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Published: September 1st 2012
Another packed day lay in store. Duke and I woke up super late and we scrambled to get our gear together and have enough time to eat before taking off. In what was probably our nicest accommodation yet, I was insistent on indulging in the breakfast provided and I needed to fuel up asap. Ultimately we had about 10 minutes to chow down before loading up on our new and improved mini bus. Everyone was pretty quiet on this morning as we headed to the Manhyia palace in downtown Kumasi. It was built in 1925 by the British and housed the King of the Ashanti, and is now a museum showcasing Ashanti royalty and their interesting history. The Ashanti once controlled a great empire stretching over a vast swath of West Africa and used a golden stool from which their King sat and ruled. Outside the palace there were some really cool trees and peacocks about.
We then headed back towards the coast, to Cape Coast in the Central Region. Before arriving there though we stopped at the last slave bath, a series of converging rivers and streams where slaves were brought from all over.
What was formerly known as
the Gold Coast, because of the abundance of gold mined and exported abroad in the beginning of European colonization, made way for the slave trade, which ultimately proved to be way more lucrative. Millions of slaves were sent towards the coast where they were housed for months at a time in abhorrent conditions within European forts, before those fit enough were loaded onto ships for destinations across the Atlantic. Many would not survive the journey. One such fort, the Cape Coast Castle, was our next stop.
Cape Coast Castle is a Unesco world heritage site and is a visual and historic beauty, not just within the fort but the outlying areas outside the fort were just as picturesque. We got to see fishing vessels, amazing beach scenes, slums and blue water crashing to the shore. Back within the fort we were educated by a very knowledgeable guide regarding the African slave trade and the brutality it all entailed. It was eerie going into the dungeons and being in a place where so many human beings had suffered and died. The guide explained to us that the slaves lived, slept, ate in crowded conditions and were covered with feces, urine,
vomit, and all sorts of other excretions that had no place to go. Finally we traveled through the door of no return, where the slaves were brought out and loaded onto ships for lives of hardship.
When our time at the castle was done, I mentioned to Cosmos that we were looking for memorial shirts of the late president John Evans Atta Mills, whom the country was still in the process of mourning, even three weeks following his passing. No way people would be doing that back home. In any case the population was greatly saddened and anytime you were to turn on the radio, almost always it was talk about this man. We stopped at a market trying to find some shirts but alas we were to have no success in this endeavor.
As the sun began to set we approached Hans' Botel, which is on the outskirts of Cape Coast and reminded me of a backpacker hostel, albeit pricier than what the average backpacker would be willing to pay. This place was sitting on a lagoon and there were crocodiles and birds throughout, it was really cool. There was also a pool that had a sign
explicitly stating No Drowning. We ate some good food, and drank beer. I then trained in the mini gym they had and then we all went for a dip in the pool and played shark in the darkness. I guess it was shoddy pool design but I ended up smashing my knee open in the shallow end. It took a while for the bleeding to stop and I guess consuming beer didn't help in that regard. Luckily, I was with a group of nurses.
As late night approached everyone seemed to be tired and just hung out in their rooms. Hartropp and myself, however, hung out by the pool discussing life. And we each had our final STAR beer.
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