Friday, April 25, 2008

Catching up

Sorry guys, we've been in the bush for a while but are alive.
The road for Bre and me was a bit of a rough one to catch up. We decided to play it safe and go with the fastest and most convenient transport option possible. Way over my budget and totally not my style, but hey, we didn't want to get left behind. So there we were in a little air-con minibus rocket with 8 other people holding on for our lives as the driver raced to Lagos. It was insane. Most driving is insane anyway but this thing was not totally overweight and had some power for a change. Zoom to the right onto the shoulder, bump, bump, into the air but getting ahead. Then flooring it out to the left, Whoops! Abort! On-coming car! Slam on the brakes, head into the seat in front of you. These guys fight for every inch.
The frustrating part was having to cross 3 African borders in one day. One is a headache, two, torture, three, insanity..... The company had a minder at each post that tried to speed us through and made sure we weren't ripped off but it is still an ugly slow process as they are all major crossings with the bulk of the traffic.
We spent a grand total of 1 1/2 hrs in Togo and 3 hours in Benin and it was raining most of the time so I can't comment on them at all, other than to say in Benin there were a lot more motorcycles and roundabouts than there were in Ghana.
Lagos, the very word sends chills down most spines. Hell in Africa from what most people say and everyone seems to avoid it like the plague. The others drove the long way around Nigeria to avoid it. We arrived in the dark a few hours late (though how that is possible with the crazy driving we did I don't know). We never got right into the center of it but you can just tell it is huge and over-populated. There were no lights at all and the traffic is terrible. From above it must look completely black with huge rows of lights snaking all around a huge area. From inside our minibus it looked like a moving black mass with all the black people shifting around in a black background. Lagos traffic is vicious too. It is bumper to bumper and yet war is being waged behind the wheels, fighting for every inch. IT makes a huge difference and they don't give up easily. It actually looks like those scenes in the movies where someone is learning to drive for the first time and pushes all the pedals at the same time so it jumps an inch and stops hard. Yeah, like that times a million vehicles. After 12 1/2 hrs on the road, we decided to just stay in the little hotel right in the minibus company's compound and not go venturing off into the unknown.
The following morning we took another of the same minibuses onward direct to Calabar. Of course we took 13hrs which was a few longer than normal and the roads were not very good. We had to pass through the delta region and that of course is the area where the foreigners are getting kidnapped and all that too. Doesn't really matter though. The locals on the minibus (everyone was really nice in Nigeria actually) spent the entire ride discussing with each other the problems with the country (mostly crime and corruption) and the stories of the highway robberies and armed home invasions were enough to totally freak us out. Apparently they don't mess around, just shoot first and ask for the money later and then use the bodies to stop the next set of cars..... I hope it's an exaggeration but I'm afraid it isn't.
We made it alive though and the scenery was quite nice though Nigeria is seriously over-populated. The cities that we went through we filthy and it didn't help that the piled garbage was covered with mud.
Calabar is supposed to be a nice place by Nigerian standards but it was still too big and dirty for my liking. We met up with the others, they were camping on the edge of town at a monkey sanctuary. They are the most successful captive breeding program of primates in the world (apparently) and focus on the endangered Drill monkey. They are only found in that area and don't have any close relatives but they kind of look like baboons to me. The 4 young chimps they had were much more interesting though. We ended up there for the whole weekend waiting for our Cameroon visas. It gave us a chance to catch up and start sorting out are places in the new group. We also have grown in size with another vehicle joining us. Patrick, Sarah and James (the guys are S. African and she is English) are returning to S. Africa after living and working in England for years. We met them in Mole, Ghana and later they showed up at Big Milly's and met Ben. They are going the same way at roughly the same time so caught up with the others in Abuja, Nigeria and will join us as far as Namibia I think. It is great having a 3 vehicle convoy and 12 people now. I just don't know what to do with myself as all of my traditional roles of leader, planner, translator, etc have been taken by others. I guess I'll just sit back and enjoy the ride, it's sure to be a good one......

