Kakum National Park and Elmina Castle

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September 2nd 2008
Published: September 2nd 2008
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This internet is very unreliable and frustrating, but I must be thankful for what little I do have. That being said, I shall give a recap of what I've been up to the past few days.

Last week all of my classes met but one. I was supposed to go to the orphanage but in true Ghanaian form, those plans did not happen. We are still in rainy season here so that has been interesting. We have massive downpours for hours and hours. I put my bucket outside so I could collect the water, it filled up fast. I have not had to use my bucket yet, but the water we're getting now is brown when it comes out of the faucet... so maybe I should use the rain water.

We left Legon for Kakum National Park Saturday morning around 7. We were told 6. It's about a three hour drive or so but there was a lot of traffic (which is normal) and we had to stop because there was something wrong with the bus tire. When we stopped, there were huts and different carts set up where people were living and trying to sell things. There were
view of canopy walkview of canopy walkview of canopy walk

I am on one side of the canopy walk and those are people in my group on the other side
a bunch of kids. They love us obrounis (white people). One of the girls had a soccer ball that she brought with her so they all started playing, it was really cute. All those kids are so precious. It's astounding to see these little girls (about 7 or so) who are carrying these itty bitty babies on their back. The way Ghanaians carry their children is basically a cloth that is wrapped around them and their child. It's like a child backpack, no fancy carriers or anything. These kids on their backs are just knocked out, they look so uncomfortable, but at the same time, it looks so natural. After we got back on the bus we went to Kakum National park, which is a rainforest. That was amazing... well once we got up to the canopy it was. What we did was we hiked up this trail of jagged, awkwardly places rocks as a pathway. It was very steep. Once we got to where we actually had to wait in line was when things got rough. We waited for about 1 1/2-2 hours. This is where Ghanaian society seems to be contradictory... for people who are always so laid back and never on time or in a rush, when they want to get somewhere it's literally all for one and they will knock you down to get what they want. We were crammed together on this pathway in the middle of the rainforest like sardines. I never once moved myself, instead, I was pushed along by the people behind me. It was really frustrating, but it was worth it once we actually got to the top. This place was designed by 2 Canadian engineers and I think they said something about it being funded by USAide? Whatever that means. Basically we were suspended above the rainforest on these rope pathways that were very narrow. Hopefully I can get these pictures that I have to upload so you can see what I mean. It was something that I have never experienced. It was so cool. The pathways were very shakey so some pictures didn't come out exactly, but the majority did.

After that we checked into our beach resort- Anomabo Beach resort. Now, when we had first heard it was a resort, we didn't expect much. I had no idea what to expect, but it was amazing. We stayed in these little houses with either 2 or 3 people sharing them. We had hot water, and toilet paper, and fresh towels. Pretty snazzy. We were right on the beach so we got there pretty late so we only got in the water for about 20 min or so. Then we had dinner and I went to bed early, I wasn't feeling well and I wanted to be rested for the next day because it was going to be moving and I knew it- we were going to Elmina Castle.

Elmina Castle was built by the Portuguese in 1482- it is described as the first known European structure of fortification in Ghana. This was used as a trade center for ivory and gold to begin with and then later it was used in the evil trade- the slave trade. The Dutch captured it in 1637 and was controlled by them until 1872 when the British bought it and then when Ghana gained their independence (1957) they finally had possession. Walking through this castle is something that it is hard to put words to. I have always been fascinated with black history and to set foot in something that was such a travesty, yet reality, to this history was all but breath taking. We walked in and they took us through the Portuguese church which was right in the middle of the whole thing. We then walked into the female slave cells. We went into one of the rooms where they held the women, and it smelled awful. There was a stench of urine, feces, and other human bodily fluids that was present throughout the entire holding place. What is so amazing about this is that the slave trade was abolished in 1807 (although there was still some illegal trading after) and that stench has stayed in that castle until the present day. There was little ventilation back then, but now, everything is in the open and yet that stench still remains. It is horrible, absolutely horrible. You could imagine just being in there, because we were, and that is what is so heart breaking. The governor's room was overtop of this area, and since the Europeans did not bring women with them, the men would come and look out to all the females below, choose a couple to have for the night. These women would be showered off and
view from canopy walkview from canopy walkview from canopy walk

trees... lots of them
fed so that they could be presentable for the governor. Some of these women would become pregnant, and they gave birth to mulattos and they were some of the first in the country.

We toured the men's holding cells and there were a couple. There was this one room where if you were good, you got taken in there. It was small (there were about 40-50 people in our tour group and we fit in there, it was snug, but not too bad) with plenty of ventilation. The room right next door is where you were put to make an example to all the other slaves. They wanted to control riots and they did this by putting all these men in this one room with very little ventilation. They held them all in there until every last one of them died. They got no food or water while in this room. When we were in there for just a small amount of time it was really difficult to breathe... and that stench was still very present. All they did with the bodies was throw them into the sea.

