Thursday through Sunday marked our cultural excursion. Both teams travelled together to the Cape Coast region of Ghana to visit some historic and culturally important sites. I’ve decided to lump them all together and outline the highlights of the trip:
Thursday: We left Patriensa early in morning and arrived in our hotel in Elmina Bay around noon. Our hotel was right on the beach, abundant with beautiful landscapes and the cool ocean breeze. Our first destination was the Elmina bay slave castle. Elmina Bay is the oldest slave castle in West Africa at 500 years old. The castle was originally established by the Portuguese for their trade presence on the Gold Coast. Eventually, the Europeans began trading human beings and the castle was converted to house thousands of African slaves. We toured the castle and were able to walk through the dungeons where humans were held captive less than two centuries ago.
Friday: In the morning we left our hotel knowing that we wouldn’t have such nice accommodations for the rest of the trip. Our first stop of the day was at the One Africa museum. One Africa is a museum that showcases the history of African repatriation and the accomplishments of African descendants. After a nice lunch at the museum we trekked to the Kakum National Park where we would stay the night. First we ventured on the canopy walk. The canopy walk is a series of bridges made from rope and wooden planks suspended 40 meters in the air from the tops of trees overlooking the rainforest. After dinner we were led by a Ghanian botanist on a nature walk through the rainforest at night. The hike was relatively easy until we encountered what I thought was a patch of thorns. Instead it was army of soldier ants strong enough to break skin and make the victim bleed. After about ten minutes of catching our breath (we tried to outrun the ants) and shaking off the tiny foes, we continued our hike to the tree house we would spend the night in. The tree house was 25 meters in the air, away from creatures that may bother us in the night. The night was surprisingly cold, but everyone seemed to get a good night’s rest.
Saturday: We woke up just after the sun rose and descended back to the forest floor. We hiked back out of the rainforest, this time stopping many times so our guide could talk about some of the trees and plants that are unique to the this rainforest. One tree that stood out was called “Ofram,” which had buttress roots that rose up like walls. Our guide said that when people got separated in the forest, they would get a branch and beat on the roots like a drum, signaling the lost person from miles away. After we left Kakum, we travelled back to Accra. In Accra, we visited the Dr. Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was the first president after Ghana gained its independence in 1957. Next to his burial site was a museum dedicated to his life in politics and activism for the whole continent of Africa.
Sunday: We slept in a little later than usual and had a nice breakfast at the Miklin Hotel in Accra. We soon headed back to Patriensa and on the way drove by Agbogbloshie, an electronic waste dumping ground. Agbogbloshie is a digital dumping ground where millions of tons of electronic scraps are dumped each year. Residents of the city scavenge the site for computer parts and copper by burning piles of electronics causing toxic fumes and lead poisoning. George, our driver, would only let us drive by the site and observe from the van, since the surrounding area is known for high crime rate and poor living conditions. After this depressing view, we had beautiful landscapes and hilly terrain on the road back to Patriensa.
When we arrived in Patriensa from our cultural excursion, we felt more at home. We are beginning to get adjusted to the simple life in the village and preferred it to the bustling cities of Accra and Cape Coast. There are only two more weeks left for the project and we are without our project lead, Kristina, who left during the cultural excursion to start a summer internship in Texas.
That’s all for now,