Storytime – Cosmos goes to Abuja

Recently, due to certain reasons, I had to make my way to Abuja. Due to the current state of the Abuja Airport, I must admit I was somewhat reluctant to make the journey but nevertheless the trip was necessary and off I went.

The beginning of my journey was not the most auspicious. I had purchased a ticket to fly directly to Kaduna where there was free transportation to Abuja. There seemed to be an issue with the flight, not surprising considering that I was flying ArikAir, but due to the fact the only people going on said flight was me and one other gentleman we were instead placed on a flight to Lagos and I gained a travel companion. Upon arriving, with a little difficulty, our airline provided a bus which shuttled us to the Local Departures. There awaited us a two hour long wait and some rather unimpressive coffee, then the flight was delayed and we had to wait another hour. Finally, the two of us as well as other passengers heading out from Lagos boarded the flight.

Upon arriving in Kaduna, we were quickly able to claim our luggage and we were all quickly directed to the bus. The whole process was impressively quick as with-in 15 to 20 minutes of arrival, we were leaving Kaduna Airport to make way to Abuja Airport. The journey itself was not quick, we were all on that bus for 4 hours before we arrived in Abuja Airport. Luckily someone had managed to arrange a car to send me to my hotel. La’Don hotel may not be a 5-star but they offer clean rooms at extremely reasonable rates.

Due to my reason for coming, as well as the short time I spent there, I wasn’t able to see much of the city. I was able to visit Southern Fried Chicken for lunch however and I have to say they are far more modernized than their counterparts in Tema. I also visited a nearby mall and I have to say they keep security pretty tight there. On a side note, the cheapest place to buy a bottle of water seems to be Shoprite where a 750ml bottle of Eva goes for 65 naira. EVERYBODY drinks Eva in Nigeria. I have to say that my most memorable experience was riding a ‘Keke’, if I got the name wrong my apologies and please correct me, they are more common and far cheaper than taxis.

My return trip was rather uneventful, the only thing worth noting is that on the flight is that beside me there was only one other passenger on the flight. That certain made for an interesting trip.

Cosmos out

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1 Visa Free South American Country for Ghanaian Citizens

As Ecuador is the only country in South America that you can visit visa free (other than Bolivia and Guyana which are visa upon arrival), you must make good use of the 90 visa free days to explore every inch on this country and indulge in all the Latino way of living. Ecuador is a wildly diverse country and due to its compact size, a lot can be done and experienced in a short period. This country has everything for those seeking an adventure and for those who want a relaxing experience.

For the adventure seekers, you can;

Discover the lofty town of Zaruma hidden in the highlands of El Oro.

Climb the snow-capped volcanoes

Go on a downhill mountain biking on Cotopaxi Volcano which is the second tallest volcano in Ecuador (also one of the world’s tallest active volcano)

Go backpacking to Quito to see Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World)

Explore the Amazon Jungle where you can get upclose and personal with exotic wildlife only found in the rainforest and learn about the indigenous people who call the region their home. Then go for whitewater rafting at Tena.

Trek the Quilotoa Loop where you can get a picturesque view of Laguna Quilotoa (a crater lake which also offers amazing views of a nearby volcano on clear days.)

Ride a train through the Devil’s Nose where you get the opportunity to go an an adrenaline filled journey while gasping at the jungle and the lofty Andes above.

Get wet and wild in Banos which is the self-proclaimed adventure capital of Ecuador. In banos, you can climb the Tunguragua Volcano; go for whitewater rafting, cannoning, paragliding, hot springs, waterfall tours, mountain biking and bridge swings.

Get wonderfully lost at the isolated province of Loja .

Visit Chimborazo where you will see the farthest point from the earth’s centre and a massive volcano in the Andes.

Learn to surf in Montanita

Go hiking in the Valley of Longevity at Vilcabamba
For those seeking a relaxing experience, you can;

Explore the lofty capital Quito which is scattered across a spectacular valley and surrounded by snow-capped volcanoes.

Cruise around the Galapagos Islands and tour the islands Charles Robert Darwin developed his evolution theory; go swimming with sea lions; learn the genealogy of the formation of the volcanic island chain,

Go shopping at Otavalo Market which is the largest in South America and the less touristy market of Saqisili for an authentic slice of local life.

Take a walk in Cuenca’s Historic City Centre which is Ecuador’s third largest city. This city is filled with dozen churches and one monumental cathedral.

See Ecuador’s largest Incan ruins at the mounds of Cochasqui which shows evidence of a sophisticated irrigation and diplomacy among the ancient builders.

Go for an otherworldly swim at La Grietas (the Cracks)

Enjoy some sun at Ecuador’s beautiful beaches – North Seymour Island in the Galapagos, Tortuga Bay at Santa Cruz Island in the Galpagos, Panorama at Rabida (Jervis) Island; Floreana at Charles or Santa Maria Island, Silver Island, Salinas, Muisne, Playas, Punta Carnero etc.

Visit the Tulcan Municipal Cemetery for a jaw-dropping topiary wonderland.

While in Ecuador, you can also use the opportunity to learn Spanish. Quito provides excellent schools and classes to help you master the language. You can either have a one-on-one or group tuition.

3 Visa Free Australia and Oceania Countries for Ghanaian Citizens

From my previous post on visa free travel opportunities for Ghanaian citizens, here are the countries in Australia and Oceania where Ghanaians can visit visa free.

