Archive for Ghana
We are often asked what sights we think are worth seeing, which places we found interesting and what would we recommend doing. These are our thoughts. There is much more detail in our Journal for Ghana. We crossed West Africa by public transport in late 2005 and early 2006 and our notes are in the Journal section of this web site.
The details may change so we suggest you check with a good guide book. We prefer the “Rough Guide” series because they are well written and kept up to date. You can get more information on www.roughguides.com
The main attraction in Tamale was the Mole Game Reserve, about two hours away, from Tamale. You can stay in a lodge overlooking a waterhole where elephants and other big game came to drink. Most travellers said it was well worth a visit.
Kumasi is the second biggest city in Ghana, with over a million inhabitants, it looks and feels like a capital city. It was once the capital of the Ashanti Empire and is still the vibrant focal point for the Ashanti peoples. The military museum is housed in an old British fort and the excellent guides are very entertaining. The Kumasi Cultural Centre is a collection of fairly large modern buildings in well kept park land. There are museums, libraries, galleries and workshops where you can watch local crafts being practiced. One fascinating small museum boasted well laid out displays of artefacts from Ashanti cultural history and the Ashanti royal family.
In the Okomfo Anokye Hospital there is a visitors centre housing the Okomfo Anokye sword. The legend is very similar to the English sword in the stone legend, except that the sword is still there.
The road from nearby Kumasi affords breathtaking views of this 8km diameter tropical vegetation clad meteorite crater protecting the mesmerizing circular blue lake. This peaceful lake is sacred to the Ashanti people. So the lake fishermen still gently paddle around using flat pieces of wood held in each hand, sitting on boards whilst fishing using circular hand thrown nets. It is a magical place to relax and there are a range of hotels to suite every pocket. Lake Bosomtwe Paradise Resort is an excellent hotel on the shore of the lake.
Cape Coast castle glistened white in the warm evening light. From the ramparts black iron canons still point out to sea where fishing boats with brightly coloured sails race for the shore. This was once the seat of British administration in this part of West Africa, which the British colonised and called the Gold Coast. The castle was the last staging post for salves on their way to the Americas having passed through several dealers. The African kings of the interior, The Ashanti, captured these people during battles and skirmishes and held them captive. The slaves were then sold and transported to the coastal kings. These kings controlling the coast not only charged the Europeans ground rent on their castles but also charged rent for every slave kept overnight in the castles. So the African kings were heavily and not honourably engaged in the slave trade.
At Kakum Nature Reserve morning mist slowly lifts like a veil from the towering trees. From the forest floor, with ferns and bushes, trees rose like pillars in a Greek temple. High above the craning necks of visitors monkeys chatter, birds flit and swoop and colourful butterflies flutter. Visitors are able to see the teeming life in the forest canopy from an ariel walkway built 30ft above the forest floor. Perhaps the most interesting part of the reserve is the walk in the woods with a forestry expert. He shows people the slow growing ebony trees, mahogany trees and the huge quick growing kapok trees with massive buttresses stabilising these woodland giants.
Elmina castle is the oldest European building in Africa. It was commissioned by King John II of Portugal in 1482. Today it still dominates the busy fishing beach and commands the defence of the river where wooden fishing boats are still built by traditional methods. The huge white walls of the castle tower over the beach where brightly painted boats are dragged up onto the sand surrounded by hundreds of frenetic fish traders and porters. The fishing boats are brightly and boldly named with Christian themes, like ‘Jesus the Fisherman’. Opposite the castle is a fort built later to defend the castle. Both are open to the public.
The Wli Falls cascade spectacularly 100ft over a sheer cliff in the range of mountains which separate Ghana from Togo. There is a pleasant walk through the forest to the falls where visitors can see coffee beans, cocoa pods and pineapples growing.
Many Ghanaians visit the falls to picnic and swim in the pool at the base. So whoops, splashing and laughter resounded around cliff faces. Some of the enterprising locals may offer to shoot the roosting bats from the cliff face around the falls and cook the catch on an open fire for your nourishment and delectation.
Ada is a small idyllic fishing village on the south coast nestling under tall palm trees, under a clear blue sky, on a perfect beach. Walking along the beach it is possible to see thirty or forty village people, men, women and children hauling in huge fishing nets. Accra is on the coast east of Accra.
Accra the capital of Ghana, a modern bustling city of over one million people. Ghana achieved its independence from Britain in 1957 when it was one of the most prosperous countries in West Africa. Its first president, the forward looking Kwame Nkrumah advocated a pan African union on a socialist model. He is still looked up to as the father of the African Union. While he invested heavily in major infrastructure projects, like the Akosombo hydroelectric dam the world price of cocoa beans fell and he generally miss-managed the economy. As his term in office lengthened he became more and more autocratic and despotic until he announced he would be president for life. Despite this Kwame Nkrumah is remembered with affection and the monument and museum dedicated to his life in a well maintained park in the centre of Accra is worth a visit.
Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, Accra
The Freedom Arch, the opera house and James Town, a small enclave near the beach, are popular tourist sights. In general Accra looked to be much more prosperous than the other West African cities we had travelled through. The streets were clean and the offices and shops seemed modern and well maintained.
Accra street Scene.
Where we were:
Allan and Margaret at Ada beach, Ghana
Ada beach fishing village, Ghana
Pulling in the nets at Ada beach fishing village, Ghana
Every one helps with the nets at Ada beach fishing village, Ghana
The catch, at Ada beach fishing village, Ghana
We enjoyed James’s company so much that we hired him for our last day in Ghana to explore the south coast east of Accra, toward the border with Togo. We left early and drove east toward the border with Togo. After a couple of hours we turned off toward Ada, a small fishing village on the coast nestling under tall palm trees, under a clear blue sky, on a perfect beach. It looked idyllic, just like the bounty advert. The simple life of a hut on a pristine beach, a little fishing and some swimming in the sea held a momentary appeal. Walking along the beach we saw thirty or forty people, men, women and children hauling in a huge fishing net. Stopping to help we chatted to the village headman, wearing a bowler hat. He explained that everyone in the village was expected to help. If you didn’t help to pull in the nets then you couldn’t expect to have a share of the catch. Despite their effort and concentration people smiled and chatted. The catch wasn’t enormous, maybe a dozen big fish, a hundred smaller silvery ones, about three inches long, and a small collection of shrimps, crabs and starfish. Everyone was friendly and happy to chat, even when we did decline to buy one of the bigger fish.
We had a nice lunch, with James at a small beach hotel. The circular trip east to Denu and then back along the coast road through Keta was well worthwhile. A long causeway gave lovely views across the ocean on one side and the Keta Lagoon on the other. New housing had been built to replace the huts lost to the sea. It was refreshing to see the Ghanaian government being so proactive.
Next day James collected us from our hotel and delivered us to the airport. The Slok Air flight left more or less on time. We stopped twice to pick up passengers, once at Monrovia in Liberia and once at Freetown in Sierra Leone. So we arrived back in Banjul after dark and were immediately asked for money from the porters, and hangers on at the airport. Home again to the Dependency Culture of Gambia.
Our welcome back to our compound though was ecstatic. After six weeks of travelling through Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana and meeting so many interesting and friendly people it was nice to be back to the familiar comforts of home. For those of you reading this who are thinking of travelling in Africa it is worth reflecting that we met nothing but warmth, friendliness, humour and assistance. We were not robbed, cheated or harassed. In fact there was no unpleasantness at all.
We sent notes of our trip to the Rough Guide and they sent us a Rough Guide to South East Asia to thank us for the extra details we provided.