Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Monday April 16, 2012. At Sea to Monrovia, Liberia When I last reported in, I was in Togo, the land of Voodun. One of thievery disturbing places that I visited there was a fetish market,sort of a pharmacy for the Voodun. There you could go behind the stalls, and the behind a curtain and buy amulets for protection. Some were small bags filled with herbs, and covered in cowrie shells, others were a small effigy with a hole where you whisperedwhat travel protection you needed,a nd then secured the hole with a small stick. Outside in the market place it was shocking. There were large flat tables filled with skulls,and bones,whole animal heads,and some with fresher ingredients, a recently dead frog covered with flies. The smell of death and decay filled the air. Monkey heads,baboon heads, goat heads, elephant skin, and elephant pelvis. Buffalo heads, hippo atoms skulls, antelope heads,all used to protect from spirits, or placate ancestors. There were leopard skins stretched out. Our guides had told us that the small fetish dolls studded with nails were not imbued with spiritual powers, but just for the tourists. The real fetish dolls were in the back behind the curtains in each shop. Many people bought things,but I didn't want to support the market. Laurence, a fellow traveler from South Africa said that these markets exist all over Africa. This particular market is reputed to be the largest in Africa. It made me feel nauseous. One naive tourist said, "Maybe they found them in the forest." On to Ghana Clearly we are in a much wealthier country. There are many,ore cars, fewer. Motorbikes, and the road side shops are frequently constructed with metal or cinder block instead of shacks made of thatch and branches, western style gas stations, no longer old wine bottles filled with "gaz" Bypassing the Accra city tour, I went to the Shai Hills National Park. When we pulled into the park there were several large baboon lurking nearby. The scenery was lovely, a dry tree savannah ,with large hills and rock formations. We walked along a track for about a half mile, and saw no game. There were birds in the thickets, but we were unable to spot them. Theresa's a large blooming bush covered with hundreds of butterflies,of several species. We drove to a different area of the parkland saw some lovely kob antelope. It is extremely odd to be on safari in 2 large. Motor coaches with 50 people to share the experience! No going off road. One of our interesting sightings was a whited fronted bee eater bludgeoning a butterfly to death one branch, and then knocking the wings off,sot habit could eat the body. Overnight the ship moved to Cape Coast, in western Ghana. We had a long ride to Kakum National Park, through many small villages,cocoa and banana plantations. Kakum is famous for its Ariel walkways above the canopy. Although the park is rich with animal life (forest elephant,forest buffalo, Mona monkeys,etc.) we were cautioned that it would've unusual to see anything. It is the most visited park inGhana, an sure enough our group was followed by numerous schoolchildren shrieking and giggling. on the path going down the children were very polite, saying , "Good morning'" and wanting to shake our hands. The walkways were fun. They were extremely narrow, and we were 100 feet or more above the forest floor. It is quite amazing to lockdown on the canopy from just above. Blogging was just interrupted Dolphins. A school (pod?) of bottle nose dolphins were riding the pressure wave under the bow. They reveled in it, rolling over as if to get a belly rub from the wave. At one point there were 6 of them riding at one time. Because this ship is an icebreaker, it has a large bulb under the bow, that seems to push the pressure wave forward with greater force than a typical keel would. Back to Ghana. I had thought that the fetish market was horrifying, but then I had not yet been to Cape Coast Castle. The name is lovely isn't it? It is situated on a white sandy beach facing south looking out over the Atlantic where deep blue water turns into azure and then turquoise before becoming a foamy mass of white surf, as it breaks over the rocks in from of the castle. Down down into the dark of the men's dungeons, where channels in the rock floor were for the runoff of urine and excrement. On the wall , two feet above the floor was the mark that showed just how high the shit piled up. The miasma of horror and pain and sorrow was almost more than I could bear. Many men died here, freed from the gruesome trip to Brazil, and a life of slavery. After as long as 3 months in the stench and the darkness they would be led out through the gate of no return, into the bright sunlight for a brief few moments and then into the bowels of the ships for a free trip across the Atlantic. Ironically, we drove a short distance to a luxury beach resort, where we had a wonderful barbecue lunch.