the aspirations of the Lobis who settled here after escaping from constant battles in Burkina Faso. Back on land, we joined my rented car for the 18 km trip to Wechiau.
About ten minutes after we hit the road, we stopped at the Talawona Tourist Lodge. Built in an authentic Lobi style, the accommodation is basic but comfortable. Each room has three single beds covered with a mattress and mosquito net. There is a kitchen, a dining hall and cooks on the ready.
Where to stay
For lodgers who like the outdoor, there is a brilliant idea of a platform mounted up against a kapok tree. Some tourists prefer sleeping there for breeze and closeness to nature. Given the chance, I would love to observe sunset from there.
When we resumed our return trip, we made a number of stops at Lobi compounds. What fascinates me most about northern traditional buildings is the barn. It is basic to the architecture. Much skill goes into how different types of crop harvests are stored and retrieved. I find nothing more secured than living in your own house with your kinsmen with all your food supply for the season right under your watch. Kind of reminds you of Noah’s Ark.
We also stopped by a compound where akpeteshi was being distilled. One would think that this local gin could only be produced in palm or sugar cane growing areas. Well, don’t you wonder anymore. Here, they use sugar as the base for the preparation. We got there at a time the hot stuff was piping out from a barrel into a sieved jar. The smallish distiller and his party were excited the way schoolboys are when their pranks lead them to a positive discovery. They were eager that I have a sip.
Now, there is this thing about village folks. Here is a business unit that has invested so much in a venture. Just as all is set to break even, up comes a gallivanting stranger from God-knows-where and everyone is excited about me participating in their enterprise. That doesn’t happen in A-c-c-r-a.
This genuine warmth towards the next fellow is something city people usually lack. It has to do with an innocent desire to share. Well, bottom-line? Akpeteshi was being offered. So who am I to spoil the goodwill of such kind, innocent souls? Let’s just say there was a swallow. And I got an ovation for that.
Back in Wechiau town, I walked to the visitor centre of Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary. It is one large room which serves as an office, showroom and meeting place. Appropriately, the white, huge skull of a hippopotamus is positioned to welcome you.
The information and finance officer, Abdulai Issahaq received me. It was a busy day for him because it was Wechiau market day. Those visiting included tourists, rangers, and project volunteers from the 17 communities that form the Sanctuary. The centre employs five tour guides, five administrative staff, 10 rangers and 15 boatmen.
I saw souvenirs of tiny hippopotamus made in clay. The walls of the visitor centre are pasted with items that tell the story of the place. Through the efforts of Nature Conservation and Research Centre, an NGO, the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary project has been linked to the Calgary Zoo of Canada. The Dutch Development Organisation, SNV is a partner to the project.
Quite naturally, awards and citations decorate the walls. Among them, ‘‘Community Initiative in Tourism Development’’ won at both Regional and National levels. There is also the SKAL International Award for 2006. I saw the framed photo of the Paramount Chief of Wechiau in a pose during an invitational trip to Canada.
From the centre, I went through town to have a feel. The area you would call the centre of Wechiau town has an unfenced mausoleum. The oldest tomb there is for a chief called Naa Daguo who was buried as far back as 1910.
For entertainment, there is a xylophone music session that can be arranged. Night life in Wechiau is supported by three well-dispersed drinking bars. There is a video centre that runs on a very smoky generator. The night before I had seen children barely in their teens watching the film, ‘‘Lost in the Jungle.’’