ARE YOU PACKED? YOU TOOK YOUR SHOTS? LET’S GO GHANA! AND THE BEST PART IS… YOU DO NOT NEED TO GET A PASSPORT!
Day 21 – The gold mile (part 1)
Since Friday, I had agreed to take Marie to see some typical sights in Accra since I have already travelled the city. She was not enjoying her experience thus far and she did not have any happy memories to really share with her family and friends. Sunday had arrived and we got ready to travel along La Road and Labadi road which followed the coastline of the city.
I had such an amazing time, I was confident that today Marie will see the Ghanaian city life in contrast to the small closed fishing town. Alina, 23, her brother Yannick, 19, and Nida, 25 all from Germany joined us after breakfast to accompany us on the walking tour.
Our journey started in Nima where we walked towards Ring road to catch two taxis to take the five of us to Jamestown. I told them to wait for me in the corner so I can haggle a price of 15 cedis (£3) to take us to Jamestown Lighthouse. After I secured our rides, I beckoned them to join me and go in two groups. I was hoping that I would remember everything that I had seen during the week that was of interest. I guess I was their “foreign” tour guide.
We got out the taxi and I told them that Jamestown was one the first town to be established in the now city of Accra and that the history here was one of human suffering and enslavement of Africans by the Europeans (Germans, French, British and the Dutch). The area was neglected and depleted of much government investment. They asked why it was so impoverished in comparison to other areas and I thought about it. I answered, maybe the Ghanaian government do not want to remember their past and atrocities that occurred a couple hundreds of years ago that changed the world as we knew it. I pointed out our first interest of the tour, the red and white striped lighthouse that guided cargo ships to trade slaves and other “goods” such as guns for the tribes to murder each other while the Europeans stole the gold, silver and other riches.
Nida showed signs of anxiety when I said that we were going inside to climb to the top. I tried to re-assure her that she would be fine and we will support her all the way up and down. She bravely agreed and so we entered in where we were greeted by a local woman that took our payment of 10 cedis each. I looked up towards the spiralling staircase and then I took a breath to brace myself for the steps. Our feet shuffled up the stairs, stopping every few metres to enjoy the ocean and the city views as we climbed higher and higher. Marie went ahead to the top while I checked on the rest of the group. Nida was behind and was not feeling great about how high she was going. The stairs ended and the metal vertical ladder began. One by one we squeezed through the small passage to get to the little circular roof that had the best view in town. We all huddled around to take in the cooling breeze and sights. Nida decided to head back down after a few seconds of being at the top.
A few minutes later, a local fisherman volunteered met us to be our tour guide. He introduced himself and said that he wanted to show us around the coast for a donation “to help their free school” but we declined as we were not convinced and we did not request a tour guide. He was persistent and started telling us about the town, the same information that I had shared upon entry. We took our pictures and left promptly.
The group except for me wanted to visit the fishing shanty settlement on the beach to witness the extent of poverty. We attracted a lot of attention as we entered the settlement. Children ran out to shout “Yavvo” (White), to wave hi and hold hands with my German acquaintances. I was feeling a lot of eyes on us and thought we should make a quick exit shortly. I received attention from the men because of my locs as they referred to me as a Rastafarian and wanted my number. I asked if the group if they wanted to buy anything as we stopped in front of a shack selling refreshments. Yannick said he wanted to buy cold water so I spoke to the woman about getting a bottle of water. Suddenly, a few drunk men started aggressively harassing the girls with marriage proposals and started an uninvited touching frenzy. I cancelled the order and told the group it was time to leave. We quickly walked back to the main road to go to our next stop.
We walked for 10 minutes in the afternoon sun until we reached Ussher Fort to view the slavery museum but they were closed. I explained to them about what I had discovered on my previous visit but there was no sign of interest to learn about the slave trade and European massacre. I was just meant with blank stares and complaints of the heat. They stopped for sunscreen as they chatted amongst themselves in German. I urged them to continue as we had a lot to see today and a man that was not mentally well had started following us muttering incoherently.
As we walked, they asked if they could experience the trotro. I said that they will when we get Labadi Road as the Artist Alliance Centre and Labadi beach would be a great distance to cover. After a 20 minute walk, the group felt hungry and was already showing signs of fatigue. Marie told me that they had just landed so they were exhausted. I slowed my pace until we stopped outside the Art Centre. I told them to haggle for anything they wanted because they were obvious foreigners and that the sellers will be more aggressive in selling at extortionate prices. Immediately, the artists (typically Rastafarian fashioned) approached us on entry to the grounds. Nida was complaining of hunger and I spotted a cafe. We told the sellers we were hungry and they soon were trying to help us locate food. The problem was that the cafe and other restaurants were closed. I said to them bluntly that they are not going to get any food unless they ate street food. They did not seem open to the idea but they had no options. They said they will wait to see what other foods become available on our travel. I knew they were going to be disappointed until they reach the beach and the prices would be expensive but I agreed on their suggestion.
Like a line of chicks following the hen, we roamed around the bright and colourful stalls of kente fashion, masks, jewellery, souvenirs, sculptures and paintings. Our first point of sale was banana leaf designed earrings which caught mine and Marie’s eyes. After a bit of flirting and handshake with Kobe we got our beautiful traditional home-made earrings for 12 cedis each (£2.30). Nida bought some jewellery next door with a sense of accomplishment on her face. We continued stalls after another until we got to the end and stopped at Richie’s shop filled with wooden bead necklaces and accessories. I saw a few pieces that caught my eye. Richie was attentive to me as we went through price ranges and the necklaces of interest. The group joined me after being dragged off with the promise of “small price” sales of anything they wanted. Alina was next door haggling very hard for a beautiful big wooden long necklace. She came in to get help but the seller had said he offered her the bottom price but I gave it ago. He was not budging so I told her to walk away and tell him that she would think about it. I returned my attention on Richie and took care of business on two purchases for necklaces.
Adventures of Sunday to be continued…