Hey folks! It’s my second Sunday in Accra, Ghana and I’m chilling in my room listening to Naija music with my room mate. It’s been two exciting weeks and I’m partially sad that the training is drawing to a close. The updates haven’t been very regular recently because there’s been so much to do this past week. On Saturday, we set out for our first excursion outside Accra. This day promised to be a fun one, even after struggling to wake up at 4am! All the ladies were pretty excited and were definitely not disappointed when the day finally came to an end.
Our first stop was the Kakum National Park, 30km north of Cape Coast. The entire area is covered with tropical rain forest and is famous for its long series of hanging bridges, better known as the Canopy Walkway. This walkway has its highest point at 40m above the ground and the 7 bridges add up to a distance of 330m. Having read blog reports from the previous MILEAD groups, I’d been dreading this walk, due mainly to my fear of heights. However, the excitement from the rest of the ladies and the sudden urge to face my fears eased the tension in my chest. At one of the stores around the reception area, I bought a shirt that had ‘I Survived The Walk’ printed at the back. This served as my motivation as I promised myself I’d only wear it when I get to the final landing. After a rather light breakfast of Swiss rolls and some pie, we set out with the guide, through the thick forest. The climb up the steep hill got more difficult with each step and we were out of breath by the time we reached the canopy. After receiving instructions from our guide, we set out on the canopy, in groups of four. I lingered in the background long enough to see the first set reach the first landing. Partially convinced, I set out. The walk was very wobbly at first, but I was consoled by the short length I had to cover to get to the first landing. At some point, my head started spinning and I thought I was going to fall, even though the ropes were high enough to cover my height. I guess that’s what comes with being paranoid. So, I got to the first landing and almost took the left turn, which was going to lead me back to the starting point.
Seeing my colleagues already on the third bridge, however, I headed right. There was no way I was getting myself the reputation of ‘the girl who turned back’. In a short moment, I gave myself one of my infamous lectures and decided to use the walk as a life lesson. I used the final landing as an analogy for the goals I’d set in life and convinced my inner being that it is only through facing my fears and overcoming them that I can achieve my goals. This seemed to work and the walk over the next five bridges was a lot easier. There were rocky moments when the canopy kept swinging and the ladies wouldn’t stop jumping on it, getting me quite jittery. I quickly developed a survival mechanism which involved sticking my nose up in the air like a spoilt princess, looking straight ahead, closing my ears to all sounds and taking quick, short steps.Again, this worked and I marched gracefully on to the final landing. I was excited and realised I truly could achieve anything if only I set my heart and mind to it. The walk over the canopy was a rocky one that tested my faith at some point( recited all the verses of the Quran I know), but it was also one I got to learn a couple of life lessons from and would gladly do again. I later got a certificate for crossing all seven bridges and left the park with my head held high and a proud smile on my face.
Elmina Castle in Cape Coast was the second place we visited. This was used as a slave house during the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. We had a guided tour of the building, beginning at the museum. Going through the castle was one of the most depressing moments of my day. It reminded me of the Slave House in Goree, Senegal. The Gambia also has a similar house in Juffureh, but I haven’t had the chance to visit it yet. Our guide took us through the various dungeons reserved for specific classes: men , women, children, resisting slaves etc. In one of the dungeons, he switched off the lights and everything went quiet for a moment as we let the reality of the historic happenings in those rooms sink in. By the time we left, my ever faithful tears had already spilled over and I was filled with mixed emotions. We also got to go through the “Door of No Return”, which exists in almost all the slave houses across the Continent. These doors were the same ones the captured slaves walked through as they made their way to the huge ships docked a few miles at sea, ready to transport them to unknown lands. Interestingly, in 1998, the remains of two former slaves were transported from the Caribbean Islands and taken through the door, back into Cape Coast. This symbolic event also involved the inscription “Door of Return” on the opposite side, encouraging people of African origin in the Diaspora to come back and trace their roots. A part of me was angry and engaged violent thoughts during the tour, while another part resolved to do more work on emancipating myself and others from the most dangerous form of slavery: mental slavery. I share these words that resonated deep inside and left me thoughtful throughout the ride to the Anomabo Beach Resort.
At Anomabo, we played games while waiting for lunch, which took a long time to get to us. I had initially received a tip from a few Gambian friends studying in Ghana, to try the famous Banku and Tilapia. My choice was made easy when it popped up in the menu. I share a photo taken after about three ‘fingerfuls‘ of the tasty and filling meal. Watch this space for more updates. 🙂