Cape Coast’s Chilling Past

Having spent a few days in complete luxury, the thought of piling onto a tro-tro in 45 degree heat for a lengthy journey to Cape Coast didn’t seem all that appealing. Packing our bags and leaving Lou Moon Lodge we headed back up the bumpy road to Axim, arriving at the tro-tro park we haggled down the cost of the ride and jumped on and waited for an eternity for the vehicle to fill up. I was getting slightly tired of this, I just wanted to get moving!
Finally we did set off though and hours later we arrived in Cape Coast and checked into Oasis Beach Resort, it sounds glamorous doesn’t it? It wasn’t. Perhaps I’m being a little unfair, had I not just spent two days in a luxury bungalow on a private island I might have thought differently. What made matters worse were that they had no bungalows left, this meant that Gen and I were going to have to stay in a sweaty dorm room for a few nights… what a fall from grace!
We dumped the bags and wandered out for a beer on the beach, it was clear to see the British colonial influence on the town, there was a huge white castle looming over the beach adorned with large black cannons, it looked pretty imposing. As we sat on the golden beach drinking an ice cold beer enjoying a perfect sunset, it was hard to think that Cape Coast, the former British colonial capital, was once the largest slave-trading centre in West Africa. It was a chilling thought.
The following morning we headed out into the centre of Cape Coast. There was definitely a different feel to this place, there were a lot more tourists here than we’d seen over the last four weeks, café’s were buzzing with westerners retelling tales of their time volunteering for various NGO’s and how they were looking forward to getting home to their creature comforts. It felt like a little traveler town that you might find anywhere in the world which in many ways it was quite comforting, but I had almost gotten used to the isolation of travelling around these West African countries and at times started to wish everyone would stop wittering on. I was tired of overhearing the same conversations time after time “I’m like totally amazed by how awesome it’s been. I’ve put some photos of myself with the cute little African children on Facebook and all my friends are like Wow, you are so adventurous!”, guys, it’s great that you have taken the time to do some volunteering, but it doesn’t make you a hero, go home to mummy and daddy’s, update your Facebook statuses to say what a rewarding life changing experience it has all been, adorn yourself in your finest Jack Wills attire and go and get drunk with your posh friends! I know I sound intolerant, I’m really not, I just think that if you want to claim you have made a difference in this world, you need to do a lot more than spend a few thousand pounds to go to Africa for 3 weeks to work for an NGO. Anyhow rant over.
Throwing the first decent breakfast I’d had in weeks down me, I fled the volunteer riddled café to go out in search of the real Cape Coast. Neglected, faded buildings line the narrow streets of the former colonial capital and lead you to the huge Cape Coast Castle on the coastline. To the left of the castle is a beach bustling with people and fishing boats, the new trade of Cape Coast at the end of the beach Cape Coast Castle acts as a stark reminder of the previous trade Cape Coast was famous for, the slave trade. If you are reading this and planning a trip to Ghana, I cannot recommend the castle highly enough, we had an excellent guided tour by one of the staff there and as he took us into the dungeons and retold us chilling tales of the slave trade it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It’s hard to believe it ever happened and even harder to believe that the British were the key players in it all. I left the castle feeling guilty and somewhat ashamed that we could treat humans, black Africans in particular, as a commodity, it didn’t sit well with me at all. I spent a lot of that afternoon thinking about what I’d learnt and seen that morning and found it hard to imagine what life must have been like back then, the living conditions, if you could call them that, were shocking, I’d have made a terrible slave, I’m claustrophobic and I don’t take orders well, I think I would have never made it out of the dungeons let alone the boat journey to the United States.
That evening was quite a somber affair we had dinner a couple of drinks and had some interesting conversations about the slave trade before we headed to bed. We had another long sweaty tro-tro ride back to Accra the next morning… thankfully the last one, but at the same time, sadly that meant it was almost time to fly home.

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