After breakfast, the class left for Kakum National Park located about 30 km from the Hacienda Hotel. The main attraction was the canopy walk, wooden walkways linked together by a series of trees. The walkway is more than a thousand feet in length and situated nearly to a hundred fifty feet in the air, which meant we saw the entire forest from the canopy. The wooden walkways are linked together by long planks of wood about one foot wide. Despite my fear of heights, the canopy walk turned out to be surprisingly secure. The walkway was surrounded by sturdy ropes attached to steel beams for support. Our tour guide Sbenezer told us that each walkway can support the weight of three adult elephants. There are six stations linking the walkways. These stations are platforms built near tree canopy for visitors to rest and take in the view from the top of the forest. After the class survived the canopy walk, we took a break at a rest stop, rewarding ourselves with fresh coconut juice.
Lunch was at Hans Cottage, famous for its crocodile pond. The class sat at a table on a pavilion located right above the pond. While the class waited for the food, we sat and enjoyed the view. I was disappointed that I did not see any crocodiles but the excellent meal more than made up for it.
In the afternoon, the class went to Emintsidmadze Palace and made a courtesy call to the Fanti chiefs of Cape Coast. The class was welcomed in a bright, spacious hall where President Obama visited in 2009. The chiefs introduced themselves and explained why the crab was symbol of their tribe. Crabs used to be the main economic commodity in Cape Coast. The Fante tribe relied on the capture and trade of crabs as a mean of support. Later on, during a war with the powerful Ashanti tribe, the Fante people adopted guerilla warfare tactics from their observations of the crab’s behavior to hide when danger lurks and attack when the enemy is unwary. Through this tactic, the thousand men strong Ashanti army was triumphantly defeated by a Fante army numbering less than a hundred fighters.
After introductions were made, the nine Fanti chiefs took our questions. Ghanaian chiefs are formal lawmakers in Ghana, rather than just being symbolic figures of cultural tradition. The Ghanaian government has formal records of every chief in Ghana. Laws passed by the chiefs become officially recognized in Ghana. The chiefs are proud that they have been able to preserve their traditional culture despite the changing times. From the arrival of the first Portuguese ship to the creation of the Ghanaian republic, the traditional chiefs have deftly adapted to each wave of foreign influences. As a sign of the changing times, each chief has a formal profession. Their jobs run the gamut from working as an accountant to cinema engineer. The session was punctuated by intermittent rings of the cell phone. In a different setting, without their ceremonial robes, I would have thought of them as normal Ghanaians. Before leaving the Emintsidmadze Palace, the chiefs gave prayer and poured libation for their ancestors. The class took a group photo at the gate and thanked the chiefs for their hospitality.
Dinner was at the Elmina Hotel resort tucked away in quiet corner of Cape Coast. The class enjoyed a wonderful dinner accompanied by the sound of ocean waves and Christmas songs played by two gentlemen on the stage. As the trip begins to wind down, I became nostalgic. The gentle waves and holiday songs made reminded me of home. It was a relaxing, somewhat bittersweet way to end such an eventful day.