Hotel on the Beach, Castle, & Kakum Nat'l Park

Trip Start Jun 21, 2012
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Trip End Jul 21, 2012


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Friday, June 29, 2012

First week of volunteerin' started off tough and strugglin', but a good, learning experience for me. We decided to get out of Hohoe by goin’ to

Cape Coast, founded by the Portuguese in the 15th century.  It is right next to Atlantic Ocean.  The Obama family visited there and it’s believed Michelle considers Cape Coast as her ancestral home.  The 8 volunteers and I went in a van w/ a reliable driver at our own expense, which was $800 Cedi (about $412 in US dollars but divided by 9 meanin’ each of us paid about $46 for a round trip).  Not bad, huh?  Takin’ a trip to Cape Coast took us about 8 hours but we stopped at the mall in Accra for a break & dinner.  The ride was not comfortable as it’s bumpy, so we got out to stretch out.  I didn’t choose the mall but dat’s where the volunteers craved for American foods!  To be honest w/ ya, I’m already spoiled by delicious Ghanaian foods!  I didn’t want any of the American foods & had a hard time to decide.  Besides, they were expensive!  I chose popcorn instead.  Don’t get me wrong, Ghanaians do like the popcorn!  We even have the popcorn at our home-based from time to time.  I had some dried mango and a granola bar w/ me, which helped me to curb my hunger.  The mall itself didn’t have many American shops but Panasonic and Apple computers.  The mall is not as big as the ones in the U.S.  It goes w/out sayin’ there were more Yevu (white peeps) there, eh! 

However, on the bright side, I encountered a deaf Ghanaian (as agreed to meet at the mall beforehand) named Robert.  He was introduced to me by an interpreter, Jariatou, in Austin.  She happened to interpret at the doctor’s office where I got immunization shots before goin’ to Ghana.  She is from Africa & told me about Robert.  She said she’d contact him to help guide me around in Ghana.  She asked me to give her gift to him.  Told her by all means! So, dat’s how I met him at the mall!  Can ya imagine how we met from far away where we live!  He lives in Accra.  We hit off good!   Robert is a fine fellow dat ya’d easily talk w/.  Did deliver the gift to him for Jariatou.  He works for Nat’l Assoc. of the Deaf in Ghana and graduated from RIT but returned to his homeland 'cos he wanted to be of service for the Deaf Ghanaians as he knows they need his help.  It’s inspirational to me and he has a BIG heart for his peeps.  In addition, Robert has a scar on his left cheek.  I asked him, "Don’t ya mind if I asked ya about your scar?".  I knew it might offend him but I wuz so curious about it ‘cos I see some of other Ghanaians w/ the scar on the same cheek, too.  He said it’s from tribal scarrin’ and he also has the scars on his belly but didn’t show ‘em to me.  It happened when he wuz a baby and it’s to identify his tribe.  Anyhoo, the volunteers and I were back to the road headin’ to Cape Coast.  We agreed to meet at the Cape Coast Castle, where he’s gladly obliged to guide us there.  Kind-hearted, isn’t he?

It wuz very late getting’ back to the road.  Traffic!  Bumper-to-bumper as Robert warned us.  I hardly fell asleep ‘cos there were many stops, eh!  There were many hawkers, or peddlers, along the highway & when the van went slow or stopped, they rushed to us.  We didn’t buy one thing ‘cos we just wanted to get to the hotel, period.  We eventually arrived at around midnight, or so.  We stayed at the hotel on the beach, which wuz nice.  I believe the last time I went to the beach was in 2010.  Even it had AC! And hot shower!  Back to our home based, where we’re stayin’, it doesn’t have ‘em. We stayed there for 2 nights for $75 in U.S. dollars, including breakfast.  We were loungin’ for a while before headin’ to the Cape Coast Castle Museum, where the slave trade wuz held.  Robert and I paged to each other (before my phone battery went dead) to ensure our whereabouts.  The castle wuz not dat far from the hotel and the drive went smoothly.  On the way, I happened to spot a sign ‘Cape Coast School for the Deaf’!  Thankfully it caught me eyes.  I told the driver dat I wanna stop by there after the castle.

