A Friendly Ghanaian Welcome to Africa

Posted by on Jul 9, 2013 in Featured, Ghana | 2 comments

After four months in Oceania and Asia and a quick stop back home it was time to switch gears and head to Africa. While most of our 7-week African leg would be spent in Southern Africa, the first 12 days were in Ghana. As part of West Africa, Ghana, at the very least, gave us some additional perspective to the world’s second-largest continent. We were excited to begin our venture into Africa in what many consider an ideal country for first-time visitors.

Our focus in Ghana was another volunteer project at an orphanage a couple of hours outside of the capital, Accra. But we had five days beforehand to visit the surrounding area. We flew into Accra and spent roughly 24 hours there. This ended up being all we would need as there really isn’t much to offer. It is not at all a walkable city and public transportation isn’t convenient either, so we ended up hiring a driver for the afternoon. After a quick visit to the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park (tribute to the country’s first President after gaining independence from the British in 1957) we went to the cultural market. This place is really no different than other markets we’ve toured around the world, except for one thing – its people. Here, we got our first taste of the friendliness and outgoing personality of the Ghanaian people. While it’s part of a market vendor’s job to woo you into impulse purchases, I sensed something different here that carried through our entire time in Ghana. Before we even exited our car, a group of friends and brothers in their 20s were trying to sell us their handiwork. After claiming that we would “not buy, just look” we gave in to the pressure and were taken to their stall for a quick bongo drumming lesson. This turned out to be a great experience and brought me back to my old 7th grade snare drum days. And I ended up leaving with a mini bongo for myself. 

The very next morning we boarded a bus for Cape Coast, a much calmer city close to two hours outside of the bustle of Accra. The four days in Cape Coast were a great way to unwind and ease into African culture. The major highlight was touring the World Heritage Site, Cape Coast Castle. A guided tour through the castle was a live history lesson into the early days of slavery. Cape Coast was one of the major slave trading posts to the Americas and Caribbean. The castle served as the holding ground before ships transported men, women, and children torn from their families across the Atlantic, never to be seen or united again. We learned that the male and female dungeons each had one hole for ventilation to compensate for the oppressive heat and darkness that pulled away the last shreds of hope for the hundreds of prisoners. We saw firsthand the conditions and quarters they lived in for possibly months at a time (it all depended on the ships’ schedules). Many died of starvation or illness while waiting, but for those who actually reached the “Door of No Return”, it hardly mattered. Once past the door and out onto the beach they were herded onto a ship that would take them thousands of miles away from home, to a life that no nightmare could have ever compared. While walking throughout the castle, it was easy to visualize what went on there, but impossible to imagine how it actually ever began.  

Luckily, other parts of the area added some lighter notes to our time in Ghana’s coastal region. In addition to the castle, we were able to take a day trip to Kakum National Park for a canopy walk high atop the jungle. Although rather touristy, this was a fun and unique way to get away from the cities. One of the nights, we stumbled upon what appeared to be a kids pick-up game of soccer. To our surprise (close to an hour later), it turned into a semi-professional match. The visiting team showed up in two cars, one being an old Toyota Camry that fit close to eight players. Locals crowded the field 3 or 4 rows deep in certain areas for the match of the week. It was great to witness the support and excitement of the local fans. Kat and I even felt a part of the action when we were approached by a local who assumed we were talent scouts (probably because we were the only white people there).

Accra and Cape Coast, although drastically different, portrayed an evolving Ghana, but also taught us about a treacherous past that will never be forgotten. Accra showed us a busy, modern African city. And in Cape Coast, text books and history lessons came to life along with a true representation of a happy, friendly and fun generation of people. It is heart-wrenching, yet captivating to see where a major slave trading post operated, but equally as impressive to witness a functioning culture with the prominent castle as an everyday reminder of what happened here.


  1. I am sure Cape Castle was quite upsetting….unbelievably horrible history.

  2. Pally banging the bongos!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *