Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ghana Trip

I finally got round to writing this post, after procrastinating for weeks. It's been sitting around in my drafts for a while, but I must warn you though, it's quite a long post.
When my dad suggested to my sisters and I that we should visit Ghana during our holidays, we were all really excited and up for it. I thought it was a great idea because I hadn’t visited any other African country before, and it would give me a chance to meet up with my friend from uni, who was also home in Accra for the Christmas break. Initially, I thought we were going to fly, but my dad suggested we should take the car instead. After some persuasion, I thought it would be fun. The whole journey took us about 12 hours – going from Lagos to Accra, and then another couple of hours to get to Elmina, a historical town along the coast. We stayed in Elmina for two nights and then spent another night in Accra.

Our journey began early in the morning at 7.00am. We wanted to set out of Lagos early so that we could get to Ghana before night. Our first stop was at a petrol station to fill our tank to the brim, then we headed towards Badagry. It took us about two hours to get to Seme, which is the border between Nigeria and Benin Republic. The border was bustling with people, as travellers mingled with traders and hawkers. There was also a brisk trade in currency exchange going on, as people needed different currencies to trade between borders. Crossing the border was relatively smooth. We had to get some documents to take the car out of the country, then customs officials asked to check our luggage and made a few other checks and within thirty minutes, we passed through “no man’s land” (which is the small space between the two official borders) and crossed into Benin Republic.
It was my first time entering another African country and I was curious so I paid attention as the car drove into Cotonou. The first thing I noticed was that there didn’t seem to be as many flashy cars on the road in Benin, compared with Lagos. All the cars we saw were small or moderate cars. We saw the usual mobile phone networks – Glo, MTN and the like – had a big presence in Benin too, with recharge cards sold at road sides. We were surprised when we saw ladies riding bikes! But our driver explained that in Benin, bikes are not just for public transport, people also used motorbikes as their means of private transportation.

The public riders wear a visibility vest to distinguish them from private riders. They also have a lane for bikes on their roads which is really useful, so they don’t run into the path of cars, like the riders do in Lagos. Apart from that, the only other notable difference was the French language. I could take a photo in Cotonou and if you didn’t know, you would not be able to tell that I was outside Nigeria.

We journeyed on, passing through Cotonou and driving towards the other side of the country. We passed a number of small towns and villages on the way. Our journey through Benin was relatively uneventful, we ate snacks we bought at the border and watched the countryside as we drove by. The next border we had to cross was the Benin-Togo border. Again, we had to go through the documentation checks, the driver had to fill out paperwork for the car and so on. While we were waiting, I started to take photos, but I was told that it was illegal to take photos at the border and if an official saw me, my camera would be seized! I promptly put my camera and snap-happy finger away until we had crossed into Togo. Here are some photos I managed to take:
Togo is quite a small country and it took us less than an hour to get across it. We drove mostly along the coastline and we could see the Atlantic ocean and the nice beaches.



We soon got to the Togo-Ghana border and again had to go through a time-consuming process of getting paperwork for the car, then customs checked our luggage again. Eventually we were clear to go and we got into the border town of Aflao. The road was a bit rough for a few miles but it was under constriction so we soon left the bad bit behind and enjoyed a smooth ride into Accra. We passed by several police and customs check points on the way, checking that we had the right documentations, and checking our luggage time and time again. I have to say though, that I thought the police in Ghana had a friendly attitude that Nigerian ones don’t have!

We took a short break before we entered into Accra, stopping at a filling station to stretch our feet and buy a few snacks from the small supermarket. My sister had an MTN sim card, and we had been told it would work in Ghana so we had loaded it with enough credit before we left home. We were glad and surprised to realise that it cost less to call Nigeria from Ghana, than making calls within Nigeria!

Around 7pm we got into Accra, just before it started getting dark. We drove past Accra Mall (the equivalent of Palms Mall in Lagos), the Presidential residence, a busy market (I can’t remember the name) and a few other places of interest. I noticed that the traffic was orderly, the streets of Accra were very clean, all the traffic lights worked, and there were very few bikes on the roads. We didn’t stop because we still had a journey of almost 130 kilometres to cover before we get to Elmina. Some photos of Accra:


We arrived at Elmina around 9pm, by this time it was already dark so we couldn't see much of the coastal town. We went straight to our hotel, where we checked in. We were given the family suite which was really nice. We all had a shower and ordered dinner from the restaurant. The menu was good – we had fried rice with a really nice chicken and vegetable stew, as well as beans and fried plantain. After dinner, my sisters and I started watching a Nollywood movie but before long, we turned it off and went to bed.

The next morning, we got up bright and early and had breakfast in a nice chalet by the beach, which was part of the resort we were staying in. Some photos of the resort:


We left the resort with my dad’s friend who is a tour operator, to see the main attraction in this part of Ghana which is Elmina Castle. It’s one of the many forts built by the Portuguese when they first came to Africa to establish trade links. But in the 17th century it became a depot for the transatlantic slave trade and its dungeons housed many slaves captured from all over West Africa to be shipped to the Americas. (You can read more about the castle and it's history here).

