Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ghana: the adventure continues in the Cape Coast

Cape Coast. After a couple of days in the hectic capital (Accra -- seriously, the traffic is neck-in-neck with Los Angeles traffic), we head to Cape Coast to do two things: 1) walk along the rope canopies at Kakum National Park; and 2) visit the Cape Coast Castle where they once held and sent slaves to the Americas and Europe.

By recommendation, we stayed at the Sammo Guest House which is your typical backpacker's hostel. The good thing was that we had a balcony that brought in a consistent breeze from the ocean, plus it was central to everything! Walked around and headed to the Mighty Victory Hotel for lobster with garlic butter sauce and potato salad! We met a Canadian business development volunteer from Kumasi there, so it was nice meeting another new person.

The view from our balcony. Look at that sunset!

The next day, we wake up really early in the morning and take a taxi to Kakum National Park to experience the rope canopies. There are 7 walking bridges in a semi-circle, attached by rope, nails and rope to huge trees about 30 meters (about 100 feet) above the forest floor. Insane! If you're scared of heights, it's definitely an experience that'll make you piss in your pants.

It was created by 2 Canadians and 2 Ghanaians but I was confused if they made it in 6 months or change/repair the rope bridges every 6 months...in any case, check out the video in another entry! It was so humid at Kakum; our original plan was to camp out there on one of the tree platforms -- thank God we didn't! I also tried palm wine for the first time (de-licious) and met a girl from Oakland who was vacationing here with her boyfriend. What a small world!

Us three on one of the tree platforms 30 meters (about 100 feet) above the forest floor!

Crazy! It's not bungee jumping but it's damn close. Haha!

Devin, Colette and I being our own crazy selves. <3

We later head to the Cape Coast Castle which is something I've been really looking forward to for a while. You know, it's one thing to learn about slavery in middle and high school but it's another thing to actually visit the holding quarters for slaves in Africa before they were shipped off to the Americas and Europe! The Cape Coast Castle was handed down by different European countries for different purposes, eventually landing in the hands of the English for slavery.

A replica of Cape Coast Castle at the museum.

Two things stood out most for me: the holding quarters for male slaves and the Door of No Return/Return. The holding quarters for the male slaves was essentially this huge underground dungeon that they were held in for months at a time. To explain the gravity of their situation, they sat in waist-high feces for weeks at a time, and you can even see shackle marks on the ground for when they would try to revolt and attempt to escape from their captors. There was even a church right above the holding quarters for the male slaves and the guide referred to it as "Heaven and Hell." So interesting!

One of the dungeon areas where the slaves were kept for months. The wreaths of flowers below are left by descendants of slaves every year to commemorate the lives (and deaths) of all those kept captive there.

These are marks on the floor left by slaves that were shackled and attempted to revolt/escape. Absolutely surreal.

As a slave, if you were seen as strong enough and survived months of torture, you were sent through the "Door of No Return" which led directly to the slave ship and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. The government/historical society that decided to preserve the castle in the 70's (I think) put a "Door of Return" sign on the other side of the "Door of No Return" sign as a way of welcoming back the descendants of slaves and anyone willing to learn more about the history of the Cape Coast Castle/slavery.

Our tour guide, Issac/Kofi, showing us the "Door of No Return." On the other side, it says the "Door of Return."

The steps leading down to the Atlantic Ocean after exiting the Door of No Return. Now it's where a lot of the fishers prepare their nets and get ready to head out to the ocean.

During the tour, I also met a couple from LA and they were vacationing here in Ghana! Man, Californians are everywhere!

Me with the Atlantic Ocean in the background. Note the cannons in the back, too.

This plaque was presented by Barack and Michelle when they came to Ghana in July of this year. So cool!

At the museum, there was this really interesting map of the slave trade.

Also, a replica of a slave auction stand. Crazy!

Colette, Devin and I with the Atlantic Ocean in the background.

Not going to lie -- it was pretty emotionally draining but interesting nonetheless. We walked around the main roads of this very bustling fishing town and found an NGO that sold cool-designed fabric to make shirts, etc. We also took pictures with these really random kids who were absolutely hilarious! We also had dinner at the Oasis Resort which is right next to the Cape Coast Castle and right along the beach...coincidentally saw Jen and Farma (a fellow BF PCV and her boyfriend). Good times!

Colette and I with some neighborhood kids at the Cape Coast. They were absolutely hilarious!!


Mary said...

Hi Mikey,
I'm loving the stories and the pictures....Especially the "Jesus Loves Cocktails" sign. Stay well!
Love, Mary Johnson (PCV Mom, Evan Johnson)

MeganElizabeth said...

Whoa Michael! That sounds like an amazing vacation! The ropes course would have been scary but hecka exhiliarating!! The castle looks very impressive. I'm sure that was a powerful experience! love ya!