Day 58 - Ghana
|Wednesday, December 6, 2023: We were up with the sun this morning, ...
|... and we could hear nearby boat crews laughing and talking as we approached the harbor in Takoradi.
|After a breakfast of pancakes, French toast, and sausage, we packed our backback for today's shore excursion. Once a harbor pilot was available, they came to our ship, ...
|... along with a tug just in case we needed it. We didn't, of course, because the Zuiderdam is awesome.
|What a colorful boat!
|We were headed to a berth in a narrow part of the port, ...
|... right in front of a bulk carrier.
|That's our space. It's going to be a tight fit.
|Oooh. A huge red jellyfish was between our ship and the pier. It was most likely a lion's mane jellyfish based on the shape and the color. As our ship got closer to the pier, it dived deep and disappeared, not to be seen again.
|Whoever was driving our ship was doing a fantastic job. It slid right into the tight space without any problems. Parallel parking a car is hard, but a giant cruise ship? Amazing.
|A pied crow watched from one of the lamp posts nearby. We saw a lot of those during our time in Ghana.
|There was a system with conveyor belts running the length of the pier. It was delivering a red-colored clay to the hold of the bulk carrier moored behind us.
|We could see the clay rolling along on the belts through ventilation holes.
|That huge hill on the shore at the end of the pier was the source of the clay.
|Just before 8:00 AM, we went to the Ocean Bar to meet our group for our private tour today. The list of participants was a greatest hits of the Cruise Critic group for this trip, and we had either gone on trips with or heard of nearly everyone. There were forty of us going, so it was a very large group.
|The port cleared the ship a few minutes after 8:00 AM, and we were off the ship a few minutes after that. The conveyor belts carried clay high over our heads as we walked out to find our tour guides.
|There was clay all over the ground under the conveyors.
|We were divided into three groups of fourteen or so. Our group was in bus number three, which took a little longer to arrive than the other two.
|Our guide showed up about twenty minutes after the other two buses departed, and we finally boarded our very filthy bus and headed out of the port.
|Everything near the port was covered in a fine red dust. Anything that sat still for a few minutes started to get coated with it.
|This was the first of many women carrying things on their heads. She was carrying bread, ...
|... and this woman was carrying watermelon. Today was the first time we saw men carrying things on their heads, but, alas, they were rare enough that we couldn't get any photos.
|As we went eastward, we drove through small villages lined with stalls selling all kinds of goods.
|Many of the stores had religious names.
|Our guide, Samuel, explained that most people do their shopping at places like these. They sell both brand new items as well as second-hand stuff, like this clothing store.
|We saw lots of campaign posters for many candidates. Ghana is a democratic republic that holds elections held every five years to vote for a president and 275 members of parliament. The next election will be on December 7, 2024, almost exactly one year from today.
|As our bus crossed an overpass, we saw that the train tracks below us also served as sidewalks. There were people walking on them as far as the eye could see.
|As we drove through the neighboring city of Sekondi, we passed a school for the deaf, ...
|... which had pictures demonstrating sign language painted on their walls.
|Why carry something in your hands if you can carry it on your head?
|This liquor store had chickens running around in front of it, ...
|... and this store sold used refrigerators, mostly from Germany and UK.
|You had to step over a drainage ditch that was several feet deep to get into the stores along the road.
|Inomie Instant Noodles ... tastes great.
|This hardware store had a lot of its wares sitting out in front of the shop. We wondered how much time the owners spend taking their stuff out in the morning and putting it back in at night.
|We passed this building crammed with people at sewing machines. Samuel said that it was part of the informal education system in Ghana where people apprentice for several years to learn a trade before setting up their own business.
|In order to get though the dense and chaotic traffic in the villages, we had a motorcycle police escort. He liked to show off when there wasn't much traffic, riding up alongside the bus and doing tricks so that we could take photos. We were certain that he was going to get himself killed showing off.
|This building was a regional medical center, with a dirt driveway and an open front door. That last part seemed like a bad idea in a country where malaria is common.
|This was the largest store that we passed on our drive. It had food, furniture, and shoes, all under one roof.
|It's probably not good that there were two ambulances parked in front of this mortuary.
|Fruit was a common item at stalls, with vendors like this one selling pineapple, watermelon, and oranges.
|The kids at a primary school were playing soccer. Two bamboo poles had been driven into the ground to be goal posts.
