Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Going to Find Africa Part IV... The Castle

After our Canopy Walk, we headed into the town of Cape Coast to visit the Castle- a British installation that existed for a hundred years as an outpost for various officials, but more infamously as a center for the slave trade.

A small entrance fee gets you access to the Castle and a local guide with a very thorough knowledge of history. This place is wrong on so many levels. The least ominous is the simple fact of yet another colonial building unsuited to the geography and climate of the area, complete with sentry posts just like the ones outside Buckingham Palace. The most ominous of course, is the not so simple fact that people were sold and shipped from here like freight.

The tour starts here at the large door to the men's dungeon where captured Africans were kept by the hundreds awaiting the next slave ship...

The bizarre part of this picture is that the upstairs portion of the building is the post chapel where church services were conducted regularly over the heads of the men in the dungeon.

These two pictures show some of what is there, the ocean-facing courtyard and the view from the cannonade...

It was way too dark to take pictures in the dungeons, but I'm guessing you don't really want the details anyway.

Once the slavers showed up the men and women were marched from their separate dungeons through a tunnel under the courtyard where they emerged here...

and were taken through this door which leads directly out to the ocean...

and loaded into the cargo holds of ships.

Here is a view of the door half open (today there are fishing canoes where the slavers used to be)...

It's a very hard place to visit, and I can't even imagine how I would feel if I was the descendent of a slave. It was a little strange to visit here with Duke. Confronting the very real evidence of what my people did to his people is awkward, at best.

He was interested in what we saw, having never seen it before, and at one point when we were all gathered in the windowless room used for captives unable to walk to the slavers (where they were left to die) he said to the guide, "Please don't shut the door." to which we (the Obroni contingent) replied "Amen!" but without the shuddering realization that our relatives had indeed had that door shut upon them.

This last picture is the view from the sitting room of the British Commander's private quarters. Standing here and looking at Africa while thinking of the men who commanded a place like this is sobering, to say the least.

We weren't sorry to leave the Castle behind us, having absorbed its lessons, and we all climbed back into the car to head for home.

We had figured out when we arrived that we would have to leave by about 3:30 in order to get home before dark (remember Ghanaian roads are even more of a demolition derby after dark and riddled with unlit stalled vehicles and moving vehicles with no headlights, so getting to the edge of Accra soon after our 6pm sunset is important).

Traffic was fairly light considering everything, and we were making pretty good time. We noticed, mostly from the way the wind was buffeting the pedestrians on the coast road that we had a pretty stiff headwind, but didn't think too much about it until the skies started darkening to the east (toward Accra).

We laughed and said, "Whoo boy! Accra is getting some storm!".

About ten minutes later, we stopped laughing when it became apparent the storm was moving rapidly in our direction.

At about 5:00, an hour outside Accra, the black clouds rushed up to us and directly behind them we saw a wall of rain hanging across our path as far to the north and south as the eye could see. The wind blowing through the car took on a chill worthy of a Texas Blue Norther and we all rolled up our windows lickety split.

Within seconds we were driving through a torrential rain that had traffic crawling at 10 mph, everyone using their hazard flashers to warn the cars behind that we were barely moving. Some cars and trucks had pulled over but we all agreed without discussion that being a stationary target was probably worse than being a slow moving one, so we slogged on...

Poor Duke drove that way for miles and miles- we didn't get above 20 mph until way past Kokrobite and the dark and traffic and rain and wind were unrelenting.
What is it with us and road trips? We have a good time until we try to come home and then some bizarro world continuum takes over.

We finally reached the outskirts of Accra a little after seven and were promptly caught up in the snarl of traffic that is always Accra in the Rain. We had to drive very near Duke's neighborhood to get home, so we insisted he get out of the car at his tro-tro stop and let Ted take us the rest of the way so Duke could just go home. He didn't argue. :-)

At a little after 8pm (80 miles and more than four hours later!), we finally reached our house, but not without passing dozens of billboards lying on the ground (or the street), just as many fruit/craft/sundries stands with no roofs (and frequently no walls), and plenty of downed electrical wires.

Biggest storm since we arrived almost a year ago, and we were on the road- just to keep things interesting.

So that's the latest road trip we made to find us some more Africa. Never a dull moment, ever. Nothing happens the same way twice, and we are learning we should always be on our toes.

Even though we rarely are. ;-)