Gambaga’s Bird (Muscicapa Gambagae)

My recent research into Dr. Rudolf Fisch’s 1910 trek through Mamprugu led me to another European visitor’s journals about a visit to Gambaga, Gold Coast (Ghana) in 1901. Lieutenant Boyd Alexander was a British Army Officer who was famous for his expeditions from West to East Africa in the early 1900s. He was a passionate ornithologist and through his travels he amassed a collection of African bird specimens that he later gifted to the British Museum – many of them from Ghana.

Lt. Alexander was lucky enough to discover some new species in Ghana* and he named one after Gambaga since he first spotted it there. This bird is Muscicapa Gambagae or the Gambaga Flycatcher.

In 1902, Boyd published a report in Ibis, a renowned ornithology journal, about his travels in Ghana and the birds he collected. That report first mentions this bird.**

I found his report of the journey from Kumasi to Gambaga to be quite interesting. Here are some excerpts from On the Birds of the Gold Coast Colony and its Hinterland. Read More

The Sacred Baobab of Toumousséni, Burkina Faso

Baobab trees are often considered to be objects of spiritual significance in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Tyurama (or Turka) ethnic group have a massive baobab tree in Toumousséni, Burkina Faso. At 18 meters in circumference it is the largest in the country and it is held sacred by the locals.

Locals attribute their survival of a war centuries ago to the spirit of this tree and therefore protect it and make sacrifices to it to this day. It currently has a middle-aged albino man as its guardian and he makes sure that its leaves and fruit are not harvested and that it receives regular offerings. As long as the tree is satisfied with their worship, a massive hole in its trunk remains open giving access to a cavernous room inside the tree.

When we visited we were allowed to enter the tree and sit with its care-taker in the cave. I’ve never been inside such a large tree before. Twenty people or so could have stood inside!

At the center, a single strand or root rose up from the ground to the top. They called it the antennae and said it was the original “core” of the tree. It was quite interesting how the tree was hollowed out around that core.

Ghana’s Wee Problem

The production of Indian Hemp or cannabis, popularly called “wee” throughout Ghana, is increasingly replacing traditional crops on farms in the remote areas of the country’s northern regions.

In recent years, Ghana has become Africa’s largest consumer of marijuana and is third on the global lists. The increased demand has caused the value of the plant to skyrocket and the nation is now the biggest producer and exporter in West Africa.

Poverty in the region drives farmers to grow the popular plant-based drug. One Mamprusi farmer explained, “I get 50 cedis (12USD) for a small bag of dried wee, but a bowl of maize will only fetch me 3 cedis (0.75USD). Which will I grow to feed my family?”

Farms that are safe from authorities’ prying eyes are interplanting Indian hemp in their corn fields and some farms are completely replacing their acres of food staples with it.

When asked what was in the hand-rolled cigarette he was smoking, a marijuana farmer laughed and replied, “Ayi, taba! Vaari maa ya sa’am i zugu.” (No, tobacco! Those leaves with spoil your head!)

The Domes of Fabedougou

Just north of the town of Banfora, Burkina Faso and past the sugar cane fields there are some incredible rock formations. Geologists identify these cool domes as being Mesoproterozoic sandstone formed by millennia of erosion. As awesome as their geological history is, they are even more awesome to climb, hike and get lost in!

We visited the domes with Heidi’s parents in the late morning and the sun was brutal. After a couple hours of climbing and exploring (Ken even got lost!) we headed back to the hotel to cool off in the pool. Later in the afternoon, Ken and I returned as the sun was setting to get some better photos and drone footage.

It was epic.


Burkina Pit Stop

In heart of Burkina Faso’s Kaboré Tambi National Park, lies a hilarious mystery. For the last three years a massive pile of broken ceramic toilet seats has been lying on the side of the road.

We have no idea how it got there but it’s definitely our favorite pit stop on our drives to and from Ouaga.

Cahill Baby Naming

Our friends and colleagues the Cahills recently delivered their third little girl at BMC. Shortly after her birth, Lori’s parents and niece came to visit them. During their stay, they had a baby naming ceremony at Fulbe Baptist Church which they attend in Nalerigu.

Heidi’s parents were also in town so we all attended with several of the current volunteers at BMC. The church was packed tight and afterwards we all went by the Cahill’s house for a meal.

Trey’s 11th Birthday Party

Trey’s birthday was in August but he postponed his party until all his friends and his grandparents were in town. So on September 4, we celebrated at our house and had our friend Baby bake another delicious cake for us.

Some of the games Trey and his friend played were tag, water balloons, capture the flag and a freestyle trampoline jumping contest. The most fun was watching Trey try to blow his trick candles out over and over and over again!