Chilling by the Coast

It’s hard to believe the time is coming to and end, but I wanted to make the most of my time here by seeing as many different parts of the country as I could.  Thankfully, my friend Yazan (who was living in Tamale) agreed, and we decided to take a mid-week vacation (since we had been working hard at a Fall retreat all weekend!). Plus it was my birthday, so it seemed like a good time to get away.

Kumasi to Elmina – After leaving the retreat at the lake, we took a taxi for about an hour with Gordon (an EWBer who works in Accra on BDS – the same venture as Yazan) to Kumasi.  He caught a VIP bus to Accra, and after a bunch of searching we caught a trotro to Cape Coast.  We waited awhile for it to fill, and we were pretty grumpy from the heat, lack of eating, dehydration, carrying bags and waiting.  The vaca was not off to a good start.  A long trotro ride later we arrived after dark in Cape Coast, where we had to negotiate with taxis for a very long time before they agreed to take us to our hotel in the nearby town of Elmina.  They kept changing the times and the prices, and eventually they got totally lost.  We had to ask directions, make calls and use our GPS, but eventually we made it to the hotel where he demanded double the money (this is common when the roads are bad – especially if the taxi lied about knowing where he was going – but is still annoying every time it happens).  We got our room and a lantern (it was lights out), and went to the bar to grab a cold soda.  You could hear the waves but couldn’t see anything, so we wandered a bit to the beach and sat beside a campfire looking at the stars.  It was a great way to end a stressful day of travelling.

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Elmina to Kakum National Park – We went to bed at a reasonable time, and were woken by women sweeping outside (they love to do this first thing in the morning), and someone in the neighbouring room sampling all of their ringtones (is this 1999 and you just got your first cellphone?).  It was about 9:30 by the time we actually rolled out of bed and headed for breakfast at the beach bar.  I got french toast and Yazan got a proper English breakfast, it was good stuff.  I went back to finish the midterm for my online Happiness Course, and then we packed up and checked out.  We headed back to the bar to drop off our bags.  My favourite two features about the Stumble Inn (besides it’s clever name) are the beautiful deserted beach, and the fact that the bar is everything (where you eat, get drinks, reception, ask for a towel, pay your bill, leave your bags and charge your electronics).

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We spent the morning on the beach, playing in the waves, tanning, reading my book, and drinking cocktails.  We had a small lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, paid our bills, and took a small overnight bag only for the next 2 days (though both of us actually took 2 bags – because apparently we suck at packing light – plus we had no idea what to expect at the park). The hotel called us a taxi, which took us into the town of Elmina, where we wanted to visit the Elmina Castle . If you’re interested in getting a bracelet with your name on it, you can also request this from a guy standing near the entrance and he’ll have it ready when you come out. Yazan was really excited about this because souvenirs never have his name on them!

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The castle charged a ridiculous amount to bring in cameras (more than the entrance fee) so we decided to just do the tour.  I’m glad I did because it feels weird taking pictures of such beautiful views in such a horrible place!  We learned all about the slave trade, saw the areas where the slaves were kept, and toured other parts of the castle like the bedrooms, mess halls, storage rooms, etc.  It was really sad but I’m glad I went.  There’s so much history and I think it’s important to understand it all.  We had a great tour guide, and it lasted about an hour.

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Afterwards we got out bracelets and picked a taxi to the trotro station.  Another argument ensued over the price, we weren’t having much luck with taxies on this trip… Eventually we caught a trotro to Kakum National Park, and it was dark by the time we got there.  We met our guide (who had our dinners) and took the 20 minute walk to the treehouse.  Man, we’re so out of shape, and it was tricky in the dark with our bags, mud and wet leaves.  Eventually we made it there, got changed and set up our beds for the night.  Our guide would also be sleeping there.  He said we should wait until 8 pm, because by then we would know whether it was going to rain or not. We waited but it was still not certain, so we decided to go for a hike anyway.  It was dark but we had flashlights and stuck to the path.  We didn’t see any animals but it was cool to see the trees and a really relaxing experience to just think (he warned us not to talk because it would scare away the animals).  About an hour later we were back at the tree-house and went to bed early.  Surprisingly the nets around the enclosure were very good and I got no bites (even without sleeping under my net).  The only thing that kept me up was Yazan snoring!

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Kakum National Park to Cape Coast – When we got up in the morning we packed all our bags and headed through the forest again.  When we got to the canopy walk we paid the guide and left out bags on the landing.  The canopy walk it a series of 7 bridges up high in the trees where you can see the whole forest.  It’s beautiful but terrifying.  I’d recommend it unless you’re super scared of heights.  I’m a bit scared but I’m glad I did it.  We were the only ones there at the time, other than a group of birders with big fancy cameras and ugly outfits hanging out on one of the platforms. After the walk we went back to the main entrance, bought a few souvenirs, and our guide borrowed the company car to drive us back to Cape Coast.

