So we spent one night in Accra which is a big noisy crowded sort of place that we were not terribly fond of. The highlight for us would be the good restaurants in Osu, the lowlight would be any taxi ride that has to go across Nkrumah Circle. The bus station is also rather chaotic compared to those in other Ghanaian cities we visited. When leaving (or arriving in) Accra by bus, there appear to be inifinite numbers of suburbs surrounding the city. This picture is a random roadside somewhere in the periphery of Accra. Once we finally escaped Accra, the road to Cape Coast was very nice, well-paved and an easy quick trip.
The coast of Ghana is dotted with forts and castles (the words are used interchangeably) dating from the slave trading era. This is Fort Amsterdam which is just a little ways out from Cape Coast.
Cape Coast Castle has one of the better visitor centers and museums (many of the forts don't really have any). It also has a spectacular setting right along the waterfront of the town. The town sort of ranges inwards from the fort along a valley and is perhaps the liveliest place we visited anywhere in Africa.
Next door to the castle is the Cape Castle Café which has lovely views of the castle and the ocean, and is where we tried one of the better known Ghanaian specialities: red-red. Red-red (served here with plantains) is basically a stew of black-eyed peas. It seems to be ubiquitous in Ghana. The far dish is a Thai fish curry and for the frequent reader of our pages, yes that would be the corner of an Orange Fanta. Even in Africa. Besides this restaurant there is a quasi disco-bar-restaurant-hotel a bit further down the coast that doesn't really succeed at any of those efforts and a few hotel restaurants. Street food is plentiful though, and extremely cheap, and nearly everything is rolled in cayenne powder.
Visiting the castle in Cape Coast can easily become an all-day event. Not only does it have a large museum and pretty much full access to the castle but there is a great view of the surrounding life from the battlements. Furthermore, there is no problem with photographs. There is a steep jump in admission price for being Non-Ghanaian and another huge jump for having a camera, once you pay it you might as well get your money's worth. These are fishing boats from town returning from a day at sea.
The castle's setting makes it easy to forget its history. Both the male and female slave dungeons can be visited. The museum covers a lot of the history of the African diaspora and also generic details of Ashanti and Akan life (local Ghanaian peoples). The slave trade details are generally as haunting and appalling as one would expect.
Like all of Cape Coast, the waterfront is constantly bustling with activity during daylight and early evening hours. The time honored tradition of having nicer homes the higher up the hills one goes apply here as well. A funeral celebration on one of the nights we were in town lasted until sometime after midnight and kept the streets alive with cooking fires, dancing, and of course drumming.
Many of the beaches along the west African coast have problems with strong undertows and rip currents. That does not appear to be a major problem in Cape Coast and there are very nice stretches of beach towards Elmina and back to the east. We didn't spend any time swimming here, but the report from some British travelers we met was that you wouldn't want to take anything of value with you. As much as we liked Cape Coast the one big complaint we would have with it is that it is overrun with tourist leechs around the waterfront. Anywhere near the castle there are annoying numbers of locals trying to sell overpriced junk or propagate more insidious scams. It's easy enough to get away by entering the castle or one of the restaurants but it is a shame you can't sit on the rocks around the castle without being pestered.
This view is to the west from Cape Coast towards the peninsula that Elmina is located on. Elmina is supposedly very similar to a small version of Cape Coast and is a popular day trip, although not one we took. We spent our time wandering around town and in nearby Kakum National Park.
The crab is sort of the unofficial symbol of Cape Coast and they are all over the rocks along the beach. There is even a crab statue in the center of town. Despite this we never actually saw crab as a food item either in a restaurant or along the streets, or for sale in the market. Based on the availability food-wise, perhaps they should consider the yam as their mascot instead. There is no shortage of yams available in Cape Coast (or indeed anywhere in Ghana) and it is often boiled in the least imaginative way possible. We did come across some very good yam balls (deep fried balls of pounded yam with other vegetables and spices) but for the most part, yam seems to be served as a side dish to guarantee that no one will leave hungry.
Oddly enough there are really no hotels or hostels in the center of town. Lodging is sort of ranged around the perimeter of the city, often fairly close but up steep hills. The benefit though is nice views. We stayed in the Nana Bema hotel which is a bit northeast of the town center atop a substantial hill. This is clearly a more modern section of town, and the Victoria lighthouse (previously a fort) is visible on the hilltop in the distance. At night we tended to sit in the outdoor 'beer garden' (some plastic tables and chairs) and watch the activity in town.