Today was African Unity Day, a public holiday in Ghana.
My plan was to visit either Kantamanto Market or Makola Market, the latter being the second largest market in Ghana.
But after reading some of the comments on TripAdvisor (never a good idea!), I got cold feet and decided to put these on ice for the moment.
Instead, I opted for the next item on my Must See list, which was Labadi Beach.
From what I could make out from Tourguide Google there were a number of restaurants, bars and shops in the area around Labadi.
However, once we got there, and the Uber driver asked me where I wanted to be dropped, I could not see anything other than a highway, a garage and a long wall.
The long wall belonged to the Labadi Beach Hotel. So, typical Oburoni, I opted for the long wall.
Which was a good thing, seeing as I had barely pushed the hotel door open before the heavens opened.
(I am still surprised every time it starts to rain in Ghana – because it always arrives completely out of the blue (literally!) and then buckets down for a couple of minutes, before disappearing as suddenly as it appeared.)
And when in Labadi Beach Hotel (when it rains), do as the Labadi Beach Hotel guests do: Sit on the veranda and have coffee.
So I sat on the veranda and had a coffee.
When the rain cleared (3 sips later), I casually asked the waitress what the best way would be for a hotel “guests” to get to the beach.
She pointed towards a wooden walkway, beyond the hotel pool, which crossed a stream and then disappears beyond the trees.
A couple of minutes later I crossed the stream and I arrived at a low wall, with a little wooden gate, which the hotel security guard opens for me.
I stepped through the gate.
And straight into Neverland! There are horses, and quad bikes, and acrobats, and tables and chairs on the beach as far as the eye can see, and hundreds and hundreds of people; walking, riding horses, playing soccer, swimming, selling things. Lots of things!
Completely intimidated, I hesitated, unsure which way to go. And wondering whether reversing is an option.
When out of the corner of my eye, I saw a young man approaching.
He introduced himself as the hotel security guard’s cousin. He is an artist and his name is Don D.
He asked whether I would like to see some of his paintings, and when I said yes please (relieved to have something to do!), he started to unroll them one by one onto the sand.
When he had unrolled a couple he suddenly stood up and said “you are uncomfortable” pointing to my crouched position.
“No, I’m fine!” But Don D was already 20 paces away, busy cleaning a beach chair for me under a palm tree. So that I could “sit down like a lady”.
It would appear that chivalry is well, and living in Ghana!
We looked through his paintings, which were very good. One called “The Crowd” – a beautiful, colourful, abstract – immediately caught my eye.
I asked him what inspires his work, and he named Rococo and the Impressionists as two of his influences.
I don’t know why this surprised me. Maybe because not many of the street artists back home, that I have met, have studied art history.
In just the two trips I have taken to Kokrobite and now this one to Labadi, I have met three amazing artists who have all trained at “Art School”, as they call it (Kobey, Kobby and now Don D). And I have bought three amazing paintings! (“The Holy Trinity” by Kobey, “Gye Nyame” (Adinka Symbol meaning “Accept God” by Kobby and “The Crowd” by Don D.)
At this point, I am spending more art than on Uber. Which says a lot!
Half an hour later, we were onto colonialism and the role it played in infrastructure development in Ghana, according to Don D.
I was really enjoying the conversation. But I also wanted to explore, so I ask Don D whether he would mind to talk and walk at the same time.
We joined the procession of holiday-makers, horses and vendors and walked along, what seemed like, an endless stretch of tables and chairs on the sand.
We walked for more than a kilometre before the crowd started to think out, and at a wooden boat with “God Is King” on its side, I suggested we turn back.
When we passed a section with a multitude of blue umbrellas, Don D asked whether I would like to have something to drink.
(And because this is my 186 days of “yes”. See Day#20 ) I say “Yes.”
We had a seat under one of the blue umbrellas and ordered a beer each from Esther (aka Mama Africa).
Don D suggested I try the RedRed, a (vegetarian) Ghanaian favourite. (And now mine too!)
(RedRed is Black-eyed Beans, with Plantain, cooked in Palm Oil.)
While we sipped our beers vendors started to come over, one by one, to chat (they all know Don D) and to show me their wares.
Just beyond our table, a group of children were entertaining us with dancing, acrobatics and (to my horror) fire-eating! (Not sure they were old enough to play with matches!)
The plate arrived, with two sets of cutlery.
“You are invited,” I said to Don D. (It is a tradition in Ghana to invite someone to share your food with you.)
So there we sit, Don D and I, under a sea of blue umbrellas sharing our meal of Red Red and Fried Plantain.
A picture of African Unity. #SouthAfricaMeetsGhana
Happy African Unity Day!