|As we got nearer to the city of Cape Coast, we saw a rare sight: modern homes. There was even a trash can outside the fence.
|The area we were driving through, Ankaful, had several prisons and several hospitals. One of the hospitals was devoted solely to leprosy. Prisoners at this maximum security prison serve at hard labor and could be seen in their orange jumpsuits doing clean up work throughout the area.
|Most of the primary schools that we passed had artwork on the walls showing letters, numbers, or words to teach the children how to read.
|About 20% of the country follows Islam, so mosques are smaller and rarer than in northern and eastern Africa.
|We saw lots of sleepy babies being carried this way, strapped to mama's back with a wrap.
|Goats, Macgregor. Goats ran around Ghana like stray dogs do in other countries. They were in front of most homes and we saw them in almost every market that we passed. Our guide explained that the goats know where they live and will come home on their own.
|Check out this huge pile of palm nut fruits.
|Our police escort was still not dead and continued his antics as we neared our destination ...
|... Kakum National Park.
|Everyone headed to the restroom after the long drive, and of course there was an unreasonably long line for the women's restroom.
|The men's side had eight urinals and four toilets while the women's side had seven working toilets. No wonder there was a line.
|There were interesting-looking bugs crawling around that will surely haunt our dreams.
|We walked through the visitor center, ...
|... past the shops, ...
|... and to the path to the treetop canopy.
|There is a lot of bamboo in Ghana, and they use it for fencing, furniture, and anything else they possibly can.
|We walked up a moderately steep hill on a path paved with large stones.
|It was very well constructed, but it was uneven ...
|... and some of our fellow tourists needed walking sticks to get by. There were two or three rest stations along the way if you needed to sit down and catch your breath.
|They have a tree house if you want to stay overnight in the forest. They provide a mattress and mosquito netting to make your stay more comfortable. Uh, no thanks. You lost us at "mosquito netting."
|Our forest guide, Gifti, stopped in a small clearing to explain how the canopy walkway was built, how many bridges there were (seven), and how long the total walkway was (350 meters).
|We resumed our trek through the forest, continuing to gain elevation but at a much more easy pace, walking around tree roots ...
|... and fallen logs.
|After walking for about thirty minutes, we arrived at the starting point of the canopy walk. Each group was brought up the stairs where there was a small sitting area while we waited our turn to go out onto the bridge.
|And we're off! The bridges had rope handholds at shoulder height and bounced and swayed as we crossed.
|We were about 100 feet above the forest floor, but there wasn't much to see other than the tops of the smaller trees.
|The first crossing was slow, as one of our mobility-challenged fellows was the first person on the bridge.
|Here's a view looking back from the end of the first bridge. This station had a bypass route to get out of the trees if you decided that you just couldn't do it.
|We were really enjoying it, so we kept going. Here's the start of the second bridge.
|Debbie is having a good time, ...
|... and so is Tom. You can see the base of the walkway in this photo. It was made from 2x10 lumber fastened to a metal framework.
|Each bridge ended at a platform built around the supporting tree where you could rest.
|This is the third bridge. There was a woman in front of our group who was scared either of heights in general or maybe just of being on the bridges. There was a man with her who was helping her and taking photos of her as she creeped along.
|We kept looking for birds or other wildlife in the surrounding trees, but didn't see anything.
|That's the fourth bridge over there. It was a nice long one.
|We made it to the front of our group when Gary and Sheila stopped at the start of the fourth bridge to rest.
|Ross and Midge were keeping up with us. Further behind them, you can see our tour guide, Samuel, helping another member of our group across the fourth bridge.
|Here's the fifth bridge. There was now another canopy walk worker trying to help with the scared women at the end of the group in front of us keep up her pace. It was now becoming clear that she wasn't so much scared as she was posing for pictures and being dramatic.
|Here's a view of the sixth and seventh bridges in the distance, ...
|... and a close up of the sixth bridge from the station. The helper with the woman in front of us was making a video of every single minute of her trip. Every. Single. Minute.
|Here's a view looking back to the sixth and fifth bridges from the start of the ...
|... seventh and final bridge.
|After 25 minutes, we were back on the ground, waiting for the other members of our group to complete the walk.
|Debbie and the rest of the group started back toward the entrance of the park, ...
|... while Tom went back for the stragglers.
|Once everyone was pointed in the right direction, our guide went to help the last few, and Tom caught up with the front of the pack.
|We trudged back down the rocky path, ...
