A Travellerspoint blog

Travels: 1st of August to the 4th of August.

sunny 30 °C

1st of August: We wake up and after Ben has spoken to a couple of the backpackers, we realise that the boat-trip we were wanting to take on the Volta Region does not seem worth it. Overpriced, extremely touristy and getting mixed reviews from backpackers, we decide to give it a pass and travel onwards.

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We only have to stand by the roadside for one second and there comes a tro-tro direction Accra. As in the American movies, you just flag down any type of transport (taxi, bus, tro-tro's, etc.) by screaming out the destination you want to go to. It's amazing! So there we are, on the tro-tro, counting our lucky stars that we could get straight to Accra without wasting too much time. It takes about three hours to get to Ghana's capital and from there we pick up some of our bags at the Salvation Army Hostel, rearrange a couple of things and then take a bus straight to Cape Coast. Today we seem to have better luck and we find “Sammo Guest House”, our accommodation straight away! It's a nice self-contained double room for only 15 Ghana Cedis (£7.50) a night! The Guest House also has a lovely open roof-terrace restaurant, where we spend the rest of the evening.

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2nd of August: I wake up and seem to have gotten over the worst of my cold. What a good start to the day! We decide not to waste any time and head straight out on a quest to find the famous “Cape Coast Castle”. It's a stunning fort set right on the beach, but unfortunately its history is less than stunning as the purpose of its construction all those years ago was to give the slaves their final stay before they were shipped out to the America's and Europe. We pay the entrance fee, which covers a guided tour as well as entry to the museum and a stay at the fort for as long as we wish.

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Face to face with one of the world's most cruel crimes to humanity, we are guided around the dungeons, the cells, the “door of no return” that leads to shore, the rooms of the officials, etc. The guide makes sure that we get a real feel for the place, by turning of the lights in the dungeons as we enter it.

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It's a horrible feeling, but one that we can escape, as opposed to the millions of people that were trapped inside. The dungeons are packed with about 200 slaves and a tiny window for a little bit of ventilation and light. Despite the bright midday sun shining outside, we can hardly see a thing. And the conditions just get worse and worse as we go along. We see the "Door of no Return" through which the slaves went onto the boats and dissapeared into the ocean to other continents. And we also see the stunning beach that lies ahead of the castle. Where now people and fisherman do their business, was once the last view of the slaves' beloved Ghana, family, friends and home.

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A couple of years ago, two descendants of slaves: one man and one woman, walked hand in hand through the "Door of No Return" and put a similar plaque on the other side of the door with the words: "Door of Return". When you walk into the castle, through the door they are then welcomed by a sign that says "Akwaaba" or "welcome" in the local Twi language, welcoming all the black people back to their roots!

We learn a lot and after the tour we take our time to stroll around the castle and take in the superb views.

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The irony of the beautiful view that shares such a macabre history is almost sickening, but it is one that has to remain alive in order to prevent such an atrocity in the future.

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We also get to take some lovely portraits:

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At the end of the day, we stroll down the beach and then have dinner on Sammo's roof restaurant.

3rd of August: We set of to the market after breakfast and get a tro-tro to Kakum National Park. Smaller than its Northern cousin Mole National Park and without the famous “safari”-esque tours, the park is set in a beautiful stretch of rainforest. The only two attractions for tourists so far are a guided nature walk to learn about the medicinal use of plants and a world-famous canopy walk – the longest in the world! Obviously we decide to do the latter. In total there are 7 canopy-bridges at a height of about 40m across a small part of the rainforest.

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It is quite an experience, but we are still relieved to know that the canopy's are replaced every few months and controlled rigorously for each visit. We take the tro-tro back and spend the rest of the evening relaxing on the roof top terrace.

It's our last night in Cape Coast and despite having had a really good time, we both reflect on the difference between being a volunteer living with locals and being a tourist. In Denu, where there aren't many white people, the people are known to be the friendliest of the country. They greet everyone equally with a friendly “you are welcome” (or in Ewe: “mia woeso”) or an interested “how are you?” (in Ewe: “Eh foa?”). In contrast, the people of Cape Coast are used to the many rich tourists passing their town and we often get screamed at with a rather rude: “White man! Give me your …”, naming whatever it is you are carrying around. We realise how lucky we have been to have lived for most of our time in the friendliest region in Ghana and suddenly, we start to really miss Mme Celestine and the rest of the family...

To be continued...

Posted by Fat Face 07:20 Archived in Ghana Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

29th of July until the 31st of August (by Emilie)

sunny 30 °C

We have returned to Glasgow and currently experiencing the “we-want-to-be-back-in-Ghana”- blues. So not surprisingly, all of our 1st day back has been spent with Ghana-related things such as unpacking, washing and filing all of our pictures. Ben has been busy developing the negatives of his film-camera as well as scanning them in individually, which is a very long process.

