Cape Coast Tour of Ghana

It’s a day long drive from Accra but worth every minute. You’ll go through multiple small villages and window shop the markets as you breeze by. The small goats are ubiquitous and I worried that they wouldn’t know their way home but was assured it’s routine for them to end the day at their pen regardless of where their curiosity took them.

I was with Stephen and Patrick again in their comfortable SUV with air conditioning and clean windows. It was fun to listen to the two of them speaking both English and their indigenous language, intermixed without skipping a beat. When I asked one of my frequent questions Stephen answered in perfect English. He has been guiding tourists for over 20 years and was most knowledgeable about both his country and mine. We also discussed problems and accomplishments of many African nations.

On our way to the coast we stopped at Kakum National Park known for its suspension bridges high above the forest floor among 300 year old trees. The park also houses a museum with information and exhibits about the flora and fauna. If one is even more adventurous they can spend the night in the tree house!

After working up a sweat and a little anxiety on the single plank walkway we got back into the car for another few hours to the Cape Coast Castle. Along the way we saw a boat building yard, many more villages, more goats and many entrepreneurs.

 I learned a great deal about the horrific Atlantic Slave trade.  A special guide took us through this compound and pointed out the total dichotomy of life above and below ground.  There was a church, school, luxurious lodging that sat atop the dark, dingy cells where many Africans suffered for months before their  horrendous journey across the Atlantic Ocean.

This guide wanted us to experience just a little of the horrendous pain that the men and women endured for months before embarking on the long journey across the Atlantic in the bowels of some ship. She had us all step into a tiny cell and closed the door and turned off the light. It was hot, humid, stinky and quite unsettling. Her point was well taken. I literally thought I would faint and could not wait for the moment to be over.

It was a long trip back to the hotel.

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Accra, the Capital of Ghana

It’s been awhile since I’ve visited a new country and luckily for me I found a good fare for Ghana.  As I was traveling alone and was not sure how best to  get around, I contacted my hotel, the Movenpick, for assistance.  Their transport desk was happy to oblige and set up tours that fit both my schedule and desires. I was thrilled with my guide, Stephen Komla Kpogoh  (In Ghana the children are often named after the day of the week that they were born)and driver, Patrick.  They were fantastic.

Ghana, once called the Gold Coast is now known for its color, music and artwork. It’s also almost the center of the World! While they have many natural resources besides gold they do have problems with unemployment and rising debt. However it is considered a safer country to visit than the U.S!

Accra is actually the second most expensive  city in Africa but has many immigrants who come here looking for a better life.  Due to cost of living many of the locals work at more than one job to survive, often setting up “shop” on the streets to sell something or offer some service.  It is illegal so they often  start early and close up before the city is completely awake.

My first tour was of the city proper and Stephen had the answer for everyone of my questions.  I knew that Ghana had been colonized by the Brits but didn’t know they had been subjects to the Portuguese, Dutch, and others as well. I was surprised that they drove on the right since they gained their independence from the British in 1957 but Stephen said they were excited to change everything.

The history of this country was memorialized in the museums I visited, the National Museum and the  W.E.B. DuBois Centre which contains memorabilia and his personal library. I also spent some time at the famous market, the Makola, which is quite large and the Black Star Square which overlooks the Sea.

I didn’t have to go far to see some incredible art as my hotel had local works throughout.  There were sculptures, paintings, and artifacts on each floor, in the lobby, and in all hallways.  Many were for sale and others were permanent. I opted to skip out on their vibrant music scene that was  part of the nightlife but understand they do have festivals featuring their music periodically, the next one in the Black Star Square December 29th and 30th!

My next blog will cover my full day tour out of the city to Kakum National Park and the Cape Coast Castle.

 

 

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House Sitting

While I just spent 3 weeks in the Pacific Northwest dog-sitting two adorable and well behaved dogs (although they do bark occasionally), it ended up costing my hosts a pretty penny due to changing airfare, the cost of bringing my dog along, and supplying me with groceries and wine.

They found a new option for their next trip. Since I’m a relative I arrived a few days early to visit and was able to meet the new dog sitters they hoped would fill my shoes next year. This couple saw their home, met the dogs and committed for the time period needed. He is a retired tech guy, she is a retired physician and with family nearby they considered this a “win-win” for all.


