Ex­plor­ing Ghana’s Gold Coast

FromCapeTown­toCapeCoast, KarenWatkins­goe­soffthe­beaten track­ex­plor­ingGhana’sGold Coast

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2010 -

“GHANA, why Ghana?” asked my nephew on the way to Cape Town’s air­port. The coun­try’s tourism may be in its in­fancy but I soon found that three weeks was not nearly enough to see ev­ery­thing the coun­try has to of­fer trav­ellers.

Es­cap­ing the sprawl­ing cap­i­tal of Ac­cra and vis­it­ing the world her­itage sites of Cape Coast and Elmina Cas­tles, I had a taste for more. In a

(minibus taxi) I con­tin­ued west along the coast­line of rolling forested hills dot­ted with fortresses, colo­nial build­ings, long ex­panses of beach, pro­tected bays and his­tor­i­cal forts.

The map showed three vil­lages of Busua, Butré and Dix­cove in prox­im­ity to each other and not far from the main high­way. I soon learnt they aren’t.

For­eign aid vol­un­teers work­ing in schools and hos­pi­tals had told me about the Green Tur­tle, an eco-lodge near Ak­waaba. I lost count of how many I caught to reach the trans­port hub of Aguna Konte. Fr om t here we fol­lowed nar­row tracks through nu­mer­ous vil­lages where fam­i­lies pa­tiently sold or­anges and other goods.

It was a bumpy ride, tak­ing far longer than ex­pected but even­tu­ally we glimpsed the coast t hr ough t al l pal ms. The Green Turt l e i s a clus­ter of wooden struc­tures, i nclud­ing an open-sided bar and kitchen where the day’s spe­cials were marked on a board, as well as ron­dav­els and com­post­ing toi­lets.

It’s a laid-back place where beach-bums laze in ham­mocks strung from palms on the beach. No won­der it was fully booked.

The lodge runs a leatherback tur­tle res­cue ser­vice. They com­pen­sate fish­er­men, whose nets break from ac­ci­den­tal catches of tur­tles, dis­cour­ag­ing them from sell­ing the an­i­mals for the meat.

I needed to re­turn to Aguna Konta so walked along the beach to the fish­ing vil­lage of Ak­waaba, where I waited for a next to the la­goon fringed by man­grove swamp.

Back where I started, I took a share-taxi on the short ride to Busua Beach Re­sort. The man­ager, Bernard Adotey Saka, was im­pres­sive, pers onal l y e s c or t i ng me t o a r oom whil e ex­plain­ing the place’s back­ground. He told me Busua Beach Re­sort was es­tab­lished i n the 1960s by the late EK Dad­son, a prom­i­nent na­tive of the vil­lage. When he died, it was taken over by his chil­dren, who later sold it. When Golden Beach Ho­tels took it over in 1995 it was ter­ri­bly ne­glected but has since un­der­gone ma­jor rede­vel­op­ment.

I learned the three vil­lages may be close but get­ting to them was not easy. Imag­ine a fork with Aguna Konte on the han­dle and the three vil­lages at the tips of the prongs, and no roads be­tween them.

The best way to see them was by foot and so, with the day draw­ing to a close, I walked three kilo­me­tres east to Butré.

Butré is lo­cated in a shel­tered bay split by an es­tuar y and l agoon, with well-wooded penin­su­las at both ends. Fort Baten­stein was built by the Dutch in 1656 and is perched above the vil­lage.

L a t e r, s i t t i ng outs i de a bar i n Busua, I en­joyed a Star beer and peo­ple-watch­ing by can­dles and lamp­light – there is no elec­tric­ity.

Next morn­ing I walked five kilo­me­tres west t o t he f i s hi ng v i l l age of Dix­cove. Pass i ng through Busua we crossed a stream to fol­low a hilly dirt road where women and chil­dren filled buck­ets, bowls and bags with wa­ter from a well.

As­cend­ing t he r oad l i ned with colo­nial build­ings, we reached Dix­cove on the shore of a rocky bay. The fish­ing vil­lage is dom­i­nated by the bright white, well-main­tained Fort Metal Cross, built by the Bri­tish around 1696. Dix­cove has a nat­u­ral har­bour dec­o­rated with vi­brantly coloured wooden boats bob­bing on the waves and adorned with flags.

Shel­ter­ing in the fort from a trop­i­cal storm I learned Fort Metal Cross is owned by an English cou­ple and sur­vived more attacks than any other along the Gold Coast. It was cap­tured by the Dutch in 1869 and re­named Fort Me­talen Kruiz only to be re­turned to the Bri­tish in 1872, with all the other Dutch forts.

The sea was so rough I was mes­merised by a fish­ing boat en­ter­ing the bay, think­ing it would crash into the light­house. On our re­turn we de­toured to the beach to see a man clean­ing his teeth while an­other mended fish­ing nets.

It was time to re­turn to Ac­cra but not be­fore a swim at the re­sort fol­lowed by break­fast over­look­ing the sea.

Fu­ture plans in­clude a coastal her­itage trail link­ing cul­tural sites from Butré to Ankasa Re­source Re­serve. Ac­com­mo­da­tion will be in eco lodges and camp­sites. But for now the ad­ven­tur­ous can ex­plore, go ca­noe­ing, surf­ing and swim­ming on the safest spot along the At­lantic.

Ghana is po­lit­i­cally and fi­nan­cially sta­ble; go now be­fore tourism takes off.

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