Weekend Trip - Cape Coast and Kakum National Park

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February 26th 2009
Published: March 15th 2009
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Cape Coast

Traveled west of Accra down to Cape Coast with two other medical students, Jenny and JJ. Cape Coast has an interesting history beginning. Beginnin in the 15th century, Europeans (Portugese, followed by Dutch and British) were trading Gold with the people occupying present day Ghana. Eventually this became an official British Colony known as "Gold Coast". Despite this name, gold was soon replaced as the chief export of the region by human cargo meant for European slavery, earning the unofficial historical name, the Slave Coast. The region containing present day "Cape Coast" and "Accra" is part of the Ashanti region of Ghana and the Ashanti people were middle men for the slave trade... capturing other Africans and selling them to European traders who'd set up forts along the coastline. These European traders constructed massive castles which served as home to soldiers and merchants, as well as holding places for slaves awaiting ships to arrive which would eventually take them to their European or colonial desintation.

Cape Coast Castle

The coastline contains two large castles popular with the tourist industy, Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle. We visited Cape Coast castle (the newer and smaller of the two). The tour was chilling, to say the least. Our tour guide explained the system for receiving and "processing" African captives. Up to 200 captives were placed in a 400 sq ft dungeon room without light or ventilation. They were given bread and water. The ate, slept and defecated crammed into the dungeon body-to-body. The current day dungeons actually have floors that consist of over two feet of petrified material made from accumulated feces, vomiting and other waste. Some rooms have been excavated down to the original stone floor to demonstrate. The captives waiting in the dungeons an average of 2 months waiting for the slave ships to arrive.

Oddly, there was a church built on top of the dungeons where the soliders and merchants would attend service dutifully. Our tour guide explained several other horrifying details of castle life. In the female dungeons, women who gave birth were known to commit infanticide by beating their newborns against the stone walls rather than subject their children to a life of captivity. We also learned of the systematic removal of female captives, cleaning them (the only time slaves were able to bathe) and then subjecting them to repeated rapes. Women who resisted were either killed or tortured.

Kakum National Park

Very nice national park with a suspension bridge constructed by two Canadian foreign aid workers in the 1990's. No real wildlife to see... but beautiful scenery.

We ended the trip with lunch at a hotel that featured waterside restaurant next to a man-made lagoon containing several crocodiles. Bizarre!

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