Cape Coast

2-21-10

This entry is for my adventures on Friday through Sunday. On Friday morning I stayed home. I was intensely constipated from the week long illness and I knew this had to change if I wanted to go away for the weekend. I went in to work around noon, meeting Justine and Dorcas, the new employee, on my way. They had finished making the weekly visits to recipients and were headed home. (As a side note, Dorcas is a cool cat. She is our age, just out of Cape Coast University with a degree in Education, and has quite a wicked sense of style. Her only flaw- overly loud Jesus radio. Justine and I are slowly working on this.) So I went to Cynthia’s store in Fise and hung out with her and Dawn. I figured I couldn’t leave until Dawn was ready and I didn’t feel like sitting at home where there was no power. Cynthia and her granddaughter, Elisa, sat with us and we discussed things around Fise and what Cynthia’s political views are. She, like many Ghanaians, doesn’t like the current administration. The previous President Kofuor was much more liberal in his policies. He improved a lot of the infrastructure in Ghana, including creating a public mass transportation system that connects major cities, and national health care. Any Ghanaian will say that he was the first to fully allow freedom of speech, and encouraged opinions to be made and heard about his policies. The new government, however, stifles opposition and seems to be much more corrupt.

In the afternoon we quickly packed our things and headed for Kaneshie to get a bus to Cape Coast. We had been told that the orange Kofuor buses (named in honor of the President’s improvements to transportation) would be available and comfortable. We searched the two trotro stations in Kaneshie but found nothing. An hour later we were frustrated and willing to board anything going to Cape Coast. Our options seemed to be a trotro or a huge (orange) bus that seats two rows of three people each. We opted for the trotro and lucked into an air-conditioned one. Finally, we were on our way. The Ford van was filled with upper class Ghanaians. You can tell this by the way they dress and the women’s fair skin. I didn’t enjoy the ride very much- what I like about trotros is how real they are. The sack of whatever is strapped to the back and people going to every kind of small village fill the seats.

When we arrived to Cape Coast we took a taxi directly to the Oasis Beach Resort. They were full for the night, but said they would have rooms the next day. We went to another place Dawn had looked into, the Mighty Victory Hotel, and checked in. The room was decent and there was HOT WATER, so I had a lovely shower the next morning. We put down our things and headed back to Oasis where the party seemed to be starting. We got dinner (Dawn an unappetizing grilled cheese and tomato sandwich and a distinctly Ghanaian plate of spaghetti and meat sauce for me) and then ordered drinks. We went down to the beach, dodging several of the men preying on tourists and sat, but were soon joined by two obnoxious drunk and high men. The only memorable things from the conversation that followed were two phrases: ‘sweat like a pregnant fish’ and ‘it’s nice to be nice’. They repeated these over and over again, and no matter what tactic we employed to get them to go away, they wouldn’t. At about 1am we left Oasis to return to our hotel, and on our way saw some very disturbing sites. The amount of homeless people in Cape Coast is unimaginable. They lined the streets, sleeping head to foot. Men, women, and children slept on dirty concrete next to the roaming goats. It was quite sad.

The next day we began by securing our room at the Oasis. Both of these hotels were more than I wanted to spend, but Dawn seemed very excited about it, so I agreed. After we got the room we went to Cape Coast Castle. This British Castle was the stopping point for loading up slaves, supplies and gold. It was traumatizing and heartbreaking to see where the slaves were kept and how they were treated. At the end of the tour we went through the “Door of No Return” where slaves were loaded onto the ships, never to see Africa again. Often times they jumped into the ocean instead of boarding the ship, which also killed all of the people chained to them as well. After this we went for lunch, quite shell shocked and mum. We ran into the men we met the night before outside of the castle. Apparently their angle is to go to the major tourist night spot (the Oasis) in the evenings and befriend the visitors. Then the next day, they say ‘Christina! How are you? You remember me? Come and look at my artwork” and then they give you a ‘deal’ because you are their ‘friend’ and so on. I actually bought a painting there. It caught my eye and I wasn’t able to stop thinking about it, so I gave in.