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Goodbye Ghana

Well, it seems the disadvantage of being the only one with a clue about travelling on their own is that I have baby-sitting duty here with Bre. Things have gone extremely well so far and tomorrow morning we will finally be leaving for Lagos and starting the race to Calabar where we will join the others.
I think in the end my favourite thing about Ghana (aside from the touristy stuff) is the "bottled" water everywhere. There is "pure water" that comes in little plastic sachets of 1/2L for just 5 cents. You can find it everywhere as there always seems to be someone walking with a basket of chilled water on their head. That's not the only thing either. As Savannah mentioned already there are tons of walking vendors everywhere there is a traffic jam. And the traffic is horrible so they are always around :) They sell the most random of items to people in their cars. Since you'll never make it to the store before it closes, you might as well shop in traffic :) Snacks, toothpaste, toilet paper, posters, scales, wallets, keyboards, clocks, fans and the whole hardware store are on offer if you drive around long enough.
The fumes are terrible and give me a headache after a day in the city so I wonder what their life expectancy is. I'm starting to believe there is a pollution saturation point that can be obtained by even a city of 2 million people like Accra because it's no better at street level than Cairo with 10 times the population.
It was a little sad to leave the group at Kokrobite, especially since we've gotten to know so many of them so well, but it will be really nice to join the luxury tour group in a few days. As an odd fact, in the month that we were at Big Milly's at least 6 locals drowned. If you can't swim and are drunk you should probably stay out of the water. The waves are rough even for us good swimmers.

The Dark Side of Volunteering

It's been over a month here in Ghana and I'm not sure what to think of it. We've spent most of the time hanging out rather than travelling which has given us the chance to meet lots of volunteers and talk about their experiences. At this point I'd say I'm firmly in the anti-volunteering and NGO camp and see it as just another big business industry. The overwhelming majority of volunteers I've talked to, not only in Ghana, have admitted that they've spent a fortune to volunteer and accomplished nothing. How would you like to spend thousands to work in an orphanage and play with the kids for two hours a day or just change diapers and wash floors? Does a foreigner need to do this work? Is it good for the kids to have new people show up every month or two? For that matter, are orphanages, which are a totally fake western construction (and since been pretty much abandoned as a strategy in our countries) really that good for kids when normal village mentality is for someone to take care of the kids anyway as a group or for the next of kin to just adopt them? Aren't we just destroying community and family values by supporting them?
What about the ones that are "teaching" in a school but can't get the kids to listen because they aren't literally beating them like the local teachers? Think of the trauma to these naive, idealistic, 20 year old volunteers (they aren't all but most fit this description) away from home for the first time alone! And does it teach the kids anything other than that foreigners are pushovers that can be taken advantage of? That attitude by the locals is rife out here and they're often shocked that I defend myself. A lot of volunteers are happy about the personal growth they've undergone simply by being away from home (and I like the whole travel thing) but they generally come away feeling disillusioned with the volunteer process. People go on vacation multiple times but I think this is the real reason repeat volunteers are so rare. Not because they end up with other commitments at home. I've actually met a guy here doing research for his thesis on this exact subject. I definitely get the feeling that he agreed with this. Personally I think the youth are being taken advantage of and their money, effort and experience would be better spent travelling on their own.
The truth is that most of the work done by volunteers could be done by a local (are we robbing them of jobs too?) and they are mostly just kept on the sidelines by the NGO's that are after money and not manpower anyway. I've even talked to a Peace Corps guy working in Togo who claims that some of the aid groups have "meetings" and "lessons" to educate the locals with whatever their program is but actually pay the locals $1 to show up. Of course they come, are not interested or learn anything and the NGO can claim huge numbers to get millions more in additional funding. It's at the point now that he couldn't do anything for anyone (for their benefit) without them demanding money for it as well.
Some villages are good, some are bad but Kokrobite is another example of a bad one. The guest houses and businesses here have just started funding a police station in town to patrol the area because tourists are getting mugged on the beach not 50m from the camp. The locals must know who it is but won't stop it. They've also tried to organize a work party to dig a trench so the rain water (think flash flood style) can drain without washing through homes and destroy everything. The locals show up, it's for their own good and then they expect to be paid. My head is shaking....
Another thing that baffles me is the "live and let lay" principle they seem to operate on. It's the attitude that leaves a dead baby goat lying beside someone's home on the side of the path for the entire day. Or when there's a fire in the lane burning garbage and with 50 people in sight of it including 20 kids, there's still garbage 5ft from the fire. Why not send the kids to pick up more and throw it on? There really doesn't seem to be a lot of pride here anymore. They need to believe that they deserve better and to not expect some volunteers to come do it for them, which is what is happening. There's plenty of manpower and resources in Africa for them to take care of everything. If they put in a fraction of the energy they do in drumming and dancing they'd be fine. It's all about priorities and our "generosity that comes from a historic sense of guilt" isn't helping.
And I'm tempted to say that is the real problem with Africa (that I've seen so far anyway), the people have somehow settled for a culture of accepting second best. They expect to need help and expect and willingly support corruption by not opposing it. And we can't help them to change it. It goes to deep and we are part of that problem. Here they wear our second hand clothes, drive our second hand cars and buses. From a modern cultural standpoint they also seem to be getting stuff second hand. Black music from the US like hip hop or Rasta culture from the Caribbean. What do they have to be proud of? Oh, that's mean but I mean it more as a challenge to them to do something. Even in poor 3rd world countries with unemployed people, everything here is still made in China.....

Breanna to Savannah

Oh Man, I don't think I can ever ever compare or write another blog again after that one Savannah. You totally destroyed mine - "Just blew that blog right out of the water" I can't even begin to tell you how insanely jealous I am of your writing ability/ skills. I Wish you wrote more because I could read your writing all day.

OK, that's it you can take over Amman's position of "Official Blog updater". I can't freaking wait to read your book!!! It will be the best EVER! I mean (Jack Rabbit Factor style)-It IS the best series Ever!! So much positive energy!! I loved all the stories and am glad you are happy now. Sounds like you are having all the fun in the world. I guess you don't really need me anymore. I doubt you even really miss me. Sniffle Sniffle.Your writing is honestly so amazing and beautiful, super descriptive and made me laugh loads. Nothing at all like the random stuff I say. I hope you are caught up in your journal by now. Sorry Babe but You get your dirty filthy hands off that stunningly gorgeous English gentleman or ELSE. Ben I have a serious bad case of "Green Eyes" or a "Little green monster on my shoulder"..whatever you call-it I have it big time.
Miss you all more then you miss me. Lol

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Onward March...

“Surely must be something CAN be done”

Once upon a time there was a most stunningly gorgeous English gentleman sitting at the bar who in the space of one short week changed my life and attitude forever….Throw in one Dutch, Chinese man and an Australian Sheila and you’ve got a boiling cauldron of nationalities with one single goal to reach South Africa in one pot!! I honestly can’t recall the last time I was this excited. Before they came, the very thought of the journey ahead was enough to make me sick. I couldn’t bear the idea of it, knowing far too well what kind of stress and havoc it would hold. .But now I’ve been re-energized and once again I'm full off happiness and bouncing off the…roads?! I can see the progress of our trip already and we are on a roll! The slow pace we were going at before took away the gratifying feeling of progress and accomplishment. I was losing interest fast but then Ben, Kerry, Alex, Kees (pronounced Case) and his dog, Bindhe showed up and altered everything for the better.
For those of you who have been faithful followers, you’ve probably noticed my lack of participation on the blog. A great deal of my silence has been due to the level of my satisfaction with the trip in the last year. I never felt capable of writing anything positive about my travels in Africa. I’m not going to lie; the past year has been extremely hard on me mentally, emotionally and physically. It constantly seemed as though the bad was out weighing the good. I believe that every person is responsible for his or her own happiness but sometimes I found it hard to adhere to. Although it was extremely tough, those experiences made me grow and taught me so much. The only thing I wish is that I could’ve made Grady, Clayton and Sky’s trips more worthwhile.
As you already know, Bre and Ammon are still stuck in Ghana waiting to sort out her passport. For the rest of us, we have been enjoying ourselves immensely and are so happy to be on the move again. It’s been so long since I felt the wind in my hair, watched the scenery fly by and crossed so many borders. The trip is back! We have taken on a new steed but continue the quest with motivation and enthusiasm. The dynamics have altered drastically but I can sense plenty of new and remarkable adventures headed our way. Already I have noticed the difference between travelling in a private vehicle and on local transportation. Yes, unfortunately by going so fast down to South Africa there will be less interaction with locals and less feel for each country. On the other hand, we no longer have to; 1) Carry our backpacks for ridiculous amounts of time in search of hotels, bus stations or simply being too stubborn to let ourselves get ripped off 2) Wasting countless hours waiting for buses, trains and taxis to give us a fair price or to arrive 3) Squeezing all of us and our luggage into overly crowded, hot, stuffy mini buses 4) (Sky you’re going to like this one) NO MORE screaming and fighting with dishonest drivers for hours on end! This is a trip to benefit from and see Africa first hand with family and friends.
After stocking up the trucks with food in Accra, we drove straight from Ghana into Togo, arriving early in the night. The roads were good if not speckled with potholes. As soon as the smooth pavement ended the downpour started. The rain came splashing down, transforming the vibrant red dirt into pools of chocolaty cream. The approaching storms were gorgeous. The clouds hung low in a threatening swirl of madness over the thick, green vegetation. A distinct strip of sky appeared between earth and storm almost like an advancing tidal wave. There was thunder booming and lightning streaking the sky.