|... back to the visitor center. There was a banner there if you wanted to take a congratulatory photo.
|We were much more interested in the African redhead agama that was perched on a tree root nearby.
|Back on the bus, we used our portable fan to try to cool off.
|We drove by a primary school where the kids were playing soccer, ...
|... and actually had to stop at a traffic light as we neared Cape Coast. Everyone on the bus took a photo of the traffic light.
|We saw lots of these shiny tires in shops.
|This advert is FDA approved. Is the FDA even a thing in Ghana?
|KFC had ads for the Box Master, which looked delicious.
|Here is Tasty Tom, an enriched tomato mix. Jennifer, Homemaker, loves it.
|We were supposed to get a box lunch to eat on our drive to the next stop, but as we were driving, our tour guide said that there had been a change in plans and we were going to stop at a restaurant instead because we had plenty of time, so we stopped at Kokodo Guest House.
|Tables had already been set up for several groups, ...
|... and there was a buffet waiting.
|There was chicken, plaintains, jollof rice, ...
|... calamari, meatballs, and lots of other choices.
|Water and soft drinks were included in the meal, but service was extremely slow and we were nearly finished with our food before someone brought a bottle of water over for us to share.
|After the meal, we went into the main building to use the restrooms.
|When we were done, we saw this strikingly beautiful cat walk across the grounds. We followed her, ...
|.. and she crawled into a space in the building's foundation and lay down. Debbie zoomed in with her camera, ...
|... and we could just make out that there were at least two kittens in the crack with her. Look at the little blue eye on this one. So adorable.
|After thirty minutes at the restaurant, we drove into Cape Coast, ...
|... to our next stop, which was Cape Coast Castle. We were originally supposed to have lots of time here, but since we stopped at a restaurant rather than getting box lunches, our time was severely restricted. We later learned that the other two groups both had plenty of time here.
|We got off the bus as fast as we could, ...
|... and entered the main courtyard of the castle. There was a pile of old rusted cannonballs along the inner wall, ...
|... and what looked like graves in the center of the courtyard.
|Even though we didn't have much time, Samuel got a local tour guide for our group and told him to take our group on a tour of the male and female slave dungeons.
|While everyone else went down to the male slave dungeon, ...
|... we spent our time checking out the castle.
|There were cannon mounted on the outer wall facing the sea.
|Across the courtyard, leading down to the inner harbor, ...
|... was the infamous Door of No Return where slaves would exit the castle before they were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. But we didn't have time to see it up close.
|After convincing our guide that we needed to leave to make it back to the ship on time, we gathered everyone and left the castle, driving down the coastal road away from Cape Coast. Along the coast, we saw huge fishing boats and these piles of plastic bottles sorted by color.
|At the toll booth on the outskirts of Cape Coast, we were amused by the toll for a "mummy wagon," which we guessed was a minivan.
|The Pra River was running strong and swift when we crossed it outside of Beposo.
|Passing this cemetery led to Samuel telling us all about funeral practices in Ghana.
|Outside of a primary school, we saw this big sister holding onto her little brother as the walked along the road. She also carried egg crates that must have held six dozen eggs.
|This compound was for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was very large and well-maintained.
|We arrived at the outskirts of Sekondi around 3:30 PM, ...
|... and saw several homes of very wealthy people.
|We could see the MV Karadeniz Powership Osman Khan alongside a pier in Sekondi. The ship, the world's largest powership, generates about 10% of Ghana's total electrical supply.
|This billboard is part of the presidential campaign for an as-yet-unknown candidate.
|As we neared the port in Takoradi, we saw how they were loading clay onto the conveyor belts for loading the ship that was moored behind us.
|We arrived at the port 15 minutes before all passengers needed to be onboard, but even though we were very late, our guide insisted that we pose for yet another group photo with him before we could board the ship.
|Back on the ship, we found that we had certificates waiting for us at our cabin for both crossing the equator and for visiting Null Island. Yay!
|LEGO Debbie and Tom had also visited a forest canopy walk and were equally happy to be back aboard the ship.
|We changed into our swimsuits and hit the Sea View Pool to cool down and relax while we waited for the ship to depart. Predictably, departure was delayed as some of the Holland America tours were not yet back.
|After our swim, we got burgers from the Dive-In Restaurant, ...
|... and ate them on the balcony as we watched sail out.
|We watched the sun set over Takoradi as we cleared the harbor and set a course for the neighboring country of Côte d'Ivoire.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy