Exploring the “touristy” side of Ghana

This past weekend I got a head start on my African travel resolution and headed to Cape Coast, about a 4-hour (with traffic) drive West of Accra. The weekend was a great mix of historical education, relaxation, and fun, and I’m glad I finally got a chance to visit some of Ghana’s “touristy” destinations.

After piling into a car with two Germans, a Frenchman, and an American, we headed West on Friday night after work and thanks to brutal traffic, we didn’t get into Cape Coast until about 9pm that night. We stayed at a place called Oasis Beach Resort, which is the site of the highest concentration of obrunis I’ve ever seen in Ghana. Our dorm was right on the ocean (for the equivalent of $10/night), and I’ll never get tired of hearing waves crash as I drift into sleep.

The group:L-R= Germany, USA, Germany, Canada, France

The group:
L-R= Germany, USA, Germany, Canada, France

Oasis Beach Resort (Cape Coast, Ghana)

Oasis Beach Resort (Cape Coast, Ghana)

The hostel was within eyeshot of the Cape Coast Castle, which we walked to the next morning. It was brutally hot that day but it helped us get a sense of how Hellish it would of been for slaves in those dungeons, where they spent up to three months before their perilous boat journey to North America. The dungeons were dark, dank, hot, and windowless, and I can’t imagine spending a night in there, never mind months.

DSC00615

At one point in our tour, our guide led us into a small cell and closed the metal door, plunging the room into darkness and giving me a minor heart attack. He wanted to give us a sense of what it was like in that particular cell, which was for condemned prisoners. Any prisoners who fought back in any way or showed resistance were sent to this place, where they were packed in with up to 50 others and left to die. The door was closed and locked, and not opened again until every last prisoner had died of dehydration, starvation, lack of oxygen, or despair. There were said to even be faint teeth and nail marks along the walls and on the floor of the cell, hinting at the brutality that took place in there. Shivers.

Condemned cell

Condemned cell

At one point in the tour my German friend had to leave one of the dungeons because she felt faint from the heat. With no ventilation and intense humidity, those places were the definition of Hell on Earth (and we didn’t even have to deal with brutal prison guards, human waste on the floor, or rape).

We even stepped through the “Door of No Return”, where slaves exited one-by-one onto awaiting boats, never to see their home country again. As an American citizen with little formal education about the slave trade, this experience definitely gave me a better understanding of the lasting impact of such a brutal practice.

After that heavy morning, we headed to a little shack down the road and got some freshly made smoothies while we planned our next journey. By the time there was no smoothie left in our glasses, three of us had decided to hop in a taxi and head to Kakum National Park about an hour away. Kakum is the site of the famous “canopy walk”, where you walk along a rope bridge amongst the treetops of the park.

DSC00633

I was terrified but it was pretty, and kind of hilarious to watch everyone reach solid ground at the end of the shaky 30-minute walk. There were some squeals of joy, lots of sighs of relief, and plenty of high fives to go around.

After a slight delay (our taxi’s battery died so we had to give it a push start, my first!), we headed back to our dorm and fell asleep early in preparation for the next adventure.

The following morning, we headed even more West, about 15 minutes down the road. Well, it should’ve been 15 minutes, but we were stopped by the police (for the fourth time…racial profiling at its finest!). After being unable to find the required fire extinguisher in the car, we bribed our way down the road. Bribing authority figures isn’t as scandalous as it would be in North America- “dashing” the police is the norm here.

Anyway, Elmina is a busy little fishing town which happens to be the site of the oldest castle in Ghana, Elmina Castle.

Elmina

Elmina

The dungeons of Elmina Castle were similar to those of Cape Coast Castle, but one of the main differences between our experiences at the two was, at Elmina, we got a chance to tour almost every room of the castle, including the bedroom of the governor. His room would be huge even by today’s standards, with stunning panoramic views of the ocean. We were even shown the balcony overlooking the dungeons where the governor would choose a female prisoner, and the small wooden private staircase that slave would climb up after being bathed, leading her directly into the governor’s bedroom where she would be raped.

Elmina Castle

Elmina Castle

The rest of that day was spent wandering Elmina and relaxing by the ocean with a beer before our long drive back to the city. I’ll definitely be heading back to Cape Coast at some point. By Ghana standards, that place is a bit of a hippie paradise. Vegetarian restaurants! Recycling! Sign me up.

Advertisements
Comments
One Response to “Exploring the “touristy” side of Ghana”
  1. Paul Parsons says:

    Happy to see you managed to walk over the rope bridge. Enjoy the adventure!

    Dad

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: