Little road trip

Spent 35+ hours on the road since Saturday morning, and just got back into Accra this afternoon after a 12-hour trip that started at 4:30 am.  My parents have been so occupied since they got here last summer that this was the first time my mother has been more than 30 minutes from the guest house since she came to Ghana (they used me as a good excuse for a bit of vacation).  Most of the roads were mostly paved (dodge those potholes while oncoming traffic is doing the same), although you always have to slow down when passing through the small villages that pop up every few kilometers.  Otherwise you might hit a goat or worse.  The 400+ kilometers of dirt roads we traversed at 60-80 kph were jarring to the bones, but that and passing vehicles by cramming in between 2 big lorries moving in opposite directions on a 2-lane road every 5 minutes make for more eventful driving than I-10 usually provides, so the 12 hours seemed to fly by.  If I had 10,000 cedis for every time my mother inhaled sharply on the road…and no, I wasn’t driving.  Not sure I’ve been hanging around long enough to have the courage for that!


Spent a couple of days on the beach and visited two slave castles in the area as well as a park in the rainforest, then headed far north to Mole National Park where we saw some elephants swimming with crocodiles.  After that we decided to push even farther north to the Baptist hospital at Nalerigu (east of Wale Wale).  We arrived just in time for dinner and some fun hang-out time with a small medical team who’s here for a week.  There’s one surgeon, and he had 12 surgeries scheduled for today, and completed about a dozen yesterday as well!  They love to laugh, so they can handle it. 


Oh, and last night at the hospital, I saw a woman WALK from the delivery room to her bed in the maternal ward no more than 10 minutes after giving birth!  The doctors were joking about their wives back in the States wanting time off and half days and all that.  Apparently, another lady recently gave birth to twins, and the next day she and a friend each carried a newborn for the full 12 miles back to her village!!! 


Here are 14 pictures:


 



Canopy walk high above most of the trees in a rainforest park near Cape Coast.  There were 7 of these bridges, and it was only freaky if you weren’t careful to walk exactly in the middle, because then it would start tilting from side to side!


 



Slave castle at Elmina that Columbus visited in 1482 before he made it to the Americas.  It’s thought to be the oldest surviving European structure below the equator. 


 



The castle at Elmina was one of many forts that the Portuguese and others made treaties with local African rulers over to house slaves before shipping them to the New World.


 



Here’s the drawbridge over the double moat.  One numerical fact that stood out in my mind was that at the height of slave trafficking, over 650,000 were transported across the Atlantic in a single year. 


 



 


A castle could sometimes hold about a thousand prisoners at once, and they would be crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in tiny, unlit dungeon rooms for up to several weeks.


 



The captain would stand above this courtyard to pick out female slaves for the night.


 


 


 We decided to leave this industrious boy’s monitor lizard for a hungrier traveler to purchase.


 



When you’re far from a petrol station, you need to keep your eyes peeled for someone who has a fuel tank next to their house. 


 



Inhabited termite mounds are a more reddish color.  Abandoned or not, the termite saliva mixed with dirt is so rock hard that kicking the mounds hardly makes a dent.  Calling the local exterminators means inviting someone to dig out the queen.  The nasty-looking foot-long lady is a delicacy!  So are her millions of minions when they fly out of the mound en masse upon the advent of the rainy season. 


 



Walking around Mole National Park with an armed guide.  Rainy season will begin any day now, but until then, you can see that the Harmattan dust from the Sahara still hangs heavy in the air. 


 



We had to walk for a while to get up close and personal with a herd of bathing elephants, but this guy decided to come all the way up the hill to visit our room.


 


 


I decided 10 feet was close enough and started walking away calmly and quickly. 


 


 


Cute and cuddly?  My mom can’t stand baboons because they’re not afraid to come into your room or jump all over your car.  She lost a tug-of-war with one over some candy once. 


 



Ever seen a sign that says Tall Load?  Goodbye for now, folks…


 

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19 Responses to “Little road trip”

  1. I am slightly disturbed to see you have begun worshipping the African termite goddess (pic 8).  Hopefully this is just a fad.  And that bridge (pic 1) is freakin sweet.

  2. super super super cool!! looks like you’re having a lovely time!

  3. man, that reallymakes me want to be there!!  awesome pics!

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Great pictures

  5. Anonymous Says:

    These are amazing, simply amazing. I think I might turn them into a powerpoint and show my kids, if that’s ok?

  6. i agree with that one girl who said the first pic is frickin sweet! its my fave! man! so remind me, why are u getting to travel all over? this is insanely incredible and im insanely happy for u 🙂

  7. I’m a girl now? I didn’t get the memo.

  8. So, is there a creepy feeling at the slave castle? Just wondering. And yeah, I’ve heard that baboons are so annoying. They stole a cake my grandmother had just baked while she was staying in a tree house…in Kenya maybe.

  9. wow!  stephen, you must be loving it!!  …especially the driving, since you drive like that in Houston anyway!  =) 

  10. thanks for taking me away from here, if only for a few beautiful, breathtaking moments.  wonderful.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    What great pictures, Stephen — and an incredible attention to the history lessons — some sad stories, there.  Thanks for sharing.

  12. I tried to think about the significance of those castles while visiting them.  I think the movie Amistad only scratched the surface of the experience.  It all felt a bit detached, especially when you try to consider how many died without ever getting out of there.  It reminded me of how God calls the ground sacred when innocent blood is shed.  Since then I’ve thought of some of the beauty that was birthed from all that suffering–not that it makes up for it, but it’s awesome to ponder on the old Negro spirituals and identification with the suffering of the enslaved Jews. 

  13. hitting a goat is not like hitting a parked Honda, is it? 😉
    beautiful thoughts.  beautiful pictures.

  14. heehee. thanks Geneva 🙂 I must say the roads have felt a bit safer here in Houston this past week!I love the elephant… but 10 feet might have been a bit too close for me to do anything calmly .

  15. opening officially on Tuesday, march 28.  i’m having a praise and blessing party next sunday night.  wish you could be with us.  you will have to come visit when you get back!

  16. that first pic makes me really nervous. i dont think i could do that. youve got some great pics though. other cultures fascinate me. and thanks for sharing some of the history. glad youre having a good time there!stay away from the elephants please.

  17. amazing…love the pictures and the stories can’t wait for more. hope everything is going well.

  18. You live an amazing life.  Pics are incredible.  From your profile: People watching and computer programming!  Something we have in common

  19. S – we miss you terribly!  RW just wasn’t the same without you.   He did say some funny things though.  We wrote them down for you.
    And as for the pics – the ones of the slave castles brought tears to my eyes.  How can a picture of something that happened so long ago make one want to cry? 
    “What is man that thou art mindful of him?”
     I am amazed at you, your life, your experiences, your maturity.

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