Monday, 28 May 2012

Holiday Weeknd Part I

In the U.S., we celebrate Memorial Day today.  In Ghana, they do not celebrate Memorial Day today, but on Friday, they celebrated Africa Unity Day, so we also had a long weekend this past weekend.  Since we had a 3 day weekend, Amanda and I decided to try and see a few things further out from Ghana.  We decided to try our hand at checking out Cape Coast

Cape Coast, Ghana
Thursday night, we called a place called the Sarahlotte Guesthouse and tried to make a reservation for Friday night.  Amanda was talking to the man on the phone, and he said we were confimed for Friday night for two people.  We were relieved we could do this on our own without having to ask a friend here to talk with the person on the other end.  It's a bit challenging trying to understand the accents here, and it's definitely 20 times more challenging while trying to do it over the phone.  We used my Ghana travel guide to figure out where we needed to pick up a bus, and where the important spots were for us to go.  We did a wee bit of packing Thursday night as we were leaving bright and early Friday morning.

Friday arrived, and we woke up and finished gathering our things.  Amanda packed her stuff in her backpack, and since I forgot to bring my backpack, I had to use my duffle bag I got from has turned out to be quite the useful little thing.  We took a taxi to an STC bus station near the Kaneshie market, about 30 minutes away.  We were dropped off at the bus station, and we found out that we had just missed the bus going to Cape Coast.  Our travel book had said that they usually leave at 9:30, so we wanted to be early.  We arrived at 8:40, and should have had plenty of time.  For whatever reason, the bus left early that day.  The next bus wasn't leaving for Cape Coast until 2:30....that was too long of a wait and we needed to get their sooner.  The lady at the STC counter helped us figure out where to get a different bus, a Metro Mass Transit bus, and so we walked about 20 minutes to that station.

To do so, we walked through Kaneshie which is a true market place, with people everywhere trying to sell you something.  It was best if we kept our heads down and ignored the people who were trying to get our attention...otehrwise we would be there for a really long time.  We finally arrived at the area where they had the buses, and we just had to find the bus we needed.  We found the bus, bought our tickets for 4.50 cedis, and took our seats.  There were probably seats for 60 people, and I believe the bus was full.  We started our trip to Cape Coast!

Cape Coast was a 3 hour bus ride from Accra.  It was rainy the morning we left for Cape Coast, which made for a semi-pleasant bus ride because it was cooler, but less pleasant when we had to walk in the rain to get to the bus!  The ride was pretty uneventful which was good.  People started requesting stops about a half hour out from Cape Coast, so we knew we were getting close.  The bus system and tro tro system is a bit undefined here.  If you need to get off, I think you can just yell, "bus stop!" and then they stop shortly after that.  Because they do speak their own dialect, this part is still a bit confusing to us.

Cape Coast Castle

We arrived in Cape Coast, at a stop different than what was shown in our book. We walked up a road trying to find the Cape Coast Castle, which is a castle built by Swedish traders for trade in timber and gold. Later the structure was used in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which it is more notably known for today. We kept walking and found a loadge which was listed in our book, and decided we needed to turn around and go back the way we came. So we started walking back the other way. The road started to go uphill, which didn't make sense to us if we needed to go down by the ocean. So we stopped and looked at our book (it was still raining at this point), and this woman asked us if we needed help. Apparently being an Obruni and looking at a book screams "Tourist!" She said it was too far of a walk to get to the castle, and that we wanted to take a taxi. Conviently, a taxi pulled up. He offered to take us to the castle for 4 cedis. We decided that was fair because she said it was far away.

We got there shortly after that, and decided that we could have walked it.  But we were dropped off at the Castle, and the taxi driver asked if he could pick us up tomorrow and take us to the Kakum National Park.  We said we weren't sure and he gave me his number so we could call if we decided we needed a taxi. 

While I was getting the number, Amanda was approached by two men who had market stands just outside the castle.  When I was finished getting the number, I turned around and then they approached me.  My new friend's name was John, and I don't know the name of the guy who kept talking to Amanda.  But they asked us to check out their shops after we were done eating. 

View from our table of the Atlantic
We walked to the restaurant which was right next to the Castle, called Castle Restaurant.  On our walk to the restaurant, we finally saw the Atlantic Ocean!!  We were really excited.  We took a few pictures, and then went inside.  It was a nice place with ocean side views, and we of course took one of those seats.  Our guide book said that this place had Beef Hmaburgers, and by golly they sure did!  We were so excited, and we ordered ours with cheese.  We also haven't been able to find much cheese here either. 