Robert wuz already there before us.  We hugged and I also hugged for Jariatou, as she asked for.  He wuz wearin’ a T-shirt dat I gave him the night before ‘Keep Austin Weird’!  Nevertheless, he showed us around at the castle and explained me about it.  It’s not his first time to guide us.  He didn’t mind at all!  He had friends visited him & took ‘em there, too.  Not only about the castle, but he talked about what Ghana needs for the Deaf and wanted me to help him w/.  He wished me to stay here longer than 4 weeks.  Me, too!  I’m not ready to return to the U.S….not just yet!  Back to the castle, ya’d think the royalty lived there durin’ the slave trad.  No.  Outside the castle is all white and has cannons around it.  Even the cannon balls were still laid on the ground nearby.  I carefully picked up one of ‘em and it wuz VERY heavy!  It blew off my mind ‘cos I knew the cannon alone must weigh tons.  How could they get ‘em to the castle?!  The tour at the castle wuz worthwhile and it wuz one of my biggest goals to visit.  Later, I learned from a Ghana historian sayin’ the castle wuz one of the largest slave trades in Africa.  Durin’ the tour, I felt sorrowful and pissed at the traders and cudda not understand how they cudda do to the slaves.  So dehumanizing! 

Inside the castle (below), there were separate dungeons for female & male slaves w/ small holes in the stone walls for air & light (no electricity at dat time & it wuz very dark) where the slaves were bonded, the drainages runnin’ downward to outside for the urine, feces, and water from the bath, small cells to punish ‘em, small windows w/ bars to prevent from their escape, and lastly two doors w/ the signs captionin’ ‘Door of No Return’.  I imagined myself as a slave who might not know about the door as I shipped off to wherever I went.

I asked my Ghanaian interpreter, Gerard, and Robert about their ancestors if they were slaves, too.  They said no ‘cos they lived up in north.  Gerard’s ancestors lived in Wli, where the waterfall is, and when the Europeans came to capture peeps in Wli, they ran up the mountain w/out difficulty ‘cos they’re used to it, but not the Europeans.  When they arrived at the top, they pushed huge rocks down the mountain & crushed ‘em.  So, they never became the slaves.  What an absorbin’ story!  And they were lucky…

After the tour at the castle, I hugged Robert goodbye & thanked him for the tour.  The volunteers & I went to the restaurant on the beach for our late lunch.  I ordered a grilled red snapper and some rice.  Two of the volunteers later became sick from what they ate.  The cat must have smelled my fish & came up to me.  I gave some of it to it.  I finally saw the first cat in Ghana!  While we were seated, the Ghanaian lady asked us if we wanted to try balancin’ the tray on our head w/out our hands.  Sure, why not!  Durin’ my stay, I am fascinated and intrigued by the ladies (even children & men) who can balance whatever they hold on their head handless.  They even can turn their head and step down.  Some of ‘em can hold heavy things such as a pile of woods, 4 or 5 sets of bananas, and many sachets (sp?), or bags, of water!  Well, of course, I didn’t succeed but at least I had an opportunity to experience it.  I tried w/ 2 hands, 1 hand, and then w/out but had a helper behind me, if ya see the picture.

We were advised by Robert to leave for Kakum National Park early in the mawnin’, so we’d see animals down from the canopy walkway.  I told the volunteers dat I’d knock their hotel room doors to wake up (all of ‘em except 2 are younger).  One of ‘em said even better if I pour the water on ‘em.  Oh, not me!

