Thursday, January 31, 2019

Accra, Ghana, January 31, 2019

What a horrible sleep!  The ground was super hard with rocks sticking up, there were lights on everywhere, a woman and man were having a huge argument outside the walled area, roosters were crowing, birds were making weird noises and at 4:30, a choir started singing and didn't let up.  Needless to say I was awake from 3:45 onward which was okay because we had a 6 am departure for the Equitorial Guinee embassy which is 35 km away in Accra.  We were advised by local taxi drivers that it might take us a few hours to get in because of traffic.  We got there in no time but were hugely ripped off at 150 ($39) instead of $13.  Oh well.  Once at the Equitorial Embassy, we were advised it would be better and cheaper to get our visa in a country closer to E.G. so we decided to try for another visa at the DRC embassy.  They too advised us to wait and thank goodness because there it cost $250 US, for a place we will only be a few days!  We were only 1 km from the National Museum so a few of us went there.  What a bust!  They are renovating so they only had a few photos of the city on display.  Our next stop was Accra Mall where believe it or not, there's a Second Cup!  I bought a pound of delicious coffee and am looking forward to drinking that!  I also bought a new cell phone, at least for half an hour or so.  In order to set it up with my iCloud account, I had to get a verification code and of course because I don't have the use of my home telephone number, that was impossible.  I tried with my credit card but they could not verify it so after a painful 20 minutes, the manager refunded my money. I paid with credit card but the bank the store uses does not refund on the POS machine so the store had to pay me cash.  That was a win for me because I needed to withdraw money and there are no "plus" debit machines in West Africa so I have to get a cash advance on my Visa.  I made the mistake last time of not having the money already in my account and even though I transfered some in the next day, it cost me more than $10 in interest!  

After another scorching day, I checked into the Marriot-

Pretty fancy!

Wow is all I can say.  I'm so looking forward to AC, a big beautiful bed, a shower whenever I want and on and on!  I planted myself on the bed and that's where I spent the rest of the day!  Looking forward to exploring Accra again tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Axim, Ghana to Kakum National Park, January 30, 2019

We had an 8 am start and our first stop was at San Antonio Fort in Axim, which was built by the Portuguese in 1503-1515.  The Portuguese came for gold and ended up trading in slaves when the gold ran out.  Around 1642, the Dutch attacked and took over, continuing in the slave trade-

They used a tunnel and chained the slaves together to make them walk out to the second island to get on the boat.  Many died in the tunnel-

There were different dungeons for the slaves.  Men were classed as humble, aggressive or stubborn.  They were packed like sardines into the windowless rooms.  Many died there too. The British arrived in 1871 and slavery stopped the next year.  

We carried on to Elmira to visit Saint George's Castle.  It's a UNESCO World Heritage site as are all the fourty some castles and forts along the Ghanian coast.  It too was built by the Portuguese in 1492 and captured by the Dutch in 1637 and expanded when slaves replaced gold as the number one export.  Gold storerooms were converted into dungeons.  16 million slaves, between 1452 and 1807, were captured.  Many died in the castle's cells and on the boats that sometimes took up to 3 months to cross to the Americas.  40% of all slaves were sold by the Portuguese and most went to Brazil.  In the 1780's, 80,000 new slaves arrived in America-

A view of most of the prison-

Slaves that were disobedient were locked in this windowless cell and left to die-

There are 2 churches in the castle:  one is Dutch and the other is Portuguese-

The hidden staircase was used when the governor chose a female slave for sex.  She would go up to the governor's quarters this way.  Babies born were half white and those women were not sent to America as slaves but allowed to stay in Africa-

Chains and cuffs-

Spoons were used to measure gold-

The door of no return-

Views from the top of the castle-

It's a bit hard to see the Canadian flag on this boat-

There's a sundial at the front entrance-

After, we headed north to Kakum National Park for the night and in the morning we'll do the canopy walk!  

P.S.  Glad I'm not here-

Kakum National Park to Big Milly's Backyard, near Accra, Ghana, January 30, 2019

We camped in Kakum National Park so it was easy to get to the canopy walk-

Leanne enjoyed the walk.  She is from Northern England and left home 7 years ago and has been travelling ever since, working in various countries along the way.  Currently she lives in Iceland and works in a hotel.  She has a degree in geology which is the real reason she is in Iceland.  She's spent time working in China, Australia, New Zealand and Norway.  She's definitely a cold weather person and the idea of being in Africa for so many months is somewhat daunting.  She is a lover of rocks and history.  This is her second overland, having travelled in South America in 2014.  When she's not travelling, she likes to read obsessively, collect rocks and hike.  She wants to be single forever because she despises children with a passion!

Looking down at the top of the trees which besides a couple of butterflies is all we saw-

squirrel was hanging out around the lodge.  His tail would look great on a hat-

After the canopy walk, we stopped to wash the truck on our way to Cape Coast-

Unfortunately today is Rhona's last day because she has to go back to the UK to work-

Rhona is from the west coast of Scotland from a town called Kilmarnock but she now lives in the north west of England where she works for a company that makes submarines.  She's a project manager which means she manages the contracts between the builder and the customer's requirements, ensuring her company is commercially covered.  This is her fifth overland - she did UK to Oz in 2011, Calcutta to Katmandu in 2012, South Africa in 2015 and Mongolia in 2016.  When she's not travelling, she's training for triathlons - she did a half Ironman this year.  She watches movies, reads and socializes with friends.  Weekends she's usually on the road, going somewhere in England to see friends.  Rhona was one of my French students and did very well, in spite of her Scottish accent!

