Saturday, April 03, 2010


We got our tour today - the first official event of our Explore trip. We are an older group than I expected - we are used to being elder statesmen on tours but on this one we are about average. There are 15 people, and we have a tour guide named Yao who is local and a local driver named Queikoo. (I really don't know how to spell it, so I'm guessing.)

Geordie also changed more money since the atms and banks on the trip will be few and far between. The currency is the Cedi which is pronounced CD - just like the music storage system. The first time it was mentioned I had this image of being handed a handful of round shiny objects with no way to play them.

The tour seemed to be mostly of things along the Ring Road - Yao appears to be ensely impressed by these modern freeways which certainly make getting places more efficient. But there were highlights - the National Stadium where they play football (soccer, of course). Ghana may well be in the top ten of the world when they start the international football competiton in South Africa this summer.

We also saw Kwame Nkrumah's tomb. He was the man who led Ghana to independence; in fact he became president while he was imprisoned and they had to let him out to take power. He is quite revered now, even though in 1966 he was deposed in a coup d'etat and went to Guinea where he became co-president of that country - no easy feat I would think. Along with the mausoleum there is a museum which preserves his desk from his first office and his furniture which is kept huddled together under plastic behind some ropes with the colours of the National flag - red, yellow and green with a black star in the centre.

We also got to see Fort James Prison which is on the coast above a fisherfolk shanty town. Yao assured us we would be ok, but to watch our cameras. And indeed one of our group was hassled and yelled at by a man that she couldn't take a picture of the lighthouse on the coast. Yao did a little protecting, but Geordie stayed with her too, to make sure he didn't get more aggressive.

We drove by the infamous computer dump with its shanties, and its poor children who die far too young in the service of finding the rare elements in computers that they can resell. It's amazing that we send these away to forget about and they are killing children on the opposite side of the world.

We also got a tour of the National Museum - as museums go it is not on the list of the most well serviced. There are examples of the famous woven Kente cloth which is quite beautiful, as well as a loom - the cloth is woven in quite narrow strips which are then joined. There were also musical instruments, drums, fetish dolls, and other anthropological items of interest - including stone age tools - we've seen thousands of those in our day - it feels like "if you've seen one arrow head you've seen them all.

Our penultimate stop was at one of the famous coffin carving shops of Ghana. These are so popular and so interesting that folk musems come to buy for their collections. We saw coffins in the shape of a Star beer bottle, a flour sack, a Lockheed L1011, a crab, a papaya, a bus and a giant fish. There were also miniature versions for ashes - in the shape of a rooster, a shrimp, a cellphone, and an elephant probably for a baby instead

Our final destination was The Accra Mall. Today being Easter Saturday it was quite busy - getting into the parking lot was a little like getting into a parking lot on Christmas eve in North America, I think. But inside was a little bit of a bomb - there wasn't even a MacDonald's so we could buy our usual ice cream cone. Maybe I should be celebrating that. What was also odd was that the aisles were full of people but the shops, except for the supermarket, were devoid of customers. It was a little strange to see. I think people were there only for the opportunity to see their friends in air-conditioned comfort.

Tomorrow we take off into the country side. We will stop at a place where there will be demonstrations of kente cloth weaving and local dancing - please, please, don't pick us as the stupid tourists to embarass - I'll do my best to stop Geordie from pushing me forward. There's a guy on the tour who was conceived in Accra - we even drove by the place where his mother worked especially - he's the type I think who would love to be our guinea pig, so I may be pushing him forward if they ask.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the tour. Little of it will be in big cities, so that will be better - we are hoping there will be less pollution and we'll start to see the birds and animals which are part of the beauty of this country.