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Exploring Ghana’s Western Region

On Sunday I returned from a solo trek along the coast through Ghana’s Western Region to Nzulezo, a stilted village in the Amansuri River just before the Ivory Coast border.

Over the next two weeks I will post pictures and stories from the trip. Here’s a summary of the week’s events.

Day One: Accra to Elmina

On my way to the Western Region, I spent a day in Elmina, a town just past Cape Coast in Ghana’s Central Region. There are regular flights from Accra to Cape Coast (the capital of the Central Region) but the Accra – Cape Coast Road is well maintained and it is easy to catch a fast car (sometimes called a Ford car), an air-conditioned tro-tro, from Kaneshie Station in Accra.

Day Two: Elmina

Elmina, a popular stop on Ghana’s tourist track, is known for historical sightseeing at Elmina Castle. Built by the Portuguese in 1482, Elmina Castle is the oldest European building south of the Sahara and prominent stop on the Atlantic slave trade route.

This was my second time visiting the castle. On my first visit, I was one of hundreds of visitors touring the castle that day. On this visit, in the midst of the low season, I had the run of the place. I entered the castle as a group from Saudi Arabia exited and, after them, I saw only one other visitor. Later this week I will post a photo essay of Elmina Castle.

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Elmina Castle is 1 of 28 fortified trading posts in Ghana recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. On this trip, I visited two other properties on the list, Fort Batenstein in Butre and Fort Apollonia in Beyin.

Day Three: Elmina to Butre

On Day Three, I took it easy. I felt ill on the morning tro-tro from Elmina to Takoradi so I acted on a friend’s recommendation and visited the Coffee Corner in Takoradi. I’m glad I did. The café had a barista, a REAL espresso machine (as opposed to a capsule espresso machine), and magazines, just what I needed. After a hearty breakfast, an espresso drip, and three hours of reading Lonely Planet’s Traveller Magazine, I felt well enough to hit the road again.

While waiting for the tro-tro to Agona Junction to fill with passengers at the station in Takoradi I took photos of some of the tro-tros parked at the station. At Agona, I changed tro-tros and arrived at Hideout Lodge in Butre a couple of hours before sunset.

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Day Four: Butre and Busua

In the morning of Day Four, I took a boat tour of Butre River arranged by Hideout Lodge. In the afternoon, I took a surfing lesson that I had pre-arranged a week earlier at Mr. Bright’s Surfing School in nearby Busua. This was my first time short boarding, but not my first time surfing. In high school, I learned to paddle surf on a visit to Hawaii.

I thoroughly enjoyed my surfing lesson with Ben at Mr. Bright’s and I plan to take another lesson in Krokrobite, near Accra, at Mr. Bright’s newest surfing outfit. I won’t discuss surfing in my upcoming posts about the trip but you can expect to see more about surfing in later posts.

Butre and Busua are coastal fishing villages forty-five minutes walking distance from each other along an unmarked path through the forest. After visiting Busua, I am glad that I chose to stay in Butre. Walking down the beach in Busua, like walking down Oxford Street in Accra, there were several men that approached me or called out to me. In Butre there was only one.

He sat down next to me while I was reading. “Oh, I would like that we be friends.”

I countered, “Oh, but my husband would not.”

Without another word, he quickly walked away and never looked back.

In Buture, Hideout Lodge is setback from the village. I appreciated the solitude.

Day Five: Butre to Cape Three Points

After exploring the ruined Fort Batenstein overlooking Butre in the morning, I took a tro-tro back to Agona junction and changed at the junction for a tro-tro to Cape Three Points.

This was a landmark tro-tro ride. For an hour, I shared the mate’s seat with the mate, the driver’s assistant, and another passenger. The passenger, a man with particularly wide shoulders, sat with his left arm on the seat behind me. With the two men on my right side, on my left side, I sat against a mother nursing her newborn child.

In Accra, tro-tros tend to run more often and so there is (typically) less seat sharing, in the villages however it can take an hour or longer for another tro-tro to pass, so tro-tros are likely to fill over capacity.

But, before I knew it, the tro-tro dropped me at Escape Three Points, a remote eco-lodge, set back from a near pristine beach. Escape Three Points, erected using sustainable materials such as bamboo, woven grass, and scavanged remnants, reminded me of Swiss Family Robinson.

