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Ghana rain culvert--a survival guide   

Posted by ScottN - Dec 17, 2013 - 12:53am
I have a significant, for me anyway, business interest in gold operations in Ghana.  Don't be overly impressed by that statement....I am on the verge of bankruptcy—but that's another journal.

I traveled to Ghana (12th trip) in November.  Our current operation is about 150 miles NNW  of Accra, the capitol,  and in a river basin.  We mine alluvial gold (salt shaker size) vs. hard rock streaks like you see in the movies.

On my third day there (of ten), I went up into the small town where we have rented all six rooms of the only hotel there (don't let the locals hear you call it the "bush", but it is) .  It is about $4/night—major plus—has a/c after a fashion.  You buy your own bedding and toilet paper as previous tenants tend to steal those items. 

On my first day there I went to Kumasi, (look it up if you're interested) to outfit my room, plus buy food and other desirables.  It is about three hours in a funky bus which is usually packed.  But hey, the fare is only $2.  I went with an African friend  to shop and be guided and kept safe as Kumasi is huge and confusing, even to the residents!  We spent the day there outfitting my bed,  getting the TP, some food and other desirables, (ok, liquor is part of the rations).  Took all day. 97F at noon with very high humidity.  Rain forest— if it hadn't been clear cut by the Brits during colonial days  (another journal someday). But verdant as all hell, so young trees and scrub anywhere that is not plowed.  Quite demanding climate, especially for an Obruni (caucasian), who by definition is seen as ...ah...stupid, at least in the ways of rural Ghana.

We found our way after our work to the main square in Kumasi where buses depart. Another $2 and we're on our way back.  I am really tired and hot.  A/C? -ha ha.  I am very sleepy, but in this part of Ghana it rains daily this time of year, usually heavily and around 4PM, followed by a cool breeze that gets us into the mid 80's. Actually can be quite pleasant when the sun gets low.

In the rainy parts of rural Ghana it is customary for the small towns to have a 2 meter deep culvert  on each side of highways (funky roads) to avert flash floods from the heavy rains.  Two years ago they had 30 inches in 24 hours!! These culverts are sloped on the roadside and vertical on the town-side. Why they are not "V" shaped escapes me (capacity, I suppose), but they are not.

It is customary for the bus driver to stop to discharge passengers at a section that has a bridge over the culvert. For safety.  I was tired . sleepy,and dropped my guard for a moment—never a good idea—as I was first out of the bus.  The f*cking driver had NOT stopped by a bridge, but instead only about a muddy foot away from the culvert.  Getting out, I slipped and fell very hard into the culvert. Sidebar here: In seventh grade our phys.ed. teacher taught us how to fall.  He memorably said " a broken wrist or arm is much easier to treat than a fractured skull".  He had a drill he used to teach us proper falling, and for me at least, it has saved my head several times over the years; I am 64, and in decently good shape.

I hit hard, but shielded my head by learned? instinct by my arm, hitting mainly my arm, elbow, cheekbone, eyebrow and knee. I was a bloody mess.  Disoriented and half-standing at the bottom of the culvert in very fetid water. EVERY male Ghanaian on the bus rushed down into the muck to help me.  Thank you, Ghanians.  Kind people are everywhere.

Nearest doctor is 150 miles. BUT, my Ghana friend suggested we see a "local healer" about twenty miles away.  I am out of it, but comng to. Arriving in the now dark, I see a slightly illuminated sign that says " Farmaciy".  I happen to know that the older a Ghanaian is, the more likely they are to speak good English (Brit colonial schooling).  The man in the pharmacy was I'd guess 75. First words, I swear, "Fall in a culvert, sonny?"  He looked at me from various angles and said "lucky guy, I have seen lots worse" and took me to a small adjoining room to dress my wounds.  He created, from a box with both Euro origin and local ingredients, three poultices for my wounds.  Within FIVE minutes I felt much better.  Treatment cost? About $2.50.  He said as I left, "You're a lucky guy, but later you will hurt so take this codeine with you".

