Accra, Ghana: September 2017
So, this is the last post that looks back on my travels in 2017. I’m so ready to live in the now, as much as it was fun reminiscing. I can’t believe it’s February already and the last time I left the country was in October! Which is way too long for me. But to keep travelling saving is key. And so I continue to exercise patience and discipline.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this in a previous post but my blood heritage is Ghanaian. Ghana sits on the coast of West Africa. I’m a first generation Londoner, that has had the privilege to visit where my parents were born and raised, even though they both live in London. With family in Ghana my connection to the country will be a lifelong one, not just by genetics.
I’ve visited Accra, the capital, numerous times and every time i’ve been I don’t feel that i’ve ever really got into tourist mode. It’s become a retreat away to catch-up with family, attend celebrations and bask in the glorious heat.
I have attempted a couple of times to explore like a tourist.This involved visiting Kakum National park. Based in the southern coast of Ghana it’s home to many endangered species, like the Diana Monkey (so beautiful). It’s also known for the gruelling hike to a canopy walk, through its rainforest, which led to my heart feeling like it was going to explode out of my chest. So worth it though!
So apart from that and obviously visiting the many beaches and restaurants, there hasn’t been much exploring Accra, let alone the rest of Ghana.
This time round I decided it was going to be different. I had two-weeks to see some stuff. I was in Accra for my mum’s birthday, so there were quite a few family engagements that I was committed too, but the rest of the time was mine.
The first thing I attempted to do was find more arts and cultural institutions. This shouldn’t be hard, I thought. Ghana is rich in the arts, particular music, textiles, sculptural, performance and the list goes on. So I did as I always do an googled it. Despite asking family and friends where to go, people tend to be quite vague about names and locations of places, which may make sense to them, but as an ‘oburoni’ (Akan word for foreigner or white person) I needed specifics!
So these are places that got me to experience Accra beyond my family ties.
This a contemporary art gallery situated in East Legon. I thought this was a good place to start with my attempt to get a hit of Accra’s arts and cultural scene. After some confusion with our Uber driver (yes Uber’s available in Accra) my sister and myself arrived. It appeared very calm, almost too calm until we spotted an older man who greeted us. He directed us to the entrance.
At the reception we were let down with the news that the exhibition had just finished the previous week and the next one wasn’t on whilst we were still in Ghana. It’s probably best to call ahead if the gallery isn’t nearby your accommodation.
Our trip wasn’t a complete fail as we had a look through the historic books and saw the pieces of art in the book store. We then had a little photoshoot outside the vibrant mural at the entrance of the gallery, which made the long trip not feel like a wasted journey.
If you don’t know, Ghana was the first country in Africa to declare independence from the United Kingdom, on the 6th March 1957. The leader of this movement was the late President Kwame Nkrumah. He is the foundation of recent Ghanaian and African history as he paved the way for other African countries to also declare independence.
My knowledge on the work of President Kwame Nkrumah was limited to hearing about his story through word of mouth, but I decided it was time to learn for myself.
The Kwame Nkrumah Memorial park and Mausoleum is based in downtown Accra. It’s a serene environment that cerebrates his story in the gallery, through the plant life that he loved, and honoured with a Mausoleum and statue at its centre.
I had a great tour guide show me around which I found useful as he went into detail and gave context to the pieces of attire and the documents that was displayed in the gallery. It grounded my knowledge about how Africa went about taking back control of its land and people. I gained a new found appreciation for the fight people like Nkrumah went through to give us back our right to liberty.
The museum is next door to Accra’s art centre, which is the hub to purchase gifts, sculptures, paintings, fabric, you name it. So definitely kill two birds with one stone when you stop by here.
In Accra one of the most frequented beaches is Labadi beach. This is due to it’s location in central Accra. Labadi is a tourist magnet and I would say the most littered beach in Accra.
Fortunately my family home is in the western area of Accra and a 20 minute drive to another popular beach resort, which isn’t as busy as the likes of Labadi. This is Bojo beach, which is one of my favourite places in Accra.
It’s serenity and simplicity is a welcome relaxation from the hustle and bustle of Accra.
The shore is a boat ride across a lagoon, which in itself is a 3-minute adventure . You’re met with white sand and crashing waves as you depart the boat.
There is a great chop bar on the beach and getting Chichinga kebab (spicy grilled meat on a stick) and fried yam is the perfect meal to accompany a relaxing stay on the beach.
The sunsets are like no other, so a visit late afternoon is the perfect time to get some heat and see the sun escape within a 10 min real-time time-lapse.
On one of the final days of my time in Ghana we went on a road trip to my aunt’s second home, just outside of Accra. It’s in a town called Apirede in the eastern region of Ghana, nearby the world’s largest reservoir, the Volta Lake. I really didn’t know what to expect but I was so excited to see another place outside of Accra.
The drive to Apirede in itself was so refreshing as we went up the mountains and the breeze and fresh air is a change to the humidity of Accra. I had never seen so much rural green environments in my time in Ghana, even though I’m aware Ghana is rich in tropical jungles and savannahs throughout it’s land.
It was moving and felt like I was seeing the heart of Ghana.
My aunts house sits on top of a mountain over looking much of the Volta region and is immensely serene with barely a noise from a fly. Her beautiful home is filled with an array of plants, trees and produce. She even has a Almond tree! She is hoping to put the guest house on Airbnb. So once completed you too could experience the quiet life in the mountains.
We took a little break from watching Keeping up with the Kardashians (no escape!) in her paradise of a home, and drove down to her local bakery. This is one of her side hustles, when she’s not advising the government on agricultural practices.
It was so humble and in a plot that belongs to my uncle’s (her husband) family. It had an aesthetic like that of a simple Italian bakery. She sells the bread locally and takes some back to Accra to sell in her community.
I cannot wait to visit Apirede again and maybe one day have a home there myself!
More to see in Accra…
A plant mami’s, nature lovers haven. I unfortunately never got to see it this time round.
‘Is it busy?’ Yes. ‘You want Shea butter? Coconut oil? Spices? Kente cloth? Street food? To support local trade?’ Then Makola is the place to go. Situated in south Jamestown it’s Ghana’s largest market.
Hit this place up on a Friday night and you’ll be met with live music with afro jazz vibes, mixed crowds and delicious Ghanaian cuisine. It gets quite busy so maybe book a table in advance.
I mean, I feel ashamed that I haven’t been to one of the most historic places in Ghana, let alone the world.
Situated in Cape Coast, this grand picturesque castle erected by the Portuguese in 1482, juxtaposed the monstrosities that took place there for centuries, known as the slave trade. Enslavement, torture and deaths was the burden the people of the Gold Coast and beyond, had to bare at the hands of the European colonial powers.
The castle is still erected and is a tourist attraction and memorial. I believe it is important for people to know the history of Africa and how the continent became to be what it is today and how far we still have to go. This is first on my list for when I visit Ghana next!
Hope you have enjoyed this series of looking back on my 2017 travels. I cannot wait to share more of the world with you through my eyes and words. I have some very exciting trips lined up for the next couple of months, but will be sharing more content on the lifestyle side of travelling. I would love to hear what content you love reading when it comes to travel, or whether you are just here for the pictures. Please leave a comment in the box below and follow my instagram @cherylistripping for daily posts.