Somehow I managed to get myself out of the room this morning. The thought of coffee was the inspiration. I was greeted by other pilots dreaming of the same…but no such luck. There was no coffee to be had yet. I wondered to myself how did they expect a bunch of tandem pilots to get going without the help of such a beautiful thing??? We all stood around in surprise…there was food out and no coffee…oh no….I think we all had the same thought…something has to change.
Finally two thermoses of coffee appeared…YIPPEE…everything was going to be ok!!! Until we tasted it….oh no…I know I’m a bit of a coffee snob and all….but really I was ready for instant Nescafe like we had at the hotel the day before…but this, I have no idea what it was!!! I tried to love it, then I tried to like it, then I tried putting more condensed milk and sugar in it and NOPE is wasn’t meant to be. My buddies Becca and Cade also apparently coffee snobs agreed, there was something seriously wrong with the coffee….bummer….TEA it was after that…YUM!!!!
Our first of three stops on the way up the hill was a meeting with the Ghana Tourist Board officials that were responsible for us being there. We were welcomed and thanked for coming. Next stop was to meet the “Chiefs” which was interesting….they were all dressed in beautiful robes made with colorful hand woven materials. They sat in some kind of order with one of the Big Chiefs under an umbrella held by someone else. We got in line to shake each of their hands and thanked them for the warm welcome into their community.
They performed an interesting ceremony with the schnapps that was gifted to them….they pour out a shot in honor of the deceased…in their case there was a few of them… I swear they poured out half the bottle on the ground while chanting…finally they filled a wooden cup for each person to have their own mini version of honoring the dead…we all followed the tradition one by one…a few shot of Schnapps later and we were on our way to the last stop before heading up the hill to fly. We entered another place of ceremony…this time it was a quick walk through, a shake of hands with the elderly Chiefs to thank them for having us and we were off.
On to launch….my first impressions were a blurr…I was greeted with live music, people dancing, people watching, vendors selling and tandem passengers waiting in line to fly with us….GAME ON!!! I was given a quick site introduction, a passenger to fly with, and we were off…so to speak!!!
We flew passengers from all over the world that bought tickets to fly from the Ghana Tourist Board. Many of the passengers were Peace Corps Volunteers that were working in Ghana. The vision I had of flying local kids that waited in line for their turn to fly with us soon vanished into this new reality.
The Easter holiday is huge in this country and the Ghana Paragliding Festival was a big attraction to the villages surrounding the area. We were the attraction… people just wanted to be around the scene even if they could not afford the flight. They loved encouraging each other to “try it” and cheering each and everyone that dared to fly. It was quit a scene up there with wonderful energy!!!
After a long day and flying till sunset beer awaited us back at the Hotel RoJo across the street. Dinner followed shortly after and then a much needed full nights sleep FINALLY!!!
Literally less than 24 hours before my flight left I finally received confirmation that I actually had a flight going to Accra!!!
Luckily I was packed and ready to go so I wasn’t too stressed over it. I figured either I’d go or I wouldn’t. Simple as that!
My flight left Mammoth Lakes CA Tuesday afternoon on the 19th two red eye flights later I arrived in Accra on Thursday the 21st!!!
I had met up with Jon Malmberg, Becca Bredehoft and Cade Palmer before the flight then met David Cleeland once we got off the plane. Our first stop was the tourist visa office…$150 bucks later we were met by Collins…who works for the Tourist Board of Ghana…he will be our life blood in Ghana. This man was responsible for all of us being there, planning our flights co-coordinating arrival times etc. He was in charge of the pilots…imagine that task!!!
We were whisked away and taken to the hotel where we could jump in the pool, change and eat lunch. A much needed little break after being stuck in airports for the last three days!
We were greeted at the hotel by Sabrina Krewin who was to be the director of this event for the first time this year. It was great to finally meet these wonderful people that I had been corresponding with over the last few months!!! After meeting these two (Collins and Sabrina) I knew we were in good hands and I was ready for the adventure of it all.
We waited at the hotel while they organized a bus for us instead of trucks that would leave our gear in the open and the forecast was for rain so all of us were thankful for this….especially while driving thru the pouring rain later that night!!! Plus it was way more fun all being together on (what Sabrina called) the short bus J….we all felt so special!!
The 4 hour trip ending up taking more like 8 hours to get to Nkawkaw. First stop was the Mall…yep a mall…we were told we only have 45 mins so make it quick!!! Snacks, drinks, sim cards, and what ever else pilots forgot or did not bring…this was the place to get it because once we get to our flying destination all bets were off finding anything to easily.
The bus ride was fun with lots of visual stimulation while driving. At the various places we slowed down there were plenty of street venders selling their goods off the trays balanced so perfectly on top of their heads! I was impressed with the balance these people had and the amount of weight they could carry up there. I thought about and wondered if I could carry my PG on my head?????
We finally arrived at the RoJo Hotel across from the LZ at around 9pm… I think. We were warmly greeting by the other pilots that had arrived the day before. Stories, beer, dinner and room assignments later we were in bed with orders that we needed to be ready to fly the next day by 8am!!! YIKES…no rest for the weary!!!