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Published: February 16th 2014
In my first blog I forgot to write about the language. English is widely spoken, since Ghana was a British colony. Besides, the country has MANY different languages but the most spoken language is "Akan".
I left Accra and went to Cape Coast. Getting there was an ordeal! Benjamin went with me so I could take the tro-tro (local small bus) to the Cape Coast station and from there continue to Cape Coast. First the buses wouldn’t pass, or they were full. And it was warm! Then I finally got into the tro-tro to the station. Here I needed to walk just a little bit to go where the buses depart from. The station is as chaotic as it gets, pffff! Once I found the Cape Coast bus, I bought a ticket, paid extra for my big backpack and went in the bus, which in fact was also a tro-tro. We waited more than one hour for the tro-tro to depart. The ride cost GHS 8,- (Ghanian Cedi). One US Dollar is about 2,40 GHS. The ride was not very comfortable and I got late in the afternoon in Cape Coast. The city has about 150.000 people and lies at
the coast, as the name says. I haven’t seen much of Cape Coast itself though. The next day I immediately went to Elmina, where I spent a few hours. The town is located just west of Cape Coast and is home to about 30.000 people. It’s a real fishermen town and locals make boats on the shore here. Here is where the notorious Elmina Castle or Fort Elmina
is located. A visit to Ghana must include a visit to this fort! It was built in 1482 by the Portuguese and was called "Elmina", deriving from "The Mine" in Portuguese. It was located at the so-called
Gold Coast". The place was intended for trading in primarily raw materials and crops, but mostly gold. Other European countries, including the Dutch and the British, also built their forts along the Gold Coast to profit from the trade here. Later on it functioned as a depot where enslaved Africans spent weeks before boarding a boat towards the America's, never to come back. It all started around 1700, when there was a higher demand for workers in the so called "New World". Most slaves came from the interior, not from the coast. The Europeans wouldn't
enslave those on the coast otherwise it would harm the trade in gold. There was a lot of tension between tribes because everyone wanted to profit a little bit from the trade with the Portuguese. Tribe-members who were caught by other tribes, were sold to the Europeans as slaves. Europeans introduced fire-arms too and traded these with certain tribes, making them stronger. In my opinion, it doesn't matter if the Africans were caught by the European themselves and/or by other Africans. The fact that the Europeans were there increased the bitterness among local tribes.
The tour-guide at Fort Elmina was excellent telling the history of the place and about what exactly happened everywhere in the fort. You were free to ask any question and he'd explain everything in details. We went through many different rooms and areas where the enslaved Africans were held, each with its own story. Females and males were kept separately. Many females were raped by the Europeans. Those who became pregnant were freed. Until today some inhabitants of Elmina have Dutch or Portuguese last names. Some women had to sleep with the governor too and those who refused, were punished by standing on the patio
in the sun with an iron ball attached to their feet. Just outside the female cells there are two wells where they would bathe / clean a female enslaved women, chosen by the governor, who was standing on a balcony on the first floor. Then the women were brought up to sleep with the governor. Many died in the dungeons and everything else was done right there (defecate)! It's unimaginable how the stench was in such dungeons...absolutely horrendous conditions! Then there is this part of the fort where all the enslaved people went through to board the ships towards America, to never come back. There is one small, narrow door they went through and it’s called "Door of No Return". Looking at the door, I can't explain what I felt...so many things went through my head. I couldn't imagine how it would have been like to pass through there. Other visitors had tears in their eyes. The Portuguese built a church in the middle of the fort, a Catholic church. When the Dutch came they removed the tower of the church to make it a Protestant church. Makes me wonder how they could actually do such things while being "so-called"
After the visit I bought some food and sat down at the beach next to the fort and ate...just relax, look at the sea and enjoy the moment. Then I walked a little bit through Elmina before I went to the Cape Coast Cultural Centre. I was disappointed in the place as they didn't have anything special there, at least not the time I went. I just bought some souvenirs and then went back to my guesthouse where I rest and relaxed in the swimming pool. The next day I went to Kakum National Park
. It's supposed to be the best protected national park in Ghana. At the entrance, after telling where I was from, the guy let me pay a Ghanian price for the canopy walk! The canopy walk at Kakum N.P is very popular and is definitely not for those who are afraid of heights. I took the longer route, there was also a shorter one. There was a group of Ghanian students also when I was there and they were funny. From the canopy walk you could enjoy nice views of the dense, lush rainforest and hear the birds and monkeys. After the canopy walk
I hiked a little bit in the park before heading back to my guesthouse and I got a ride with the students! I stayed for the rest of the day at the guesthouse, talking and laughing with some of the employees there. The guesthouse was almost empty when I was there. Besides me, there was only two other guests.
After Cape Coast I boarded a bus to Kumasi
. The bus-company is called “Metro Mass” and they use big, orange buses which look a little bit like the “konvoi’s” in Curaçao. The bus was full and was very uncomfortable because I couldn’t stretch my long legs. I was sitting at the aisle and people had many things with them (boxes, bags, even a chicken!). Many times I would just stand up and stay on my feet for a minute or two. Then finally I arrived in Kumasi.
The second biggest city in Ghana has almost 2 million people and I found it a quite hectic place. Here they have the largest market in Western Africa, Kumasi Market. I didn't go too much into this market, just a small part of it near the edge and that's it...I didn't want to
get lost, hahaha! The whole area around the market and especially around Kejetia is very, very crowded. It’s "crazy" sometimes! Stephen, who I got in touch with via Couchsurfing, picked me up at the bus station and explained to me where I should go to for visit, and how to get to the places etc. Kumasi is the capital of the Ashanti Region and the Ashanti Kingdom. The current Asantehene (King) is Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II. His palace is located in the city and I visited the Manhyia Palace Museum, which used to be the house of King Prempeh I. You’re not allowed to take pictures inside, unfortunately. I also visited the Ghana Armed Forces Museum which was very interesting! They mostly display old weapons, flags, clothing etc. used by the Ghanian army and navy, but also those confiscated from the Japanese and Italians in Africa during the Second World War. I think Kumasi doesn't have too much for a tourist though so you shouldn’t spend too much time in this city. But again here I was treated very well, can’t complain. Stephen, his wife Hannah and his brother David were very friendly and I was invited to stay
a at their house. They don't have a lot but were very, very humble and warm and I was very grateful to have had this experience.
Next entry will be my third and last blog from Ghana. Thanks for reading!
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