As our van drove past a village en route to Mount Afajato, I noticed a fairly large group of people on the side of the pot holed road. Towards the back of the group, a man waved a branch. Rows of people stood ahead of him. Certain women wore red and black cloth. I assumed it was a funeral procession.
“He’s being banished!” yelled one of the passengers in the van, as we swept past. I looked back and saw that right ahead of the group walked a man. He wore what looked like a white vest and shorts and carried a white bowl. There was a gap of about 3 feet between him and the first row of what I had assumed was the funeral crowd, women dressed in black and red. I had never seen anything like this before. Half-serious, I said to my fellow travelers:
“We should go back and find out what he’s done. Maybe we can give him a lift to the next village”.
One of them responded.
“Ha. You will see the curses that will follow us on this journey if we do that.”
As we drove on, we speculated about what he had done to deserve banishment from his community. The general consensus was that he must have stolen or raped someone.
The day had started at 4am. We boarded a ferry to cross over into the Volta region to climb Mount Afajato, 885 meters above sea level, a journey that took roughly 4 hours.
I was excited to begin the climb, but had no idea that I would end up being the last person in my party to reach the summit. The path leading to the mountain was guarded by trees which must have been there for several decades. The trail to the peak of the mountain was precarious. There were times I stepped over fallen tree trunks, other times I would reach out to grab a branch to help me gain another foothold in my quest to reach the summit. At all times I was wary of the red ants that I could see along the trail. I have heard of many a person stripping naked because one of those creatures made their way into their clothing.
Climbing the mountain was easily one of the most tiring physical activities I have ever undertaken in my life. Our guides were 3 young boys ranging in age from about 7-13. They told us that they climbed the mountain 2-3 times a day. Once in my life was more than enough for me. Without the help of this older American dude who literally held my hand and pulled me up over the more challenging aspects of the trail, I definitely would have given up at the 200 meter mark. I almost felt ashamed of what I thought when I saw this gentleman and his obviously much younger Ghanaian girlfriend.
I unsnapped my bra from underneath my t-shirt, pulled the straps off my shoulders, and freed my boobs. I then wrapped the kanga which had been in my backpack around me and pulled off my t-shirt. I unbuttoned my jeans, doing a little shimmy to get them fully off. My knickers were the final piece of clothing I set free.
Even though I hadn’t brought a swimming costume with me, I was determined to stand under the full force of the Wli Waterfalls like I had seen a group of young men do only a few minutes earlier. Aisha, who belonged to the Adventures Junkies group I was travelling with, was better prepared. She wore a swimsuit and a pair of shorts she bought at the village located at the base of the falls. She and I held hands and waded into the water. As we headed in the direction of the waterfall two young men swam out to us indicating that we should hold their hands and that they would help us get to the waterfall. I was reluctant to accept their help but they stayed with us and told us to “turn and go with your back” as we neared the waterfall and the spray of water started to reach our eyes. Standing under the full force of the waterfall was like standing under 1000 power showers. I didn’t care that my hair was going to get wet and that my waist-long dreads would take a full day to dry. Under the falls I screamed with abandon like I had heard the young men do earlier.
The shower under the waterfall was a befitting end to the mad rush over potholed roads, the long queue, and the drama of facilitating entry onto the ferry. This was a befitting end to day 2 of a three-day trip with the aptly named Adventure Junkies team.
I wondered again, about the man whose banishment we had witnessed earlier, and where his journey would lead. Where does one go with just a bowl in hand and the reprobation of their community behind them? Finally, I asked Aisha if she was ready to turn back.
Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah is a writer, fashion entrepreneur and public relations consultant. Check out more of her writing on the blog, Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women.