How I Spent My Christmas Break

Together

I’m happy to say that I disappeared from this blog because my sister came to visit for almost 2 weeks.

Her visit made me do all the things that I normally wouldn’t do.  For instance, I once stated I would never take a tro tro.  My sister read somewhere that riding tro tro was quintessentially part of the Ghanaian experience.  Thus, I decided to take a 5 minute trip from the A&C Shopping Center to “American House”, one of the major bus stops nearby.  I ate my words for 1.4 cedis.  We left around 10am so it wasn’t too crowded.

Am I going to change my transportation habits? No.  A big reason I don’t take tro tro is because it looks dangerous.  They take these 30 year old minivans from the US, places a couple of rows of seats, then Voila they can begin charging fares.  My auntie confirmed my suspicions when she explained that those seats are not installed properly.  Thus, in a collision, the passengers and their seats all travel forward.

View of Kakum National Park

View of Kakum National Park

Getting Out of the City

The other big thing we did was travel outside of Accra.  We went to Kakum National Park and the Elmina (Slave) Castle near Cape Coast.  By private car, it’s about a 2.5 hour journey from Accra and 3.5 hours to return.

Kakum National Park is one of the few remaining protected tropical forests left in West Africa.  Apparently, much of the tropical forests have been lost to logging.  As beautiful as the tropical forest may be, I am not a fan of hiking through humid, thick vegetation.  Ghana’s equatorial location makes it a prime location for all manner of species including monkeys, chimps, bats, snakes, lizards, and giant insects.  For instance, I’ve seen at least four praying mantises since I arrived.

For those willing to sleep in discomfort, our guide explained that you can pay a small fee to stay overnight in a tree house in the park.  Then, he will take you out for a night walk and see the nocturnal animals at play.  He explained that lately they hadn’t seen anything except for 15-20 rats!

Tree House

The main draw of Kakum is the canopy walk.  It seems several years back, two Canadians from Vancouver designed and assembled seven suspension bridges.  The 330 meter bridge walk forms a ring.  The highest point is 40 meters off the ground.

Bridge Walk 1

Steph and Bridge

The aim of the canopy walk seems to be eco-tourism. The fee is 40 cedis for non-Ghanaians and 14 cedis for Ghanaians.  The guide assured us there have never been any accidents.

2_1_transatlantic_route

Elmina Castle

After completing the canopy walk, we headed south to the Elmina Slave Castle.  Several hundred years ago, West Africa was the primary route through which slaves were sold to the New World.

Elmina Castle 1

Visiting the castle, I kept thinking how cruel humans can be toward one another.  Seeing the dungeons of where they kept the female prisoners and male prisoners separately, I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.

The guide framed the tour as examples of how the “bad” white colonizers used their power to enslave the “good” Africans.  There was an Akan man who seemed to be explaining to his sons, “See, this is how the white people are bad.”

Elmina Courtyard 1

Courtyard of Elmina Castle

My understanding is that both the whites and the blacks were guilty in this horrible trade.  According to the UK National Archives, the Ashante king, Osei Tutu, forcibly united several kingdoms.  In the process, he captured prisoners of war who were then sold to the whites in exchange for commodities.  Quite convenient for the Ghanaian tour guide not to mention how the slaves even got to the slave castles.

Elmina Dungeon

Elmina Dungeon

As the tour demonstrated, the whites also treated the prisoners as chattel.  They kept the prisoners weak with limited food rations and frequently raped the women.

The only thing I liked about Elmina was the view.  It’s really hard to take good pictures in Ghana because there are few elevated platforms.

View from Elmina 1

View from Elmina 2

Elmina View 3

My sister’s reaction to Ghana, “It’s not what I expected.”  She seemed to surprised that I don’t live in a shanty town.  The A&C Shopping Center is quite modern and nice.  Her main grievance was with the wide disparity between the affluent and the masses.

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