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The incredible expanse of the Kumasi Market. Photo by Mike Hoeffner

We had an incredible Indian meal on arrival in Kumasi – albeit an adventure in travel just trying to get the taxi to get us to the restaurant, which as far as he was concerned – didn’t exist. Having looked up the address, we kept repeating where the restaurant was located, per the guidebook, and he kept pulling over to ask random people if they knew more than he did about what we were muttering.

None of the cab drivers in Kumasi seemed to know anything about anywhere in their city. It’s always amusing, if not stressful – but this is so Africa. Funnily enough, I had my own brain fart when it finally dawned on me that since I’d gone to the trouble of buying an SIM card and had Ghanaian credit for 3G – I could have just pulled the restaurant up on Google Maps and given the taxi driver play by play directions. I laughed hard when this dawned on me.

Me Jack and Mike at the Asanti Museum

The next day we had free time and it occurred to me that my brain was starting to get “travel soft” in the sense that I was starting to too heavily rely upon Sinead and the truck to tell me where to go and what to do. This happens when you’ve been on an organized tour for too long. I was so not in the mood to visit the enormous market in Kumasi, nor go to the many museums this center of the might Asanti nation had to offer. Primarily, I was in a bad mood because my time of the month had still not arrived. But there was another issue that was bugging me.

The following day, this “section” of the trip would come to an end; and the few members of the truck that I had formed an emotional attachment with would be leaving the journey as we started the next leg of the itinerary – the 21 day tour through Togo and Benin. Mike, Peter, and Danny were all leaving the truck, and I was gonna miss them the most.

Need some Pray toothpaste?

On top of that – I had learned that another member of the group, Jodi, was desperate to stay and do the Togo/Benin loop but had been told that there were no available spaces for her, barring someone who had booked on from Accra not showing up due to some unforeseen circumstance.

Mike was going to be traveling through roughly the same region solo, and we had casually discussed the possibility of my joining him. But this possibility hinged on whether or not Dragoman would allow a “name-change” this late in the game – meaning Jodi would be able to stay on the truck, and I’d be able to get off and be reimbursed for the cost of the trip by Jodi herself.

Hilarious front page of local paper in Kumasi

When I was under the impression that this was quite possible three days prior to Kumasi, I was actually quite excited by the idea, but we had since discussed this with Sinead and learned that Dragoman didn’t typically allow for such a last minute change without incurring cancellation charges.

So…for the most part, we had left the idea alone – believing that Dragoman wasn’t going to permit such a change in any case – and so giving it anymore serious consideration was a waste of time.

It was in the late morning on our visit to Kumasi, that Sinead messaged Mike saying that Dragoman had finally responded to her email declaring that they would be ok with Jodi staying on the truck and me getting off…but the caveat was that I’d have to decide that day.

And so began what was ultimately two days of internal monologue and agonizing back and forth decision-making. Poor Mike is as bad as I am at making decisions and we agonized over the pros and cons finally resting on leaving things as they were on that particular evening.

Penultimate meal with the Truck crew in Kumasi

Though we did visit several museums including the former royal palace, which was very interesting indeed, I was super distracted and couldn’t figure out exactly what I wanted. I have always valued independent travel and figuring out the logistics of getting from A to B, in addition to being free to decide where I wanted to stay and for how long. Mike is one of the most proficient and capable travelers I’d ever met and I trusted him implicitly – but spending one on one time with someone you’ve only known in a group setting can be difficult to predict.

I felt haunted and just didn’t know what the best choice was (this is funny to me now in retrospect…hindsight is so 20-20)

The following day Mike and I sat together on the truck for the drive to Accra as this was technically his “last day on the truck”. Something still wasn’t sitting right within me and by the time we arrived in Accra, I knew I’d made the wrong choice. Right before our goodbye evening meal – I went to Mike and told him I’d decided to give my spot to Jodi. He gave me his blessing and now I just had to tell Jodi and Sinead. Sinead told me she would immediately tell Dragoman and would have to shuffle some paperwork to get Jodi’s visas sorted out in time. Jodi was utterly ecstatic and this made me extremely happy. Though nervous I almost instantly knew I’d made the right choice and felt such a wave of relief – especially after announcing the change at dinner – much to the disbelief of everyone staying on the truck. Miller immediately asked “Mike! Are you sure, man? You really want to travel with Anita?!!!” – which I took to be a joke, but he was really drunk and might have been totally sincere. I didn’t care either way.

The following day Mike was really sick with a cold – so we moved him into what would now be our room at the hotel and I set about spending a day in internet cafes doing research for our itinerary and coming up with a plan for how we were going to go about this journey on our own. It was exhausting and frustrating at times due to wifi speeds but I had almost forgotten just how much I enjoy and am gifted at trip planning. Despite being groggy and under the weather, I think Mike appreciated my efforts and by that evening, we had re-packed – leaving everything non-essential in a spare duffel bag to leave on the truck (we planned to meet up with it in Ganvie, Benin) and we had our plan in hand.

First we would head to the Burkina Fasso Embassy in the morning as soon as Sinead handed me back my passport with my Togo visa in it. Then we would head to the Lake Volta region first for 3 nights, returning to Accra that Friday to pick up my passport and fly (saving two days of buses) north to Tamale where we could get transport to Mole National Park. We would then head north to Burkina Fasso and the Tiabele villages in the south before taking in the capital and heading east to Benin. After Penjari National Park we would head south and catch up with the truck for some beach, voodoo, and stilt village time.

I was excited!! Goodbye Dragoman truck – hello independence and god knows what may happen!!!

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