Eventually we were off, but rather than show the sights off on the way (granted there weren’t many but I am always interested in what places are like) we dashed along a main highway towards Bosumtwi. Beyond the city and the peri-urban areas, we entered a sylvan agricultural landscape. Between medium sized fields of corn and maize were a few bushed and some enormous buttressed trees, the remnants of the jungle which once carpeted the whole region. We started climbing a high ridge, the gateway to the crater, but were stopped at the top. Three burly men were selling tickets for people wishing to descend the other side of the ridge into the crater – about three dollars per car. Two of the guys were larger than anyone I had ever seen – at least seven feet tall, as wide and with muscles that a bull steer would be proud of. There was no way we were going to argue with them. We saw why there was some control on the cars going in, the numbers of trotros (minibuses), cars and bikes which were descending into the lake was incredible.
There was only one road in, which descended about six hundred feet for three miles to a single village on the shores of the lake. The trotros were parked on one side of the narrow road, we drove down the other and anything coming up the hill would have to manoeuvre into a gutter or a backyard before they could get past us. Abulla insisted on getting down into the village before we stopped and we secured a parking space just a few feet from the end of the road. Looking back up the hill we could see hundreds of other vehicles still coming down.
We walked between a few trees to the gravel shores of the lake and walked only a few feet along the shoreline before making camp. We sat and chatted about like while the kids played. Dad spent a long time blowing up a rubber dinghy that the two girls hardly used. We ate our meal, like home cooking anywhere one of the best meals I had in Ghana.
Although it had many of the ingredients of chop they were of better quality and better put together. I was frustrated though because we spent about two hours on the beach, didn’t go for a single walk, didn’t do anything much, before Abulla said it was time to come home. It was only two o’clock. The prospect of returning to UST open prison was too hard to contemplate at this time. But I was premature in worrying about heading back. Since we had arrived, about four hundred more cars and vans had poured into the village, and Abulla’s car was jammed in about four cars deep from the free bit of tarmac. People were milling around all over the place but all the owners of the cars blocking the way were nowhere to be seen. We weren’t the only ones wanting to move, and another angry car owner went off to try and get some help. Abulla just smiled in that “well, this is Africa” kind of way and we leant against the bonnet to watch what was going on.
A bank of woofers and tweeters were hammering out beats from one side of the village, a few hundred people were dancing away. More were watching, drinking heavily, chatting up their women, preening themselves with make up or shouting animatedly at each other on no particular subject. More people were still swarming in from above, snaking their way between the parked cars. A few, like us, were trying to get out. We sat there for nearly an hour, when there was some hubbub down on the shore. Lots of dancers and others went through the trees to find out what was going on and there was a lot of shrieking. Young kids came rushing back from the beach followed by some young men running and shouting. One of them turned and started to fight another, the others tried to pull him off. There was a moment’s stand off, then they ran further into the village and started fighting again. The young kids were going in amongst the people remaining on the road telling them what was happening.
Apparently a young woman had been out trying to swim in the lake and got herself into difficulty. It appeared she had nearly drowned and she was now on the shore being resuscitated by highly excitable and drunk helpers. The man we had seen fighting was a boyfriend or brother or something and was trying to get some professional help, rather than leave it up to the mob to bring her back to life.
Abulla looked rather impassively upon this scene and then tut – tutted. “ This kind of thing happens always, every year we have a holiday. It is like these people are not used to water, they come down here on a holiday and go swimming, but the water is so cold compared to the air, and they freeze, seize up, get cramps and then this happens. Every year… every year.”