November 2019: With two days to spare in Ghana, I wanted to explore the slave history of Ghana and visit some of its slave castles. Ghana was a significant slave port of the British Empire, and it is difficult to visit Ghana without having an introduction to the dark past of the European and African slave trade. With the two days that my friend and I had in Ghana, I wanted to see the street boxing gyms of inner-city Accra and one of the lesser-known slave castles in a small coastal town, so I chose the small town of Apam.

Day 1: After a trans-Atlantic flight, we checked into our hotel the Radisson Bleu, met our driver/guide I pre-arranged and set off for the coastal village of Apam, the site of a small slave trading castle from the 1880’s.

The traffic out of Accra was terrible and even though Apam was only approx. 100 miles away it took us 3-4 hours to get there. When we arrived, I instantly liked Apam. Ghana was a country that I knew would have a lot of foreign tourists and I wasn’t sure that I would like it so it came as a surprise to find a small coastal town which seemed un-discovered by tourism and very off the beaten path. Our guide even said that he has never been to the town before. Apam was just a town I found on Google earth that looked appealing to me.

        Location of the small fishing village of Apam

The people of Apam appeared to be very unused to tourists visiting. We received lots of smiles and stares. The town was full of dusty roads and disheveled shacks. Sewage streams lined the road and all of them drained into the ocean where the local fisherman was bringing in their fish and cleaning them before taking them to the market. Then standing over the town as a dark reminder of the past was the slave castle, Fort Patience. Fort Patience was not built by the British but instead by the Dutch in the 1700’s. The primary purpose of the castle was to defend Dutch trading interests in the region but over time the castle was also used to trade and keep slaves as they began their long deadly journeys across the Atlantic to Dutch colonies in the America’s.

Location of the small fishing village of Apam with a large fleet of local fishing boats lining the beaches

We entered the town via a small dirt road that veered off of the main highway. In most places of Ghana locals are averse to having their photos taken but in Apam, they ranged from being indifferent to actually posing for photos. We stopped at a small eatery and ordered some Ghana local cuisine for lunch. It wasn’t fancy but it was a sample of what people here ate on a daily basis and was very filling food.

Fort Patience

View from the top of Fort Patience

Old decaying windows of Fort Patience

When we walked to the top of the hill to Fort patience, we had to ask around to find the guard with the key. A village kid went and retrieved him, and we paid our 2-dollar entrance fee and he showed us around the fort. He didn’t speak English very well and instead spoke Akan but our guide translated for us. The guard escorted us around the castle and showed us a dark grim room where he said up to a hundred slaves were shackled and kept at a time before being shipped overseas.

Dungeun room where slaves were kept

Old Wooden Fort Patience Door

Fort Patience

Room for Guests that want to sleep in Fort Patience

The castle is available for overnight stays. The guard showed us a humble room where one can stay for 15 USD/night. This was actually something I would have jumped all over-the opportunity to sleep in an old castle overlooking the ocean and the town of Apam would have been amazing but my travel companion preferred staying in one of the much nicer hotels in Accra for the night.

Typical scene of a local woman carrying merchandise on her head

 

Small fishing village of Apam

Fishing boats with American flags-almost

        Location of the small fishing village of Apam

Local checkers game, Apam

        Location of the small fishing village of Apam

As I was walking the beach of Apam I stepped in human feces by accident. It was caked into the tread of my new hiking shoes pretty well. I did my best to wash it off in the ocean water and scrape it off with a rock but no matter how hard I tried it refused to come out. it was revolting and all I could do was remove my shoes for the long traffic ridden drive back to Accra to avoid smearing the feces around the car. The traffic in Accra was so bad that with only a mile left to our hotel but stuck in standstill traffic, we got out and walked to the hotel.

Locals in Apam

I used up all the spare towels I had to clean the remaining feces from my shoes in my bathroom sink. It smelled horrible and I fought to avoid vomiting.  In the end I was successful in cleaning my shoes and I left all of the soiled towels in the hallway to avoid the stink. In the 5-star hotel we were staying at, I doubt that many guests have had to clean feces from their shoes in the bathroom sink before.

Accra

17th Century British James Fort

Day 2: My travel companion as is his custom in large cities chose a nice hotel with a large breakfast buffet that we couldn’t squander so after eating breakfast we set off with our driver/guide to explore Jamestown, the old part of Accra that stretches out along the beach.

It was Sunday and the traffic wasn’t bad for a change. As soon as we entered Jamestown, we saw lots of old British decaying colonial buildings and we had to stop for a passing procession of people. The procession consisted of hundred teenagers, drumming, dancing and singing while holding up signs that stated stop teenage pregnancy and HIV is real, and they were throwing condoms into the crowd. As they passed our car with my windows rolled down, I was pelted with condoms.

Jamestown beach

We parked and were met by a group of aggressive guides that all competed for our business. To visit the slums of the area without a guide is asking for trouble so we agreed to pay a small fee. We first walked down into the beach slums, a shanty town where fisherman live in front of the old British Slave Castle, Fort James recently used as a prison. Thousands of people currently live in the slum and have nowhere else to go. A controversial Chinese fish processing plant is slated to begin construction displacing all of the area’s inhabitants to places unknown.

Fisherman in jamestown

beach slum Jamestown

Many of the people in the slum and the fisherman including our guide were irate about the plans to displace everyone for the Chinese fish processing plant. They were also very concerned that this would destroy the fishing industry.

Jamestown is famous for producing tough as nails world class champ boxers. The boxers are almost always street kids who grow up learning how to fight in the streets against rival gangs. The gyms are a way to get them off the streets and redirect them to a life away from crime. We went to a gym but since it was Sunday morning it was empty. Nearby was an opening into the ground, which the guide led us into. It was a dark, long tunnel that was drenched in humidity. The tunnel he said continued for over a mile to the slave castle. It was one of the tunnels the British used to store slaves and transport them to the castle back in the old days. 

jamestown slum and Sign showing new fish processing center that will be built on the spot by the Chinese

jamestown boxing gym

Boxing gym

Mile long slave tunnel leading to Fort james

Jamestown is divided between different street gangs and reminded me of the movie Gangs of New York. There is the English-speaking gang and French speaking gang as well as others. Each one has its own king and violence can break out at any time. When we were there, a fight between youths broke out and the police descended on to the scene and we headed away immediately. The local guide was firm, “no photos unless you want trouble.” 

Local king’s residence in jamestown

3 + 12 =

error: Content is protected !!