Roots Yard, Ghana

After spending two nights in the Volta Region at Maranatha Beach Camp, I wanted to head to Roots Yard, also in the Volta Region but quite a long way further North. I’d found it before my trip from a Google search of “vegan Ghana” and I’d reserved three nights in the dorm room via Whatsapp. (website – rootsyard.org).

My original thought was that I’d have to go back to Accra from Maranatha and then go from there to Roots Yard, but luckily I met a group of young Ghanaians there, some of whom were from Ho (a town in the North of the Volta Region, in the direction of Roots Yard), and they offered me a ride with them up to Ho.

The day I was leaving was the Tuesday after Easter bank holiday Monday, and these crazy Ghanaians were planning on leaving the Beach Camp at 4am to make it back to Ho in time for work! They definitely know how to ‘carpe diem’ (I approve, of course).

So, I set my alarm for 3:40am, threw my stuff in my backpack, found my way to the toilet block with my phone light, and squished into the car (there were a few more people than there were seats).

Maranatha isn’t exactly accessible by car, so most people arrive on foot from the nearest village, or by fishing boat, but there is an unofficial driving route to Ada Foah (the nearest village) which literally drives along the beach and cuts across a dirt track. The thing is, in order to get from the Beach Camp down onto the actual flat part of the beach where you can drive along, you have to go up a slope and then down a bit onto the flat. Little did we know, this was going to be an enormous challenge for the wheels on thin, dry sand.

As you can probably imagine, the wheels were spinning and spinning every time we tried to go a tiny bit up the slope. To be honest, it was quite funny because it was just a ridiculous situation (4am, middle of nowhere in Ghana with people I’d only known for 24 hours, too many people for the car, wheels spinning madly, everyone coming up with different suggestions etc.)…

Eventually we all pushed the car up the slope (including their other friends who they woke up specifically to get them to help push the car), and thankfully the driver managed to brake just before he reached the sea!!! We all climbed in and we were on our way. The sun started to rise and it actually felt incredibly liberating to be zooming along a dark and empty beach with the wind coming through the window onto my face, seeing the sky start to become colourful.

In true Ghanaian style, the guys were very relaxed about the fact that they had no idea which dirt track we had to take to turn off from the beach, so they stopped a few times at different ones and someone got out to look down it to see if it led to the right place. After a few hours, we reached Ho (there was no traffic at that time of the morning), and they dropped me at the central trotro/bus station in the town.

By this time it was about 6:30am and the trotro station was already full of life. Some guy put me on the correct trotro after I told him I was going to Asikuma Junction (following the instructions from the Roots Yard website), and I paid 7cedis for a paper ticket. The roof of this particular trotro was insanely low, and I was wearing my hair in a bun which literally hit the ceiling every time we went over a bump!

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The journey to Asikuma Junction was 1 hour. It stops by a little square with a few trotros and mostly taxis. I got in a shared taxi to Peki (just ask anyone which taxi goes there) and it was 5 cedis. Peki is a village but there’s a long stretch of road that also counts as Peki, so you have to be specific about where you want to be dropped off.

The driver looked at me like I was speaking Chinese when I said I wanted to be dropped at Roots Yard. I told him it was near GovCo Junction, which he knew about, but we still struggled to find it. He opened the window to ask a few people and eventually we found it. There is actually a yellow sign on the side of the road, but it’s easy to miss it if you aren’t going slowly enough. This is it:

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The path to go down is on the opposite side of the road from the sign, and you arrive at Roots Yard after passing a few random houses. This is what Roots Yard looks like from the path:

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The pink building is the bar/kitchen down below and the family’s house up top (although they are currently making some changes, so upstairs will soon be the dorm room).

When I arrived at 8am, Bob, the Ghanaian rasta man owner, was very surprised to see me there so early, but he was very welcoming and showed me the dorm, which was the left hand part of this building:

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The dorm had 3 bunk beds but I was the only person staying there. He said they tend to be busier on weekends, but also that their tourism still hasn’t built back up since the Ebola scare a few years ago. The door to the dorm had no lock, which I found a bit strange for a few minutes but then I reminded myself that it’s obviously fine if that’s how they’ve been doing it for years. There was no fan, but the windows opened wide.