The next morning we got up and drove on to Benin where we found a most luxurious campsite with the ocean view directly outside of our tent flap. The grounds were spotted with palm trees and all around the swimming pool were little bamboo parasols. We took advantage of the pool while we had it. It was so peaceful, quiet and beautiful that we would’ve liked to stay forever but the two day visa wouldn’t permit that. We passed through Benin quickly and moved on to Nigeria, my 57th country. We are all getting along great and have lots of fun each night chatting, setting up tents and cooking our meals over a fire. The seven of us are like a big international family of mish-mash fun. There’s never an end to the teasing, mocking of each others accents, phrases and joking all the time! Poor Kees is having a hard time deciphering all of our different accents.
With Nigeria’s bad reputation for corrupt officials constantly demanding bribes, bandits high jacking and the like, we were expecting the worst. We have not yet run into any major problems, only minor difficulties. The border was easy to get through which we were surprised about. The border guard took a lot of pride in his stamping job and asked us where we wanted it placed to save space. (Can you believe that, Skii?!) He did ask for a little something though so Ben promptly went out to his truck and fetched some Afritrex stickers and roll out sunglasses. That solved the problem quite easily. There were road blocks every 500 metres after we crossed into Nigeria. That was quite annoying having to pull over again and again only to answer the same questions. “Where are you going?” “Can I see your papers?” “Can I have your passport details” “Where are you coming from?” etc. Ben, Kerry and I were leading in the Land Rover so we had to go through all of the checks first, answer the questions and deal with the police and their big AK47s. Where as Kees and his crew got to sit back and relax while we handled everything, haha. It’s amusing how everybody stares at the dominating, black, horned ram head on the front of his big truck as it goes by. They were missing out on all of the fun, hah ya right. Ben is very direct and formal. “Hello sir, how are you? What would you like to see?” He takes care of everything very nicely. We’ve had the odd government official ask for gifts, souvenirs and even malaria pills to which Ben responds, “I have only pills which PREVENT Malaria and I need those for myself. They do not CURE malaria.” “I’m sorry; I don’t have any gifts for you. I’m running a charity to help African children and farmers so I have none to give away.” We have successfully not paid any bribes. Other than that, everyone has been very friendly and welcoming with handshakes and big, white smiles! Ben apparently is my husband now but don’t you worry, Bre we’ll be getting a divorce AS SOON as you come! I have already been asked where my children are and the guards got after Ben, lol.
One of the things we miss from Ghana is all of the food and drinks available from sellers on the roads. It’s not quite as much fun without simply being able to stick your head out the window and shout, “Water, water, water”, “Bread, bread, bread” or “Avocado, apple, orange!” and watch people come running with bowls of goods on their heads. It makes life so much easier when your shops have legs. Swarms of people line the roads, stirring up dust while motorbikes weave through traffic from all directions. Driving through the chaos of a big city, I call over to the other vehicle on the walkie-talkie. “I am SO glad we aren’t walking through one of those tro-tro stations trying to find our way!”
Mom’s voice crackled over the radio, “I was just thinking the same thing. Think of poor Bre and Ammon having to arrive in Lagos….”
“YIKES! Never again! Nope. NOT happening!!” I said with firmness.
The cities remind me a lot of Sierra Leone and Liberia with their lively, crowded streets and small, tin roofed shacks all crammed together. The scenery is also much like those countries but a hillier version. Nigeria’s open countryside is absolutely stunning. The roads have been perfectly sealed so far and are substantially lined with tropical forest. “Brilliant!” as Ben would put it.
We are currently cruising in the Land Rover, surrounded by nothing but jungle. As I type, the music is blaring, our throats are cracking from too much singing and the scenery is whizzing by in a blur of green. I’m listening to Michael Buble because it’s the closest thing to Frank Sinatra I could get my hands on. The “Beast” is on our tail; Dad is behind the wheel and is doing a great job of driving it! I am pleased with how smooth our journey has gone so far. We are now moving onward to Abuja with high spirits and nothing but clear road ahead…..