But before we go on about how much we miss Ghana, I will continue where I left off. As you may remember, the last time we were able to come online and tell you about our adventures was on the 29th of July as we started our travels on Saturday. So, what happened since then?

30th July 2010: Last day in Denu... and we start off with our last visit to the Construction Site. We don't do any work, but take many last pictures of the progress to send to Simon and we say our goodbyes.

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It's sad to leave such friendly and hard-working people behind, but as the Ghanaians say: Miadogo! (We shall meet again!)

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Then we head to the house and pack our belongings. Bless interrupts us to tell us that we have to help her to make lunch: Fufu. Another version of the starchy maize concoction formed in a ball. But this one is lighter and gets "pouded" in a bowl with a heavy wooden stick. For something that takes 5 minutes to eat, it is a hard work of 15 minutes of pounding per Fufu-ball.

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But luckily the work has paid off and the result is very nice. And Ben and I find it a lot nicer than the heavier Banku and Akplé varieties. Pity we did not try it before hand.

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After a hearty lunch we head outside for our last family photo-shoots in full Ghanaian outfits. People come over to us with many gifts: we get matching necklaces from Sandra, matching beads from lovely Beatrice and a very nice matching armband from Innocencial. All of them with tears in their eyes. It's really nice that they got us the same things to match as they would for husbands and wives. We will definitely miss our Ewe name-calling of "Brother Kwame" and "Sister Yawaa". Or, our new names: "Mr Ben Lolo" (Lolo meaning fat) and "Mrs Ben Lolo" ;) We end the evening watching the season finale of "Legend of the Seeker" together as a family and have a wonderful time. Can we not just take them all along on our travels?

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31st July 2010: Both an exciting and sad day – the start of our travels around the South of Ghana, but also the end of our stay in Denu with our beloved host-family. We wake up early to further pack our bags and have our last gigantic breakfast. Goodbye lovely room and house!

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Unfortunately, I decide to fall ill today and I suffer quite badly from a cold. The dusty roads have developed a nasty cough and I feel incredibly weak. Not a great start to the day! We were meant to set off around 9am, but Bless tells us she too will be travelling to Ho, so we can all go together. She takes a really long time to get ready and by the time we finally set off with the taxi to the tro-tro station in neighbouring Aflao, it is already 10.30am and everybody of the family has left to do their shores. So no proper goodbyes, feeling ill and feeling nervous about not being on schedule. In the end, we briefly get to wave goodbye to Mme Celestine from the taxi, which is not the way we wanted to say thank you to our host-mother. Not very nice.

We at last get the tro-tro from Aflao all the way to Ho, the capital of the Volta Region. From there, we say goodbye to Bless and take another tro-tro to Akosombo, a small town that lies by the Volta Region. The travelling is quite an adventure in itself: we cramp together on a mini-bus (or what is left of the mini-bus) on bad dust-roads filled with big holes everywhere. This means that to avoid falling into the holes, the tro-tro has to drive on the left side of the road, which can be rather scary. But we arrive in Akosombo in one piece, though the travelling hasn't made me feel any better. We struggle to find our hostel and crash straight into bed.

To be continued....

Posted by Fat Face 16:13 Archived in Ghana Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

The end of our adventure...

but not yet the end of the blog!

sunny 30 °C

Just a last quick message from beautiful Ghana. Our traveling has come to an end and therefore, so has our adventure in this wonderful country: we leave on Tuesday the 10th of August, which seems much too soon... Time has really flown by and we could have easily stayed for many more months to come. But as with all travels, they have to come to an end at some point and we can gladly say that this has been an adventure of a life time!

So rather than give you a rushed account of our last week on Ghanaian soil, we will just enjoy our last couple of days and get back to you with much more pictures and stories when we are back in Glasgow :) Thank you for your support!

Ben and Emilie x

Posted by Fat Face 05:31 Archived in Ghana Tagged volunteer Comments (2)

Traveling in Southern Ghana

(31st of July until the 10th of August)

sunny 30 °C

And this is the end of my diary entries about Denu... :( From Saturday onwards, we will be traveling around Southern Ghana and saying goodbye to our wonderful host-family. We have had the most wonderful time and the experience has been life-changing. But our volunteering-time has come to an end and it is time to explore in the time that is left. We will only be seeing the South as we do not have enough time to explore the whole country. As we have promised though, we will be back one day in the near future to do the rest :)

