Exploring northern Ghana – Part 1: Tongo
Tongo is a small town 10km south-east of Bolgatanga. My friend Sylvester who works there took me for a visit. Tongo is a point of interest in Upper East region for the huge rocks scattered around, the hills in an otherwise flat area and the Tengzug Shrine located at a village just outside the town.
We arrived at the visitor centre where a guide welcomed us. He was dressed in shorts with a towel slung around his shoulders, as the village was following the tradition of not wearing trousers or shirts for a month leading up to a local festival which would celebrate the beginning of the planting season.
We visited a few features on the outskirts of the village, including a former teaching spot with a large flat rock in the shade of a giant rock above.
We climbed to the highest point in the surrounding landscape, up a pile of giant rocks, from where we were told announcements would have been made to the surrounding community. Now, mobile phones make this unnecessary.
Then we walked into Tengzug village where we came across the chief just leaving in his pick-up with a few other elderly men. We greeted and were granted permission to visit the chief’s village.
It turned out that all the adobe houses here were occupied by his family, having 13 wives they needed a significant number of houses..! All the homes have been built close together and are connected by small passage ways.
The roofs are flat as the occupants will sleep up there during the hottest part of the year, something I’m thinking of trying as temperatures are rising now…
On one edge of the village is a graveyard for former chiefs. At this site the community make daily sacrifices of chickens to honour their chiefs.
We passed a former chief’s house, who had been known as a good hunter, so he had had his house painted with wild animals, and it appeared, other status symbols.
Then we walked away from the village towards the Tengzug Shrine. In the holy shrine is a priest who provides consultations and solutions for all sorts of problems. Apparently visitors come from far and wide, not just tourists but people seeking the priest’s advice have visited from Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Côte D’Ivoire. Those who have been helped by the priest often return to express their gratitude with the gift of a donkey. The skulls are placed in the Donkey Cave near the entrance to the shrine.
When we reached the shrine, we could hear that the priest was busy with a visitor. I had been warned in advance by friends here that you are required to enter the shrine not only barefoot but also topless… so I was happy to say we should leave them in peace and instead, I admired the view before heading back to the visitors’ centre.