The Accra transit could turn out to be serious.
It comes into the conversation every time we broach the next day's plans and is never taken lightly. That morning, there was little or nothing we could do to prevent it. We hadn't woken up too early or late enough.
The dry heat increased and exasperated Ben, a national tourism official in charge of Special Events, who respected our wishes but was gnawed by the air conditioning he was used to.
We, wanted to feel the real Ghana.
Taking his temperature and subjecting us to his strengths and ailments. For the countless roadside vendors, there is nothing better than the well-clogged streets of cars, taxis and, preferably, of tro-tros (small buses) to the pine cone.
They were followed by the open windows of the jeep covered with a panoply of Chinese-made electronic devices and batteries.
Or offering slushies and mobile phone refills, chewing gum, candy, fruit and peanuts presented only by women in fascinating pyramids that they kept balanced on their heads.
Through the Political and Organic Center of Accra
Distracted by this offer, by the large, colorful and playful billboards we admired high above Liberation Road, we arrived at the political hub of the city, the Flagstaff House.
It is the nation's presidential palace, also known as the Golden Jubilee House.
At the inauguration date, in 2008, it had a cost to match, between 40 and 140 million dollars, according to sources with opposing interests.
“No pictures are taken around here, OK? It's forbidden. If they take the responsibility away, it's yours!"
Liberation Rd, becomes Independence Avenue. For the convenience of successive presidents, the police headquarters as well as the twin residences of hundreds of its officers occupy an entire block nearby.
Its small balconies stand out that provide international TV to officers. The facades of the buildings are covered by brand billboards that take advantage of the privileged location.
One of them imposes far more enviable homes, the “Imperial Homes: 7 Town Homes, Ultimate Luxury”.
Other well-disposed billboards impose different opportunities.
In recent times, Accra has produced a market for products of this kind, without underestimating the fact that poverty still inhabits its endless surroundings.
The capital leads Ghana's economic boom which is none other than Africa's second largest gold producer behind only the South Africa.
Ghana, in turn, has maintained one of the highest GDPs in West Africa and, since 2011, is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
The Inescapable Legacy of Kwame Nkrumah, the Founder of the Fatherland
Gradually, we approached the shores of the Gulf of Guinea and Kwame Nkrumah Park, a city stronghold dedicated to the man who led Ghana to independence from Great Britain, who served the new nation as its prime minister, and soon, as president.
Nkrumah became respected in Ghana but not only because of his persistence in defending Pan Africanism and his role as a founding member of the Organization of African Unity, of which he was elected the third leader.
The excursions of restless kids that the teachers group at the foot of their golden statue are repeated to soon inaugurate formative lectures.
Above, Nkrumah points, determinedly, forward, also said to be in the direction of the Ghanaian parliament. It was the way the statue's author illustrated one of the politician's favorite expressions: "Forward, always, backward, never."
But the statue that stands proudly in front of the majestic marble mausoleum that precedes it is far from telling the whole story.
Alignment with the Communist Sphere of Nkrumah
In 1962, Nkrumah had won the Stalin Peace Prize. He aligned himself and Ghana with the world communist sphere. In the middle of the Cold War, the most likely is that the CIA acted to bring Ghana into the capitalist world with the support of other governments including those of Great Britain and the French.
As always in these cases, the truth lies, diffused, under a cloak of accusations and counter-accusations rebutted. The other of his statue stood in front of the old parliament of Accra.
Factual was how, in 1966, rival Emmanuel Kwasi Kokota and his National Liberation Front seized power while Nkrumah carried out an official visit to North Vietnam to China. Nkrumah never returned to Ghana.
He exiled himself to Conakry, fearful of being kidnapped and murdered. He died in Bucharest, in 1972, aged 62, of prostate cancer.
During the coup that deposed Nkrumah, the statue was vandalized. Until 2009, his head was missing. That year, the government remembered to claim it. A woman who had kept it returned it.
Finally, the head was placed on a pedestal, next to the rest of the statue.
Black Star Square: Another Monumental Tribute to Ghana's Independence
We point to Black Star Square, the square that Nkrumah had built to honor Queen Elisabeth II's visit a few years after Britain liberated Ghana.
We find it as deserted as it remains most of the year, albeit more colorful.
Dozens of white awnings or those in the colors of the Ghana flag precede the great arc of independence in which the representatives of the invited countries accompany the national celebrations.
We understand that a faith meeting of one of the several evangelical super-churches active in the country is being prepared.
Thus, we stop for a few moments to admire the monument to the unknown soldier and make our way to another part of Accra that is completely different.
