It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Seeing the Wli Waterfall, which is the highest in West Africa, was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. The catch was that to get there, you needed to survive the hike from hell.
We woke up fairly early and had breakfast at our hotel. I was super excited to have a ham omelet as I rarely get eggs (despite being cheap) and I’ve never had ham in Ghana. I was so thrilled for the hike and couldn’t wait to get started. I made the executive decision to bring my backpack with some granola bars and 3L of water. We made it over to the tourist center and were given the option to take either a hike to the Lower Falls or a hike to both the Upper and the Lower Falls. We figured that we might as well go to the Upper Falls and learned that it would take about six hours round trip. I felt pretty confident about hiking that long when I notice that our guide was wearing flip flops. How hard could it be?
The hike started easy enough as it was on a wide dirt road. Then our guide took a sharp right into the jungle to go on the path to the Upper Falls. Now, I’m using the term “path” pretty loosely here. At its best, the path was a clear strip of loose rocks and mud. At its worst, there was no path at all. Usually when hiking a mountain, the path will zigzag so that hikers can adjust to changes in the altitude. Not this path, it was literally straight up the mountain. About a half an hour in, I started feeling sick. I was extremely hot from the sun beating down on us and I was starting to feel breathless and a bit dizzy. It reminded me of the asthma attacks I had as a child. One of our group members, Robin, goes to school in Denver and quickly diagnosed me with having altitude sickness. As the trail became more and more vertical, I felt like I was dying. I had to stop every few minutes and was dry heaving. My savior, Max, gallantly took my backpack from me to get rid of the extra weight.
I seriously contemplated making me group leave me on the mountain. I nearly had an emotional breakdown from the fatigue. Luckily, my entire group was so supportive. They kept stopping for me and asking me if I was alright. Lexie, who also has a desk job, stayed with me in the back of the group and kept shouting words of encouragement. If it wasn’t for her, I’d still be stuck on the mountain. After two hours, we officially made it to the top of the mountain. The view was spectacular. You could see the village below and were directly across from the waterfall.
After several minutes of me panting to catch my breath and a few pictures, we began our descent to the Upper Falls. While going downhill was physically less tiring, it was terrifying! The path was extremely steep in some areas and was covered in loose rocks, mud, and leavings, making it slippery. There was nothing to hold on to except trees and vines. Somehow I managed to get some splinters from grabbing various foliage for support. At times, I had no other option than to slide down the mountain on my butt!
Three hours into the hike, we made it to the Upper Falls. I was so happy that I almost burst into tears! I’d never been so tired, sweaty, or dirty in my entire life. The water was clear and cold. I went in fully clothed in order to wash off some of the dirt. We frolicked under the gorgeous waterfall for about a half an hour and ate some snacks before heading towards the Lower Falls. We had to climb straight up for about a half an hour and sharply climbed right down. My legs felt like lead and rubber at the same time. I fell several times down and managed to twist my ankle.
About two hours later, we made it to the Lower Falls. They were equally as beautiful and host an enormous flock of bats. Most of the group wasn’t interested in going into the water again. So I joined a couple of Ghanaian gentleman and stood as close to the falls as possible. Eventually Max and Jason came out with me and we stood as the water beat down on us. It stung a bit, but was exhilarating. After that we had a forty-five minute walk back to the village on a flat road. By that time, we were all thirsty, starving, and exhausted. I was so happy and proud that I completed the hike! It was by far the most difficult physical activity I have ever done.
After a brief bout of shopping, we decided to go to our hotel. Mount Paradise, for dinner. As you might suppose, the hotel was situated on a mountain and had the most beautiful view. However, all was not paradise at Mount Paradise. Our room suffered from many cockroaches and perhaps rats (We found droppings). After a six hour hike, we were all hoping for a substantial dinner. We were to be disappointed. It took two hours to cook pasta, was expensive, and had tiny portion sizes. So we soon retired to our room tired and unsatisfied. We vowed that we would find the meal we so deserved the following day.