A trip on the bus to Cape Coast (city) and Cape Coast Castle (historic landmark)
This was my first weekend adventure and it was a very full day! Everything starts early, likely due to late-day heat, and traffic congestion. I traveled with another WUSC volunteer from the U of Guelph – we left at 6:30 am and made our way by taxi to Kaneshe Market and Bus Station. It was approx. 40 minute taxi and you’d be amazed at how ‘awake’ the city is by that time of the morning. Enterprising people seem to be everywhere – the roadside kiosks are already operational, as are the ‘hawkers’ (that is the term used for selling goods at intersections) – it is slow going!
Just before we got to the bus station, we inched our way down this long lane way that was jammed with people buying and selling buckets and baskets of car parts – the taxi drivers take care of their own vehicles, and this is where they go for parts – whatever you need, you can bargain for it here!
So then you round the corner and you hop out (quickly – it is bedlam!). The buses (the regular coach buses and smaller 14 passenger vans) are parked all over the place, and people are clamoring to get on. There is tons of yelling (Twi is the local language – I am not sure anyone is actually angry, just talking loud so that they can be heard) and as an outsider, it is really hard to figure out if there is a system of any kind. There didn’t appear to be any signs indicating which buses were headed where, so we asked around (people were quite friendly and helpful). I think the biggest challenge was that there are more people wanting to buy tickets than available seats, so everyone is trying to get the attention of the ticket sellers and not a lot of personal space!
Eventually we got onto the bus and inched our way out of the station area and onto the highway, heading west of the city to Cape Coast – should be approx. 3 hours. One feature of the bus ride that took me by surprise was the preacher that stood up as soon as we started to move, and delivered a sermon, prayers, and songs – lasted about an hour and most people on the bus were completely engaged. He took donations at the end, and I guess this is quite common – religion has very high participation rates in Ghana.
We made many stops along the highway to let people off, but somehow our request to get off at Cape Coast got lost in translation – we overshot it by at least a half an hour – the driver pulled over and told us to get off, cross the road, and flag a taxi going the other way. The adventure continues!
So eventually we make our way to Cape Coast Castle – although, I feel as though ‘castle’ is not the right word – it was initially built as a trading post and fortress (gold was one of the biggest commodities initially), but eventually the Slave Trade took over and Cape Coast Castle became a dungeon of sorts. It held up to 1000 captured Africans at a time in horrific conditions, as they waited to be loaded into ships bound for South America, Europe, and North America, (including Canada). Needless to say, it was an incredibly sad place. If I understood the tour guide correctly, there were approx. 10,000 people exported annually through those doors and somewhere between 25-40 million people exported from Africa over the course of the slave trade – mind boggling.
We eventually made our way back to a transit station in Cape Coast (also the name of the city) to make our way back to Accra. We had hoped to also visit Kakum National forest, that day, but because of our earlier transportation mishap, we missed the opportunity – it gets dark shortly after 5 pm so we have to save that for another day!
Made our way back to Accra and once again the traffic was crazy, but the scenery was so interesting – saw glimpses of some beautiful coastline, salt flats, fishing villages, and amazing wooden fishing boats with their crew pulling in the nets (entirely a manual operation).
This time, we traveled in a 14 passenger van, and lets just say, our driver was ‘exciting’. There is a lot of honking – in part to tell someone to move out of the way, in part to tell someone that you are beside them (mere inches away ). Eventually made it back to the guest house around 8pm – long day but so interesting – once again, the transit was half the adventure!