Seeking adventure? Willing to be homeless for the weekend? Ready to party from dusk till dawn? Love random conversations with strangers on a beautiful breezy beach over beers or palm wine, about anything from deep thoughts of the cosmos to tickled musings on how Wanlov manages to tread hot, stony, weedy or manure-filled paths with his bare feet? Resilient enough to carry your suitcase-on-wheels from the campsite across the hotel street to the swimmers’ bathroom every time you need to take a bath, so you can keep an eye on your stuff? (You will love this part of the story!) Want to have a “bona fide bucket list experience?”
Happy May Day! You’re employed, you earn a living… even if not, you’re alive, and hopefully healthy. Thank God it’s Monday!
And thank God it’s not too late to have those experiences you dream of, the kind that you just ache to share with your best friends, or grand kids, or fun people at a bougie mixer, or just random ones on the Internet like I’ve been moved to do (but have been feverishly procrastinating) since 4th March 2017, even as I made friends on the bus to Busua beach, Western region, for my 1st taste of Asa baako (which means “one dance”) – Ghana’s “Bush fabulous” (self-described on their website), popular but still quite underground beach music festival and jungle party.
(Here’s a tip: You may not have the time to read this in 1 sitting, but if you leave it open in your browser and remember to go back to it for those dumsor times or long waits in traffic, you’ll enjoy the whole flight!)
Now first, I would just like to state that I am aware of how difficult it is for most people (especially myself) to plan, save and embark on a trip anywhere – even one as seemingly simple as a weekend away from Accra, in the Western Region. But sometimes, a chunk of the difficulty is from a lack of information on the different options available. So by the end of this post, I hope you will realize how possible and fulfilling it is, and be inspired to expand your world, perhaps for the next holiday
So let’s begin!
Since we’re on the subject of the difficulties of travel, I will just clear the first hurdle – money.
I had budgeted GH800 for the 2-and-a-quarter day trip to take care of T&T, accommodation, food, souvenirs and as many fun activities as I could enjoy (I had to do at least one thing on the water!);
Hoped to spend not more than GH700;
Actually ended up spending GH320 in total.
Ok, I will admit – that was thanks to a little… kululu but don’t tell anyone! I was able to err… technically avoid one of the main expenses. But anyway, without that, the entire trip would still have cost less than GH650, so there.
Now, another of the horrible headaches, especially when travelling for or during a popular event – accommodation. *sigh* This is the plain truth: most event organizers (let’s keep it to Ghana, where I’ve had the most experience) do not do most attendees justice at all when it comes to booking places for their lodging. Without singling out Asa baako organizers (whom I will applaud for initiating the wonderful festival and keeping it going every year since 2011), you should just know this – you may have booked with the event people a year ahead of time, you may have booked barely a week before (like some of us who almost never know if our jobs or pockets will allow us until the last minute) – you will most likely arrive at the location, and find that it has been overbooked, and you may have to share an ideally 1-bedroom with others, or worst case, there is no more space.
The best thing is to get there ahead of time, maybe some days before, and pay at least a percentage (if possible) for your lodging.
Of course, it will not always be bad, but please just be aware. Even if the booking is with those in charge at the place you’ll be staying themselves, or with a reputable booking agency like booking.com, you may be in for a rude awakening when you get to the location, and they tell you sorry, no space, as it happened to my friends and I when we arrived at an even less-modest-than-it-looked-online guest house in Kwahu during the Easter holidays. I can still remember the look on my Dutch friend’s livid face, as she repeatedly showed the booking.com confirmation on her phone to the not-so-literate housekeeper who adamantly maintained there was nothing she could do for us. Serendipitously, we were pointed to what is probably the best hotel to stay in Kwahu, directly facing the mountains, only a few minutes away from where we’d booked, but we’ll talk more about that trip when we get to Flying with no plane.
Alright, enough with the challenges!
On to Beaches…
I’ve talked quite a bit, so I’ll try and sum this up without losing too much sugar.
So Asa Baako has a well-done website, which offers satisfactory information about the festival, suggestions on lodging in the area near the festival, and their own packages for accommodation – from insanely to least expensive: staying at the grand 3-star Busua Beach resort; staying in one of the simple but lovely lodges lining the beach or near the Busua town (the ideal package, which ran out apparently months before the festival); camping on one of the vast park-like lawns of the Busua Beach resort.
After days of calls to places in Busua, tearing out my hair, giving up on the idea, falling in love with it again, I settled on joining the Asa baako bus with a friend to go check out a place near the beach we were still not sure of. Suffice to say, almost nothing went as planned.
This is rather unfair, but I am going to now speed it up:
After patrolling the town for an hour in search of an ATM and going to see the place we had booked, which turned out to be no walking distance from the festival, we ended up having to share a camp tent with a cool lady friend we made while waiting for the bus leaving Accra, plus a dope music producer guy also from our bus. Doesn’t sound bad… But then, it rained! That first evening – before we could go and “detty ourselves” on the beach – the 10 or so old and yellowed Iranian Red Cross tents got badly beaten and leaked onto the leather-bound student mattresses packed like sardines inside. Hmm… There was no escaping getting our hands dirty, but with the help of some humble, good Samaritan boys from the hotel/resort front desk (where we were allowed to keep our belongings), we managed to clean our tent.
Then there was the fun!
One thing though – the whole trip had been bittersweet for me from the very start, because I couldn’t go with my best friend, and I didn’t think I could have much fun without him.
Honestly, I still wish he could have come along, but I did have these valuable experiences that really opened my eyes to know more about myself and the universe around me.