We stopped at the Cape Coast Castle which was also used to trade slaves.  I didn't visit this Fort - if you've seen a few they all start to look the same.  I had a leisurely lunch and so did Thomas, but he also visited the fort and naturally didn't make it back to the truck on time.  When he did arrive, he didn't apologize or say anything and that ticked a few people off.  The yelling and insults began, and Thomas, rather than realize he's pissed a few people off, became belligerent and missed a great opportunity to make friends.  Oh well.  

There is always someone, usually a woman, selling something that is precariously balanced on her head.  Eggs with hot sauce anyone?

After a few wrong turns, a too tight corner and low hanging wires and trees in the way, we pulled into Big Milly's Backyard at dusk.  In the morning, we are off to Accra to check out a couple of embassies for visas.  Hoping for a quiet night.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Trouble Posting, January 29, 2019

I have been unable to post my blog for over 2 weeks.  I had hoped that once in Ghana, it would work again but no.  I'm continuing to write but will have to post whenever I'm able.  I'm currently near Accra, Ghana, sweating my ass off but really enjoying the trip.  Things are good!  

Monday, January 28, 2019

Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire to Near Axim, Ghana, January 28, 2019

We've consistently been leaving at 8 am and that is just fine with me.  It's daylight, we are awake anyway and it just makes it more relaxed and comfortable when it's later in the morning.  We were on our way to Ghana and the border crossing was one of the simplest.  We are now back to English and Ghana seems like the best place yet - very modern, not much garbage and lots of construction happening.  There was a very long queue at the border and many trucks were hauling oranges.  I wonder how many are rotten by the time they reach their destination-

It looks like the trucks have been at the border a long time because quite a few had tents set up-

They still pick Palm fruit which is made into palm oil.  It stinks really badly and we are constantly meeting trucks filled with it-

The countryside is very green and there's a lot of planting that appears to be garden produce-

Another bridge!  What to do?

We arrived at a campsite near Axim, Ghana where we're spending the night.  There's an outdoor gym with dumbbells made by pouring cement into molds made from tin cans-

The beach and water were lovely-

It's still very humid, sweat drips off my nose and I have no energy.  All day I just hope for air conditionning somewhere! I ate supper in the restaurant and had an interesting burger that once cut in half, completely fell apart.  Oh well.
Looking forward to a couple of forts tomorrow.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Grand Bassam, Côte d'Ivoire, January 27, 2019

After enjoying the morning in my air conditionned room, I made my way towards Grand Bassam.  My first stop was along a street lined with shops.  I spent a lot of time in a couple of mask workshops learning about different tribes and their facial/body markings, which I've noticed on many people, as well as the importance of masks in the African culture-

If a woman is having trouble conceiving, a ceremony is held using a fertility mask-

twin's mask-

Two masks are used when travelling: one around your neck and the second is left at the border for a safe voyage-

One of my favourites-

My very favorite complete with shells-

Plants are grown in a healing pot-

Statues are used for decoration inside and outside homes-

In the end I didn't buy one because it's too complicated to try and get it home.  Next door was a shop selling glass and brass maps of Africa.  I'd have loved one but I don't think I could get it home in one piece-

There are lots of shops selling clothes and paintings-

There are also lots of furniture workshops-

Near my lunch stop two men were making batik clothing-

They've made batik tablecloths too-

Grand Bassam was the capital of Côte d'ivoire until a yellow fever outbreak in 1896 forced a move to Bingerville.  There are a few colonial buildings left but they are extremely rundown-

No clothes lines so clothes dry on the sand in the street-

visited a couple art shops-

And bought this one right from the artist.  This painting screams TIA!

Returning home, the taxi driver, taking me to the wrong Jardin d'Eden, also had to pay a $1 bribe to police standing on the street.  He said he has to do that everyday!  There are different vehicles and different colors of pubic transport depending where you want to go.  Minivans run between cities and then taxis take over however there are some collectivo taxis too where you pay the same price for four instead of 14.  I prefer those.  Here, red taxis are in the cities and yellow and green ones are outside.  It's an interesting and awesome setup.  I came out of the hotel complex and immediately flagged down a ride.  How handy would that be at home but there we'd have the issue of seatbelts and I don't think Canadians would tolerate four/seat rather than a comfortable two or three.  I ended up taking a minivan the rest of the way home looking through flags-

There are two workers in each minivan: the driver and the hustler.  The driver drives, listening to the sounds the hustler makes, whether he's groaning something which means who knows what or slapping the side of the van.  The hustler rarely sits down; he stands in the open door of the van, hanging on for dear life but I guess they're used to it.  I saw a taxi today that was filled with 4 passengers but there were six others attached to the sides with one leg in the car and one leg out, often pushing along on the road.  The car was going really fast too.  They were having a good time and thankfully no one fell out while I was watching.  Anyway, back to my minivan.  At one stop, the hustler sprinted about 200 meters down a side road trying to round up riders!  The driver told me I had to pay 500 CFA ($1.13) when I paid 300 CFA (.67) going the other way.  I know that seems trivial but I don't like being taken advantage of.  I asked if 500 was the "white person" price and the driver burst out laughing.  He thought that was the best joke ever and told the hustler who also thought it was super funny.  I was only going partway so they were okay with me giving them 300.  What a place and thank Allah I speak French!  
Once back at the camp, I enjoyed my room again so much I didn't even go in the pool-

It was BBQ chicken in the restaurant for supper.  We are on our way to Ghana tomorrow!

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