P.S. Bre and Ammon we all miss you and can’t wait to meet back up and make this rambunctious group complete! You are going to LOVE it. Talk about an upgrade into paradise!!


What am I thinking.....I'm a little bit behind with all this but who cares. Here I go.

"No NooNoooHooooHoooHoo...Sky - don't leave us, we love you" - Savannah and I catch ourselves saying that a lot lately. Poor guy has been away from home for 5 and 1/2 years now. I can understand him being anxious But still we rather him here with us. Selfish maybe? Time passes by too fast sometimes. We all had so much fun together. It really isn't the same without him. I'm so sad. I miss you Sky. Hope you are having a blast at home without me. Ok, so who's next on the list to come out??? AHAHAH

I remember when Sky was fresh to the trip and on one of the first lunch breaks we bought chicken spam and he said "Ewww Guys thats soo disgusting" and now he thinks it's a delicacy and we are lucky when we can find it. He even said if he saw it at home he would get some for the helluvit. Hahaha Big difference

It was pretty funny how Savannah and I would always fight over who gets to sit next to him on the bus. I miss all the good songs he would sing and the way he would slap his knee and cry when we all get laughing really hard. He's such an up-beat dude and one hell of a great bodyguard taking care of us. It's ok though we girls have Dad, Ammon, Kees, Ben and Kerry to watch over us now and do all the protecting for you. Good team of guard dogs for sure!! But in reality we girls are the ones really taking care of them!! Heehee.

I'll miss Ghana when we go too. It's packed full of foreigners compared to the rest of West Africa. I am loving all the travelers and volunteers we have been meeting and hanging out with. I remember Ammon saying before we arrived in Ghana "Now guys, everyone won't be as excited to see you as you are to see them" Awwww, It was true. So what, I'm having fun. Big Milly's is luxurious! I feel Completely spoiled!! I love boogieboarding, hanging out on the beach, enjoying the sun, swinging in the hammock, drinking all the fresh fruit juice I can get and hanging out with friends all night laughing our heads off. Only one problem now..the whole crew is GONE...except for Ammon. It's not the same at all. Stupid passport problems.

