Today we planned to visit the coastal forts of Elmina
and Cape Coast
. The West African coast is littered with old forts built by competing European powers. Many of them had been slave forts at one time or another. The forts passed back and forth over time between competing European powers; the Portuguese, Dutch, Swedes and British. The castle at Elmina was the oldest standing European sub-Saharan building, built by the Portuguese in the late 1400s before being seized by the Dutch, and eventually the Britis gained control.
The LP book mentioned this Rasta bar near the Cape Coast castle had great breakfast.
Acrobat kids on beach, Cape Coast, Ghana
We headed down there trying to find the place; it wasn't quite labeled correctly on the map. The One Stone bar was in the line of Rasta artisans across from the Oasis. The owner Patrick was a little surprised to see us, but soon started preparing our chocolate and banana pancakes. We mentioned that he was in the latest Lonely Planet; he was quite proud and was showing the book around to all the neighbor vendors! While waiting on breakfast I wandered around to some of the neighboring artisans. I had wanted to buy a drum in Ghana and had seen some for sale. One guy at the end had great sounding djembe (drum) and even a few kora (Senegal instrument). I said I'd come back later after we had done our sightseeing for the day.
After breakfast, we caught a cab to Elmina, 6Cedi one way.
Cape Coast castle, Ghana
I'm playing with my cell phone in the cab, at one point we get out to take a photo of Elmina castle across the way. The castle is quite scenic, whitewashed walls out on a rocky point. We get back in the cab, then drive through Elmina town. The road circles one way around the hill containing the protective fort, before curving around to the harbor and the castle. The buildings here looked more Dutch/Portuguese colonial than the British style in Cape Coast. As we get out of the taxi, we're swarmed by vendors trying to sell us things.. we extract ourselves and walk over to the harbor to get some pictures of the fishing boats. As we're crossing the bridge, I notice the zipper on my bag is open slightly; I check inside and my cell phone is gone! Either I hadn't closed it properly and it had fallen out (in the taxi, most likely) or one of the vendors had grabbed it in the confusion.
We walked back to the castle but didn't find it!
The vendors had disappeared so we decided to go visit the castle. We were lucky, it was free museum month in Ghana and no entry fee, just a suggested 'donation' for the guide. There was a guide there already, giving a tour to a NZ girl and a group of locals. He starts off by closing us in the brig, there were two separate ones, one for the soldiers in the castle which at least had a window, the other was for slaves, which was dark. We wandered through the rest of the castle, seeing the Governor's quarters and the room where the British imprisoned the Ashanti king before he was exiled to the Seychelles. Finally we went down to the slave dungeons, dark and foul.. the smell remains to this day even after 150 years.
Separate dungeons existed for men and women. The Governor's quarters had a balcony overlooking the female dungeon so that he could see if there were any he fancied. All very sobering.
After Elmina we went back to Cape Coast, now for a bit of lunch before visiting the castle. It was also free today and was very similar to Elmina castle, we did a quick look but didn't bother to join the whole tour. The museum here though was excellent, documenting the people of the region, history of the slave trade, etc. As we walked back through town, kids would shout 'Obruni!' at us
(foreigner/white person). Sounded like they kept shouting 'Bunny!'
For dinner we went back to the Oasis.. this was Friday night and it was packed! A huge change from the previous night. One thing we've noticed about the tourists here.. very few young single or even groups of guys. It's all groups of young women (Peace Corps, missionaries?) or older European men.. we figured many of both groups are coming here to 'go local'. I walk across the street and buy a djembe drum and a kora, which is going to be a PITA to get back home.