Afterwards we went to Elmina, a small town about fifteen minutes from Cape Coast. There we toured the Dutch castle, which focused more on the treatment of female slaves. There were secret compartments that led women from the slave dungeons to the general’s quarters. The castle was much smaller than its Cape Coast counterpart, but just as disturbing. On the way in we had given our names to two men who badgered us, and on the way out we realized their con. They paint your name on a seashell and then give it to you as a gift. Then they ask for donations. Dawn walked away with a seashell, I didn’t. By this point I was tired of all of the cons and in no mood to give away my money. In the castle, however, I struck up a mini conversation with a man from the U.S. He had just gotten to town and was sick for a couple of days, but he seemed to be feeling better.

We returned to Cape Coast exhausted and ready for dinner. The tourist book said there was a good vegetarian eatery called Baab’s juices, so we went on a quest. When we finally found it, Baab was sitting outside of the shack and asked us what we wanted. We asked what she had and she replied ‘jollof with no meat’. We politely declined since jollof generally has no meat and we were hoping for a new food experience. We went back to the restaurant we had eaten at before, Castle Café, and resigned ourselves to waiting for an hour. We were learning the tricks to eating there. Order right away or else the waitress wouldn’t come back, and ask for the check when you get your food. We sat at a bench facing the water and were surprised to find that the person to be seated next to us was our friend from Elmina Castle. We struck up a conversation with him, well, Dawn and he talked a lot, I was more interested in the wine swirling through my body and the sound of the waves, and after eating our respective meals we agreed to meet up again at the Oasis in a little while for cocktails.

He did indeed meet us at the bar and it was my turn to talk to him. Dawn was talking to Abdul, a local Ghanaian artist who seemed normal enough, so I ended up joking around with him. He is a petty cab driver in NYC and quite pretentious. Many inside jokes came from Laramie, yes Laramie. He is a world traveler who hates people and culture, and he was on his hands and knees crawling through mangroves earlier in his stay in Ghana. It was entertaining listening to him, and it kept the creepers at bay.

On Sunday we went to Kakum National Park, which was amazing. We hired a taxi to take us and wait for us, then we partook in the canopy walk. I was terrified and exhilarated at the same time. We didn’t see any animals, only two butterflies, but the walk was still worth it. Afterwards our driver headed back for Cape Coast but was pulled over by the police. We waited for about twenty minutes while he talked his way out of a fine for not having his driver’s license with him. It turns out that the previous day the police took it from him so he had to wait until Monday to get it back. Anyway, we eventually got back to Cape Coast and made our way back to Accra from there.

We went to the Accra Mall before going home and I got some groceries. Rather expensive groceries actually (my small box of Corn Flakes cost 7 Cedis or about $5)

Practical Ghanaian Travel Tip #54: The Bradt Ghana guide tells many lies. Just a warning.

Practical Travel Tip #55: Beware of sand fleas in Cape Coast. Don’t dig in the sand or else you will get many stinging bites.

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4 Responses to “Cape Coast”

  1. Chelsey Says:

    “(my small box of Corn Flakes cost 7 Cedis or about $5)” its crazy how much some things can cost… we stayed in Culebra, PR for the first half of our honeymoon and shampoo/cond was so expensive that I just used bar soap to wash my hair. Luckily our “hotel” had a “kitchen” so we were at least able to grocery shop and cook (vs eating out- very expensive) but still, the prices of things we take for granted is crazy… I found it fun searching for food items though. Good thing I took spanish…

    Glad you are feeling better =)

    I will have to try that with my art lol.. oh whats your name? look I painted this for you! donation please? haha

    anyone ask to marry you lately?

  2. Dad Says:

    That must have been so emotional, I hope on day I can visit there, everyone I know who has seen it says it’s very moving.
    Please post pictures soon.

    So glad you are back on your feet and enjoying the rest of your time.
    I hate to sound stereotypical but have you seen any wildlife? other than the chickens and goats on the street.

    Love you
    Dad

    • christinasamuels Says:

      I would love to post the pictures I have taken, but the connection is now too slow. I might have to wait until Botswana or when I get back to the US to put them all up, which makes me sad.

    • christinasamuels Says:

      Oh, and I haven’t seen much wildlife. There isn’t really anything worth mentioning unless you go to the far north. I don’t think I will go that far though. It is expensive and the only thing to do is look at wildlife. I have Botswana for that.

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