One of the questions that's asked by a lot of people is "How can your family stay together 24/7 and still get along??" AHAHHA maybe that's strange but I'm used to them. This is going to sound pathetic but I have a Confession - Not even 24hrs gone when Savannah sent me a text message and I started crying. That's how much I miss them/her. Yes, sometimes we have our moments but that never lasts long. Always when we were little, it was funny when we would fight because it would start out with a scratching war and then the I hate you's and "I never want to see or talk to you again" -Slamming the door shut and going to our rooms. Half an hour later one of us for example would go to the others room and say " Um, Do you want to watch a movie with me in my room? -Bre "I'll get the popcorn and pillows"-Savannah and we continue on happily. Hahah I love it.

One of the things savannah text was: "The road is great, beautiful scenery! I am full of happiness! You guys are going to Love this! I am in heaven. Talk about upgrade into paradise. Having a blast! But I have no siblings left. Hurry up I miss you. Lots of love!" - Sav. I'm glad they are having fun but I'm so jealous and can't wait to meet up with them in a few days. Not looking forward to the hideously long bus ride though.

- National Park in Mole -

Funny story actually - Everyone was hanging out at the pool minding our own business when I was attacked by a huge male baboon. It was crazy and just charged after me so I chucked a chair at it, it jumped away but came back again and this time it was really pissed off so I grabbed the next thing (being my water bottle) and threw it right smack in the face, ahaha but the dumb thing wouldn't get the hint and came back again. I had to launch my precious journal too. Just as it was coming back for the fourth time dad came charging at it with the long pool pole. The baboon knew better then to stick around and battle with him. Dad chasing after it like a wild jungle booga booga man. It was hilarious but so embarrassing at the same time because everyone was watching. I am glad that I have fast reactions and know how to defend myself and not take any crap from a stupid monkey with some attitude. Most girls would have screamed and run away. Yeah, that's my crazy story for you. The national park was really beautiful, saw lots of animals and took lots of pictures! Great fun!

Oh yeah -*Randomness*- a little ant bit my lip and it swelled up like a balloon. I looked like an idiot. ahahahah I don't know how that ant managed to do that. It's better now, all back to normal! Sorry, that really had nothing to do with anything.

Thanks to everyone who is reading the blog still, it's always nice to hear from you.

Hugs and kisses


Friday, April 11, 2008

A Radical Change in Travel

Once back in Kokrobite we learned that Ben, the English overlander we'd spent so much time with during our first stay, had decided not to ship his Land Rover to S. Africa but to drive instead. This decision of his was prompted by the arrival of Kees, a Dutch overlander in a massive truck. Why do I mention all this? Well, one thing has lead to another and we are now going to be joining them on the ride down. Kees (pronounced "case") has plenty of room for us so hopefully we will go together all the way to Cape Town. We weren't the only people to get included, there is also Kerry, from Hong Kong, a solo backpacker that in the last 10 months has travelled much of the route we've done over the last 3 years, and Alex, an Aussie girl who is a cousin of an awesome guy, Matt, who is going to be taking over the Big Milly's camp soon.
Of course this arrangement will require a lot of adjustments in terms of timing and routing as we no longer have control but it gives us the best chance of actually making it to S. Africa alive. We expect to have some great 4WD adventures too as the rains are here and the road will be mud in many places.
Of course the whole thing has not gotten off to the best start. Oddly enough or strangely typical, the biggest problem has come from the Canadian government. We put in 3 passports to be renewed as soon as we arrived in the country. It's supposed to take three weeks so we were all just waiting around here getting prepared for the road ahead with lots of planning and trying to secure some visas for difficult countries like Angola and Nigeria. Bre's application had problems with it, which were really unnecessary and only caused by the ridiculous procedure for the "non-renewal" of passports that only the retarded government of Canada could come up with (as far as I know it is the lengthiest and most involved of all western countries for a renewal) and her passport has taken over a month to come back. I swear I have never had a good experience at a Canadian embassy in any country.
Ben is on a timeline and needed to leave so yesterday all of the group, including mom, dad and Savannah left to start the journey south. They should be in Togo or Benin by now. Bre and I have been left behind to wait for the passport and then collect the visas and try to catch up in about 10 days in Calabar, Nigeria if all goes well. So far so good as the passport has now arrived and I should be able to start work on it on Monday. It's just a hassle to miss the first part of a much more comfortable ride than what we've been doing all this time. It will also mean that we should be getting down south a lot faster and our arrival is tentatively scheduled for some time in June. Anyone feel like going to Southern Africa this "summer"?
PS. If anyone is interested in who or what we've become involved with visit Ben's website at

