We left the city at 5.30am, in a small convoy picked out of the gloom by red and white lights. It was early, but not quiet; the hours before dawn bring out the active Accrans who can’t afford air conditioned gyms. Ghostly footballers warmed up outside El Wak stadium, our meeting point. The joggers pounding the roadside as we headed north from Tema were more distinct – by then, barely twenty minutes later, our cars were already down to sidelights in the whip-fast equatorial dawn.
By Akuse junction, an hour out of town and just over halfway up the road to Akosombo, even our sidelights were off, and rain – which had come, briefly, as we passed the Shai Hills reserve – was the only threat to visibility. With the heat coming on and the city behind us, joggers had long since disappeared.
At Akuse you take a right and follow the decent, if occasionally pitted, road past Stone Lodge until the tarmac gives out. Then it’s a razor-straight run northeast down orange clay, Osodoku looming in the distance. The rain hadn’t come here; visibility took a dive again as kicked-up dust swallowed the Toyota flatbed in front. I eased off, and saw the saloon behind do the same.
Uneven tarmac returns as the road starts to curve north, hugging the western side of the hill. Signs of village life appear. Nimble ‘okado’ motorbike taxis came and went, nipping past as we slowed down to manoeuvre around potholes. They’re facing a ban, but Accra regional minister Nii Laryea Afotey Agbo has asked questions about the economics; when I walked to Tagbo falls in the Volta region earlier this year, the guide told me the Peace Corps-founded visitor centre and ‘riding moto’ offer the best jobs in the area. It’s good work, and less dangerous in the country than on Accra’s heaving roads.
Parking just off the main road, our party applied suncream, laced up our boots and set off, watched by a handful of locals. When we joked “Care to join us?” to two friendly women, their laughter was a mixture of pity and admiration – though mostly, I think, pity. It was the kind of reaction British people give to those clubs who jump into the North Sea on Christmas Day. Climb a hill after sunrise? For pleasure? Rather you than me, mate.
Osodoku is a strangely-shaped hill – like a Tyrannosaur’s foot from above. The main path leads up the northernmost ‘toe’ and snakes around the eastern face, then evens out and gently corkscrews to the summit. Like Krobo, it’s an inselberg in the Accra Plains, so it doesn’t take much climbing to get impressive panoramic views, both out to the Volta River and over to the two smaller ridges that flank the hill. At this time of year, well into rainy season, the range and the richness of greens you get here can be breathtaking. The terrain is mainly compacted clay-rich soil with thick, rock-strewn grooves carved by the rains, but flat slabs of granite break out now and again – good spots to stop for a drink as the heat piles on.
At the top is a small farm beneath a radio mast, with a rickety bench (one short plank on concrete posts) shaded by a broad young neem tree. We breakfasted there just before 9am, sweat-drenched shirts cooling in the wind.