So on Saturday morning we take the tro-tro to Ho and then another tro-tro from Ho to Akosombo. It's a small town located on the Southern end of Lake Volta, where we shall be staying the night. On Sunday, we then take the ferry on Lake Volta until the evening. We are really looking forward to seeing the beauty of the lake from close by :) After the boat-ride we go back to Accra, the capital, to stay the night with Captain Ecku at the Salvation Army Hostel. It will only be for the night, as on Monday we leave with the bus to the famous Cape Coast to visit the slave-fort and other historical sites that have made the Gold Coast of West Africa infamous. We will spend approximately three days there, so that we can include a day trip to Kakum National Park and take a walk on the high canopy across the forest :) We were meant to go to the Ashanti capital, Kumasi, after that, but we heard so many reviews about this place called 'Green Turtle Lodge', that we decided to cancel our city-break and stay there for two nights. It's supposed to be a haven away from everything and you can check it out for yourself on www.greenturtlelodge.com Finally, our last trip will take us to a place called Ada Foah, where the Lake Volta mouths into the ocean. It is meant to be gorgeous, so we will have to see for ourselves. Our last day, Tuesday the 9th of August, will then be spent in Accra, where we will visit the Arts and Crafts market and have a final night in wonderful Ghana.

So, if you do not receive any news from us through out the next weeks, it will be because we are having a wonderful stress-free time. But no worries, we will be back with more stories (and better internet-access) when we are back in Glasgow. Though I hope time will go slowly until then.

Thanks for following us and sharing our experiences. Enjoy the many pictures we have at last manage to upload and take care! WE LOVE GHANA! :)

Posted by Fat Face 06:41 Archived in Ghana Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

26th to 29th the July (by Emilie)

Last week in Denu

sunny 30 °C

26th of July - Unfortunate day at the Construction Site today...
In the morning, Bless joins us to the site and is eager to help us dig some more holes. Her excitement soon fades as she realises what hard work it is and she gives up after an hour, much to the amusement of the workers, who call her a "yavoo" and point at me saying I have now become a "strong ameyibo" (black person). Ben and I continue working and we are joined by Simon. But not for long as suddenly we hear a loud crack coming from his back and we realise he must have seriously injured it. He begs us to not make the same mistake and to take it easy from now on, which we do. We end up going home earlier than usual and after he has dropped us home, Simon heads immediately to the hospital in neighbouring Aflao. While we wait for him, Ben and I head to the beach and stay there for a couple of hours. The waves are yet again too strong to swim, but it doesn't stop us from having a relaxing time and clearing our worries minds.

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When Simon comes over, he tells us he needs to go to Accra for an X-ray and that if the injury is as bad as the doctor's think, he will be heading home to South Africa straight away to have the procedure done there... What a terrible day!

27th of July - The workers at the construction site are all busy leaving no tools for Ben and I to use to help, so we head home early. We had decided to join Simon to Accra to make sure he would be alright during the long car journey. Ben had the splendid idea to pack one of our big backpack already and leave them with Captain Ecku at the Salvation Army Hostel so that we had less to carry during our week of travel, which would start soon.

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Once packed and ready we drive all the way to Accra and arrive there without any incidents. We stop for food and stay overnight at the hostel, happy that we could keep Simon company during the long drive.

28th of July - We wake up at 8am and head for our usual roadside breakfast consisting of bread with vegetable omelet and hot drink. It's delicious as always, making every trip down to busy and smelly Accra worth wile. Because Simon's appointment is only in the afternoon and he does not want us to travel back during the night, we decide that it is best to take a tro-tro (passenger-bus/truck) back to Denu at 1pm. Before that, Simon takes us for our last tour around Ghana in the shabby little car. We stop at a workshop where custom-made coffins are made. No no, it's not anything macabre, but a true skillful trade, resting the dead in what they loved most. So if you loved aeroplanes, your coffin is a custom-made plane. If you loved crabs, then your coffin will be a crab etc. Definitely worth a visit!

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Then we head to the Arts and Crafts market, which turns out to be huge! Everyone wants us, yavoos, to buy something from them, but we decide to leave the buying for another day and just look around. There are so many wonderful things and we cannot wait to be back! We drive through Accra one last time with Simon, past the Ghanaian High Court of Justice, Independence Square, stop at a school and have Red Red for lunch (Ben's favourite!).

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Then it's time to take the tro-tro... seeing in how much pain Simon is, we soon realise that it will be a very sad goodbye. With tears in our eyes, we bid him farewell and set off back to Denu. It will be very strange not spending every single day of the week with happy energetic Simon, but he needs to get better soon. And if the health care is a 100 times better in South Africa and he gets to be with his family, then that is for the best. What a wonderful character he is!
Back home we get hugged firmly by everyone and after some food we head to bed.

29th of July - TODAY.
So... no working at the construction site today as there weren't enough tools. But it's alright as we have approached our last days in Denu. When we arrive back at the house, we help the family work on their farm for a while, which is quite nice relaxing work.

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From Saturday morning onwards we will be traveling across the South of Ghana until we depart back to the U.K. I cannot believe how quickly time has passed, but the experience has been life-changing having met the kindest people in the most beautiful country. Thank you Ghana!

Posted by Fat Face 06:03 Archived in Ghana Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

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