Monday, April 07, 2008

Mole National Park

Our final mission before Sky left for home was to see more African wildlife so we made our way to Mole National Park via night stops in Kumasi and Tamale. Mole is a huge attraction up in the northwest of Ghana, far enough from the coast to go from humid tropical rain forest vegetation to the drier and hotter savanna woodland. Riding the bus on the dirt road out to the park really felt like being in "Africa" and getting ready for a safari. Finally getting to Mole, (which involved a lot of hassle and fighting in Larabanga, the junction town before it) we were not disappointed. There is a single hotel complex inside the park where most people stay. A little pricier than we are used to but so much cheaper than the national parks in southern and eastern Africa. The hotel sits on a little ridge overlooking the park and a large watering hole that attracts all the animals in the dry season, the end of which is now. In the park they do guided walks so you can get up close to whatever you can find. The main highlight is usually a couple dozen meters from the elephants as they head to the water hole. Really the best part is that you don't even have to go anywhere or do anything to see it all, it just comes to you. It was possible to just hang out in the swimming pool as troops of baboons and other monkeys would walk by or start stealing food off your table. Sit at the poolside tables and you could watch the elephants, crocodiles, warthogs, different antelopes and numerous birds hang out at the water hole below. And for two days that is pretty much what we did; watched wildlife and worked on our tans.
Transport is a little slower than we'd hoped out here so rather than try to rush around the country it was decided to come back to Big Milly's to hang out a few days more before seeing Sky off. Some of our friends were still there, while others we'd made in Cape Coast and Mole had gotten there ahead of us too. Fun fun again.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Cape Coast, Kakum NP

When we finally got motivated to move on again, we found ourselves heading a couple hours west, to Cape Coast. Even with all the time we're stuck in Ghana we decided that it would be better to conserve our strength and spend more time resting and go to just the biggest tourist sites. Cape Coast is a busy one. It was the British colonial capital until 1877 so has that "faded colonial charm" look to it. There were/are dozens of slaving forts that dot the coast line but Cape Coast fort was arguably the most important and is now a major attraction. Only 15km further west and visible from the fort, is Elmina fort. Elmina's fort is the oldest surviving European structure built in the tropics. 1482. Inside it is the oldest Christian church in Africa, outside of Ethiopia and Egypt (which had them from the beginning). We went on tours of both forts and heard the stories and saw the dungeons. It was great that I'd read Roots before coming because it made it so much easier to visualize as we walked through. The Ghana coast was once a major slaving area with 70% of slaves coming from captives of tribal warfare. All the Europeans had to do is promote tribal warfare, sit back and let captives be brought in exchange for more and better weapons to catch more of the enemy. This lasted a couple hundred years with the Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Germans, French and British all taking turns controlling various forts and fighting each other for control of the trade or working side by side. Of course there are slave forts all over the coast, including Senegal, Gambia, Sierra Leone, and all the way to Cameroon and beyond but the highest concentration of forts was along the coast out here in Ghana.
Also near Cape Coast is Kakum National Park. While few visitors actually see any wildlife there, the main attraction is a 350m long canopy walkway. With 7 bridges between 6 trees with little viewing platforms as much as 40m above the jungle floor, it gives a great bird's eye view of the vegetative mass around you. It is the first such walkway in Africa and one of only a few in the world. It was interesting and certainly scenic, but at the same time disappointing because there's no wildlife to see.