I would have blogged about this earlier in the week but it took half a bottle of cheap, crummy rosé to get the creative juices flowing. Luckily, even crummy rosé has a 12% ABV.
My Dad arrived late Thursday evening (March 24) after a busy business trip to Jo’burg. Instead of hanging around campus, I thought that a brief tour of Ghana would be more interesting. Cape Coast and Kakum National Park beckoned. Since we were pressed for time, my suggestion of renting a car made the most sense. We felt compelled to rent a driver too as neither of us had too much a clue as to exactly where we needed to go and a large hold on the parental credit card to cover damage was dissuading.
Our first stop was Cape Coast Castle. While this was my second visit, it was neat to hear some things I had missed such as that the dungeon floor we tread upon was compressed dirt and other unmentionables from the slave trade era, only having been excavated in one section of the dungeon. I also saw President Obama’s plague again. It made me happy as President Obama is very popular in Ghana as it was his first stop on his first trip to Africa, even before the donor darling Kenya. There is even a Hotel Obama, complete with a Michelle Obama room, a stone’s throw from the University. After the sobering tour, we perused the exhibits explaining the castle structure, complete with photographs outlining its many uses. The Castle Restaurant called and we sat down for cold beers at a table that faced the ocean. After taking in endless views of the large waves smashing against the rocks and their counterparts the sand, we hopped into the car for the final leg of the day.
We arrived at Kakum at around 5:30 when it was almost dark and under an ominous sky. Immediately, we were told that the park was closed but our driver mentioned we had a reservation to spend the night and we were let in. Earlier in the week, I had called and made a reservation for the Rainforest Hilltop Campsite. I was told that everything we needed would be provided including mattresses and bedding. I forgot to inquire the cost but it was printed in the Bradt Guide as 10 GHC. At the park headquarters, we were introduced to the woman in charge of tourism. She said that it was 50 GHC per person per night as it included guide fees. Guides were mandatory. When we came up short twelve Cedis, right in front of the hired car and driver of course, the kindly tourist lady gave us a twelve Cedis discount so that we could experience the canopy walkway the next morning.
After waiting for a couple of Peace Corps volunteers to finish their leisurely dinner, we donned flashlights and our backpacks for the trek into the woods. It was slow going and after half an hour of hiking, we stumbled to the base of a tree house. The forest immediately surrounding the park entrance is second growth so we had to hike to into the old growth forest where the trees are tall enough to support tree houses and canopy walkways. This was where we would spend the night, 35 feet above the ground in a gently rocking tree house as our reservation for the campsite was apparently void or at least the guides preferred to have all of the obrunis in one place.
After a short rest, we took a two hour hike into the jungle, looking for animals with flashlights. As our guides felt that a lack of animals would be unacceptable after two hours, the hike was extended by about 45 minutes, during most of which I plodded forward in a half sleepy daze. Therefore when an animal was finally discovered (a honey badger!), I only saw the tail vanish into the woods. We did find a turtle which apparently was unable to evade us.
I collapsed onto my double staked mattresses. Sheets were optional as there were only three for six people, Dad taking one while the female Peace Corps volunteers got the other two. Before completing blacking out, we set our alarms to 5:30a and I was even able to text my girlfriend as the 35 feet allowed for a cell phone signal.
Why 5:30a? We wanted to be the first ones out on the canopy walkway. We spent a good 45 minutes accompanied with only the guide. We saw some birds, took in the expansive view and even saw a tree move as a monkey hopped from one branch to another.
One thing one must always remember about the rainforest is how loud it is, especially at night. As we were waiting for the guides for the night walk, we were treated to the distance, intermittent sound of what vaguely reminded me of a baby crying. Other bugs and night critters made for a loud orchestra of finely tuned noise. While there were plenty of bugs, the mosquitos were scarce as a certain type of tree gave off a lavender scent that repels them.
After touring the canopy walk and eating breakfast at the Rainforest Restaurant, we turned back for Cape Coast to visit nearby Elmina Castle. I got to further examine the harbor at Elmina which houses well over a hundred fishing boats. After another delicious lunch at the Castle Restaurant, we drove back to Accra although unfortunate we missed the Boat Race due to traffic. I did however snap a photo of Ruth’s Fast Food.