It wasn't Busua's fault that I didn't like the place. Located between Axim and Takoradi along the western half of the Ghanaian coast, Busua boasts a beautiful beach, a colonial fort in neighbouring Dixcove, safe swimming, and a chance to kick back once again from the rigours of African life. Unfortunately I left Axim with a familiar gurgling in my stomach, and by the time I got to Busua, exhausted from another buttock-clenching bounce along the roads of Ghana, I had no idea whether I wanted to relax on the beach or kick the local dogs.
One thing was for certain, though; I wasn't in the mood for tout hassle, vacant staff, cliquey company and grumbling thunder, all of which Busua happily provided within two minutes of my arrival. The Alaska Beach Club, a collection of picturesque huts right on the beach, looked at first like another Big Milly's, but without a compound wall between it and the beach it was nothing but a haven for schoolboy touts and people trying to sell me water, biscuits and kayak trips. The biggest irritation was the proliferation of guides who were desperately willing to take me over the headland to visit the crumbling Fort Metal Cross in Dixcove; the 15-minute path between Busua and Dixcove is notorious for muggings and it's wise to take a local with you as the thieves don't want anyone there who can recognise them. This is all fine and good – though the development of a lucrative guiding business doesn't exactly motivate the community to stamp out the muggings themselves – but when I realised that everyone I met on the beach was eventually going to try to get me to take them as a guide, it got horribly wearing.
Meanwhile the skies clouded up and were, like me, making ominous rumbling sounds, and as the only other people on the beach were travellers from the two large trans-Africa trucks parked in the Alaska's grounds, I felt quite alone; they stuck to their own groups, leaving me and James Michener alone with the touts.
This unexpectedly disappointing vibe brought on a serious epiphany, right there on the beach. I've been wondering for a while how I'm going to feel when I go home, and whether I'm actually going to fly out to Kenya after a short break at home. Back on the beach, I managed to boil it all down into two questions.
The first was 'What do you really want to do now?' and the answer is an emphatic 'I want to go home.' I've been toying with the idea of spending a few more weeks in Ghana, exploring the Volta region and the north, but on the beach in Busua I realised that actually I want to go home, I'm just too scared to admit it to myself after planning this year-long trip for the last four years. So there and then I decided that when I got back to Accra I'd buy the first available flight home, and with this decision came massive relief; for the first time I realised that my trip is effectively over.
The second question was 'What do you really want to do when you get back?' and the seemingly contradictory answer is that I still want to go travelling. I've spent the last four years building up to a year on the road, but the last four months have changed my mind... and still I want to explore, despite the terrible homesickness. And then it struck me, in a moment of clarity: plenty of people travel in the UK, but I've never bothered to explore it. I know bucket-loads about Australia, India, New Zealand, Mali and all sorts of other exotic countries, but I know nothing about the UK, and if I want to continue travelling but still be close to home, then why not travel while staying close to home? What a simple solution.
So Busua's sweeping beach and its colonial fort didn't get a visit from me because I've now got another plan. Instead of visiting Fort Metal Cross I got up at the crack of dawn the next day and practically ran out of town, glad to be away from the touts, the salespeople and the cliquey truckers, and even happier to be heading back to Accra and its airport.
Indeed, I was so happy with my newfound direction that I stopped off at Kokrobite for three days, just in time to catch Lukas as he hit the road again after six weeks learning the drums. The leaving bash at his place was a delight, and with him moving on and me planning a different kind of trip, it felt like a good way to close my chapter on West Africa. And not only that, I also met Paul and Hannah, a lovely couple whom I'd originally met in the Gambia, and we swapped by-now-familiar stories of just how awful Mali can be, and what a demonic pit from hell Mopti really is. It felt good, but even more amusing was them reminding me of an off-the-cuff comment I'd made to them back in Jangjang Bureh.
'You remember back in the Gambia when we asked you why you'd chosen to travel through West Africa?' said Hannah. 'And you said: "You know, I've been asking myself the same question recently." Well, we've been telling people all along the trail about that, and you were spot on, you know.'
So despite the hassles of Busua and my plan to leave Ghana earlier than expected, I feel good. I'm not alone in thinking West Africa is a disappointment, I've survived the hardest travelling I've ever had to tackle, and I actually want to go home, and for a positive reason. How can I complain about that?