Beach life and carneval in Ghana (February 2014)

 

After our unusually high traveling speed of the last couple of days we were longing for a day or two at the beach and headed straight down to the coast around Cape 3 Points. As it happened so often before we ended up staying more than a week at different places on the West Coast including Ezile Bay, Busua and Butre. Especially Busua was a joy with a distinctive backpacker feel about it. Even on weekends it did not get too busy though and the souvenir tradesmen were refreshingly little pushy about making a sale. As we ran out of cooking gas there we were “forced” to eat out twice a day and enjoyed lovingly prepared and super cheap food at one of the Big Mamas. 🙂

In Busua we also met the Dutch motor biker traveller Richard who is on the road since three years and en route to South Africa (www.realizeddream.com).

But Ghana does not only offer beaches but some well-preserved historical buildings in form of the former slave forts all along the coast. Most impressive are the ones at Elmina and Cape Coast so we headed first to the former. At the eco lodge Stumble Inn we found the perfect base for our explorations. Delayed by a food poisoning of Jasmine and another one the following day of Fabian as well as a drinking session with locally brewed sugar cane and palm spirit with the American managers we had the luck to meet more overlanders. First there was an inspirational South African family traveling in the opposite direction with an old Mercedes truck which is solely running on vegetable oil (www.africaclockwise.co.za). The guys are going for the Guinness world record of the longest travel in a vehicle running on alternative fuels. We met several times later again and always had loads to talk about. When the South Africans left Marc and Doro arrived in their beautifully equipped Land Rover (www.landy2go.de). These two had been following our blog for quite a while beforehand and it was great to finally catch up.

Eventually we made it into Elmina, had a stroll around the bustling fish market at the large pirogue harbour and climbed the hill to the ex-Dutch fort. From there we had beautiful views over the harbour and Elmina Castle. Built by the Portuguese the Dutch at some point carried some cannons up the hill and had the perfect vantage point to attack the castle and eventually storm it. Afterwards they built the fort so no one could us the same tactic against them. We did not enter the castle proper as the one at Cape Coast was supposed to have a much better museum.

Arriving at Cape Coast we were shocked about the touristic exploitation of the place. Huge school classes and loads of tourists in high heels and other inappropriate accessories were swarming around the place. Since entering Africa we had never seen that man white people in the same place but we tried to make the best of it. The museum was definitely worthwhile with more information than one could take in in a few hours and some historical artefacts and paintings. The guided tour around the place also turned out to be very informative but we clearly were not used to being herded around in a group anymore. The castle was used for many years as cargo space for slaves captured in the interior before their shipping to the American colonies. Architecture wise beautiful on the outside and around the inner yard the true horror lay underneath. In small chambers with barely any light hundreds of people were awaiting their shipment and lived and died in their own faeces all over the floors.

In hindsight we would recommend visiting the castle at Elmina instead as it was much less crowded.

After the visit to the castle we had a stroll around the town and surprisingly life had not changed much here due to the influx of tourists. After eating some street food we were all of a sudden surrounded by people celebrating in the streets. All of them were wearing colourful costumes and apparently celebrating the local carnival. It was an absolute joy to watch the rhythm pure happiness of the dancers.

From Cape Coast we headed towards Accra and found refuge at the famous overlander spot Big Milly’s Backyard at Kokrobite. Meeting up with the visa task force consisting of Richard, Marc & Doro we spent many long evenings together and managed to acquire the visas for Benin, Togo and the infamous one for Angola in the matter of a week. We will not bore you with all the details here so please visit the country info section to get more information.

The giant Accra Mall was visited several times to stock up on essentials and non-essentials for the upcoming leg of the trip through Central Africa. As our navigation laptop finally broke down we gave up on our refusal of joining the smartphone generation and got ourselves one as well. It is a surprisingly versatile tool while traveling though as we can now quickly update the blog, navigate and take decent photos and videos without having to dig out the DSLR.

Unfortunately the visa for Angola has only a validity of 2 months from the date of issue so we had to speed up a lot more. For the first time on our trip we made a detailed route plan and set ourselves a limit of days to spend in each country. This was very hard for us as we usually stayed a lot longer than expected in each and every African country so far. The following visit to the Volta region northeast of Accra was cut a little bit short but we nevertheless enjoyed the time spent at the Waterfall Lodge and the Wli Falls which are supposed to be the highest in West Africa.

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