01.08.2010 - 04.08.2010 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We also get to take some lovely portraits:
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.
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...