And the fun? Well, we had the likes of stellar artistes like Red Red (supercool Mensah & his amazing Hungarian bandmates) and M.anifest giving their electrifying performances, drinks and kyekyenga tings everywhere, getting blem on the beach and suddenly opening up about how we perceive things under different circumstances, and what we observe of ourselves perceiving those things… Also, that curious question about Wanlov’s bare feet came up ()
We got to chat a little with M.anifest (😍 ), then went back to the campsite in the middle of the night – only to find our clean tent had been CLAIMED by other campers! LMAO! (It was not funny at all at that time!) Half-asleep already, we traipsed around the site with our phone torches, peeping in tents until we found an empty, half decent one; we tidied up, settled in, then spotted the spiders.
They had fat bodies, but seriously spindly legs – crawling towards our toes and faces. We managed to kill about 6, then we saw them – like an army!
Charley, my mother didn’t raise me to pay generously for a tent and share it with Kweku Ananse’s family! We unzipped the m0t*6r4u2k6r and fled!!!
Two of my friends and I slept in the loungers by the hotel pool, illegally, with 1 eye shut, so we could watch out for any disapproving staff, organizers or haters. Our dear lady friend, Awo, slept in one of the hotel staff’s office. And from hence, we named our squad The Busua Fugees!
We woke up early the next day, showered – Wait, I promised you’d love this! So, every time Awo & I made the 10-or-so-minute journey from the tents to the front desk to get our stuff to the bathrooms by the hotel gate, Awo would pull along her travelling bag-on-wheels, so she wouldn’t waste time taking things out, or forget something she needed. (God bless you, Awo!)
Fresh and clean, we went for our 1-time complimentary but paltry jollof pack for breakfast, did a lil tour of the hotel, then Aloha! Beach tiiiiiiiime!
We met some amazing people – bumped into some I knew from work, shared some beers, all of a sudden, got to chatting with them about relationships, personal heartbreak stories, psychedelic substances, and the pineal gland or what most know as the 3rd eye. Expialidocious!
We took strolls along the beach, stopping to dance once a while, to talk to a familiar face – or unfamiliar one, we stuffed our faces, kept rehydrating, then bumped into Tasia.
Ok, so those of you who think some of us just have money to be chilling chilling – pay attention. Here was Anastasia (or Tasia), whom I’d befriended in Takoradi a few years ago, now mixing and selling cocktails & coconuts on the beach. Get this – Tasia is a young, but already well respected model, nevertheless, she did not yet have a full-time job. So what does she do when she realizes a few days before that she wants to go to Asa baako and not pay a fortune? She pools a few friends and resources together, they make the trip from Takoradi to Busua which is about an hour away, and set up their drinks stand, make their money, then save it by sleeping on! the! beach!
See what a little creativity can do? You CAN have fun AND even earn money while doing it! Skolom!
Following these exciting encounters, the highlight of that sunny Sunday was a bumpy canoe ride from the shore to a tiny, rocky island 20mins away. Knowing some of us were not the best swimmers in the world, and with no life jackets or any support other than the rugged fishermen’s steering and coaxing of the battered canoe motor back to life every 2 minutes, there were some on the canoe who couldn’t help but call on Jesus a few times with every rolling wave (you know yourself, hun 😘 )
The island was lovely. Peaceful, with just the sound of waves crashing against the rocks, and the wind howling among the plants – the only inhabitants other than the tiny fish in the little pools formed by the rocks… Some of us took a piece of it away with us – in stone souvenirs 😌
And now… to the cocktails!!!
Have you ever heard of the “Ahanta fire?” I did not linger by the bar to find out if it was a Busua or Takoradi thing, or exclusively made for the festival, but charley, if you ever go to the Jungle Party at Asa baako, do well to ask for it 😉 “Jungle Party?” Yes. A quite “lit” party in a forest area not too far from the Busua beach – or so they told us – actually, no – some guy there told us the jungle was about 10mins away, so we The Busua Fugees (which also consisted of a cool photographer dude from Nigeria, and an interesting American guy, Philip, who slept on the beach) stomped our sneakers and set off from the resort. Now, if you’re familiar with Ghanaians and directions, you’ll not be surprised that after 30mins of walking on the narrow, dark street (only guided by the moon and our phone lights), surrounded by forest on both sides, we were still not at this jungle. It. took. us. 45. minutes. of. walking. to. get. there. While revelers drove past.
Needless to say, we had mad fun once we got there. At a point, there were some glitches with electricity, and the DJ had been rather off in the beginning, but they managed to fix the problems after some down time, the cocktails were buzzin, we ran off to go sit in the trunk of somebody’s pick-up for a while and look at the million stars in Busua’s almost perfect sky, Wanlov, Sena and others gave explosive performances as expected, we went back and actually had a good night’s rest in the cleanest tent, and suddenly, it was Monday, and we were back on the beach to enjoy the place for the last before the bus for Accra came tootin’ at noon…
On the whole, it was a truly worthwhile experience. I made some good friends – both from Ghana and abroad… I saw another part of the country and its people – even the hustle to find an ATM gave me the chance to really see Busua and its neighbouring town, Agona… I learnt a little about the third eye, and will be learning more about that and other things from the conversations we had… I learnt more about myself and how well I have grown to adapt to situations that are far from my comfort zone.
Aaaand Flying with no plane is AWESOME!!!
A month later, I was a little wiser, I had saved some more money, Easter was upon us, and it was time to fulfill one of my bucket list wishes I had been yearning to for years – PARAGLIDING!
Gosh, this is some writing I’ve done this May Day! Please allow me to continue this tomorrow.
There’s more goodness to come… 💃