Bálint Tóth’s updates

My name is Bálint Tóth, a Hungarian pharmaceutical student, and this July I participated in a student exchange programme in Ghana. During the month I spent there I used the 2007 edition of your guidebook and I found it most helpful! As a part of an international group of university students, we were
fulfilling our compulsory pharmacy practice in the country, however we did have time for travel as well, so here are some things I found to be a bit different from what you mention:

1. Medical stuff:
As a soon-to-be sort of expert of the topic (haha, I’m a bit far away
from that yet…), I think you should mention about Dukoral (cholera
vaccine) that it also reduces significantly (up to 70%) the chances of
getting e.coli infection, which is the major cause of traveler’s
diarrhea. I cannot say that this was the reason, but I haven’t had any
stomach problems during my trip.

Malaria prophylaxis/treatment: I found your words about
Lariam…well…a bit too neutral. I’m sure I’m not the first telling
you about what this pill can do to people. It can vary heavily, from
person to person: next to nothing side-effects (vivid dreams) are the
best, and what we all hope for, but it can even cause suicidal thoughts,
constant fear of confined spaces (scuba diving is actually forbidden
while on Lariam) and general distress. Two good friends of mine recently
returned from their year-long Asia trip, one of them felt nothing while
they took it, the other once almost decided to buy a car in the middle
of China, cos she was terrified of getting on the bus…You just google
for the topic, and it will give you tons of information on why Lariam
shouldn’t be taken. Malarone is certainly very expensive, I had to pay
140€for my dose, but it is so much safer!

Malaria treatment: I was working in a community pharmacy, and we visited
a factory and two hospital pharmacies during my stay. As you can
imagine, I certainly gained some first-hand information on how to treat
malaria infected people. I was surprised to see it’s not that big of a
thing at all! Of course, locals’ system got used to malaria after first,
second, billionth infection, and symptoms get a lot less serious, but
one guy of my group got it too (despite taking Malarone regularly), and
he fully recovered in a week. The drugs of choice are arthemisin based
products, most commonly arthesunate combined with co-arthemether in a
form of injection then followed by a week of tabs treatment, which I’m
sure sounds like gibberish to you, but it’s working. As side drugs they
prescribe diclofenac to reduce the fever, and mix of vitamins to restore
the balance of the body, and activated charcoal (which is recommended
over Lopedium, as it works colloidically and it binds the water
molecules to carbon, not chemically, so it’s actually not even a
medicine, and it’s very cheap and safe) for the diarrhea but these
aren’t exactly unfamiliar and rarely used to us either. All in all even
though malaria is a nasty bitch, it can be easily treated, and
practically all Ghanaians can give you a differential of it. We visited
a factory in Kumasi, and based on what I’ve seen in on other occasions
in other (Western) countries, they absolutely meet the required quality
standards, it wasn’t a backyard of a slaughterhouse or anything…Oh,
and moneywise: the guy paid around 70 cedis for everything, which
included the taxi to and from the hospital (37 Military Hospital in
Accra, he also recommended it to me, just like your book), so it’s
hardly expensive for something like this. I was selling a LOT of
arthesunate shots in my pharmacy, practically every third item sold was
related to malaria,and the most expensive brand was 8c, while a Malarone
treatment could cost…I don’t even wanna know.

2. Other stuff:

Kumasi:
p 297-300. an express coach ticket from Accra to Kumasi is now 10c,
instead of 7.5, using STC. From Kumasi to Tamale it was 14c, instead of
10, and we used MetroMass, which is always cheaper (and shabbier) than
STC which also operates on this route. Travel time was 6 hours.

p.306: all the internet cafés I visited in the country charged 0.60c per
hour for the service.

p.309. ticket to Manhyia Palace in Kumasi is now 4c, and not 2,
photography is still forbidden.

I’m not sure if it’s the supermarket you mention in your book, but
there’s one in front of the main post office(or telephone, I forgot),
and in the middle of the road there’s a column of local soldiers who
fell during the world wars. It sells imported products, and it totally
saved our lives numerous times! They have practically everything like
home, and most importantly: cheese! Of course it’s more expensive than
regular shops, but everything comes from overseas too.

A trotro from KNUST to Adum costs 30p, while 2c for a taxi for a similar
distance is a fairly regular price. Sachet water is 5 pesewas, but it
really varies if it tastes like plastic or not. Still much better than
those unmarked ones though.

Tamale:
I fully agree with your positive review of the Catholic Guesthouse, it’s
a great place, and you should mention that the whole place looks like a
mini botanical garden! We loved our short stay there!

