Last weekend I visited Elmina, a coastal town about 3 hours west of Accra. I really wanted to get out of the city for at least one whole day. Plus there’s a castle there that the Portuguese built (later taken over by the Dutch, then the English) that I really wanted to see. There’s one in Cape Coast too, and there are a few more scattered around the area, but I had heard that the Elmina castle was the most interesting. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So Raphael graciously offered to take me.
First stop was Elmina Bay Resort to get some rest. It’s right on the ocean, so as soon as we got out of the car, we could hear the waves crashing very loudly on the beach, and could feel the cool, strong winds that were blowing the palm leaves high above us. It was quite dark so I couldn’t really appreciate the view until morning.
In the morning after breakfast, we checked out and headed to Elmina town to visit the castle.
Elmina Castle was built in 1482, and served as a trading post for gold, ivory and… slaves. I knew that this would be a hard place to visit. We joined a tour group that was just getting started, and found our guide to be very knowledgeable and passionate about the history of this haunted place.
One of the first stops was the dungeons that the female slaves were kept. We walked through, silent, overwhelmed by a smell so vile you cannot imagine that still permeates the walls and floors of the dark and airless chambers. Our guide waited until after we exited to tell us the conditions in which the women were kept, and what happened to the ones who fought back or were chosen to be consorts of their captors.
Then on to the male slave dungeon. It’s through here the infamous “gate of no return” is. I’m not sure if you get an idea of scale here, but it’s tiny. I’m not sure I could pass through it without a struggle. It’s here where the slaves were brought out to waiting boats, never to return to their motherland again.
All in all it was a very powerful tour, and a very important part of my time here in Ghana.