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Dreaming of Wechiau

" Dreaming of Weichiau "

Norman with Chiefs Calgary

Norman with Naa Banda-naa Chielinah,Naa Imoru GomahII and Naa Danyagiri Walaam-i SebauhII Calgary Zoo.

 

My adventures in Ghana began to take on a life of its own before I even visited Africa. Having booked my trip to Ghana already I thought that my trip was planned and I was excited to make my way to Africa. I book my trip in June to visit Ghana, Togo and Benin for the following year.

 As luck would have it I found out that three chiefs from Ghana would be in Calgary for the opening of the new Destination Africa Hippo display at the Calgary Zoo. Already pumped for my trip to Africa I made my way to the Calgary Zoo to meet the three chiefs. Having the opportunity to visit with the chiefs for a healthy length of time I shared with them that I would be visiting Ghana for the first time. I even escorted the chiefs around the zoo for some time. After receiving permission to take their photos I was stoked about my trip to Africa. When the photo ops were taken care of I was about to leave when the chiefs invited me to visit the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary and the palace in Wechiau. As soon as I got home I called my travel agent to ad another week to my time in Ghana. Not only did I have the honor of spending time with the chiefs I was invited to their palace in Wechiau, I could not wait to go to Ghana.

 

 

 

wechiau palace 2007

Wechiau Palace, traditional home for  Naa Imoru GomahII {Wechiau-Naa}, paramount chief of Wechiau region.

 

The fact that I was invited to visit the Wechiau Palace as a guest of the chiefs I felt that I wanted to make this unique opportunity special. As soon as I returned home from meeting the chiefs in Calgary I started to paint their portraits as my gifts to the chiefs for the hospitality that they extended my way. I also loaded an equipment bag full of items for the Heather Graham Primary School that included pens, first aide kits and 50 soccer balls. The excitement of going to Wechiau conspired for me to forget one detail of importance, how was I going to get everything there safely. After much scrambling, a few anxious moments and a pinch of stubbornness on my part I had all the arrangements made to get everything transported to Wechiau.

Once I finished my tour of Ghana , Togo and Benin I returned to Accra to gather all my gifts and meet up my driver to make my way north to Wechiau. The drive was long, so my driver and I decided to stay in Wa a night before we would continue on to Wechiau. The next morning we arrived in Wechiau. We were escorted to the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary main office to register and were treated to a cold drink and some biscuits to refresh us after our long journey. Waiting for me outside the office was Naa Banda-naa Chielnah to greet us and escort me around. The itinerary that was planned for my visit had yet another bonus, I arrived on Ghana's 50th anniversary of independence, a big celebration was planned for this occasion and I was invited to join in on the celebrations.

50th celebration

" Proudly celebrating 50th anniversary of Ghana's independence."

 

I was informed that a formal greeting for my visit to Wechiau was planned for the next day so I would have the day to get settled and even have time to go canoeing on the Volta to look for hippos. Once I was settled at the lodge I made my way to the river to meet a local guide to take me canoeing. As my guide and I made our way to the river we met with some local boat makers who were busy building a new canoe. Like everyone in Wechiau the carpenters extend a genuine invitation to join them for lunch, we had fresh caught tilapia roasted over an open camp fire, DELICIOUS! I was amazed to witness the skill of the carpenters utilizing only simple hand tools to create the canoes, even the paddles are carved by hand.

 

tilapia for lunch

" Lunch time, tilapia from the Black Volta"


carving a canoe

" Working on a new canoe"

 

It is well documented that hippos kill more people than any other mammal in Africa, so it is safe to say that once I saw the canoe I was to go on for my hippo watching, my adrenaline was pumping. As we made our way lazily down stream on the Black Volta I could not help but be very impressed by my guide's ability to maneuver our canoe. I felt more at ease the more we traveled. Then after a half hour or so I saw my first ever hippo in the wild. This huge animal popped up out of the water, I was awe stricken by the shear size of the hippo, it was like a mini van rose up from the river's bottom. I now understood why a hippo could kill so easily, they are one huge animal and the canoe we were in would not stand a chance if the hippo decided we were a problem. In total we spent around three hours on the river and saw many hippos including a mother with her calf. The most challenging part of the river trip was to capture the hippos with my camera. The hippos would pop up out of the river and by the time I pointed the camera their way they would disappear back down into the Black Volta. The other challenge I had  is the Black Volta river is dark water that is murky, you could only see a few inches below the surface thus you only could see the hippos when they came up for air. After an exciting day on the river I headed back to my lodge to rest for the next day.

 

canoes for the hippo watching

" A selection of canoes for hippo watching on the Black Volta River, Wechiau-Ghana."

 

my first hippo sighting

" My first hippo sighting on the Black Volta River"

 

The following morning was full of anticipation, this was the day I was to visit the Wechiau Palace as an invited guest of Naa Imoru GomahII { Wechiau-Naa. From the time I was invited to Wechiau till that moment when I stood outside the Wechiau Palace I had no idea of what would happen, I just knew this was to be a WOW moment in my life. Once I removed my shoes I entered the palace to be greeted by Naa Imoru GomahII { Wechiau-Naa}, Parmount Chief of Wechiau region, Naa Banda-naa Chielinah {Gorungu-Naa} and  Naa Danyagiri Walaman-i Sebuah II {Tokali-Naa} both divisional Chiefs. There was also other traditional opinion leaders and teachers there to greet me and witness our exchanging of gifts. After libations for the ancestors and formal introductions were completed my first surprize happened. The communities that reside within the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary presented me a traditional smock. I then presented the Chiefs with their portraits that I promised them after we began our friendship at the Calgary Zoo, followed by the presentation of some suppplies for the local school. I then handed over the soccer balls to the teachers, this of course was a big deal beacuase Ghanians love their soccer. Once the formalities were completed I was invited by Naa Danyagiri Walaman-i Sebuah II {Tokali-Naa} to his home to meet his family and have dinner to celebrate Ghana's 50th anniversary of independance. The day was filled with one magical moment after another.

 

handing over soccer ball

"Handing over of soccer balls to teacher"

 

inside palace

"Inside the Wechiau Palace with my new friends sporting my new smock."


 

I will always be Dreaming of Wechiau after one unforgettable experience.

 

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