My brother-in-law had just signed up for TrustedHousesitters, https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/how-it-works/find-a-sitter/
where for an annual fee you can request a sitter for your home and your pets. They are vetted and agree to stay for free and help you out.
It’s certainly worth considering. You can sign up to be a sitter, get one or both. This couple finds someone to stay at their home to take care of their plants while they travel/sit all around the world.

I’m guessing that both location and home matter when the sitter is looking for a unique travel experience and are willing to do so with no charge to you. When I lived in Panama there was a woman who had lived there for a couple of years and had only spent a few nights paying for a hotel. She was in such demand as a trusted pet-sitter that you had to book her at least a year ahead!

While I have plenty of family in my area there are times when they simply cannot help out. So this is something I plan to investigate for myself!

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More Feral Camels than People

I flew the 2000 miles from Sydney to Darwin over the vast, mostly uninhabited, semiarid desert and just saw landscape that was clearly rust or red in color, aptly called the Australian Outback. There are more camels, yes camels, than people. I knew about the kangaroos but was surprised to hear about some million dromedaries. Apparently years ago when they were settling new areas they imported this animal because they could carry more weight and more easily navigate the terrain. The story I heard was that when they were done with the last encampment the handlers were asked to take the camels out back and shoot them, but instead, the men let them free. That year was particularly wet and the camels reproduced, and now double their population every 8 to 10 years. There are only about 250,000 people in the whole of the Northern Territory (3rd largest territory in Australia).

While here I did not see either a kangaroo or a camel but I met some amazing people. Upon leaving the plane in Darwin I asked a young woman about taxis into the city as it was too late for the last shuttle. She kindly invited me to share her cab and made sure the driver dropped me off first and she wouldn’t take any money from me. Fortuitous, huh? Every one I met was incredibly kind, nice and interesting. I walked the city harbor and to the Market in the park where they had the best food trucks! In between these jaunts I took the on/off bus and saw the rest of the town.

After two days I flew to Alice Springs, or Alice as the locals say, in order to take a bus tour out to Uluru. The trip included pick-up at the hotel, a 5 and 1/2 hour drive with a breakfast stop, two walks with a park ranger and a sunset barbeque overlooking the monument. We also had time to see the museum and gift shop before the dark ride home. People are warned not to drive at night due to animals on the road but to my somewhat disappointment we only had to stop for cattle. This was a quick trip that probably amounted to as much time in the air as I was on land, but it was well worth it.

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On Becoming that Little Old Lady

I am old and female but I still have more travelling to do. When a woman said that my smile was bigger than I was…perhaps she knew I was shrinking? My goal is to see all the countries of the World before I die but Covid-19 put me behind schedule. Usually I try and amass 5 new ones each year. Right now travel is difficult and challenging for everyone and while I consider myself somewhat of an expert I recently found myself making some “rookie” mistakes.

I forgot to pack a converter plug for Australia. I paid extra for the Qantas lounge but didn’t check the operating hours. I reserved a shuttle to the hotel but neglected to ask the name of the shuttle company, assuming it would have the name of the hotel on the bus. The worst was when I decided to wash up after the first 15 hours of flight and opened my suitcase on the sink as there was no other option. I didn’t consider the automatic faucets until my clothes started floating. Oops. Am I out of practice or am I just old?

While these blunders didn’t ruin my trip they did scare me a little. Inconveniences for sure. My next trip is longer and I’m taking my dog. While it’s almost a month off I’m thinking I should start making a list?

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It was so great to see the old people cleaning up the beach!

The Captain spoke these words over the Public Address System of the ship. At first I laughed as most of us were older than 60, well maybe 70; at least 3 in their 80’s. Even though English is not his first language I still found it a bit odd that he would phrase it so. However, I realized that, yes, it was fantastic that old people who would not be around in 20 or so years were still concerned enough about our planet to help protect it for the future travelers. It only took one to start this effort.

Sandy is one of those women who cares about everyone and everything. The first day on land she just stuffed her pockets with debris and encouraged others to do the same. The next time she came prepared with huge burlap bags and left them in a pile. Within minutes every one of us were picking up the garbage that had washed to shore from fishing boats….and with the currents in the Arctic Circle they may have floated from a great distance. We were all pretty pleased with ourselves and are hoping this will become a thing. There are cloth laundry bags in each cabin which can be washed and reused multiple times. It is a small thing that can have huge consequences.

