Friday, 27 August 2010

Southern Ghana Tour- Day II

15 August 2010
The second day of the tour was special because it was the Independence Day of India and we were celebrating it while away from the country.
Mani, an Indian VSO volunteer had found one good taxi driver for us for the second day of the tour. He introduced himself as Mr. K. We had to ask him again and again what K means because he was reluctant to tell it thinking that we shall not be able to pronounce it properly. But Rahul knows a lot of Twi so he told us after getting assurance that we know the language. In Ghana, they name a person with the day on he or she is born. So his name was Koeko Richard. Here Koeko means Wednesday. I being born on Saturday, my name will be Kwame, same as the first president of Ghana. Rahul is Yaw, which means Thursday. The first name, of famous UN secretary general from Ghana, Kofi Annan means Friday.
In the morning we went to the house of High Commissioner of India. Mrs. Ruchi Ghanashyam is the current high commissioner. The programme for flag hoisting started as per the schedule at 9:00 am. There were more than 200 people at the venue. They distributed the Indian flags and a magazine published by Ministry of External Affairs. The atmosphere was lively and they were playing Hindi patriotic songs. But somehow after getting used to friendly and smiling atmosphere of Ghana, I was uneasy with so many Indians putting their serious faces on. Most of them knew some people around and they were chatting amongst each other. We interacted with very few people. After flag hoisting and reading of very long message by the President of India, they served some snacks and soft drinks. I met two Maharashtrian families from Pune who have been living in Accra for about more than an year. But we could not remain at the venue for long as we had plans for moving further to Kakum and Cape Coast.
We had some time before the flag hoisting ceremony which we utilised for roaming around. The place of residence of Indian High commissioner is located just near the presidential palace on the Jawaharlal Nehru Road. Jawaharlal Nehru and first President of Ghana Dr. Kwame Nkrumah were quite close to each other. Nkrumah was pan Africanist i.e. He wanted to bring together all the sub Saharan African nations whereas Nehru was promoting Non Alliance Movement. The high rise building of presidential palace looks more like a commercial building than a palace. Though president no longer lives there, it is an impressive structure. Photography near the palace is not allowed so I had to take the snap from far away. As our driver told us later on that the palace has been designed by an Indian architect and built by an Indian company.
Our journey up to Kakum National Park did not take long time, as the road was very good and there was not much of traffic on the road being Sunday. The scenery outside was also very good and it was green every where. We sang songs on the way and journey of two and half hours was spent without any feeling of getting bored.
Kakum was one of the great experience because of its canopy walk way. There are very few such walk ways in the world. They say that the one at Kakum is the highest canopy walk way in the world. These are the network of bridges constructed in the forest by taking support of tall trees. The bridges are constructed of rope, metal wires and wooden slabs and they swing a lot when a person walks on them. A person is hanging almost at the height of 60-70 m at certain points. It is a thrilling experience. As there are lot of people who are taken at a time for canopy walk way tour one can not stop for long and appreciate the surrounding nature. But we could get a real feel of evergreen rain forest while on the canopy walk way. We could appreciate the real height of the trees. The forest full of tall evergreen trees and the climbers growing on them had made the grounds very damp and dark. Many people get scared on this walkway and start making lot of noise. It drives all the birds and animals away and the purpose for appreciating the wildlife on the canopies is not by being on that walkway is just not fulfilled. Nonetheless it is good and worth replicating in Indian National Parks.
While coming back, we tasted Palm Wine which is similar to toddy in India. It is extracted from a local palm which looks like an oil palm. While returning from the walk we came across an other group of tourist there were some Indians families. Two families were Maharashtrians from Mumbai. There was one old lady in the group. When we gave our best wishes for the experience, she asked me "do we really need it". Seeing her condition I had to answer, "Take them anyway, and recall them if you feel that they are needed". Then they went hurriedly as they wanted to join their group. Due to constraint of time we could not make the nature walk available in the forest. There is also availability of tents, so one can stay in the forest during night.
We had to rush to Cape Coast castle in spite of feeling hungry, because we had to reach there before its closure so that we could have enough time to see it. It was another great experience. It is a fort constructed by British and it was used for exporting slaves from Ghana to distant lands in the Americas. The history of slavery becomes alive in this fort and the museum inside it. The sight of dungeons used for keeping slaves before exporting them makes oneself sad about this dark part of the history of humans. The fort is far more well kept than the forts in Maharashtra.
I have to make special mention here about the guided tours at both the places i.e. Kakum and Cape Coast. They charged very high fees compared to those charged at such places in India. As we were foreigners we were charged double fees than those applicable to Ghanaians. The fees include guided tours and I have to say that it was worth it. At both the places guides were very good and gave a lot of information. They were very knowledgeable and very enthusiastic. I felt that they should raise the entry tickets to such places in India as well and maintain them as clean as they are here in Ghana and provide some good knowledgeable guides. I strongly felt that in India they instead of providing free access to any hooligan on the street to such important sites of national heritage; they should restrict the entry to the interested few by raising the entry fees.
Cape Coast, with its relaxed atmosphere, European styled buildings and gently sloping terrain gives, one a feel of being in Goa. I liked the city very much. After seeing the castle we were hungry since we had not taken any lunch. Our driver showed us a very good sea side restaurant just outside the castle though not visible from the main road. The food was as good as the atmosphere. It was located on high ground just near the beach so we could view of the walls of the castle along with the sands, tides and expanse of the sea. I tried squid Jollof rice there, which did not disappoint me at all.
After our lunch, which we finished almost at 17:00, we spent some time on the beach. One small buy selling oranges came near us and greeted us, "Namaste" and requested to buy some oranges. We did not want to buy it and we told him so. He did not insist but it seemed he wanted to talk to us. He told that he liked to watch Hindi movies and his favourite movie was Krish. He told the story of the film and how Krish fought etc. He was very bold and it was enough to make us buy oranges from him and they were not highly priced at all. He managed to take our photograph by balancing his big plate full of oranges on his head.
We made a mistake of combining the two major sites i.e. Kakum and Cape Coast with the celebrations of Independence Day where we lost on our majority of time which we could have spent on the visit and we could have done nature walk and Elmina castle near Cape Coast. But there was no way we could recover it as we had planned it that way.
Instead of returning to Accra, we stayed at Rahul's place at Agona Swedru. Agona Swedru is a district place in Central Region of Ghana. The town is located on the banks of a river and on the gently sloping hills surrounding it. Though a district place it is very big compared to my place Bongo. He has a nice house there although sometimes he gets irritated by the children of his landlord constantly coming to his house and disturbing him. We made Khichadi which we had to eat for dinner as well as breakfast on the next day as we cooked a lot of it.
Jai Hind in Accra

Starting Canopy Walkway

Hanging Bridge, scaring heights

Hi there!

Squid Jollof Rice

Cape Coast Castle

Guide at Cape Coast Castle

The Orange Seller boy who took our picture while balancing his orange plate on head