|We set off on Friday afternoon to Cape Coast, approximately 2 hours west of Accra. We were squashed into a tro-tro and headed on our way. There were 15 people in the van which should have held 12 so it wasn’t the most comfortable journey. Alexis had the driver’s mate sitting on her foot and ducking down below the window every time we passed a police checkpoint because they didn’t want to pay the fine for overcrowding. Richard was on a row of 3 seats with 4 people so we certainly got to know our fellow passengers well… all good fun! After dropping our bags off at the hotel we walked up to Fort Victoria, just behind where we were staying. There was a guide to take us up there (GHc1 for foreigners, everyone else 50p!) and it had fantastic views over the town. It was very impressive but it was a real shame that the ground was covered in rubbish as it took away the impact of the fort somewhat. We had heard good things about the Castle Restaurant in Cape Coast so went there for a drink and the views were impressive, the breeze was even better!
The next day we went to Elmina, around 10km west of Cape Coast. We were dropped off in the middle of a very hectic and colourful market place and we headed towards the beach and St. George’s castle. This was a very impressive building that was built by the Portuguese in 1482. It started life as the centre of the Portuguese trade route for gold. It stayed in Portuguese ownership until the Dutch bombarded it from St Jago Hill in 1637. After that it has a pretty grim history as one of the main slave trade points for the Dutch.
We walked up the steep hill to Fort St. Jago. This hill was used by the Dutch to bombard St George’s Castle until the Portuguese surrender. At that time there was no fort here but the Dutch knew they had a wickness so built there own fort there to stop anyone bombarding their fort like they had the Portuguese. We climbed to the top of one of its tower which is the highest point in Elmina. The views were fantastic and it was great to see the contrast of the busy market place and then the calm of the sea beyond.
After lunch we walked back past the salt planes and headed back to Cape Coast to meet a fellow volunteer, Eddie, for dinner. After we had eaten, we headed to a local ‘spot’ and had a drink. Quite by random there were a few locals there who started some wonderful singing, we must have walked in on their choir practice. It was such a great experience, just by chance, to be sitting outside in the dark listening to some very impressive live and tuneful singing as a serenade to our drinks.
The next day we got up early for a wonder around the town and ended up in the middle of a political rally for the NDC (elections are in December). So much for a quiet Sunday morning stroll! There were hundreds of supporters out and big bands playing. It was quite an atmosphere and all very friendly. After breakfast we headed to Cape Coast Castle. This is the British equivalent of St George’s Castle in Elmina. It was one of the biggest slave trade points that the British had with slave not just coming from Ghana but from other countries in West and Central Africa. We went on a guided tour around the castle which was very interesting but also very harrowing. We went into one cell that the prisoners never came out of again. It was tiny and was used to keep over 150 people in. They were given no food or water and it was airtight so they were just left to die. It was quite shocking to see the prisoner’s scratch marks on the floor where they had been suffering so much. We were shown the terrible conditions of the male and female slave dungeons and the ‘door of no return’ where the slaves were put onto the ship heading for America and Europe. Recently, the ancestors of two of the slaves came back through the door the other way to end the cycle and a sign was put up on the other side as a ‘door of return’.
Once we’d left the castle, we met Eddie again and headed off to the open air cinema in town to watch the big match – Liverpool v Chelsea. It was absolutely rammed, over 300 Ghanaian football supporters, cheering on their teams. The atmosphere was fantastic and when Liverpool scored the whole place erupted and everyone went berserk! We were being shaken by the hand and people were jumping up and down on their seats. It was great fun and Richard was very pleased as Liverpool were victorious! A happy end to a great weekend.