After another restful night, I was excited for our day out and next adventure; a trip to Cape Coast and Kakum National Park. Ghana was the main port used to process slaves from all over Africa, before they were sent to the Americas for a lifetime of slavery. It is a harrowing history, that I feel we skirt over too much in our European history lessons, instead choosing to focus on the World Wars, not on the horrific hundred year’s of fundamentally stealing human beings for profit and economical gain.
We set off on time, which naturally means an hour late. This is Africa time! I take my iPod so we can share some music on the long car journey. There are 20 songs on a loop in the car. We have pretty much learned all the words. Music is a great way to bond and respect another person’s culture and sing along with the windows down, the sun shining and the summer feeling. It was a good moment.
We drive for an hour, through towns, villages and open jungle. It’s beautiful. A cool breeze flowed through the car as we zip down roads, some good, mostly dusty, some very very bad. We go past busy markets, laughable religious signs for mobile phone shops; with a crucifix at the centre of the picture and mobile phones dotted around, with ‘Jesus Loves you. Mobile Phones Sold Here’. The most religious country in the world, and yet the religion here seems to be ‘Postcard religion’, ‘One line quote religion’, not much depth, just a feeling of repeating something they were told, and accepting it fully. It doesn’t seem to fit, but used as a way of selling everyday products. On the flip side, it has kept communities together and a central hub to all village life. It just feels so out of place here.
Ladies carry everything on their heads, while carrying infants, whose tiny feet you can often see poking out, with busy hands, and a straight back. They were even carrying sewing machines!
After two and a half hours we turn up a very bumpy road and arrive at the rainforest entrance. We run to the toilet. Long drives have to be timed well with drinking water. The humidity hits us instantly at around 85% in this spot in the Kakum National Park. We pay an entrance fee and then the canopy walk fee. We sit and order a beer and some food, being told that we won’t have time as there are specific start times, although there doesn’t look like anyone else is around.
It’s fair to say our guide; Josephine wasn’t impressed, noticing that slight authoritative roles are taken very seriously. It’s nice to see such pride in work. It reminded me of the train guards in Japan.
We walk through the jungle with four others, an Indian man who has lived in Ghana for three years, fells tress and exports them back to India and two ladies who met 20 years previously and shared medical practice on foreign exchange programmes, one from Ghana the other from Edinburgh, a doctor specialising in leukemia treatment in children. We climbed some steps, taking in the beautiful surroundings. We find a tree house where the canopy walk begins. It was amazing, with walkways through the rainforest canopy. Swiss Family Robinson eat your heart out. It was hard to gauge how high we were but you could see for miles into the distance, it felt a bit like a Disney movie. Below, who knew what was down there but we were told elephants, leopards, monkeys and everything in between.
It’s fair to say we were hot by now but we were only a third of the way through our little adventure. We all pilled back into the car and set off to Cape Coast Castle. We arrived no more than thirty minutes later to a huge white structure on the edge of the bellowing sea. It didn’t look much like a castle, more like a grand French chateaux, painted white and shining hard in the sunlight.
We paid our entrance fee and our tour began with a group from Georgia America and some others. We hear about the construction, the set up of the slave trade, the devastation, the humiliation and the exploitation. Dungeons with 200+ Africans squashed in for weeks on end, waiting for their fate of a voyage only half made alive, to survive only to find a lifetime of slavery. As the only British nationals there we felt a sense of shame come over us. Such unbelievable cruelty happened here. The fear the prisoners must have felt. The true impact of this was not to set in until we returned to our privileged lives, built on the backs of slaves. The bitter taste, I believe will never leave me.
We walk from the prison cells, to the female torture block listening to the more harrowing accounts of what happened here and finally to the Door of No Return, we pass through and there is a bustling beach town outside, fishing boats adorn the beach, children playing on the shore line a faint sound of the market. It’s one of the most beautiful scenes I have seen on this trip.
We look around the Governors wing, with a cool breeze flowing through the windows on each side, looking down on the door entrances to the dark cells holding thousands of slaves below. It’s sickening.
The sea is deep deep blue in the distance, it’s an absolutely beautiful day but another few hours of exposure to the African sun and humidity was taking its toll. We find, select and purchase beautiful traditional Ghanaian fabric and meet the entourage.
We head to Oasis, just a stones throw from the castle and through Victoria Park, with a statue of Queen Victoria. We sit on the beach, drink a cold beer. We see more white faces than we have done the whole trip. An obvious backpackers hang out. We notice they have Wi-Fi available and we get unashamedly excited to connect to our world. I call home; so nice to hear comforting voices and gain some reassurance. We order pizzas and another beer and embrace the connection, politely asking more friendly locals to leave us be, trying to explain we want to enjoy this little luxury. Eventually, we are retrieved and set off home.
We pile in, happy and satisfied of our little day trip. The car won’t start. The two boys try and push start it, we jump out and help, it starts. Girl power. We sit back happy that we can show some advantages of equality.
We arrived home; the power was off. After a day of exploring and sight seeing in the inescapable sun we were devastated to find no fan. We each had a shower (bucket) and lay down, hot, frustrated and exhausted.
To follow in the footsteps of hundred of volunteers