After only two hours we arrived in Cape Coast, a filthy town with vultures perched on top of the market stalls. The guidebook said the fort is closed from noon to two, but fortunately it was wrong. The sign at the gate said admission for non-Ghanaians was $5 or equivalent, but that was wrong too and we were charged only 4000 cedis. Before we entered Richard stopped to take a dump in a bathroom outside the main entrance, and while waiting a young man spproached me. In quite good English, Charles asked me for my address so he could write to me and give me his address so I could send him a "raffle ticket," and, surprisingly, bummed some smokes. After a bit I figured that by raffle he was referring to our immigration lottery system. I told him it doesn't work that way, but if he writes me I would acquire some information to pass along to him. (Richard had also met some people who assumed that a big important American like him could bring anybody into the country.) The fort itself was none too spectacular, although it afforded good vistas of the sea and fishing boats plying its waters. But extremely powerful and moving was the dungeon where the future slaves were held for transport.
The entrance to the dungeon was from the roof of the castle, where a rather surly looking young boy was stationed as a guide. He led us down a sloping hallway paved with smooth stones with rock walls and a low rock ceiling with somewhat more spacious areas cut out along the sides. It was quite dark and very hot and dank, with little air circulation, and continued to slope steeply all the way down to the narrow slit from which the West Africans were dumped onto the waiting slaveships. Even for only six people it was barely tolerable. One could imagine hundreds of people here with no light or air or water, sweating, pissing, shitting, sliding and tripping over each other, gravity pulling them down toward the slit, but then desperate to get out of the slit into the open air, no matter what is on the other side. The slit was obstructed by a simple stone shrine, upon which the little kid poured out some liquid while incanting some words in a native tongue. In a serious and somewhat pissed-off manner he invited us to leave money on the shrine, calling it "libation," and who could refuse. When we went back up into the bright daylight, the kid followed us around for a while, looking suspicious and angry. But when Richard took a picture of me with Cape Coast in the background, then asked me to do the same for him, then invited the kid to join him in the picture, the boy raced over and hugged Richard and lit up with the beautiful smile of a normal nine-year-old. There was a small museum devoted to various stages of the slave trade, from the jungle to the notable achievements of Black Americans. Most touching was a description of a slave auction in the new world. I have always considered slavery one of the most abominable evils of history, but I realized that I had always looked upon its victims themselves as an unfortunate faceless mass. Here, of course, everything is told from the perspective of the Africans who were captured and sold. They were people, members of a society and a civilization, with loved ones, family, friends and neighbors who were worried when they didn't return to the village that day, and this particular exhibit focused on the degradation and absolute humiliation the man on the block felt at being treated like an animal, surmising that his main concern looking out at the crowd was if there were anyone from his village witnessing his supreme embarrassment.
The museum gift shop sold film and, of all things, maps of Accra.
The room was a bit shabby but huge; the bathroom itself was half the size of my apartment. I right away went out on recon, finding STC and the times for the express bus back to Accra, which I was pleased to learn was scheduled for 1 pm, giving me all of the next morning to see the sights, as well as a hilly city that was cleaner and smelled better than Accra, but which, at least in our area, the commercial center, was noticeably lacking in the kinds of places we would hang out in after dark, such as restaurants. The guidebook said that the Kingsway hotel often has water problems, and for once, unfortunately, it was right. I was upset, and was slandering the good name of the hotel clerk, who assured us that all she had to do was switch on the pump and we would instantly have water. After an hour, however, we did, and I took a nice cold shower while Richard berated me for sinning against clerk. We dawdled at the hotel for too long, leaving only after eight and only to find that the few restaurants near us closed at eight. The book mentioned a few more places in the "lively area" to the east across the railroad tracks, and I convinced Richard to hike over there. I was getting annoyed with the way he was walking like an old lady up and down the hills, but calmed down when I learned that his recent troubles had left him with low blood pressure and he was medically enjoined from pumping the ticker too hard. I'm glad I started doing tai chi when I did, and I should be charitable to those who do not share my great gift of being able to walk five miles carrying my luggage no problem, which is very useful when traveling. East of the tracks was much the same scene as downtown Accra, though not as closed in or intense. However, the people up here are less friendly. The prospects of finding a restaurant soon looked hopeless, and I ran ahead up the hill for one last vain look. When I came back, Richard said he was definitely being cased until my return. We came back to what by lights and signs and appearance looked to be a restaurant just on our side of the tracks, but it turned out to be a supermarket. Urban appearances are most deceiving in Ghana; if it looks like a grocery, they sell telephones. So we walked north of the hotel a couple blocks (Richard can walk, only slowly) and found a single outdoor bar. We asked the overeager proprietor if they served food, and he said chicken and rice. Nothing else, so we figured he was just going to go into some alley and take it off someone's grill. So we returned to the empty, uninviting hotel restaurant, which we were told stayed open until ten. Inside it was actually comfortable, with interesting pictures and posters on the wall, though we were both exhausted by then and could have been comfortable anywhere, but mostly it was comically entertaining. A thin, very pleasant girl with a shy smile came out of the kitchen and gave us a menu that listed an amazingly eclectic variety of dishes from all over the world. How are the crepes? "Uh ... we don't have that." Perhaps we'll start with the homemade mayonnaise salad. "Uh ... we don't have that either." How about the beef stroganoff? "Uh ..." Richard caught on sooner than I, and decided on chicken and rice, but what's the difference between the fillet and the "Love's Chicken"? The fillet is a fillet, Love's Chicken is a whole chicken. Richard ordered the fillet. At last the girl allowed me to order beef and pepper soup and filet mignon, and I enjoyed my Star beer for about fifteen minutes until she came back out and said, "Uh ... we don't have the beef and pepper soup." Well, OK, I'll just have the filet mignon. "Uh ... we don't have that." Chicken and rice it is, Love's Chicken for me.