Six hours of driving will wear anyone out. Doing it in a van built for twelve, with fifteen people in it, will leave you utterly irritated and with a new definition of personal space. The other travelers and I were in this situation because we had struck out on an adventurous trip to the village of Tafi Atome in northeastern Ghana. We had hired a driver and guide to lead us to the village’s famed monkey sanctuary, which hosted the endangered and supposedly sacred Mona monkeys. Since leaving the village though, our only experience of Ghana had been through the rented van’s heavily cracked and insect splattered windshield. We were a van filled with sore necks, strained backs, twisted legs, and unnaturally bent knees, jabbing elbows, pulled hair, poked eyes, and unrelenting determination.
Our tour guide suddenly informed us that we would be stopping at Wii Waterfalls, the tallest waterfall in West Africa. This perked us up, and as soon as the van doors opened at the trail entrance, we jumped out in an eruption of relief. Oh, how glorious it was to stretch!
As I unfolded my lanky six-foot- four-inch frame, I suddenly became of aware of the stunning array of scenery around me. The cliffs were thousands of feet tall and covered in mossy green forestry. They towered over me, giving me a very strange sense of insignificance. Trees stuck out at peculiar angles, dotting the rocks in a checkerboard of beautiful scenery.
Ever since I was a little kid, I have wanted to experience Africa. Grand fantasies of wild jungle adventure would flood my imagination, but the picture of Africa I’d formed in my mind did not even compare to what I was witnessing. The struggles of the van ride were eclipsed by this newly presented world.
Our guide led us into the rainforest, instructing us to carefully step over the vast highways of ants, pouring across the jungle floor in droves. We cracked open cocoa plants, sucking the delicious white nectar inside that covers the beans, inundating our taste buds with a flow of sweetness that reminded me of mango. I scanned the cliffs and noticed thousands of sleeping bats, clinging to the side, waiting for the sun to lower before unleashing themselves into the night.
After forty-five minutes of trekking, we came to the waterfall, a thunderous column of raging water, crashing into the pool below. I wasted no time in plunging into the churning water and letting the wind chill my chafed and sweaty skin. The wind blew water from the falls smashing it against my back. It stung like needles, but I was grateful for the icy refreshment it provided.
As I climbed to the top of a boulder in the pool, I gazed out at my friends splashing around like giddy children. My friend Cody screamed out, “Dude, we’re in Africa!” As I sat perched on the boulder, I absorbed that statement. It was so simple, obvious, and uncreative. Yet, it resonated so profoundly. That one exclamation somehow managed to capture what I felt and what I had been searching for in my childhood fantasies. I had finally seen, although a small part, Africa. “This is what I have wanted my whole life,” I thought, “This is what I have always wanted.” I leapt off the boulder and as I plummeted into the water I thought, “And there is so much more to see.”
— Dallas Koller