Just getting into Ghana seemed like a victory enough, but then I lucked out even more. A taxi driver, waiting to fill his 5 shared seats, gave up as soon as I entered, and then I had my own private car to deliver me the 3 hours to Accra. He smoked a joint in the car, accurately timed between police check points, and I had to play stupid and sweet to 3 more demands for hand-outs on the way. He delivered me to the front door of my couchsurf host, who turned out to be a slightly depressed Israeli guy, or atleast a very unhappy and negative guy, so 2 nights later, I snuck away to the beach with a bunch of Lebanese friends I had made. I also bonded well with his other Israeli friends, and everyone took care of me like a visiting relative that needed to be fed and escorted around 24/7.
The best friend I made was Asaad, who managed one of the ex-pat bars I had been to a couple times (its called Firefly, you should go there!). It kind of felt like everyone there was Israeli or Lebanese, but if I didn’t say anything, I fit in quite nicely. When Asaad spotted me and realized I was fresh fish, he asked me where I was from and what I’d done or seen in Ghana. I hadn’t seen more than the Israeli guys house and the embassy of Cote D’Ivoire, so he asked what I was doing tomorrow at 3.
“Come to the beach with us?”
Then, 1 and a half hours later, at 2:45am, he asked me if I was ready. He meant 3 am, and we drove to Kokrobite through the night to arrive at sunrise. We sat on the beach, as the stars disappeared and the sky lightened, and the largest, brightest comet I’ve ever seen streaked the sky in neon blue and a flash of orange. Then the sun rose, and started to cook us at 8 am, so we eventually retreated into the beach house to nap a few hours. The rest of the day was spent grilling lobsters and riding horses on the beach, and I felt like I had found yet another African paradise.
I stumbled on another dream day in Accra, when I got permission to ride some polo ponies at the Accra Polo Club; I rode a feisty little gelding in circles at sunrise, trying to figure out the 4 reins in my hand, and finally felt like the horse under me had enough power to gallop without heaving under my weight (i.e. every beach horse I’ve ridden in West Africa).
Later I went further west to Cape Coast, staying with friends of Asaad’s, and visited the many castles and forts spread out along the coast, including the haunting St. George’s Castle in Elmina. Each fort ironically markets itself as “the biggest slave castle,” “the largest underground dungeon,” or “the largest number of slaves sold,” but they all give the same, spooky, hair-raising chill down your spine when you visit. The smell of the slave chambers is still poignant, even after hundreds of years and being cleaned and ventilated, but the smell of blood, sweat and tears stubbornly sticks to the walls. It made me noxious, but it was hard to miss a visit to these white, fortressed castles, sitting so gloriously on the sea.