This is the toilet/shower block:

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It may not look like much, but it made me very happy! After a week of non-flushing toilets and bucket showers, it felt extremely luxurious. The toilets at Roots Yard are clean, have toilet paper, and flush successfully, and as you can see, there is even a basin to wash your hands after (definitely not a given in Ghana!)

The outside showers (you can see them on the left) are on another level. I fell in love with them. Honestly, if you want to experience freedom, have an outdoor shower under the sun, looking up through the trees, with birds singing in the background. Seriously, you will be amazed. Being a member of the Smartphone generation, I obviously had to document this experience with a cool selfie:

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The amazingness of Roots Yard does not stop at the showers. Cool feature number two is the food. It’s a big deal that I’m saying this, because normally I do everything in my power to avoid eating at my accommodation, because I don’t think it’s adventurous enough and I’d normally prefer to go and find street food etc., but this was a bit different.

Roots Yard is owned by an amazing family consisting of Bob (Ghanaian rasta), his wife Jaqueline (English rasta who has lived in Ghana with him for ages), and their two insanely beautiful and cute rasta children, Solomon and Marcus (aged about 10 and 7). They’re a vegan family and Jaqueline does the cooking. They buy all their ingredients from markets and little local shops/vendors, so you are still supporting the community when you buy Roots Yard meals.

They have a colourful little display board with a daily changing menu. Breakfast has things like scrambled tofu on toast (although I always bought street food for breakfast), lunch has small meals such as veggie burgers, and dinner has larger meals, mostly Ghanaian inspired, such as fufu (a ball of pounded ground provisions such as cassava) with various vegetable stews. The lunch dishes cost around 15 cedis (£2.50) and dinner costs 20-25 cedis, and it’s all very tasty.

They also freeze local fruit to make juices and smoothies which are definitely what you want after a long day exploring. On the other hand, they have absolutely no problem with you bringing food from the street to eat there. This is the front of the bar where you can order food:

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As I mentioned, Roots Yard is on a little path off the main road, in a quiet area. The main official things to do nearby for day trips are the Monkey Sanctuary and Wli Waterfalls (see separate blog post about the falls), but there are also lots of ways to enjoy yourself in the local area.

The actual village of Peki is about 15 minutes walk from Roots Yard, and it’s basically just a typical Ghanaian village, which is quite interesting to just wander around. It has a bank so you don’t need to worry about bringing lots of cash if you’re staying a long time, and other than that it just has little ‘chop bars’ (local food places – not great for vegans), bars, churches, schools, a butcher, fabric shops, seamstresses (I got clothes made but that will appear in a separate post) and corner shops.

For vegans, the main snacks you can get in the village is waakye (rice and beans) and very cheap bananas of the small and cute variety (I also happened to buy these from a small and cute girl who was only about 6 and was very confused by me speaking English to her).

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The family is very friendly and I spent a lot of time chatting to Jaqueline. On my last day, she took me for a walk in the bush and after about an hour of uphill strides (and a million buckets of sweat later, from me not her), we arrived at a little wooden hut that her family has up there on Bob’s family’s land. They plant trees up there sometimes and they plan to build a little house there too.

We passed an avocado tree and picked up literally about 30 avocados from the ground, and shared some up by the hut, cutting them open with a cutlass/machete.

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This isn’t an official attraction, but I also spent a day going on a big adventure to Dzemeni Market which is a huge market by a lake (see separate post for this too).

In the evenings, the boys and their local friends love playing board games after school, so of course I joined in with that, and I taught them an English game which they ended up loving. They’re just a really great family, and I felt incredibly comfortable and at home there, even though I only stayed four nights. It was the perfect place to experience more Ghanaian culture, but also to relax part way through my trip.

Running the guest house is the family’s only source of income, but they also contribute to the community as best they can, and they have made a really positive impact. They’ve built a little skate park and they also raised money to build proper toilets in the local school, and more.

I am so glad I went to Roots Yard, and I will always remember it with a huge smile. I think it’s a really special place and if I ever go back to Ghana, I will 100 percent make sure I stay there again, and I can’t thank the family enough for their hospitality, genuine caring attitudes and great advice/directions for exploring the local area by myself. There are certain places where I leave a little bit of my heart when I travel, and I can say without a doubt that Roots Yard is one of them.

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