After we left Fort St Anthony, we asked around town for directions to Nzulezo and Prince’s Town. It turns out they were in opposite directions. The care taker of the Fort suggested we go to Nzulezo instead. It would be much closer, he said.
Mariel decided that he was wrong. The guide book AND the entry on Wikipedia said that Prince’s Town was only 5 km away from our current position. Given that the internet is never wrong, we ignored his advice and made towards Prince’s Town. We had also been told that visiting Nzulezo meant physically entering people’s private homes in order to tour the village, and most of us found it off putting. To Prince’s Town we went.
Along the way, we stopped periodically to confirm that we were heading in the right direction.
“Ehhh, wo di3, ko straight, enaa branchie right,” were the directions we head again and again. So we branchied (turned) right and found ourselves at a signboard that pointed us in the direction of ‘Princess Town.’
“That didn’t take long at all,” said Mariel with a sly grin.
“No, not really!” chirped Chanelle.
Hmmm. Men. They can be so too known. We all settled back in our seats and continued conversing about the general splendor of the region. Somehow, the subject of boyfriends and partner’s came up. Mariel opened up on the subject, earnestly seeking advice.
“You know, I have this guy friend who has started giving me gifts that are quite troubling,” she said in her sing-song voice.
“What do you mean?” we asked.
“Well, we’re just friends like I said, but he’s been treating me to nice dinners, gave me a really expensive box of chocolates one day and a Movado watch for Christmas,” she said with a furrowed brow. “I was really confused, so I asked one of my guy friends about it.”
For the rest of the women in the car, it was obvious what was going on. This was an older guy trying to buy the affections of a younger woman. And what better way to do that than with a $2000 watch? What she said and did next changed the course of the universe forever.
“My guy friend said he must be gay, and he said I should ask him,” she continued innocently. “So I did. I asked him at dinner one day if he was gay. He seemed very shocked by the question and he’s been very distant ever since.”
She let the words hang in the air, as if she was still genuinely confused by the series of events. We couldn’t jump in fast enough.
“Ah. But you Mariel paaa, you’ve gone to ask a full blooded older Ghanaian man if he’s gay?”
“And after he’s gifted you with such an expensive watch?”
“Did he ask for the watch back?”
“Like if it was me, I would come and collect my watch!”
“Oh…no,” replied Mariel dreamily. “He hasn’t asked for it back, but if he did, I would happily give it to him.”
I couldn’t believe this woman. She was so sweet she could give you diabetes. In fact, I think I felt my kidneys go into shock. We each gave our advice to her from our own perspectives and experiences and secretly hoped she would get a clue.
Soon the topic turned back to our destination, which was still not getting any closer. The road got rougher and rougher, and huge tipper trucks zoomed past us, throwing dust and mud in our view. Mariel had carefully wiped her windshield with baby wipes that morning (yes, baby wipes), but the effort seemed all for naught at this point. The Twins bumped along in the car behind us until we got to a huge pond in the middle of the road.
“Oh my God!” I yelled from the back seat. “How do we get over that?”
“It looks like someone has set up some bamboo sticks on the side of the road,” Chanelle pointed out.
“Perhaps we should drive over them?” said Emefa.
“Okay,” Mariel chirped brightly.
She obediently turned her wheel towards the right of the road. The car lurched, burped, and we were stuck.
Six Sticks in the Road
“We’re stuck in the mud,” I said, stating the obvious.
“No we’re not,” said Mariel optimistically.
She ground her foot on the accelerator and sent thick red clay spraying all over the windows of the car. Someone yelped and squealed in fear.
“We’re stuck in the mud,” I said again.
“Right,” she said assertively. “We’re just going to have to push it out of the mud.”
Emefa, Chanelle and I bent determinedly in front of the hood of the car which was now quickly sinking into the clay. Mariel got into the driver’s seat and put the car in reverse. It was no use.
“Do you I have 4 wheel drive?!?” I asked desperately. Sweat was pouring down my back. I was nervous and hot, and half expected a jaguar or mmotia to come and drag me into the woods.
“No,” Mariel sung. “It’s a two wheel drive.”
Panic set in with full force. I felt a rush of power enter my legs. The seriousness of our situation had washed over every woman there.
“Give it gully girls!!!”
Mariel gunned the gas and we lifted the car out of the mud. It moved 3 feet back and we roared with pride.
“We’ve got girl power!!!” Chanelle growled.
Ah. But why wasn’t Mariel moving the car back to the main road, eh?
“It’s stuck again,” she said simply.
I tried to conjure up my inner Girl Scout, but she had long since fled and abandoned me. I knew we needed friction, but from where? Mariel was apparently on the same path of my thinking. She began to pluck little bits of twig and leaves from the bamboo sprouts and laid them neatly under the front tires.
“Now let’s try it,” she said hopefully.
This time Chanelle got behind the wheel and we pushed anew. As she floored the gas, the front left tire rubbed viciously on the fresh foliage. It sparked a small fire. This was the only time Mariel showed any emotion even resembling concern.
“Wait, wait! I see smoke. Maybe we should put the fire out before we continue?”
Was she for real? She reached into her glove compartment and pulled out a bottle of Voltic water.
“Is that the bumper I see on the ground?” she asked obviously.
Indeed, it was. A piece of her undercarriage was planted in the mud. Things were getting worse! At that moment, a red trotro came rolling past. Great! We would have some help.
The driver of the car stuck his head out of the window and shouted at us.
“Heh! Nkwai ni ho! (The road is not there) Adein na wo ko fa ho? (Why did you take that side)?”
He smiled condescendingly and kept moving.
Ten minutes later another trotro came rolling through the scene. As he rumbled through the pond (which was really a small water table), he repeated the other driver’s admonition.
“Heh! Nkwai ni ho!” he shouted…and kept driving.
A guy on a motor cycle too came along and revved his engine. He had the audacity to drive between us and the ditch where the car sat, forcing ME to step aside so he could get to the other side. By this point I was just pissed. Ghanaian men SUCKED.
We had exhausted our options, and were in the middle of nowhere. Just as I was about to give up hope, Emefa saw 3 men and a boy approaching in the distance. She changed tactics and introduced a new character: The Damsel in Distress. She flagged them down and mournfully explained our circumstances.
“Unkre (uncle), so please, can you help us move our car?” she begged apologetically.
“Ah,” said one with patronizing disgust. “But nkwai ni ho!”
They continued for another few minutes explaining that we should have gone over the standing water and asking us why we went this way, and didn’t we see the other cars passing over the water until Chanelle had had enough.
“Look! We can either stand here and talk about it, or you can help us move the bloody car!” She was mixing Twi and English and throwing her hands about.
All conversation ceased after that.
The men ushered us aside and in a few minutes emancipated the car from its muddy captivity. We jubilated and cackled with glee. One of the men even got under the car and fixed the bumper. I offered him money, but he refused to take it. I saw why. Mariel was thanking them individually and he wanted to get to her to receive her gratitude. She clasped each of their hands in hers and shook it gently.
“Thank you, thank you,” she whispered melodiously in accented Twi (she’s Ewe). “Nyame bless you for your kindness. Thank you, thank you!”
We waved goodbye to our saviors – who had redeemed the virtue of Ghanaian men in my view – ad had to take a decision. Did we risk carrying on to Princess/Prince’s Town, or go back? Surely something spectacular waited for us at the end of this journey.
“We’re not going back,” I said flatly. “Not after all this. I’m gonna see me a castle today if it’s the last thing I do!”