Walked around the fort and down along the bustling fishing beach. Everywhere we walked everyone hollered out their greetings. Most of the activity revolved around repairing net or boats. Tons of kids playing in the water everyone seems so happy - Ghana is truly the land of smiles. On the way back to the fort came upon a group of three pigs (Ghana is mostly Christian - or at least not Muslim) playing or rooting around in the water - right out in the surf!
After leaving Apam we stopped at Fort Amsterdam. This is clearly on the tourist loop and thus was a major hassle. The people at the gate of the fort extort money as you leave (I just refused to pay), the children demand money, pens , candy, and cigarettes. Older kids demand money for watching the car - and the ruins of the fort are way less than spectacular. All in all a major hassles and not worth the effort.
Next stop was Elmina. Probably the most visited of the coastal fort towns it seems busy enough with it's fishing harbor to ignore the tourists. A much nicer atmosphere than that surrounding Fort Amsterdam. At Fort St. George (Africa's oldest European construction - 1482?) we found a restaurant and had an extremely leisurely (2 hours+) lunch. After lunch we explored the fort. It's huge and quite a maze. The views of Elmina's colorful bustling fishing community and long coconut palm lined beaches were phenomenal.
The fort was potentially quite depressing as it was constructed as a holding pen for slaves. I'm not sure how to explain it but the preservation and restoration and the simple wording on a small memorial plaque (I wish I'd written it down) combined to give the place a somber dignity as a reminder rather than the loud accusation I was expecting. I guess I was expecting to walk away feeling like I did after visiting Dachou, but instead I walked away feeling hope - like I said I'm not sure how to explain it.
From Elmina we back tracked a few miles to Iture - really a suburb of Elmina. We'd been recommended a nice hotel / restaurant to stay at. And while the hotel was way out of our budget they let us camp for a few dollars a night. The setting on the beach was spectacular on a little rocky cove with views of the two forts of Elmina to the West and rocky bluffs to the East. A scattering of the required palm trees completed the picture. We spent an hour lounging around in the surf (a large rock with surf crashing over it into a small bowl of sand made a natural Jacuzzi). Had a beautiful diner and hung out on the beach drinking beers. The peacefulness was ruined when a loud American introduced himself and started talking about his work (he was a university professor and worked for the CIA) and his time in Ghana (he's been living there for four years). I'm sure most of what he said was bullshit but when he started to go on about how he'd bought his four wives (ages 19 to 24 - he was at least in his upper 40's) and about how great it was because "in America when your wife doesn't want to have sex you can't touch her..." I couldn't handle it and went to bed. I can't ever remember being so repulsed by someone.
[Added 5 August, 2000 - Thanks Joy!]In everlasting memory of the anguish of our ancestors.
The wording on the plaque at Fort St. George:
May those who died rest in peace.
May those who return find their roots.
May humanity never again perpetrate such injustice against humanity.
We the living now uphold this.