Over the next days I monitored myself for concussion symptoms.  The pharmacist said "If you wake with a really, really bad headache, head for Accra for immediate treatment.  But, none came, beyond my battered body, hurting badly, even with vodka and codeine!

A Ghanaian friend back here in MN said a couple hundred people a year DIE in those culverts.  I originally posted a short version in the "Grateful..." forum. I AM GRATEFUL and FORTUNATE. Thank you so much  to my Ghana friends, known and unknown.
14 comments on this journal entry.
Living with passion
Alexandra Avatar

Location: PNW

Posted: Dec 28, 2013 - 8:34am

Finally had some time to really sit down and read this - what a survivor story! Glad you healed up rapidly and things weren't much worse. Especially so far from home.
I wish you all the best with the profitability of this endeavor, too.
We're all riders on this train
ScottN Avatar

Location: Half inch above the K/T boundary

Posted: Dec 21, 2013 - 10:52am

Thanks RPeeps for the comments and the PM's.  I hope to keep having adventures for a long time....until the one "adventure" none of us lives through. {#Cheers}
Coachman to the Other Side
jadewahoo Avatar

Location: Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Posted: Dec 20, 2013 - 5:54pm

Adventure is a life threatening experience you LIVE to tell about. Here is to your continuing adventures!
What Day Is This?
helenofjoy Avatar

Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Posted: Dec 19, 2013 - 3:27am

I'm so glad you are ok Scott and thank you for sharing this experience.  It does seem that you have much in the way of interesting reading to contribute here! {#Good-vibes}
Make tea, not war.
MrsHobieJoe Avatar

Location: somewhere in Europe

Posted: Dec 18, 2013 - 10:01pm

Thank you for posting, interesting and then the wince part.  I hope the investment works out.  don't forget to use any embassy assistance you can get, it is a priority of governments to get their businessmen established overseas.  In the UK the UKTI is also really helpful for many small businesses in helping them develop overseas business.  That's our overseas bit of the department of trade and industry.
ab origine
oldviolin Avatar

Location: esse quam videri

Posted: Dec 18, 2013 - 7:24am


miamizsun Avatar

Location: (3261.3 Miles SE of RP)

Posted: Dec 18, 2013 - 4:43am

glad you're safe  {#Good-vibes}

and btw, we're all bankrupt


BlueHeronDruid Avatar

Location: planting flowers

Posted: Dec 17, 2013 - 5:05pm

Yikes -and wow!
I eat pints
ScottFromWyoming Avatar

Location: Powell

Posted: Dec 17, 2013 - 7:27am

Cool story. A friend of mine got his doctorate on western music in Ghana... the British left behind a lot of brass instruments, which the Ghanaians adapted to their own purposes...
Shine On.
Coaxial Avatar

Location: 543 miles west of Paradis,1491 miles east of Paradise

Posted: Dec 17, 2013 - 7:26am

Glad you were able to protect your head. That could have been the end...Thanks for sharing with everyone.{#Cheers}
i need a bogle for my glotch.
lily34 Avatar

Location: GTFO

Posted: Dec 17, 2013 - 6:44am


this is amazing. i'm glad i read it.

what an experience. you live a very interesting life! glad you came out of it OK.

if you have time, i'd love to read more of your experiences there, i'm sure others would, too.
About three bricks shy of a load
steeler Avatar

Location: Perched on the precipice of the cauldron of truth

Posted: Dec 17, 2013 - 6:40am

Very interesting story. Glad you survived to tell it!



Antigone Avatar

Location: A house, in a Virginian Valley

Posted: Dec 17, 2013 - 5:31am

I get around
haresfur Avatar

Location: The Golden Triangle

Posted: Dec 17, 2013 - 1:30am

Thanks for sharing this story and I'm very glad you came out ok.  Sounds like a fascinating place.