Mr. Valenzuela

Ghana – West of Elmina

After a much-needed and much-deserved day of rest on Sunday, we were picked up Victor once again to guide us to more forts en route to our next base – Takoradi, in the Western Region. Our first stop would be Fort St. Sebastian in Shama built by the Portugese in 1523, but finally seized by the Dutch in 1640. The fort’s architecture is unique in that the forts inner walls are quite weak and required stone buttresses all around it to fortify the structure, leading the fort’s unique (and in my mind Mordor-esque) semi-circular staircase and entrance. Like Fort Amsterdam, Sebastian does not receive as many tourists as Cape Coast or Elmina and feels less slick. The caretaker took us through an informative tour of the place. Unlike any of the forts that we have visited so far, Sebastian is still used for administrative purposes, including using the female slave dungeon as Shama’s post office! There are also seemed to be several people living in the fort. What continues to amaze me about these forts and castles are the various uses that Ghanaians have employed, whether they be museums and tourist sites, or guesthouses, or government offices.

We continued on from Shama west to Sekondi where Fort Orange is located. Unfortunately we were unable to find it, since we had no map of Sekondi, and even more perplexing that no resident of the town seemed to have ever heard of Fort Orange or the lighthouse (its current use today). We decided to continue on to Dixcove, a small town about 35 km west of Takoradi. The village is felt run down and neglected, but sitting on a cliff overlooking the town and the sea is Fort Metal Cross, constructed by the British in 1696, but still today retaining the name the Dutch gave it after they captured the fort in 1868. The caretaker found us wandering around the fort and invited us in to tour the building. The tour included some grim explanations of the site’s original use as cemetery, as well as an oral history of the 10 year-old girl buried alive as a sacrifice to pacify the gods that embodied the land! The fort itself has plans to turn into an upscale hotel, with chalets in front of the fort along the cliffs, a pool facing the sea, and the courtyard turned into a restaurant. All of these additional buildings are still under construction, and rumor has it that the employees would be outfitted in colonial uniforms! Although Dixcove could certainly use more attention, this seems like an unfortunate way to maintain the fort, a place that treated so many Africans as if they weren’t human. We bid farewell to the caretaker and Victor returned us to our hotel in Takoradi where we could rest up for tomorrow’s adventure through the Western Region!

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