G Adventures West Africa. Day 16 and 17: Ghana

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pics: fish market on the shore in front of Cape Coast Castle, inside the

courtyard of Cape Coast Castle

Day 16 and 17: Ghana

Two ports in Ghana gave us valuable additional insight into one of the most

rapidly developing countries in the West African region. Like so many

relatively new nations along the former, so-called ‘slave coast’,

independence brought many new challenges. Unlike its Francophone neighbours,

English-speaking Ghana was a little easier to travel in and deal with the

rigours of market negotiations.

Our first stop at Port Tema, which is the access point to the capital,

Accra, was a lower key affair with simple visits to a glass bead factory and

the Shai Hills Wildlife reserve where our late morning arrival meant we

wouldn’t see many of the animals out and about. Semi-tame baboons and

ostriches greeted us at the gate before we drove through the park and

managed sightings of antelope and not much else. Our first day culminated in

a stop at a novelty coffin workshop where Ghanaians seem to have embraced

the fad of themed caskets for their final departure. Wooden cars, oversized

bottles, tools, fish and even a film projector were under construction

awaiting their clients’ final request.

The Accra craft and handicraft market sharpened negotiation skills as

enthusiastic hawkers descended on us like locusts with all manner of wares

and products. David Conrad demonstrated his years of skill and ethnographic

knowledge and emerged from the hurly-burly cradling a magnificent

century-old Benin bronze figurine acquired for a fraction of any Southeby

valuation. The rest of us made do with shirts, postcards and run-of-the-mill

wood carvings. Steve Boyes, our naturalist, sadly reported the discovery of

many illegal wildlife products like hyena hide belts and even a full jaguar

skin.

Day two exposed us to the sad history of slavery and colonial servitude in

the region of the vast Takoradi port. Here two massive, UNESCO World

Heritage-listed castles serve as a tragic reminder to the era when huge

numbers of slaves were shipped out to their final destinations. Many guests

emerged from the pitch black underground dungeons visibly moved, some even

reporting an eerie presence and faint supernatural mutterings in the empty

subterranean chambers.

While some of our party chose to venture out to Kakum National Park for the

famous forest canopy walk, I chose to hang back for a more in-depth look at

these solemn monuments.

The Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle are both surrounded by bustling

fishing villages, especially the latter where fleets of little vessels

venture out through the surf to fish. The vivid spectacle of traditional

wooden boats with colourful banners, surrounded by throngs of eager mongers

created a scene much like a medieval market or fête. Against the ominous

backdrop of the castles, the only modern giveaway was fishermen wearing

modern soccer jerseys and fluro flip-flops. Centuries ago, it would have

been a similar scenario, except that lines of forlorn and manacled Negroes

would be seen shuffling onto those same boats for transport to

God-only-knows-where.

For more detail on this itinerary, see www.gadventures.com > West Africa

More images at www.flickr.com/photos/rodeime

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