Leaving behind the diverse landscapes spanning from coastal plains to forests, waterfalls and highest peaks of Ghana in the Volta Region (now Volta and Oti regions); we made our way to the Savanna circuit of the community based eco-tourism sites. They are Tongo Hills and Tengzuk Shrine, Sirigu Basket Weaving Center, Paga crocodile ponds, Widnaba/Red Volta River valley, all in the Upper East Region, Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary in the Upper West and Tano Sacred Grove and Boabeng Fiema Monkey Sanctuary in the Brong Ahafo Region (now Bono East region).
The Pikworo Slave Camp was too close to the Paga crocodile ponds, about 3 kilometers west of Paga, to overlook, so we gave ourselves an added adventure! Come along. You will discover some ‘hidden’ historic and cultural resources in this part of our country!
The Savanna Circuit adventure
The most logical travel route by road from Liate Wote, the abode of Afadzato, Wli Falls and the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary, towards the Savanna eco-tourism circuit is along the Ghana-Togo border, illustrated in image 2 above.
We underestimated the travel time, contributed by the state of the roads and security concerns. Night quickly fell on us as we traveled through familiar names of towns such as Hohoe, Jasikan, Kedjebi, Bimbila and Yendi, where we had to stop. It was late, almost 10pm. Yendi was under a curfew we didn’t know about then. The ‘Men in uniform’ were hospitable, finding us a safe place for the night, although not comfortable.
In the above two regions, culture and history caught my attention. However, as an old student of geography, I never lost sight of the dramatic geologic landforms of the Tongo Hills, the interesting landmarks in the hills of the Pikworo Slave Camp and the plains with the crocodile filled ponds at Paga. The amazing serene canoe ride on the Black Volta River enabled me to spot some hippos, literally called ‘sea water cows’ in my mother tongue!
The first stop in this leg of the journey was Tongo-Tengzuk Cultural Landscape and Sacred Shrines. It is located in the small town of Tengzuk, also known as Tongo, in the Talensi-Nabdam District, about 15 km southeast of Bolgatanga (Bolga).
It’s a marvel to see the rocks ‘piled’ on each other.
My anticipated stay in a mud-made guesthouse was dashed. The rains destroyed the guesthouse a few days before my arrival. Now, it was too late in the day to continue the trip to Bolga. I recall a number of women who sleep in a room giving up their room. I saw young men carrying a mattress from another room into ‘my room’. It was a humbling experience.
The Tongo Hills and Tengzug Shrine is a proposed United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage site (since 2000).
‘The rock formations, caves and sweeping landscape of the Tongo Hills at Tengzug are reason enough to visit, but the village is also home to multiple shrines. The shrines draw people from across Ghana and neighboring countries who believe they have a sacred power to provide guidance and resolution of problems.’ – Visit Ghana
‘The Tongo Hills is also known as “whispering rocks“, derived from the fact that in November and December the Harmattan winds blow through the rocks in such a way that strange whispering sounds arise.‘ – Graphic Ghana
We spent one afternoon here as part of a birding trip to Ghana; this is an amazing habitat. It reminded us of sandstone habitat in the Northern Territory of Australia… A party of local youngsters who were very friendly accompanied our group for some time.
Tongo Hills were apex of my first trip to Northern Ghana. What impressed me most was combination of hilly landscape and picturesque village. Living in Accra I missed these things a lot and I was happy to see completely different picture from South.
Village itself slightly resembles Dogon settlements. It is well preserved and I loved to roam around. The sacrifice thing, which is the main attraction there was the least interesting thing there. But it’s a destiny of such a popular places.
Anyway, I was really happy to visit the place.
This is a village in the Upper East Region known for its pottery, basket weaving, and unique symbolic wall decorations. If given the opportunity, I would go back to this scenic village and spend at least one month! The ‘women of art’, Sirigu Women’s Organization for Pottery and Art (SWOPA), won my heart, portraying a deep sense of art in their art works!
Watch this documentary about the process of decorating walls in Sirigu; ‘The walls of Sirigu 1999’
Baskets: made from local grasses brightly colored in hot aniline dyes and made for export.
Look out for the continuation of Part 1 that takes you to the popular Paga Crocodile ponds, Widnaba/Red Volta River Valley and the Pikworo Slave Camp.
Word puzzle covering the Savanna community based eco-tourism circuit will come out next week. Check below the solution to the Volta circuit word puzzle.