November 6, 2016:
We landed in the port of Takoradi, Ghana this morning. As the busses left the very modern port, we could see an immediate difference in the flora of Ghana. While Côte d’Ivoire had lots of sand and palm trees, Ghana appeared to be much more green and lush. There were thick coverings of tropical trees such as mango, banana, papaya, coconut, red palm, plus cashews and cacao trees. Fittingly, our mission for the day was to drive deep into the Ghanaian countryside to visit a rain forest and walk along a walkway constructed at the canopy level.
As we were leaving town, we saw a couple of political rallies along the road we were traveling. As a contrast to our own dismal election season, the participants here all seemed really upbeat. They were literally dancing in the streets! We’re in the middle of election season for the Ghanaian President, just like at home (except that the election here doesn’t take place until the first week in December). Unlike at home, our guide tells us that there is really no rancor in the race, although it is very close. Ghana is proud of its stable political situation. Ghana gained its independence from Britain in 1957, but underwent a period of several dictators, finally resulting in the suspension of its constitution in 1981. However, a new multi-party constitution was adopted in 1992, and most rule since has been achieved through democratically conducted elections, usually favoring one or the other of its main 2 political parties.
Since we had a long drive to get to the rain forest, our guide told us a lot about his country, and I’ll try to relay some of the high points for you here. Ghana is the first West African nation we have been in that has a majority Christian population, followed by Muslims, then those who follow indigenous beliefs. As we drove, you could see that the country was making substantial investments in infrastructure,; in particular, building roads, power plants and schools to serve its 25 million inhabitants. We passed numerous Christian churches (predominantly evangelical) with members all wearing their Sunday best.
We also learned about the high percentage of inhabitants who rely on traditional medicines created from herbs, plants and trees. Our guide told us, for example, that the leaves of the Nim tree can be boiled to provide an effective medicine for malaria, which is common here. (Yes, we are taking our anti-malarial medications!)
Finally, we got to the Kakum National Forest, and got ready to hike up to the canopy. When they said “rain forest”, they weren’t joking. OK; it didn’t really rain, but after 5 minutes, it sure felt like it! Maybe its just my own post-menopausal problems with climate-control?! To make matters worse, I had opted to carry all my camera gear on my back in case we had some bird or animal sightings. Walking along the wet forest path up a very rocky and slippery path, I seriously doubted my sanity!
However, when we finally got to the tree house entrance to the canopy walk, we could begin to look down on the rain forest and it was awe-inspiring. Stepping out on the swaying rope canopy bridge was more in the nature of terrifying.
However, when we got the hang of it, I found I could briefly let go of 1 hand clutching the ropes to take these pictures, and we went on to do all 7 bridges. No wonder the gift shop here does a brisk business in the “I Survived the Kakum Canopy Walk” t-shirts!
With the walk under our belt, we loaded up the bus again and set off for the seaside town of Elmina, where we would have refreshments at a hotel overlooking the sea. Elmira used to be the colonial center of Ghana, and there is still a castle on the point there guarding its bay.
After a short respite, it was time to hit the road again for our long drive back to the ship. JIm and I were both exhausted by the heat, humidity and our long hike in the forest, but even so, we looked forward to exploring Togo tomorrow.