We were taken round the castle by a tour guide. The tour included a history of the castle and its links with the slave trade. It was a very informative experience for me personally because although I had heard a lot about the slave trade, seeing the castle and images in the museum really brought it to life. It seemed almost impossible to believe that such things actually happened but the evidence was right there for us to see.


After the tour at Elmina, we went to the museum to see some of the items and exhibits of the town and the slave trade era. We left Elmina Castle, and took a short drive to Cape Coast to see Cape Coast Castle too. This castle was also purpose built for the slave trade and one fact that the tour guide pointed out to us was that the castle had dungeons for male slaves on one level and a church right above it! In those days, the slave masters still attended church services and called themselves Christians. I was wondering what they did to silence their conscience and perpetuate such wicked acts against their fellow human beings. I spent quite a long time in the museum at Cape Coast castle digesting a lot of information about the slave trade and its impact on Africa and history. There was a lot more information and artifacts at Cape Coast than Elmina Castle, but if anyone is interested in the history, I would recommend a tour of both. Here are some pics I took at Cape Coast:

I won't bore you with all the other grisly details that I saw and heard about during the tour of both castles, but its a trip I would recommend to everyone who wants to know more about Black history. At the end of that day, my sister mentioned that it made her appreciate the presidency of Barack Obama even more.

The rest of our holiday went well, the next day we visited Fort St. Jago before we left Elmina and went to Accra. We had fun in Accra, hanging out with two of our friends who took us to lunch, a short tour of the city and chilled out in a nice bar afterwards. By the time we got back to our hotel it was very late. And because we had to get up early in the morning, we decided to call it a night.

The next morning, we packed our stuff into the car and began the long drive back to Lagos. In all, it was a lovely experience and I would definitely visit Ghana again, but next time I'll fly!

11 comments:

  1. great post. I need to make my trip to Africa happen, been talking about it for a minute. love your name too.

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  2. Wow, that was a great writeup and I would love to visit Ghana one day (hehe, I'll fly there too!).

    I actually know very little about the slave trade and I'm sure seeing those castles and seeing those museum artifacts would really bring things to life for me. I wonder if I could handle it!

    I hope all is well with you :)

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  3. ooo... I see the places you want to visit... I'd like to go to Mauritius... my mom has been... and tells me it'd be a great place to retire.. need to brush up on my french...

    girl... i got tired of all the stops I was reading about... so definitely If i go to ghana...I'll be flying... so wondering how your dad knew how/where to go... as in mapquest?...

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  4. Omosewa4:27 AM

    Lovely write up, i really want to visit other African countries.

    I was thinking the other day about slavery and how the slave owners justified their actions, man is capable of so much...

    I like asos bags, i shd see if they ship to my hood.

    Happy new year babe.

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  5. ghana's a beautiful country...maybe i should try a road trip someday...or not.
    thinking of the hours makes me so tired.

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  6. as much as i love travelling..i dont think i am a fan of road trips...

    good to know u had fun in GH.

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  7. you sure had fun...and i have to commend the way you left nothin out of ur narration...feels like i was on the trip too..its just that i wasn't on it..

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  8. i remember elimina castle. some shit went down there mehn! i personally don't like hearing d stories of d slave trade, cos it makes me bitter towards white folks. those shit happened n d past. wot am presently more interested n now is dat they never do n d present

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  9. That must have been one fun trip.. especially since u had to drive... crazy crazy fun... Im glad you enjoyed it..

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  10. Great post. Ghana is great but you ought to check out Senegal. Love Dakar. Love it. Love it. Liberia and Sierra Leone are great, although not for the faint hearted. They have lovely beaches but the poverty and relics of war puts people off.

    Didn't like Kenya much when l went there. I know, I know. I'm such a West African but there's one place in Africa I've always wanted to go; Zanzibar. The name alone makes me wanna lie back in a hammock...

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  11. @ Saved Girl: Thanks! You should go, you will no doubt have fun and something to talk about for years to come :)

    @GNG: Ghana is a beautiful country, I would recommend you try the road trip at least once :)
    You can check wikipedia for a brief history of the slave trade.

    @Diamond: Yeah girl I know I have a never-ending list of places I want to visit, I've heard good things about Mauritius too :)
    We went to Ghana with one of my dad's associates who is a tour operator so he knew places to go and things to do.

    @Omosewa: Thanks girl, it was a nice adventure, you should visit Ghana too. Don't get me started on the slave trade and the reasons the owners gave for it ....

    @Fantasy Queen: Ghana is indeed beautiful and thank God, you can fly there! So no excuse .. :)

    @Aloted: It was fun o, you should do it at least once. You would enjoy it!

    @Simeone: Thanks!

    @FFF: You are right, the things that happened were so horrible, but it's important to remember that they are in the past. And we still have the present to work on.

    @Lee: Yeah it was! I had a great time, thanks girl.

    @CW: I'll definitely go and visit other African countries so those will be going on my list. Thanks!

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