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#7 Visitors from England

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the view from our room

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Early Christmas
Our first visitors from England arrived a couple of weeks ago; Heather’s brother Gordon and his wife Lorraine. It would have been nice to welcome them into a well-furnished home but the door-to-door service had still not delivered our goods and the carpenter remained busy on the dining table. So it was that only a paltry amount of borrowed kitchen utensils and equipment received them over the threshold but at least the water leak was fixed.

Accompanying our guests were four humungously large suitcases that to my mind mocked the 23kg weight limit. Inside was a treasure trove of goodies including filter coffee, wine, chocolate, biscuits, tea and liquorice allsorts making it feel a bit like Christmas.

Cape Coast
After a few days of relaxing and visiting the school we travelled down to Cape Coast to stay for a few days at a hotel beach resort in a village called Moree. A basic but clean two-bedroomed apartment cost the three of us 100 cedi per night and included breakfast. Evening meals were a selection of traditional and western dishes and cost between 10 and 15 cedi (£1 = 3 cedi).

From our front door we gazed out onto a postcard beach and slept at night to the roar of crashing waves and a cool breeze that made the use of air-conditioning unnecessary. During the day many eagles and vultures soared above and on occasion landed near us, once to devour a dead goat. The sea offered good surfing on Gordon’s scavenged plank but a dangerous undercurrent restricted swimming to well within depth.

Sadly the natural beauty was spoilt somewhat by litter constantly churned up by the waves: black bags, fishing nets tangled up with materials and underwear, plastic bottles and water bags. A beach area to our right served as a public toilet for the villagers: predominantly fishermen and their families who lived in huts below a ruined colonial fort. To our left was another fishing village where wooden poles were being installed for the introduction of electricity. On one day the two villages amassed on the beach outside our hotel for a game of football against each other and we were treated to a carnival-like atmosphere,

Unexpected
One thing I had not expected to see on this stretch of coast was poverty. My expectations were many western-style hotels, cafes, shops and large houses to cater for the tourism worthy of such beautiful beaches and historical sites. Instead we encountered many huts with corrugated tin roofs operating as homes or shops and shoddy vehicles in comparison to their counterparts in Accra. I was later told that much of Ghana is like this and it is only Accra and maybe a couple of other smaller cities that are growing in affluence.

A fifteen minute taxi drive from Moree is Cape Coast Fort. Admission was 20 cedi but considerably less if you are Ghanaian – as is the case with many things here. Most irritating is the annual 100 US Dollar non-citizen tax they have just introduced here which Heather, Tom and I have to pay because we live here. Next most annoying is the visa extension charge whereby no matter how long you visa is – even 5 years – after two months in the country you have to pay extra to be here and then again after 6 months and so on. Forget about protesting though – they don’t do fairness.

Cape Coast Fort
Neither did they do fairness in the Fort. Go back just over two hundred years and local tribes were fighting and raiding each other for slaves to sell to the colonial powers. The Portuguese came first and other Europeans followed, regularly fighting each other for control of the forts dotted across West Africa that collected the slaves and acted as storehouses for all kinds of resources.

Remarkably well-preserved the Fort was built under British supervision over many decades. We descended down into the male dungeons of five dark rooms which each housed 200 slaves. They had no toilets nor light and many thousands never even made it onto the slave ships where many thousands more died on the voyage to the West Indies or Europe. We climbed out to visit other prison areas and then up to the Governors quarters with wooden floors and fantastic views.
Crocodile Rock
Our other excursion was to the Kakum National Forest and the Canopy Tree Walk, a network of rope bridges high up above the trees. The forest itself is massive and much of it is still unexplored. All the deadly snakes are here but keep away from the visitor areas.

After many a wobble up high we visited a restaurant that offered a walk around a crocodile lake. Here, I froze rigid when first in line I turned a corner to come within feet of a healthy specimen frozen like a statue and with its back to us. With dry mouths we quietly passed it by only to become aware of more than one pair of eyes in the water watching us. Further on we encountered a crocodile nest and a good number of bright coloured birds. The walk was slowly becoming more acceptable until we alarmingly discovered it was not circular.