We started the morning sweatily scrubbing 5 weeks of grit and grot off Aminah (the truck) and her kitchen equipment so she will be all clean for the next leg which starts in Accra in a few days. We all pitched in to scrub and mop. It is amusing to watch a bunch of overlanders ‘flapping’ the dishes to dry then, as tea towels are a luxury (and a hygiene risk) not permitted on the truck.
Once the truck was clean, we headed off to Cape Coast to see the British slave fortress, allegedly one of the largest slaving holding sites in the world during colonial times. Interestingly, the custom of slavery was well established amongst the Ashanti tribes prior to the British arriving, but of course the British paid better and in alcohol and guns.
The fort was similar to Elmina yesterday except, if possible, the slave chambers were even smaller. The chambers were ventilated with 2-3 tiny windows each and had no drainage…. apparently it was not uncommon for slaves to be knee deep in human waste.The chambers were adorned with a shrine and bouquets from locals and the diaspora to remember their ancestors.
The ‘door of no return’ has been widened here – it would have originally been person width size, and slaves were forced to turn sideways to pass on their way to board the ships. Symbolically, the door has been renamed the ‘door of return’ as some of the descendants of slaves have returned and passed through the door.
Again, ironically there was an anglican church on top of male dungeon – they must have heard the singing in the dungeons. The governors quarters were at least the same size as the entire dungeon space.
We were invited to spend some time in the cell for the rebellious slaves who were left to die without food or water but I couldn’t bear the heat or the smell (I suspect some of it was from the 60 school kids who had just passed through), so I escaped to stand outside in the shade.
Around the castle there is a bustling fishing community with all the associated smells, especially in the midday heat. We retired to the nearest place we could find that served burgers and waited on African time for burgers and fries – the fare of overlanders. We then made haste to the only store in town with a freezer to buy icecream.
After that back to the beach. A nice run as the sun went downalong the waters edge past the local fishing village, ignoring the calls from the locals ‘hey white lady – where you going?’. A few of the younger ones were more persistent and tried to run along with me but eventually gave up either when I sped up, or when I told them I was old enough to be their mama!
I am leaving the truck tomorrow, as they are headed to Kumasi and I am keen to continue on to Togo with my limited time left in west Africa. It will be weird not having 18 other people with me everywhere I go!
Cape Coast, December 15, 2016