We travelled a couple of hours west of Accra to meet up with another pair of coaches, Anthony and Derek. They were in a community a couple of hours north called Swedru. We met in the Cape Coast area and stayed in a community called Elmina. It is now primarily a fishing village but has a number of beach resorts in the area. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elmina
There are a couple of UNESCO World Heritage sites at Cape Coast and Elmina that are castles/forts built in the mid 1400’s as trading posts by the Portuguese. Ghana had resources that were desired by the Europeans, Gold, spices, and other commodities. The Portuguese wanted to compete with the Arab world that was seeking the same trade. Unfortunately, one of the commodities was human, in the form of slave labour. The tours focused on the long history of the slave trade and the horrific conditions that were endured over the long history of that trade. The castles are known as the slave castles. Portuguese built the castles and operated them for a couple of hundred years. The Dutch fought and overtook them at one point and then the British took control. Slavery was banned in the early years of 1800 and the trade ended in 1837. It was identified that outside of the trade of slave labour to Europe, the Caribbean, South America and America, Africa has been the source of slave labour for thousands of years back to Roman times.
It was very sobering to stand in a holding cell, that held hundreds of prisoners for weeks or months at a time and hear the fact, that if they had not survived their bodies were simply tossed into the sea. If they survived, they were loaded onto a ship and sent to be traded or auctioned like livestock. They called the doors out of the castles to the ships as the door of no return.
On a brighter note, we also visited the Kakum National Forest. The forest had a Canopy tour and a forest tour. We paid the entry fee and met our guide that shared his knowledge of the environment.
A fear of heights would be a big challenge for the canopy tour. Suspended cables approximately 100 feet off the forest floor created a suspended walkway from tree to tree. Total length of the 6 or 7 spans was 350 meters. The photos don’t really give a sense of the height off of the ground and in some cases, the trees towered above the walkways. Picture two steel cables that are strung between the trees and some ropes that tied a netting material that holds a 12 inch wide aluminum ladder with a plank of lumber as the walkway. It is that 12 inch wide at your feet and about 3 feet wide at shoulder height at the top of the netting. That is the walkway suspended about a 100 feet off of the forest floor. Must be safe, designed by two Canadians from Vancouver who are mountaineers. Inspected every six months to ensure safety, they told us this after we had paid and climbed up the mountain to the start of the canopy tour.
After the canopy tour, the guide took us through the forest and talked about the cultural significance of the forest and history of the use of the various trees and vines for practical, not so practical and medicinal purposes. It was fascinating to see, touch and hear his explanations. He was kind of scary in that he identified a couple of plants that could be used to kill an enemy. A single press of a fingernail into the sap of a vine could be passed to the lip of a glass of water or cup of tea and when drank by an enemy, it would kill that person. Then there were leaves of plants that masked the smell of a decaying body. Kill someone and hide the evidence, like I said he was a little scary.
Sunday after lunch, we split up and made our way back to Accra with our driver, Bright. Anthony and Derek headed to Swedru with their driver, Moses. Along the highway, it is not uncommon for the Ghanaian Police service to have checkstops and randomly check drivers for licenses. We got stopped. Bright had a minor issue with his driver’s license and was going to be given a ticket for Gh¢50 and told he had to come back to court the next day to pay his fine. He argued that that was too much. After some arm waiving and discussion, the “fine” was set at Gh¢20 and we were on our way and the ticket was ripped up.
Three and a half hours (150 kms) Gene and I checked back into the Paloma Hotel in Accra and started the work we needed to do for preparing our report for the board of directors at Medina Credit Union.
We will visit that group tomorrow and present our findings and recommendation.