We cross Victoriaborg and come across another neighborhood formed by houses between the old and the sprawling and, again, with a strong commercial bustle.
We make our way through it until we come to a red-and-white-streaked overhead lighthouse that confirms we're in Jamestown.
Accra Coastline, Fisherman's and Jamestown Homeless
There we are harassed by some would-be guides.
For more years since the end of the colonial period, Accra has not been able to get rid of the urban traits of the powers that have disputed the region for centuries.
Today's city is home to two million and two hundred thousand inhabitants.
It is built around a British fort, a Danish fort (Christianborg) and a Dutch fort (Fort Usher) and integrated the communities that lived in the vicinity.
Jamestown developed around the British James Fort – now used as a prison.
Its riverside population depends almost entirely on fishing, which, neither remotely nor remotely, guarantees its comfort, let alone prosperity.
At the base of the lighthouse, dozens of taxi drivers prepare their car relics for the next trips. A man and a woman play one of the popular card Ludos not only in Ghana but also in neighboring Togo and Benin.
This ludo, in particular, is illustrated with four important figures in the country, including singers, politicians and football players; others have characters of planetary fame.
By that time, the guide who had won the right to accompany us was already pushing his role and the payment that, at the end of the journey, he would have to claim. “She's the one winning!” he assures us, confident that the mission is starting to go well for him. “Have you ever seen this game?
Everybody plays this around here. It often brings a photo of your Cristiano Ronaldo.” We climb to the top of the lighthouse. His explanations eagerly unfold into a much broader range of themes.
Jamestown: the Humble and Fish-Scented Life of Accra
We walk around the balcony and the nearest Accra reveals itself to us. Jamestown stands out in obvious prominence, its vast sand filled with fishing boats and nets in front of it, a football field that is bare and too far removed from the rectangular pattern for us to believe it would have official measurements.
A shabby gray house that stretches all the way around Fort James.
We return to the ground.
The guide leads us through the village, along a fishing coast with a matching aroma. On this wide beach that is far from an enviable tropical setting, hundreds of gaudy boats and fishermen and varinas dressed in gaudy West African patterns take care of the day's chores.
We still walk through the inner streets of the neighborhood that preserve charming, if somewhat decaying, testimonies of the times when the British controlled the Gold Coast: the old post office, the market housed in a yellow-green wrought-iron building.
Osu and Accra's Famous Caixões Street
From Jamestown, we travel, in vain, to Osu Castle (formerly Christianborg). It had recently been captured by the Ghanaian army for its military installations.
We pass the homonymous street, this one, open to the public and cosmopolitan, lined with restaurants, clothing and craft stores, where visitors from all over were looking for the best purchases for the least number of items. Cedis – Ghanaian currency – possible.
Years before we traveled to Ghana, we had admired a documentary about the incredible coffin makers of Accra.
We never forgot the subject again and decided to investigate whether its activity was kept as alive as it was then. Frank, another driver from the national tourism authority, finds the challenge amusing and drives us.
We left for the coastal outskirts of Accra. We find the first workshop, behind destroyed walls and some rubble. “Now there are many fewer, Frank informs us.
The government decreed the widening of this road and ran with many of the coffin workshops that were concentrated here.
Ghanaian Coffins for Every Taste
There are some left but there is no comparison with those that existed before.” We investigated the workshop and the work of the carpenters.
We identified, at a glance, eccentric coffins in the shape of a camcorder, hammer, beetle and other animals, whatever the deceased or their families wanted and ordered in time for their last breath.
One of the young carpenters interrupts the comings and goings of his plane. He welcomes us and shows us an entire laminated catalogue, far from suggesting that we would need his products in the near future.
We also visited a competitor workshop closer to Accra. Eric welcomes us, he too busy finishing a large funeral fish ordered at the last minute. “This one is giving me a lot of work. It's in hardwood.
Depending on people's possessions, we can make the coffins out of this wood or weaker wood. When ordering from abroad, I always make them in hardwood. Do I get a lot of orders from abroad?
Yes, yes, thank God, I get it. I go to some fairs. I even have clients who resell my coffins in their countries”.
We went up to the first floor of a structure made of planks without parapets or other protection against any falls. It served as a window and accommodated several other exotic coffins.
One was in the shape of an old Nokia mobile phone, the other a bottle of Star – the most famous national beer – still another a Ghana International Airlines plane.
We asked Frank for help and photographed ourselves inside the Star beer urn. We were about to leave.
We wanted to take only fond memories from Ghana.