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The canopy walk is a really cool experience.  It’s a fun half-day trip if you’re not sleeping overnight, but you don’t need a lot of time to complete, so be aware when you plan your travels!  Also, the paths are basically mesh, with ladders and then wood on top.  Realizing this freaked me out, but it felt pretty sturdy…

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The driver took us to see Cape Coast Castle which looks pretty similar to the other one. This castle was built by the British specifically for the slave trade. There are separate prisons for men and women and passages for transporting them to the boats. I would recommend going to both castles, as you can learn different things.  I guess many African Americans come to learn about their heritage, and many leave wreaths and things for their deceased ancestors, which is pretty emotional.

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For lunch Gordon had recommended we check out Oasis, which is a hotel but also has an excellent bar and restaurant, right on the beach. We had cocktails and Yazan even got lobster! We called the hotel for the night and they said we should leave right away, so we got a taxi to bring us to our hotel in Elmina to get the bags. He got lost and I think he was illiterate because he had trouble with the signs. Eventually we made it to the hotel, got our bags, and drive to the main road to catch a tro. Of course he argues about the price but we gave him a fair amount and got on the vehicle.

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Cape Coast to Cape 3 Points

The tro took us to Takoradi, where we switched to a tro heading to Agona. From there it appeared to be about 30 min on the map… so we tried to get a taxi but it was super expensive. The guy was huge and wanted to bring his buddy so we were a bit worried but eventually we got in. About 5 minutes down the dark road the lights of the car cut out. We made them stop and they got out but were unaware to fix it. Eventually they called a friend to take us the rest of the way. It probably took an hour and a half because the roads are so bad. The potholes are huge and it’s been washed out by water in many places. By around 10pm we had made it there and the staff wasn’t too pleased.

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The staff brought us to our cabin, heated up our dinner, charged our electronics for a few minutes and served drinks. They wanted to go to bed, so the bar was closed (no more charging). We met a group of 18 year old German girls who were here on their gap year. We played cards a bit and chatted. Some 30 year old German guys were also around and started giving the girls massages before they “went for a walk on the beach”. I think it was a bit creepy but whatever. Yazan and I went to look for turtles but had no luck. Then we couldn’t find our cabin! We searched everywhere but eventually got the guard to show us. So embarassing!

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It had taken us so long to get there that we wanted to stay for another day. We decided to ask our bosses if it would be okay to work from the beach. We were both terrified they would be mad or disappointed. A few minutes later we got replies saying no problem, that it was totally fine! We were set for another whole day on the beach and wouldn’t have to leave until the next afternoon.

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The resort is an eco lodge. There are lights in the room but no outlets. The shower is just a big bucket of water and the toilet uses sawdust to compost the waste. The entire thing is made from bamboo, and the toilet part is open to the elements. The bed area is on a lounge area up a ladder. It took a bit of getting used to.

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In the morning we had breakfast and booked a tour to see the lighthouse, they recommended 4 pm. We read, did a bit of computer work, chilled on the beach, and chilled in the beach and on the waves. After lunch a local boy came to bring us to his village. A tro came along the way and we hopped in and got off in the village. We watched some old men play board games and paid a man to enter the area. We paid again to enter the lighthouse and signed the guest book.

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We climbed a few ladders and the view from the top was amazing. We took lots of pictures and got to see all 3 points. After about 20 minutes we climbed down and walked towards the middle point, the southern most tip of Ghana. It was really beautiful and we didn’t want to leave. Eventually we walked back, had dinner at our hotel, and enjoyed a few drinks before bed.

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Cape 3 Points to Home – On Thursday in was raining most of the day, but I still thought it was really nice to be by the water instead of being in the city.  The power wasn’t working (since the system is solar) and Yazan’s computer was dead, so we spent most of our time reading, walking on the beach, Yazan played his harmonica, and I got some work done for MBC (whatever didn’t require internet access).  Around noon we had lunch, paid our bill, and then the hotel called a taxi for us.  We loaded it up around 2pm with all our stuff (we had bought a lot of presents along the way – which really weighed us down – but we were glad to get some Christmas and souvenir shopping out of the way!). From Escape 3 Points to Agona is about an hour by taxi in the worst, bumpy, dirt roads you’ve ever seen.  We both slept mostly, and then we picked up a tro in Agona, for the next hour long ride to Takoradi (the capital of the Western Region). Once in Takoradi we were bombarded with bus and taxi drivers wanting to take us, and we eventually got in a mostly empty coach bus that promised to leave in 45 minutes.  2 hours later we were on the road to Accra… We had some snacks, and because the bus never fully filled up, we each had 2 seats (aka. lovely napping).  We got in Accra around 10, took a taxi to my house, and made a pasta dinner.  Yazan skyped with his fam for American Thanksgiving, and I went to bed early.  His flight was at 6 am the next day, so he was able to go to work in Tamale that day (although a little worse for the wear).

I would recommend this holiday to all, especially if you’re a beach lover.  There’s something so relaxing about sleeping somewhere that you can hear the waves breaking and wake up to feel the sand between your toes.  Perfect birthday week for a tropical country! 🙂

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About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
This entry was posted in Ghana (2014) - Professional Fellow Placement (EWB), Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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