Last night was the lighting of the last candle of Hanukkah. I am not sure that I mentioned there was a candle lighting each night (with lights, no candles allowed on the ship), and they had latkes, jelly doughnuts and other assorted foods. It always took place in the Insignia lounge at 6:30. Here are some pictures:
And we may not have the “elf on the shelf” but we do have the elf on the tree!
Today we booked a private tour with Ellen Stokes and 5 others to the Kakum National Park and Canopy Walkway and the Cape Coast and Elmina Castles.
We were again greeted by local dancers, and then we met our guide for the day, Blankson, who was just a delight. We were only 7 as one of our group wasn’t feeling well today and decided to stay on the ship.
The trip there took over 2 hours, some on good highways but the road into the park was really bumpy. We were saying if you had kidney stones, they would have been shaken loose! Everything was covered in dirt along the way due to the north trade winds in the dry season – harmmatan. Much of the country, especially in rural areas, has electricity rationing – called dum sol, off/on.
The forest and especially the canopy walkway was amazing. The park spans 138 square miles and is one of the remaining vestiges of Ghana’s diminishing rainforest. Blankson said that logging has now been outlawed so they hope that the forest will remain. For the local people, the forest is the physical, spiritual and cultural home for the gods and spirits that dwell in its sacred trees, rivers, stones and animals.
The canopy walkway is actually 7 walkways suspended 100 feet above the ground. It was really amazing to be up that high looking down into the forest, and there were also many trees even higher than us. As we hiked through the forest on the Kuntan Trail, we heard about some of the medicinal values of the forest.
After we spent about 2 hours hiking, we went to the Kokodo Guest House for lunch. We had a wonderful array of African food, from small lobsters to yam balls, plantains, a rice dish, fish, stir fried vegetables and more. Norm and some of the rest of the group sampled the local beer. Blankson took a plate for the bus driver – even though we invited him to eat with us, he would not. I guess they have a division in the way they interact with tourists.
We then traveled to the Cape Coast Castle. Along the way, we heard a lot about the country and its struggles with the economy. They are largely agricultural with cocoa being the second largest export, it employs 30-40 percent of the economy. On the way back to port, Blankson bought us each a chocolate bar, even one for Lauri, who missed the tour!
The castle really is more like a fort built by the Dutch in 1637 and captured by the Swedes in 1652. It was later sold to the English and named Cape Coast Castle. It has a terrible history as a prison for slaves who were held by the thousands in small, dark dungeons before they were taken through the “door of no return” to the ships that supplied the slave trade. The stories were horrible, of people dying and left for days, sexual abuse and drowning of pregnant women, etc.
Now, when you pass through the door of no return, the harbor is full of fishing boats, and is a beautiful scene. We also saw many men repairing nets.
Our last stop was the Elmina Castle, where we ran into a lot of traffic, so didn’t actually tour it, just drove through the town and photographed it from afar. This one was built by the Portuguese. When we asked why it was so busy in the town, Blankson told us it was because it is a Monday and there is no fishing on Tuesday so people are at the markets stocking up. He says that Tuesdays the fishing gods get to rest!
And other sights around Elmina…
We made it back to the ship just in time, we had a safety drill at 5:15 and didn’t even have time to go back to our rooms to get our life jackets!