Most Meaningful Experience: Spending time hiking with my new friend Vineet. What was deeply meaningful was connecting my roots in the Carolinas with slave trade castles of Cape Coast. Understanding where the African Americans in South Carolina came from helps me to better understand the deep-rooted trauma many may still carry today.
- Experience the exciting and civilized streets of Accra, which also has a fantastic music scene.
- Chat with the laid-back, smart and ambitious Ghanaians, with entrepreneurship blossoming in the country.
- Explore the rugged mountains and waterfalls of the Volta region, which is home to open-air butterfly farms and peaceful rural landscapes. Find an ecotourism lodge to stay in.
- Tour the historic slave castles of the Cape Coast to learn about one of the most tragic periods in West Africa’s past.
- Sample Ghana’s fantastic food, including dishes such as red red with plantain, fish stew, banku and fufu okra stew.
- Get around by tro tros, which cost around $5 per ride to access almost anywhere in the country.
After a week in Accra teaching at MEST – a non-profit school that’s educating highly-talented local students – I was meant to be flying on to the Ivory Coast. But I received a call saying my flight was cancelled due to a military uprising, so I decided to explore beyond the capital to see what else Ghana had to offer.
I’d met a young, free-spirited Indian named Vineet while volunteering and we immediately hit it off. He was also an explorer and was keen to accompany me on an adventure into the Ghanian countryside. So we hopped on a tro tro at Madina Station and headed towards Hohoe to visit the largest cascades in West Africa – Wli Waterfalls.
Our plan was to stay at a nearby camp that was nestled in the middle of the jungle, then make the 2-3 hour round trip to visit the waterfall. It was an amazing climb to the cascade, with the lower waterfall around 45 minutes from the camp, then the upper waterfall another 45 minutes on foot. Energized by our experience, we ran down the dirt trail that led back to the camp where cold beers awaited before I settled in next the river to meditate beside its flowing waters.
On the second day of our adventure, we climbed to the peak of Mount Afadja, which is one of the highest mountains in Ghana and rises to an elevation of 885 meters. There were sweeping views from the top where we paused to take pictures, alongside a group of American girls who had the same idea.
That afternoon, we bid farewell to our camp hosts and traveled to a Rastafari place in the Volta region known as Roots Yard. We had boarded a tro tro headed in the direction of Accra, which dropped us right outside the entrance. On arrival, the guys running the place rolled us a joint and served amazing chai tea, followed by a delicious dinner of purely vegetarian food.
The following morning we went jogging to a nearby butterfly farm, which was actually an open forest populated with thousands of butterflies. Light rays and butterflies showered us in color as we ran the 1.5-mile journey, although without our phones to capture any photos of this magical experience.
My Ghanaian trip wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to Cape Coast, which is home to some of the largest slave trade castles in West Africa. From Accra, it was around four hours by tro tro until I arrived at the palm-lined Gulf of Guinea where the immense fortifications were immediately apparent. I did a guided tour of one and the history was saddening, but I also learned a lot about my roots in the Carolinas where many of the slaves from Ghana and Sierre Leone were shipped.
I finished my visit to Cape Coast at a non-profit called Global Mamas (www.globalmamas.org), which was created by former U.S. peace corps workers to create jobs for local women. By building a supply chain of batik production throughout Ghana, they now employee over 600 women making excellent shirts that I highly recommend. See the video below here about it.