Pig on the beach!
As we were waiting for our food, we watched the ocean and the actions taking place on the beach.  We saw a dog with a collar, a pig, a goat, a sheep, and some birds.  We also saw a few people.  The pig was the one that took the cake, as we hadn't yet seen one of those walking around.  There was a little boy down on the beach who asked me to take his photo.  I agreed, and then he asked me for something to drink, which I didn't have.  It was quite sad, actually. 

Our food came, and our burgers were so delicious!  Our buns were real thick and they put ketchup, onion, lettuce, tomato, and (I think) goat cheese on it.  It was perfect.  After lunch, we walked back to the castle, and were approached by the two men who first approached us, carrying jewelery they wanted us to try on.  We said "no, thank you," and walked into the castle.  We paid for our tickets (7 cedis for entrance, another 2 cedis to take pictures), and checked our bags so we didn't have to carry them anymore.  We checked out the museum first and learned a little more about the castle, and refreshed our memories on the slave trade as well as the triangular trade (which I was surprised at how much I remembered from 8th grade!).  After we checked out the museum, we met our tour guide, Isaac.  He did a great job with our tour, explaining all the ins and outs of the castle.

Condemned slaves cell door
We learned about the oldest door in the castle was over 300 years old and was still used today.  The door led to the condemned slave cell, where those slaves who tried escaping the castle were kept until they died.  It was a small room which  housed 100 men at one time.  There was no light, no food, no water and the men relieved themselves on the floor and they were kept in there.  Isaac said it took about 5 days for them to die, and when they died, their bodies were thrown into the ocean.  While we were inside, he shut the door and turned out the light for 5 seconds so we could see how dark it was in there.  He said many of the men were blind by the time they died. 

We also saw the female slave dungeon where they were kept until they were sent overseas.  I think there were 2 chambers for about 500 women, and they were fed through a small opening to the left of the door, and there were 3 tiny window openings up near the top of the chambers which were their only sources of light. 

4 out of the 5 chambers in the male dungeon
We then saw the men's slave dungeon, which held 1,000 men in 5 different chambers.  The first chamber was separated from the remaing 4, and was reserved for the strongest slaves. The men kept in the other four chambers could move about them (assuming there was room to walk).  The line on the floor going down the center of the doorway to the chambers is actually a small drain which would carry the urination and the feces out to the ocean.  The slaves were kept together with their own waste.  There was not much ventilation either.  One tiny window up near the top of the chamber was their only source of light. 

The 5th chamber had a tunnel that led to the boats the slaves were put on. It was narrow tunnel, and they were shackled and chained together in single file lines, and walked their last steps in Ghana before getting onto the boat.  There is a shrine now where the entry used to be.  It was sealed off after salvery was abolished in Europe.  There is a line of flowers on the left wall for those who passed through here.  When President Obama and the First Lady came out here in 2009, they left some flowers here as well (and they are still there).  As a side note, we talked to Henry, and we found out that Ghana loves Obama.  We see billboard with his and Michelle's picture on them quite frequently, more than we do in the U.S. 

Fishing boats at Cape Coast
When our tour was finished, we explored a little bit of the Castle on our own and got some neat pictures.  Just outside the Castle to the right where a lot of fishing boats and we saw a few men preparing their boats and fishing nets. 

After we took some pictures, we decided we needed some pictures by the ocean.  So we lef the castle (after stopping at the gift shop where I was able to buy a hand sewn purse and a Fante mask!) and walked to the beach just outside the restaurant we ate at for lunch.

We were really excited about seeing the ocean, so when we got there, we walked out too far, and a huge waves crashed into us and we almost fell over in our clothes!  It was SO fun and the water felt really great.  We relocated a bit and took a few pictures of the us and the water. 

I'm a regular old market woman
As Amanda was taking my picture, two boys selling stuff to eat approached her and started talking to her.  When I showed up, they asked if we wanted to try putting the plate of food on our heads.  So they let us!  We see a lot of Ghanian women sell stuff in the streets using their heads and it is really cool. 

Kids asking Amanda for money
After these two guys left, a herd of little kids came running up to us and asked if we could take their picture, and then asked for some pesawas for some water.   Amanda looked in her purse for some loose change, but didn't have enough to share.  They had tiny little hands, and tried to pickpocket Amanda, and one little boy hit my butt to see if I had any money in my back pockets.  I did not.  It was getting a bit late, so we decided to try and find our Guesthouse where we were hoping to stay for the night.


  1. So glad to read (& see) that you've been able to travel a bit!

    1. The transportation is not so fun, but the being at the sites is always a lot of fun and a bit relaxing :)

  2. "Our buns were real thick..."???? Oh, Stacy, you make me laugh!

    1. They were!! Probably 2 inches!! Big buns!