“The highlight of our all day tour in Ghana? Our police escort! I’ve never had a police escort before and, for whatever reason, our tour bus was the only one that had its own motorcycle escort. And not just any escort: this guy was Charlton Heston on wheels. We would be faced with a wall of trucks; two lanes of trucks and buses on our side of the road, and two lanes on the other side of the road, and our mighty cop, whose name ironically was “Hope”, would turn on his siren, start weaving back and forth, waving his arms . . . at times both arms while driving . . . kicking at cars with his feet . . . and miraculously would open a path. It was absolutely incredible!
Now understand that Ghana, unlike its neighbor Togo, seems flush with development, construction, and is one of the major harbors for West Africa providing a sea link for many of the interior countries of Africa. We called at Tema, which is just a port/industrial town. The main city is Accra, is a huge African city of 2 million people in a metropolitan area of 4 million.
“Accra” was derived from and Indigenous word meaning “ants” because of numerous anthills. Today the ants are people and cars. Accra was settled in the 15th century by migrating Ga people. Originally it was a port city and a center for slave trade with Europeans who built forts nearby. More than thirty forts and castles were built by Portuguese, Dutch, British, Scandinavian and Spanish merchants. British named it “Gold Coast” because of the vast amounts of gold to come out of Ghana, and even today, gold is a major export.
Ghana has a happy mix of Muslim, Christian, and traditional animistic religions. There are the vast shanty towns, but also vast tracts of more “middle class” [in African terms] houses, and very wealthy tracts of suburban houses.
Ghana is home to the largest man-made lake in the world by surface area and the fourth largest one by water volume, Lake Volta, which covers 3,278 sq miles [8,502 sq km] and provides electricity to neighboring countries as well as Ghana.
Next time I’ll tell you more about some of the secondary sights in Ghana, but for now, meet my new action figure hero . . . Hope!