As we were close to it, we went to the Swab Fast Food place too, and
they served good Indian food. Some of us ordered pizzas, and they
ordered the smaller size, which was ridiculously small, but their Indian
dishes are good (I’d say average or even sub-par if it would be home,
but there it was like heaven after the so little veggies we had
previously!) It’s kind of a less for locals place, we only saw other
tourists during our chill-out there.

The National Cultural Center served its purpose, nothing special, but it
was cheaper than the one in Kumasi, and also had lots of shops (20-25 at
least), plus the Sparkles Restaurant you mention is certainly a great
place! We did our shopping in one hour, and spent the next 5 hanging out
there.

Sognaayilli: the Meet Africa project is up and running, we went to see
their office. They charge 12c for a 2hs programme, which does not
include transportation and 20c for a daytrip with accommodation in a mud
hut, with running water(for the toilets, otherwise it’s bucket shower)
but without electricity. They recommended us that we’d use the taxis we
went to their office (even that’s far from the city), and once we arrive
to the village’s junction (you have to walk from there), tell them to
return 2hs later for us, which I wasn’t so sure about they’d do…In the
end we decided not to participate, so I couldn’t say how the actual
program looks like

Larabanga:
Larabanga, wow…The single place I simply hated in the country. And we
were staying with the Salia Brothers. Still hating it.

Now to be a wee bit more detailed: we arrived with the 4am bus from
Tamale (ticket costs 3c), and it was what a ride…the guidebook is
actually red on the pages about the region cos of the dust that was
flying in through the semi-detached windows so was my backpack, clothes,
hair, everything! The bus seemed like a million years old, and it was
very much of a memorable ride, and I’ll always laugh when I think of it
but if other tourists have some time, I would definitely encourage them
to wait for the regular MetroMass ride, which is first scheduled at 9am
if I recall correctly.

When we arrived to the village, we take a quick peak around (it was
already dawn), and we wandered to the mosque. There some guy came up to
us, gave a 5 min speech without asking which was very vague, he probably
got it from your book and told us 10% of it. When we were about to leave
he wanted to charge us 4c each for entry ticket (we weren’t even allowed
to enter as it was praying time) and an additional 10c for “being a
guide”. I’m sure he’s still waiting for us on our agreed pay-date in the
next morning.

We stayed in the Savannah Lodge which is run by one of the Salia
brothers. They have some mud huts, which are really nicely painted from
the outside by previous volunteers, and the dorm block you mention is
now ready. However it isn’t any better than the huts (single bed+queen
bed, both with mosquito nets and a table), but they charge more for it.
The block has two rooms, both of them are supposedly for 3 person. There
were 7 of us, so we took both, and we agreed on a price of 8c per room.
We wouldn’t have mind a higher price in the first place, but the fact
that Mr. Salia just changed his mind and the rate to 14c per room before
payment was just rude. There are open-air bucket showers, and the
toilets are sort of like that too. It was really funny and paradox to
see a regular, new flush toilet, which of course have no connection to a
water pipe so you have to refill the tank from the huge barrel in front
of the old wooden shack the whole thing is situated in. As an owner of
the sole car of the village, we had to rely on Mr. Salia regarding
transportation too. Our plans was to go back to the village, eat
something, then go to Mole. We agreed each seven of us would pay 2c for
the whole thing, which he tried to raise to 3 when we were driving. Also
he asked for money for petrol when we were in the village, we gave him
some, and when he showed up 1,5 hs later, he still didn’t get refueled
the car…

Somehow we ended up in Mole which in itself was a great experience! They
offer jeep safaris, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and each
jeep costs 80c with a driver and a guide, and it lasts around 2,5 hs. 5
person can sit in the jeep, other 4 on the top, so it came to 9c per
person, and it was a really cool experience, I would recommend it to
others! The walking safari was 7 or sg like that, so it’s really barely
any difference, and you can cover a much bigger area. The roads are not
too bumpy as they have bulldozers to level them after heavy rains. The
park is of course not Serengeti, but it’s still a great memory for me.

After the safari we were drinking up in the bar, and it turned out that
Mole Motel also offers budget option which you also mention, but they
told us the rooms are 10-bedded instead of 6, and it would cost 3c per
night, not 6, they have running water periodically (and of course the
same goes for electricity). If we would know this in advance, we would
certainly choose them., instead of the Savannah Lodge..

All in all, Larabanga is nothing but a shithole, which abuses the
location, and every single people there does nothing but tries to rip
you off. It’s like a different country from Ghana…Nevertheless, the
trip itself worth it for Mole, but a stay in the Mole Motel is rather
recommended and it isn’t as expensive as you wrote.

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