This is Sandy!
This is Sandy! Thank you from all of us!
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Sunlight, Polar Bears and lots of Birds

The night before the early morning flight from Paris to Longyearbyen ( the northern most airport in the world) I kept my curtains open to appreciate the darkness as I would not see it for more than a week. Upon landing we did a quick tour of the coal-mining town on Spitsbergen Island, part of Norway’s archipelago of Svalbard. While known mostly for a great place to see the Northern Lights, that does not happen in June! We visited a few museums, ate a great lunch and then boarded our ship, the Le Boreal, one of Le Ponant’s small but modern boats….and incidentally the same one I traveled on to Antarctica in 2019.

Luckily for me, they waived the single supplement so I was able to travel on my own and enjoy a luxurious cabin all to myself! And this particular cruise was in alliance with the Smithsonian Institute. It was certainly worthy of a college credit due to the expertise of the visiting professors and the naturalists/guides that accompanied us.

I wanted to see Polar Bears, but just like one of my trips to India where I wanted to see tigers, I knew it wasn’t assured. I also wanted to see narwhals, walruses and the arctic terns. It reminded me of African safaris where you had a check list!

I don’t have a fancy camera, in fact, I have only a Google phone but I did bring my binoculars. The first day I saw reindeer and many different birds. And the second and third day the polar bears kept me in awe.

Never did see the whale or seal that others saw, nor did I see a narwhal. However I did see walruses from afar and saw the arctic terns up close! The birders on board were thrilled with the plethora of species especially the little auks!

A special thank you to some of my new friends who shared their photos with me.

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There’s No More Room!

There was a time when I would have packed the heels and left the down jacket behind. However, I’ve learned a few things over the years and have wised up just a bit. For example, I am going on a trip close to the North Pole and while the ship has a few formal nights I’m no longer of the age where I could impress anyone. Comfort now wins every time.

aRC

I pack everything in carry-on luggage only. There are too many opportunities to have my luggage lost if I check it. I fly one airline to France and then another to Longyearbyen . There is a slim chance that my suitcase would catch up with me before I embarked. Wearing the same track suit for 7 nights might indeed “leave a mark”.

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A Quick Visit to Central Oregon

First of all, I stayed in two incredible hotels. The first night was in Redmond at a place called SPC, or Soul, Community, Planet. It is marketed as Holistic Hospitality. And they offer “next-level wellness amenities, close proximity to natural landmarks, and an emphasis on locally sourced goods”. And every stay does good whether it’s planting a tree, providing mental health tools or donating to some other very worthy cause. This is a new chain with locations in Hawaii, California and other cities in Oregon!

After settling in our suite we were advised to eat next door at Terra Kitchen, which proved to be both delicious and innovative.  We all dined on vegetarian options and were not disappointed in the shared plates.

A show of artwork by a local artist was on display in the lobby of the hotel and the artist was most engaging.  In fact she planned our next day’s outing:  A hike in Smith’s Rock State Park!  Her favorite was the Misery Ridge Trail.  This park is known as the birthplace of American sport climbing…and is one of their best destinations in the U.S.!   Technical climbing is above my “pay-grade”.

After visiting Crater Lake (see last post) we ventured into Bend, OR.  We walked the town, ate at another great vegetarian place and stayed at a great “eco-chic boutique hotel” called the Oxford. Our weekend was coming to an end so the only adventure this day was the gym!

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Crater Lake, Oregon in the Spring Time

Snow, snow and more snow. While visiting in the last week of May, I was surprised to hear that I probably would not get access to the lake shore before July. It was still a beautiful site to behold. The trails were all closed but the closed plowed roads allowed us to do some hiking to scenic perches above the lake and see the beautiful colors emanating from the deep.

We stayed in the old lodge in the park with amazing views, okay food and rooms and an interesting pictorial history of the park and its buildings.

One of the other hikers noted that one could actually see more from the carless road because one was not looking underfoot for possible obstacles. We saw pikas, birds and thankfully no bears. We had to sign a statement saying we had not left any food in our car!

While there were no TV’s or other entertainment offered we were left on our own to create our fun. And that we did!

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