My Stage is the World

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive

A Grand Day Out

on August 30, 2014

Psyched about our first proper outing, we eagerly awoke, only to find that there was no power and no water. Soo, baby wipes and dry shampoo it was! Luckily the hob in the kitchen was a gas hob, so JK made us eggs on bread for breakfast. The minibus rocked up almost an hour early and Adolf introduced us to our driver – Kujo.

Finally ready, we set off at 9am taking everything but the kitchen sink. We had flip flops, trainers, jumpers and cagoules, not to mention every possible kind of camera! It was a long journey to Cape Coast, dominated by attempting to snooze and looking around at the scenery.

Once we arrived we realised it was a very touristy area, because the minute we got off the bus we were surrounded by children. One boy asked my name and when I told him said “How do you write it?” This was because he wanted to make me a bracelet for 8 cedis. I refused and offered him 5cedis, which he eventually agreed to, saying it would be ready when we finished looking around the castle.

Uncomfortably numb

Elmina castle itself was more like a fort and slightly… Not depressing exactly, but thought-provoking. Hundreds of thousands of African people were held there before being shipped across the sea as slaves.

First the Portuguese, then the Dutch. The English took over the castle in the 20th century but only for political reasons. Ghana became a republic in 1957 and was granted independence in 1961 – when the British left. We all felt a bit better knowing that the English weren’t that bad!

Elmina Castle

After browsing the museum which was full of photographs of Elmina (from the Portuguese el mina – the mine), the tour guide showed us the women’s cells. Dark, dank and dingy, 400 women would be kept here with limited food, water and just two buckets to relieve themselves.

As members of different tribes were chained together, there was no way for them to communicate and some were so weak that it was almost impossible for five women to walk together to the bucket and so the smells and the filth, plus the lack of ventilation made it a very picturesque but shocking place.

The governor would also choose a woman whenever he wanted sexual gratification. That woman would be dunked into the courtyard well to make sure she was clean enough for him. He of course had five rooms for his use, including a large bedchamber with a stunning view of the Ocean.

The men’s cells (holding 600 prisoners), confinement cells and death cells (the prisoners were left with no food or water until they died) were just as shocking and even smaller, so we all felt pretty numb once we’d seen everything.

A brief respite came when we decided to climb the exercise wall that the English had built – we all struggled to get very high (our trainers weren’t built for climbing), and then a little boy showed us how easy it was when he climbed to the top without breaking a sweat! Typical!

Rain, rain, go away!

Leaving the castle, my bracelet was finished and I duly paid him 5 cedis. He then asked me to write my name for the school, but this was for charity. I refused as I didn’t have any change – of course he had change, but I stood my ground. The others all succumbed and each got a personalised shell. Miss P gave 40 cedis, so she also got a bracelet.
Ghanaian bracelet
It was another hour to Kakum National Park where the canopy walk was and we were all starving by now. Told by Kujo that the food was “not good and for tourists”, three of us opted for pizza (yes, we know), but the others stuck to more local dishes. As we ate (it was all pretty good actually), the Heavens opened and, no kidding, a monsoon battered the restaurant and the park. This was not looking good.

We carried on eating, hoping it was just a passing shower, but it actually got worse and them the power went out! Eventually we realised that we wouldn’t be able to do the walkway because it was too slippery, muddy and dangerous.

Disappointed, we had no choice but to battle the rain on the 3-hour drive home, stopping at a supermarket petrol station to pick up some snacks. Apart from the litre bottle of gin for 50 cedis (about £8) everything there was quite expensive.

Gordon's Gin

Back home, we feasted on gin and sprite with crisps and digestives and planned our daring adventure into Accra ON OUR OWN the next day.

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