African art is so colourful and creative.
The final place that we stayed on our trip along the west coast of Ghana was Coconut Grove Village, near Elmina. Everyone gets a cold cocunut when they arrive there, except that we zoomed off to our rondavel before I could get mine (I did eventually get one).
The previous week we’d paid US dollars, at a rate of 1 : 3 Cedis, for our hired car, so when we were asked to pay our basic bill at the Coconut Grove Village, I asked how much it would be, as the website quotes US $s. The girl at the counter said their exchange rate was 1 $ : 3.5 Cedis plus a 5% credit card charge. So I said I’d pay in US $s with my debit forex card, which she accepted without the 5% surcharge. When, the next day, I went to pay the food bill, I asked for it to be changed into US $s at a rate of 1 : 3.5 and again paid with a debit forex card.
This was the fanciest place in which we stayed. There was even a pool.
The guys in the car park at Elmina ask you your name when you get out of your car, and then they may make a carving with your name on it and hope to sell it to you when you return to your car. I put them off by saying that my name was Tillekeratne Sangakara.
We could see from an old map that there was a fort out on the promontory to the south of the fishing village of Akwidaa, so we hired a guide to take us there. This involved paying a small amount to the interim chief of the village, to get his permission.
It was Fort Dorothea (Fort Akodaa), which dates from the 1680s. It is very much overgrown nowadays, but it was amazing to walk amongst ruins which date back so far.
As if the first European settlers in this part of Africa didn’t have enough to contend with, in terms of hostile indigenous people, a difficult environment and disease, they also frequently attacked each others forts.
We hired a canoe in the village and, reassured by our guide’s insistance that there were no crocodiles, ventured up the Ezile (pronounced ézilé) River for an hour or two. It was at this point that I started to really like Ghana.
I was in the front of the canoe, trying to take selfies. Taking selfies with my phone is a very much hit-or-miss affair. I heard a comment from the local guide behind me, to his paddling mate at the rear which to me sounded like “Cobbledegook gobbledegook gobbledegook obruni HTC gobbledegook clearthethroat gobbledegook obruni HTC”
Kat later translated what he’d said from the Twi, which was essentially “White man’s phone is some shit HTC with only front pointing camera. Has to point it backwards and hope for best. Don’t buy HTC”
We saw a number of birds, including several kingfishers.
Later on, I saw an old map of the river where we were, with an alert saying ‘crocodiles’.
Kakum is a very popular tourist destination in Ghana. We did the canopy walk, which was a scream. The other people on the walk treated it more like a school outing, and the last thing you’re likely to see when there’s so much noise and shouting is any wildlife. Nevertheless it was enjoyable, despite being 40m above the forest floor.
After the hot and harrowing visit to Cape Coast Castle, Kat drove us to Hans Cottage Botel, which has a pool, and several crocodiles in the nearby lake.
As the sun went down, I sat by the lakeside and watched many weavers returning to their nests, followed by hundreds of egrets and hornbills coming in to roost.
I wasn’t looking forward to the tour around Cape Coast Castle, but it’s one of those things you have to do. The castle is the site of great inhumanity to man – it was one of the largest slave-holding sites in the world, where millions of slaves went through the door of no return before being transported to the new world.
The buildings are quite well maintained, the museum is informative, and the guides know their history.
A Scotsman, George Maclean, was one of the notable governors of the castle, from 1830 until 1844.
Ghana isn’t really the place to go if you want big game safaris, but there are a few reserves. The Shai Hills Resource Reserve is about an hour out of Accra, on the road to Akosombo. There are several interesting granite inselbergs on the surrounding hills.
We arrived towards the end of the afternoon, and at first the guides were not keen to let us in, saying that we wouldn’t see anything, but Kat persuaded one of them to accompany us for an hour or so walking tour.