There was a minor complication with the flight, as I learned on checking in. Namely, there was a fuel shortage in Accra and we were going to be diverted to Lagos, Nigeria for refueling. I was concerned about the delay this would entail. But I suppose it's nicely ironic in light of having chosen British Air over Lufthansa specifically to avoid Lagos.
In the end, we got to Heathrow about two hours late, which still left me enough time for a quick stroll around the terminal, as well as ducking into the business class lounge to check email. My flight to Washington left a bit late, but arrived on time. All in all, British Air provided excellent service and I think I'm going to have to make sure I keep building up my Alaska Air miles to take advantage of it again.
Immigration and customs at Washington Dulles is always quick and efficient. I decided to treat myself to a taxi home. Normally, the only cabs at Dulles are those run by the Washington Flyer, but their drivers were on strike, so the other companies were allowed in. I didn't think of it at the time, but I wonder now if the bus to West Falls Church was even running. At any rate, a half hour and some forty bucks later, I was back at home.
There are also a few odds and ends I wanted to mention and didn't find a good place to within the text. So here's a rather random assortment of observations along the way:
So, would I recommend a trip like this? Certainly, the eclipse was truly awe-inspiring and worth the journey. I'm not sure that I would become an eclipse groupie, but if another upcoming one is in an otherwise interesting place, it could affect my travel scheduling.
Ghana, in general, I can recommend highly. In fact, I think it would be reasonably doable to travel there independently, though that might not allow as much interaction with traditional villagers. There was a bit more shopping than I'd really have preferred on the tour, but I recognize that's a minority opinion. I felt a real sense of accomplishment by overcoming my terror and doing the rainforest canopy walk at Kakum. And the Asante funeral was a surprising highlight.
I'm far more hesitant about Togo and Benin. The tourist infrastructure in those countries is definitely underdeveloped. I didn't think the cost of the extension (admittedly higher as it was just me) was good value given the accomodations. However, the destinations were interesting and for people like me, who enjoy being out of their comfort zone, it's worth enduring some discomfort to see things like the festish market in Lome, the stilt village of Ganvie, and the masked processions in Benin. I'd add the museums at Abomey and Porto Novo to the "worth-seeing" list only if you're fond of saunas. (I left Benin contemplating a trip to Greenland. In December.) Seriously, why can't the museum directors at least open windows for air circulaton? All that heat and humidity can't be good for the artifacts either.
My frustration with having an allegedly English-speaking guide who couldn't understand enough English to know that questions that start with "when?" or "in what year?" require answers that have to do with time, marred my experience. People who speak French will, obviously, have an easier time of it. I was also annoyed about the continual underestimation of how long things would take. I don't think those were intentional lies, so much as Georges trying to tell me what he thought I wanted to hear and getting it wrong. Or maybe he doesn't know his numbers in English either. The continual struggle to communicate was the most irritating one I've ever had - and I've been to many places where I speak even less of the local language.
The one thing I would definitely recommend if you plan to go to these destinations is to get all of the visas in advance if at all possible, regardless of what anybody (including embassy staff) tell you. While I didn't have an actual problem exiting Benin, things were more stressful than they needed to be. I prefer to be a law-abiding person.
I guess the brief summary is that I like everything except my guide for the extension and two of the hotels in Benin. That's probably not too bad overall as things go.
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last updated 20 April 2006