When I realised I had to stay overnight at Ho, the capital of the Volta Region, I was not amused. I had always had this impression that I needed to 'psyche' myself up to make the trip there, more so, stay overnight. I visited Ho the first time several years ago when I was much younger. I had an unpleasant experience that time, so I was of the conviction that Ho was not one of the places I particularly wanted to visit. Like many Ghanaians, I had quite a hang-up about the people from this part of our country, and didn't think very much about their lot. Never mind that many of my closest friends come from here. Moreover, with all the tourism talk, and not finding much about the Region to talk about, it was the last place I ever thought had anything exciting to offer.
So this Monday evening, as I sit in this VanefSTC bus speeding towards the town, I find my mind rushing through all kinds of unpleasant possibilities about where to stay and what to do. Luckily I would only be there over night. My meeting was almost informal, so we could have it tonight and then be on my way first thing in the morning with the VanefSTC bus which goes there from Accra only once a day at 3pm and leaves there back to Accra at 4am!
My uneasiness about doing this trip was compounded when the bus became ready for boarding one and quarter hours after the scheduled time of 3pm. Having travelled to Kumasi, Cape Coast, Takoradi and a few other places on their buses lately, and each time getting improved service, I was most disappointed and annoyed when this time round they were so late. More so when no one from the office at the Tudu branch where the Ho buses leave, came to apologise or even offer an explanation. Just as I was about to return my ticket for my money back, the bus came. I joined it only after I considered the urgency of the trip, and once we were on the way the bus was fast and drove rather very smoothly. Like clockwork, we were driving on the beautiful suspension bridge over the Volta Lake at Atimpoku within an hour, with approximately another hour and half to go.
Night was fast approaching as we careered on, my expectations getting wilder by the minute. By the time we got to the town, it was completely dark. As I no longer wear wrist watches these days, I couldn't really tell the time, but soon I could decipher it; as we halted at a red traffic light, I could hear the GTV news at 7 jingle being played in the distance. Looking out of the window, the town looked lively especially nearer the bus station. Aside the typical calls from mates looking for passengers, there was the usual loud music from a sound system over there, and this way, little kids, in tatters, playing, laughing with no care in the world. The night air was cool, with the distinctive smell of kelewele - hot spiced fried plantains - lingering along, and reminding me of how hungry I was by then.
It was a complete town that I saw, with every major governmental and corporate institution in place; the IRS, Ghana News Agency, Ghana Commercial Bank, Ghana Roads and Highways, Barclays Bank, and recently opened, Readwide Bookshop! We even drove past the stadium along Starlet '91 Street.
I was meeting my party at the Chances Hotel, and I was to stay overnight there tonight. Not having heard anything about this hotel previously, I went there nonchalant and unexpectant. As it was dark, I was just as unimpressed as we entered the unassuming grounds. The reception was just as simple, but clean and modern, and there sat Gladys, the first pleasantry since I arrived in Eweland, well, after the familiar smell of kelewele.
Gladys checked me in and before long I was ushered into room 27. There, my excitement rising, I appreciated that appearances really are deceptive! From the reception to my room, we passed a manicured lawn of perfect green grass decorated with white lamps, coconut trees, cosy benches with tables, and a sand bay with swings and things for kids to play with. Room 27 was in an unfinished block, which looked suspicious at night. But inside, the room was a breath of fresh air. Air-conditioned, it was floored with white tiles, and white walls, with a twin bed that looked king-size. The room was too spacious for a hotel room, and as soon as Alex, the porter left after settling my bag down, I began to twirl and jump and kick in an ecstatic manoeuvre that would have had you just stand and watch in utter amusement! By Jove, I was excited. This was nothing like I expected and I then began to relax, feeling I could like this place. Brightly lit, and just as spacious with hot shower, the private bathroom was right next to the room, I found myself on the floor, pushing-up before I entered the shower where I took a long most refreshing wash.
I met my associate for our meeting in the 80-seater City Gate restaurant. Doris, the waitress, was funny. Though they didn't have most of what I wanted in the menu, she wouldn't tell me what they had ready, and insisted I tell her what I wanted, just for her to say, "We don't have it." Eventually, I had a sumptuous plate of Pepper Steak with Rice, and it was delicious. Apparently the chef was French from Togo, and his repertoire on the menu was quite exciting as well, with intricate salads, stirfry's, and grilled fishes and other proteins.
A drink on the lawn with all the coconut palm surrounding us was nice. I felt completely relaxed. Nothing at the moment reminded me that I was in Eweland, a place that I had a hang-up about. I wished that the night wouldn't end. But soon I was back in my room. We were to return to Accra at dawn, setting out latest by 5. On M-Net was showing an interesting movie whose title I didn't see. I watched some of it and soon drifted into slumber. My wake-up call alarmed me. I managed to drag myself out of bed and took another hot shower, and joined my associates out at the car park, sorry to be leaving. The tranquillity that existed at this hotel, which is set on the outskirts of the town, was loud. In the darkness, I decided to take another last tour of the grounds before leaving. I noticed a 120-seater conference hall, an Internet cafï¿½, an art and craft shop, also stocked with vacation necessities like toothbrushes etc...
Emmanuel Chance, a builder by profession, has been building this illustrious and tasty hotel for the past ten years, literally putting up a chalet a year. Today, it has 16 self-contained chalets and another 52 rooms with twin beds by the end of the year. Plans are afoot for a swimming pool, and Mr Chance is also plotting an adventure trail up the nearby Kabakaba Mountain which actually engulfs the area, giving it a greenery which is quite rare. And as he tells me, the Volta has a whole lot more than just the Lake to offer including the Wli falls, caves and grottos in many parts, 'hikeable' mountains and monkey sanctuaries.
The drive back to Accra was equally stimulating, as I observed sunrise driving along the foot of lush Peki Hills, whose beyond, I understood, lay Kpeve, a town set along the Volta Lake, to my right, and to my left, a large expanse of land dotted with shrubs and trees. Having warmed up to the Volta, I could take in more of the Region's beauty, which I think is understated. In two and half-hours, we were driving into Accra on the Tema motorway, back into the traffic, wondering why I had not done the Volta Region long ago.