I’ve been living in South Africa for a year now and have been hoping to get the chance to see a bit more of the African continent whilst living here. The opportunity came and here I am, traveling to Ghana for two weeks!
I was two years old (1989), the last time I ran wild in West Africa and do not remember much. My memories exist through pictures and stories that my parents have told us. (We lived in Togo for two years back then). That is why going back to that part of the world was quite exciting for me.
|My brother and I in Togo in 1989|
“Hey Brunni! Hey Brunni!”…these are the words you hear as you walk or drive down the roads in Ghana. It means ‘white-man’ or in my case ‘white-lady’. It is as simple as responding with a smile and every Ghanaians’ eyes will light up and cheeks will part, only for you to be received with THE biggest smile! Ghanaians are extremely genuine and friendly people, something I got to experience personally over the past two weeks. Seldom have I been to places where I have felt so welcomed!
We rented a car for 10 days in order to explore bits of the country a bit better. When driving off the beaten track, the country-sides are lush and green, the roads are covered in thick red dirt and humble, little towns will pop up quite frequently, where locals appear happy going about their business.
We spent a few days in Kumasi, the second biggest city in Ghana. The city is quiet by night but springs to life early in the morning into what appears to be an insanely chaotic mess but, by some form of magic, this city works. It doesn’t just work, it throbs with life, with smells and with noises like very few other places in this world. Thousands of people line the street selling everything from ‘designer’ jeans to toilet paper, biscuits and washing detergent, to fake soccer jerseys to pillows and fruit. This action takes place along all streets that surround the heart of the city. The heart of the city is made up by the biggest market in West Africa, which can be described as a sea…no…an OCEAN of tin shacks. Once you descend into this ocean, you enter a maze and once you have entered, a feeling sweeps over you, that you may never be able to get out alive! J What a ride it was, what a testing of our senses! I loved it!
Elmina was another town that will remain in my memory. Although many sizes smaller, this town can be compared to the coastal version of Kumasi. It is a fishing town, again, throbbing with life. I may have never seen so many boats (all hand-carved by the locals, may I add) in one place. The town also holds rich history in terms of the gold and slave trade. Now an UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Elmina Castle was built by the Portuguese in 1482, and went through the hands of the Dutch and the British as the biggest slave trading post in the world! No one knows exactly how any slaves passed through the Door of No Return but it must have been hundreds of thousands, if not millions! This BBC article explains more.
|Elmina Fishing Town|
|Inside the walls of Elmina Castle|