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Fiji – Fiji is the ideal place for any type of vacation especially family as Fijians see children as pure joy and not an obligation or infringement. The minute the Fijians realise you are a family, you are given a preferential treatment right from the get-go. It may sound bias but well, it is their country and their beliefs. So back to what you can do in Fiji. Depending on the purpose of your visit, you can either choose to just chill-out in your resort or go out on a cruise to explore the beautiful island. You can start with a charter boat where you can pay for a full day or multi day trip to discover the real Fiji which is made up of 300 islands and a water so warm and inviting you can laze around in it for hours. You can explore the remote villages and islands where you get to experience first-hand the rich culture of the Fijians. You can try the following activities;

  • Go diving on Beqa Island where you will see the soft coral of Fiji made up of ghost pipefish, seahorses, blue ribbon eels, pelagics and many more. Other than the underwater sightseeing, you can also visit the Sawau tribe where you can witness a fire-walking ceremony – warriors treading over burning embers from an earth oven.
  • Hike the Falls of Taveuni which is located at Taveuni Island (Fiji’s Garden of Eden). This place hosts rare orchids, prehistoric tree ferns, tumbling waterfall and natural water slides. Also there is the Tavoro waterfalls, a 60 foot horsetail of white water that cascades into an emerald pool.
  • Take a trip to forested foothills of Sabeto Range where late actor Raymond Burr (of Perry Mason fame) created the Garden of the Sleeping Giant; a botanical sanctuary of vanilla scented orchids and zen-like lily ponds. You can also stay in one of their Fijian-style bungalow called bures which is made up of glass walls and tent-like roofs. The feeling there is blissfully remote but only 15 minutes away from downtown Nadi (a city in Fiji’s mainland).
  • Sample the culture in Nadi: go on an open-air souvenir market then explore the country’s indian legacy at Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple. Finish up your tour with an Indo-Fijian feast of fresh fish curry spiced roti at Curry House.
  • Take a helicopter tour from Nadi International Airport and flyover Mamancua Islands.
  • Go for a night or two stay at Likuliku Lagoon Resort, home to Fiji’s only overwater huts. Take a bath, brush your teeth or read a book over water.
  • Discover world’s unique pearls in the pristine waters of Savusavu Bay.
  • Drink kava on the island of Vanua Levu: this island is Fiji’s second largest and has a more rural atmosphere with beautiful beaches and resorts. It is also a great place to see traditional village life. With a tour of Nukubaluvu Village, you will take part in a gift-giving ceremony, followed by kava drinking then a wild traditional dance.
  • You can also go fishing; get lost on Matangi Island; indulge in all watersports; hunt Lairo crab on Qamea; couple up on Turtle Island etc.

There is just so much you can do at Fiji and having a 4-month visa free permit is just what you will need.

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Micronesia – this country is now one of the most favoured paces to visit in Australia and Oceania. Travellers from all over the world come here for the beautiful beaches, remarkable dive sites and the island cultures. Each of the country’s four states has its own unique identity and the small islands also offers some amazing natural wonders in the world like tropical rainforests, mountains, Turk Lagoon’s dive spots and stunning water cascades on the largest island of Pohnpei. In Micronesia, you can go for scuba diving; explore wrecks in the Turk Lagoon; shark diving for the adrenaline seekers; reef diving; eco adventures in Kosrae; off-road excursions and canoeing; mountain biking, hiking and cycling; water-based activities like fishing, kayaking and kite surfing; island hopping and exploring old villages; bathing beneath Pohnpei’s magnificent waterfalls; see mythical creatures at Pwudoi Sanctuary; settle down in your own shoreline paradise at the tree-hemmed shores around Kosrae; stay the night at Black Coral Island which is untouched by the modern hand; strike out with a baseball game; tour the states’ historical sites; visit the remains of Micronesia’s colonial past; visit the Venice of Micronesia called Nan Madol etc.

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Vanuatu – it could be because these country is also in Oceania as the activities undertaken in Micronesia are similar to those of Vanuatu. This country is scattered with 90 plus island archipelago where you can hike up a crater to stare down into a magma-filled active volcano then ashboard backdown; snorkel in a blue hole and drink kava with the local village chief in one day. Though the country was slammed by Cyclone Pam in 2015, they people of Vanuatu are still laidback and take life in smiling strides. In Vanuatu you can;

  • Drive a dune buggy on an off-road tour where you get to follow a leader in a convoy as you power along a black sand beach through forest tracks by way of some local villages.
  • Gasp at Naghol – a land dive ceremony which involves men diving from 100m high towers with only vines tied around their ankles. The Naghol is the celebration of the yam festival and is a fertility rite for men.
  • Seek out Hideaway Island Marine Sanctuary where they provide excellent offshore snorkelling, a fine restaurant and the underwater post office as well as their snorkel safari and scuba dives.
  • Wreck diving at Espiritu Santo Island. Snorkelling is the best for Vanuatu’s scenic islands.
  • Spot dolphins from your sailboat: set sail in search of dolphins aboard the Coongoola which also takes passengers to the turtle sanctuary on Tranquility Island (Moso) for a beach barbecue and snorkelling.
  • Haul a catch with deep-sea fishing in the South Pacific for tuna, swordfish, marlin and wahoo. For smaller catches reef fishing, boats depart from Port Villa Harbour.
  • Try the national dish at the Mama’s Market; understand local traditions at Ekasup Cultural Village; unearth history at the Secret Garden; view Vanuatu from a helicopter above etc.

It takes a little time, effort and a healthy sense of adventure to explore Vanuatu’s islands but it is definitely worth every bit of it. and since you have 30 visa free days, you can take your sweet sweet time exploring every inch of Vanuatu.

So here are the 3 visa free countries in Australia and Oceania. Next Wednesday, I will be sharing with you visa free countries in North America.