06 Aug Hippos of Wechiau: A Trek in Ghana
Wechiau is far away. From what, you ask? From everything.
When I made the decision to visit the Hippo Sanctuary in Wechiau, it wasn’t because I wanted to travel two extra days and it wasn’t because I was yearning to immerse myself in nature (although that is another one of my vagabonding addictions.) It really boiled down to a child-like fascination I have with hippos. I wanted to see one in the wild with the very real possibility that the toothy bastard might charge me.
I traveled from Wa to Wechiau, where the road became a town and pale green savannah grasses swam in the dust. In one of the only buildings (the tourism council or some such nonsense), I scheduled a mandatory guide and place to stay on the banks of the Volta River, the international border between Burkino Faso and Ghana where a community of fifty plus hippos were claimed to be hanging out waiting to stomp on unsuspecting onlookers like little old me.
Well, the yellow-clad tourism official proceeded to double the rates that were printed on the sign in front of me. Apart from that, it was the low season. After a calm (but less than ladylike) argument, he informed me that I had two options: pay the fee or haul my ass two days in the other direction. Point taken. I dished out the cash and he left the room, only to return dressed as my guide. I guess the joke was on me.
Seventeen people piled in a single cab truck as we headed out. When we arrived, my three traveling companions, Agbe (our guide) and I hopped out. The other twelve people rode back the where we’d come from. I found it strange, but I must admit, I was really psyched about the spot. We were in the absolute middle of nowhere without a hut in sight. A small string of traditional mud rooms with hard slab beds made me glad I’d packed my mosquito net (the bugs were, in fact, the size of small housecats).
After dropping my pack, I asked Agbe what the deal was. He’d told me the truck would be back for us in three days, but then he said something that officially made me hate him. “Because it is the rainy season,” he mused, rubbing his chin, “you will see no hippos.” At that point I did something that Mitties are rarely caught doing. I got really pissed.
Lucky for me, the view from the Hippo Hide (oh, the irony), an enormous tree house, and the company of some dear friends kept me from murdering Agbe. I mean, kept me in good-spirits. At the end of the day, when a spectacular full moon rose over the imposing Baobab tree, I knew (hippos or not) the trek had been worth it.