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Day Six: Cape Three Points

Cape Three Points, a fishing village on the southern tip of Ghana, is the closest point on land to the center of the earth where the Equator and the Prime (Greenwich) Meridian meet. The British built two lighthouses on the southernmost point. The first lighthouse, a small brick platform, came in 1875. The modern lighthouse, still in use today, came in 1925.

After a guided tour of Cape Three Points arranged by Escape Three Points with Amos, the village king’s second son, I spent the day finishing the novel that I had brought with me, a mystery called Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey. I hadn’t read a mystery since Nancy Drew more than a decade ago, but this book, set in Ghana, caught my attention. In the coming months, I plan to establish an Amazon affiliate page to share book recommendations. Wife of the Gods will be on the list.

Next on my reading list is Kwei Quartey’s latest mystery novel, Murder at Cape Three Points. The novel begins with a vivid, description of Cape Three Points.

Cape Three Points, the southernmost point of Ghana, is beautiful and wild. Verdant forest covers the three finger-like peninsulas that jut into the Atlantic Ocean. Dizzying cliffs overlook the cyan waters. As waves strike the slate grey rocks and burst into gossamer spray, the roar of the sea crescendos like the sibilant clash of cymbals.

Day Seven: Cape Three Points to Beyin

On the morning of Day Seven, I took the six o’clock tro-tro to Agona Junction and arrived in Beyin by nine o’clock. After dropping my bags at Beyin Beach Resort, I made plans to meet a guide first thing the following morning to go to Nzulezo. Afterwards I explored nearby Fort Apollonia.

At the request of Kwame Nkrumah, an Nzema and Ghana’s first president, the fort had been turned into a museum of Nzema culture. The Nzema people occupy an area in southeastern Ghana that crosses into the Ivory Coast. Surprisingly, there was very little information posted about the history of the fort. To learn about the fort, built by the British in 1691, I started a lengthy conversation with the attendant on staff.

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Walking around Beyin, I came across a Spanish Restaurant, called Cafe Puerto, serving, among other things, espresso and tapas. Cafe Puerto, brought me back to my study abroad days in Seville, it was the perfect refuge to spend the afternoon out of the heat. The restaurant didn’t have an air conditioner or even a fan and it didn’t need them. The woven grass roof and the enclosing trees provided ample shade, and a routine breeze kept the air light.

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That night, I had hoped to take a guided sea turtle walk arranged by Beyin Beach Resort but sea turtle nesting season ends in January and the guide had recently left town.

Day Eight: Beyin and Nzulezo

My guide to Nzulezo, Nathaniel, an Nzulezo native, met me early in the morning. We walked to the mouth of the canal, a short distance past Cafe Puerto, and climbed into a canoe. After visiting the village on stilts we stopped by a couple of akpeteshie distilleries nearby. Akpeteshie, a spirit distilled from palm wine, is the main source of income for many families in Nzulezo.

My favorite part of the excursion was traveling through the Amansuri Wetlands. You’ll see why. Next week I’ll post a photo essay on Nzulezo and the Amansuri Wetlands.

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On my last evening in Beyin, I went down to the beach and left my camera and phone to charge in my room. On the beach, I saw two lines of men and boys pulling in the day’s catch. The net’s bouy floated far from the shoreline.

As the teams pulled in the net they slowly moved with the current down shore towards my position. I walked towards them. We met. Speaking in Nzema, the local language, they motioned for me to come and help but I declined. I stood nearby watching for minute and then turned back towards Beyin Beach Resort.

By the time I returned to the resort, the sun had set and I could just make out the outline of the fishermen huddled around the catch.

Day Nine: Beyin to Accra

At seven o’clock, I left Beyin for Accra via shared taxi to a nearby junction (I never knew the name of the junction). From there, I caught a tro-tro to Takoradi and from Takoradi I caught a tro-tro to Cape Coast. Before Cape Coast, I dropped at Elmina and made a pit stop. Then I walked back to the Cape Coast – Takoradi Road and caught a shared taxi to Bacano Station in Cape Coast. From there, I took a fast car to Kaneshie Station in Accra. I arrived in Accra around three o’clock. Home, sweet home.

I had hoped to post this summary on Monday but instead I took a few days to recuperate. The weather had stayed in the eighties for the length of the trip (even at night).

On Monday, I stayed indoors with the lights turned off and the air conditioner turned on full blast. Bliss.

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