We went to where the slaves would go to board
how they kept this walkway uphow they kept this walkway uphow they kept this walkway up

looks a bit thrown together... but it didn't collapse while I was on it, so it's all good.
the ship if they survived the castle and the elements there. They walked through this entry way called the point of no return. There was a little door that every slave went through and they got one last glimpse of their home before they were shoved on board to make the long journey to the new world and other places.

After this we toured the upstairs of the castle. The higher you got, the more important your rank. We went through where the governor would be and where they had conferences and all other rooms. In each room, we were overtop of the holding cells, and you could still smell it.

We couldn't go to the Cape Coast castle because there was some event going on at the Anglican church and there were so many people that it was impossible to get through. So we just went home, on the way we stopped at Cape Coast University to have lunch. We didn't get to see too much of the actual campus, we had chicken and rice... that's all I eat. Emo ne akoko (rice and chicken in twi). It's good, but when I come back, I don't want
Beach resortBeach resortBeach resort

This was pretty cool
that, ok mom?

I hope this will post and I hope I can get some of the pictures uploaded on here so you can see all I got to. This next weekend we are going on a big trip- 4 days, we leave Friday morning and won't be back until Monday night. We are going to the Northern part of Ghana. We are going to Kumasi and then Mole National Park and Kintampo Falls. While in Mole we get to go on a hike in a wooded savanna to see elephants, antelopes, and monkeys and all that cool stuff. We are also going to Larabanga mosque and the Mystic Stone (which I think is this big rock which is held up by this little one that people have tried to move and can never get it to.. at least that's what I was told by someone, I could be wrong). I name all these places but I'm not exactly sure what it is all going to entail, which will be part of the fun.

Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20


House we stayed inHouse we stayed in
House we stayed in

We were room number 25, the one the left. It was really nice.

This town makes most of its revenue from fish
outside of Elmina castleoutside of Elmina castle
outside of Elmina castle

this this is big, and I was too close
tower leading to governors roomtower leading to governors room
tower leading to governors room

female slaves were taken through this passage way up to the governor
Inside the room of no returnInside the room of no return
Inside the room of no return

the passage way is where the slaves would come from their holding cells before they were put onto the boats
men's cellmen's cell
men's cell

there were only 2 ventilation points in this room, those doors remained shut so there is a window and on the other side there was a hole
view of Fort St. Jago from Elmina Castleview of Fort St. Jago from Elmina Castle
view of Fort St. Jago from Elmina Castle

This castle was primarily used as military protection for the elmina castle and not used in slave trading
View from a room on the second floor of castle to the churchView from a room on the second floor of castle to the church
View from a room on the second floor of castle to the church

Notice the West Indies Trading Company signature in the middle of the iron gate

2nd September 2008

lovin' your blog
I'm eating lunch and checked and was surporised to see you updated this since your internet was not working well last we talked. I am thoroughly enjoying your blog. I get more details from this than from our brief conversations. And I love your sense of humor. My favorite line in this post..."We had hot water, and toilet paper, and fresh towels. Pretty snazzy." So glad you are enjoying this experience so much! My friend Susan said she would have bailed out before the first day was over. Keep up all the details. I hope your cold is better.
2nd September 2008

I dig the pics
Wow, you just experienced something that many will never. Walking on top of the rainforest must have been pretty intense. I'm glad had fun doing the hike. The castle looked old school. You're turning into quite the adventerous one. Hurray for warm water and paper towels! You should have knicked a few for the return home. On the next trip, don't get eatin by any of the animals. I don't want to end up going crazy.
2nd September 2008

Vanessa, I am really enjoying your Blog. Such a way of life that we can't imagine. You are very fortunate to be able to experience this. It still amazes me that Ghana was your choice, but I see that it was a very wise choice for you. Keep up the narrative, and the pictures. You do an excellent job at writing and explaining. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. Love, Rene
7th September 2008

I love reading your blogs. They are so interesting. In school each classroom has to study at country and then represent it at out school olympics. I may switch and have you help me out with some cool pictures and info - if you are okay with that. Continue having fun and I really hope your mom does not have chicken and rice for you! haha Jodi
7th September 2008

Donna: This blog is awesome
Vanessa, your Mom gave me your blog info and I have really enjoyed keeping up with your studies in Ghana. The pictures are great and it looks like the canopy walk was awesome; however, I do not know if I would have been brave enough for that experience. I am so happy you are enjoying this semester studying abroad. I will keep you in my prayers that all continues to go well. Reading your blog gave me the feeling that I was experiencing all of this myself. WOW!

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