I’m in denial. The reality started to sink in when we landed, but it hasn’t really sunk in yet. We are in Accra, Ghana – that is – West Africa! The smells remind me of a combination of Costa Rica and some kind of burning smell. Scott said it reminded him of diesel, I thought it was more like burning vegetation (like Thailand without the spiciness of Thailand) or burning coal. We can’t quite figure it out. Unfortunately, our flight was late leaving Washington DC, such that we arrived at our hotel at dusk. It’s not safe for us to wander the unfamiliar streets at night, so tonight we will forgo the walk downtown and eat at the hotel (after a quick swim in the hotel pool).
On the drive from the airport to the hotel, we got to see street vendors trying to sell various things whilst the traffic was stopped. The women selling things (water, some snack foods) carried the food on their heads using a special tray. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any pictures, we were tired. At major intersections, traffic was controlled by a policeman or some other uniformed traffic official. I don’t recall seeing any lights.
Getting through the airport reminded us how unpracticed we are at arriving at airports in developing countries – with the many touts that try to “friend” you by helping you with something and then try to separate you from your money. Today, Steve decided to be our new friend and offered to have us use his cell phone call the hotel for pick-up. Of course before long, we saw ourselves give him 20 Cedi (about $10) to recharge his phone (way more than he needed – he had asked only for $1 US but we didn’t have any small bills, and with a few switch ups we ended up giving him the 20). He did help us order the shuttle and took us outside to wait for it. He answered many questions, and he and the parking lot attendant kept us entertained while we waited for the shuttle. He made sure we got on the shuttle, but of course asked for another “tip”. Given that excessive overpayment for the phone, we were not about to give him more. The hotel shuttle driver was amused at his boldness (and perhaps impressed at our ability to say no). We did realize that we need to carry more small bills. It was a good reminder that we are naive, especially in airports. We are too accustomed to arriving on bicycle without the hassle of tourists and touts – such that people tend to be much more genuinely friendly.
Although we arrived late, we both got a reasonable amount of sleep on the plane. They had messed up our seats somehow, such that when we went to checkin we were not seated together. When we got to the airport in Ottawa, we asked them to put us together, but they couldn’t because all the seats were locked – something about an equipment change. By the time we got to Washington the plane was packed. There was a huge waiting list for seats in economy, and no easy way to move us. We went to the lounge (Scott is Aeroplan Elite, so we get access), and asked there if they could get us seated together. After several more gate changes, and flight delays, Scott went to the gate with our story, and somehow a gate agent took pity on us. Not only did we get seated together, but we scored a free business class upgrade! Thanks United! This certainly made for a nice start to our vacation, and made up for the three hour delay 🙂