When I mentioned to the Prempehs that I wanted to stay in Kokrobite (pronounced 'Cock-rah-bee-tee') for Christmas, I'm sure I got a funny look; I also mentioned it on the phone to Kwesi when he rang up his aunt and uncle for a chat, and he just laughed. I couldn't understand why; all the way down through Mali and Burkina Faso I bumped into people who'd come the other way from Ghana, and whenever I mentioned that I was heading down to the Ghanaian coast for Christmas, people kept recommending Big Milly's Backyard in Kokrobite. How can you ignore travellers' advice like that?
Yesterday I took a taxi all the way from Accra to Kokrobite, because Mr Prempeh said he would feel happier knowing I'd arrived safely, but that was where my Accran luxury stopped and a new kind stepped in: the luxury of the beachside travellers' joint. Kokrobite is a small village right by the sea, and hidden in its suburbs and right on the beach is Big Milly's Backyard. Started in 1995 by an English woman called Wendy and her Ghanaian partner Seto, Big Milly's (or Wendy's Place as it's also known) is a simple block of land behind the beach, maybe 100m wide and three times that deep, that's dotted with tall coconut palms, squat palm trees, bushes and trees. Hidden among the copious greenery are lots of pretty little thatched huts, some bucket-shower blocks, a bar, a chill-out area, a couple of viewing towers and a restaurant overlooking the beach, and it's all delightfully clean and pleasant. It's got just what I need to kick back and relax: everything I buy is bought on account, which I'll settle when I leave, so I don't have to carry money around and there's never an excuse for not going to the bar; there's a live band every Saturday night, and over the Christmas period you apparently can't move for drummers, bands and dancers; the food is quite, quite excellent and very good value; and down on the beach there's a friendly bunch of Rastafarians, where those who want to can get stoned on the local grass for an absolute pittance. As a recipe for relaxation it's pretty excellent, and as a recipe for hedonism it's pretty damn good too; perhaps that's why the Prempehs gave me that funny look.
I'm going to do nothing for days and days except sit, read, write, eat, drink and meet people. I need a break from travelling, I need to feed myself back up after being ill from Dogon to Kumasi, and I need company; happily, I'm finding all of these in Kokrobite. I've already met some wonderful people, I'm relaxed enough to get my head together, and I hope that this will help reignite the travelling spark that went out, ooh, back in Senegal.
There'll probably be precious little to say about my time in Kokrobite, and that, I guess, is the whole point of the place. How wonderful it is to be able to stop thinking for a week or so, while the sea laps against the beach, echoing off yet another bottle of ice-cold beer.
It makes Mopti feel a long, long way away.