As you may have gathered, we have had no internet access for the past two days, but now we are in Kumasi city and we are back in touch with the world! So here is what has happened:
We awoke at dawn on Sunday, much to our annoyance, but felt refreshed. We hasian excellent breakfast and met the remaining member of our group, Louise. Two of the group have failed to materialise so there are only 11 of us.
We set off at 9.00 on a tour of Accra covering a range of residential and commercial areas. We began in ‘Cantonments ‘ a zone where the British built homes for themselves as well as a wide road leading directly to the castle in case the natives turned nasty. Today, the upper and middle class Ghanians live in these tree-lined streets. From there we made our way to the coast and parked outside the St James Castle, which the British built as a slave prison. From there a tunnel led out to sea, forming the harbour breakwater. The slaves were marched down the tunnel and onto the ships. By the time they came out into the light of day it must have seemed that they were already at sea and gave up all hope of returning.the castle remained a prison post-slavery and several eminent Ghanians were imprisoned there prior to independence in 1957.
Lest we feel that the Brits were the only colonial power involved in slavery we also passed through the Dutch and Danish areas of the town, each with their castle , or slave prison. It was a truly European affair!
Near the prison is the Jamestown lighthouse which was built by the British and still works. Below it, on the beach is a shanty town of fishermen. Large wooden canoes bob on the waves or are hauled up on the land. Across the road is the home of a local chief, still active at 95!
Following the sound of music we came upon a small side street which was the Sunday home of the ‘ Rejected Cornerstone Synagogue’ , a Christian church in spit of its name. The meeting was in full swing with singing and dancing and everyone seemed pleased to see us, even though we did not join in!
From there we went to Black Star Square, the second largest public square in the world after Tiemin Square in Beijing. It is certainly vast with a war memorial , seating all around and measurements on the ground to help the military organise their parades. We walked through it to the beach beyond and stood on a low cliff to watch young people playing football and bathing in the breakers. Against the bright sun and the waves the view was almost Lowryesque. the sea looked very tempting but there wasn’t time. As we walked back through the square an eagle flew overhead.
As we left the coast we passed a traditional coffin makers displaying coffins in the shape of an aeroplane, a mobile phone, an eagle, a fridge and even a bottle of beer. The ‘tradition’ is actually not that old, but the idea has caught on amongst those who have the money for it, and not just in Ghana either. We were due to visit a coffin maker but unfortunately the visit had to be postponed.
Similarly we arrived at a small craft exhibition to find that was closed as well, so instead we had to go to the main tourist trap I a selection of large sheds. It was very quiet, it being Sunday, so the shopkeepers only had us to focus their full attention in. It was exhausting! Eventually we came away with a bracelet and a length of cloth for Christine. I haggled and got the price right down for both, but I suspect we were still fleeced……..the point is I’ll never know for sure!
We drove away past the Ghanian parliament and other important buildings to arrive at a hostel where we were to have lunch. And a very good lunch it was too, with some delicious fish, two types of rice, chips, salad and a green chilli sauce that was to die for! A star beer helped to wash the whole thing down and probably also helped many of us have a nap as we headed north towards Asuom.
The journey was not uneventful taking us out through the suburbs of Accra and then out into open scrubby country with the occasional tall tree as a reminder of the majestic rainforest that once was there. After a while we turned off the main road and headed north-west along dirt and tarmac ved sections of road. The Tarmac is worse as the potholes are enormous and Dominic, our driver had to lower ourselves into each one and the heave us out the other side. Progress was therefore slow, and after about 3 hours a ‘comfort’ break was called for.
Now I don’t want to go on about toilets, but in Ghana they have adopted the American term ‘washroom’ and I think I can see why. Entering the fetid cubicle at the petrol station we stopped at I realised that after using it I would need a thorough wash , and not just of my hands. There was at least water, but the cistern had to be flushed with a piece of bent wire and the tap produced nothing. Time to break out the gel!
Eventually we arrived at Asuom. Our hotel looked palatial, but we should never judge a book by its cover. Inside it was clearly in need of the skills of several craftsmen, particularly electricians.we had been warned that some hotels might provide ‘challenges’, not problems you understand, just ‘challenges’. This was certainly the case. Having electric sockets that come out of the wall as you pull out the plug is not a problem, but it is challenging not to be electrocuted. Having no hot water is not a problem but it is challenging taking a cold shower. Having a toilet seat that is not cap necked to the bowl beneath is not a problem but it is challenging to avoid sliding gracefully into the shower. Having only one light at the far end of the room from the bed is not a problem but itis challenging when you want to read a book in bed. Still dinner was very good and we were joined by a praying mantis so there were opportunities as well!
Serendipalm tomorrow and perhaps some new challenges and opportunities……..