As promised, we left at 6:30 a.m. w/out a breakfast.  I am a breakfast person BIG time, but I
had a granola bar w/ me.  Better than nuthin’!  It started rainin’.  Oh, no!  Don’t let it ruin for us, I thought.  It's raining season in June-July.  It stopped when we arrived at the nat’l park, whew!  Guess, what?  The tour started at 8:30 a.m., dang!  There was a restaurant so we grabbed our time to eat the breakfast.  The volunteer and I split the cost for French toasts & I ordered a tall glass of fresh-squeezed pineapple & ginger (strong!) juice.  Man, it sure aroused my palate!  I took my time savorin’ the flavor of the juice.  I no doubt wanna make the one when I get back to my homeland.  And so are other Ghanaian foods. I hope to find a good cook book here & wudda luv to share the recipes w/ my loved ones.

While I waited for the tour to commence, there was an exhibit of the rainforest.  It
explained about preservin’ it and bein’ protected by the government.  It includes over 40 species of mammals, over 200 species of birds, & over 400 species of butterflies.  The exhibit was really informative & well-crafted.

We paid $15 Cedi (about $7.70 US) at the gate.  The tour guide explained about safety
& rainforest.  I didn’t have the interpreter w/ me at dat time, so the volunteer helped summarizin’ it up for me.  I looked up the inclinin’ slope and up, up, up we climbed on a muddy, wet trail covered w/ decomposed foliage and rocks.  I had to concentrate on the trail, or I’d fall down like I did durin’ my half marathon & got 5 stitches above my left eyebrow several years ago.  Had a good pair of Chaco sandals so I managed it OK.  We kept hikin’ up for good 30-45 minutes.  The
rainforest wuz as dense and humid, but not hot, as the Wli Waterfalls where we went last week.  I love tropical trees n plants, and I’m grateful Ghanaian government has laws to protect n preserve the rainforest and its animals. 

We arrived at the ‘tree house’ where it started w/ a high canopy walkway (40 meter) and is connected to ‘other tree.  I looked at it and said to myself, oh man! There are about 8 walkways suspended from tree to tree.  Ya have to walk slowly and hold the ropes with your hand securely to keep yourself balanced.  The ropes are above your shoulders, and if ya don’t hold or ya run, ya’d probably trip over the rope.  No wonder the tour guide kept emphasizin’ the safety, when the volunteer interpreted.  She said he kept repeatin’ it.  Anyway, I stood in the middle of the
walkway and took a good look at the rainforest in distance, below the walkway, and in a panoramic way.   The sight wuz breathtakin’.  The only disappointment I had was no exotic animals in sight except butterflies and some birds in distance.  If we started hikin’ much earlier, we’d probably see ‘em.  I got myself soaked and the rainforest must have evaporated
below me.

We hiked back and took pics of yapok trees, palm trees, & other unidentifiable trees as well as tropical plants.  We stopped at the army of red ants crossin’ our trail & I took a picture of it.  One stray ant stung my ankle but I quickly removed it.  No burnin’ sensation but I shudda not
have stood close to it, eh!  At the end of the entrance, there wuz a stand where the man wuz sellin’ cocoas and coconuts.   I asked for the coconut and the man used a long knife to chop off the top of the coconut.  He made a hole of it for me to drink the coconut water w/ a straw.  I
love anything w/ coconut: cake, ice cream, candy, cookie, & shower gel.  One of the volunteers ordered the cocoa and it wuz slit open by the man. Inside there were almond-sized seeds filled with slime.  I didn’t want to try it but she said it tasted good, so I took one seed and sucked it.  Ya don’t eat it and dat’s how the seed is made for chocolate.  I wuz told Ghana is #2 in the world for the best cocoa.  Can ya believe I haven’t bought anything w/ the chocolate in Ghana?  Maybe I will! 

There wuz a quote on the T-shirt in the gift shop sayin’ ‘I survived the walkway’.  The trip to
the Kakum Nat’l Park wuz memorable and if ya ever go to Ghana, go there!  Happy hikin’ n viewin’!



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Comments

Patricia A. Hetzer on

Hi Mary,
This entry is so well done. You really touched my heart telling your experience as well as the history of Cape Coast. I shall not forget what has happend here and will share your pictures with others that are interested as well. Thank you and
Thank you Robert!

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