Traveller Megan McCormick journeys to West Africa, where 500 years ago Europeans uncovered bounties of gold in Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) and ivory in the Cote d’Ivoire. Her trip begins in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Here Megan visits an intriguing coffin shop and is invited to attend a funeral. For the Ga people it’s traditional to be buried in a coffin which symbolises what you did in life.
Twenty miles from Accra is Kokrobite where Megan meets the famous drummer Mustapha Addy. At the cultural centre he runs he teaches Megan the basics of talking drums which have been used for centuries as a means of communicating between tribes and villages.At the Mole Game Reserve in the northern region of Ghana, it’s possible to walk around amongst the animals accompanied by a ranger. Megan is lucky enough to spy warthogs, antelopes and elephants.
Kumasi is the birthplace of the famous Kente cloth and weaving the vibrant textile is a family business, passed through generations for 400 years. They still use traditional methods based on observing a spider spinning its web. The cloth is part of Ghanaian national dress and is worn by town elders on special occasions.The nearby goldmines at Obuasi are some of the largest in the world. Every day half a million dollars worth of gold is brought to the surface and the Ashanti people who have been mining in Ghana for centuries became incredibly wealthy. Back in Kumasi Megan visits a goldsmith who makes trinkets for the Ashanti king.From Kumasi Megan takes a train to Takoradi & visits the slave castles of Elmina & Cape Coast. Elmina is a small fishing village but it was in the castles here that, until slavery was abolished in 1865, millions of slaves were detained and tortured. The following day is the Aboaker or ‘deer-hunt’ festival at nearby Winneba. Two teams compete to catch a deer, which is sacrificed to the tribal gods. With the gods appeased, the revelry continues all weekend.
From Winneba Megan heads back along the coast, stopping off at Brenu beach before crossing the border to the Ivory Coast. In spite of her scant grasp of the French language she reaches the capital Abidjan. Here it’s still possible to buy ivory in the Cocody Market, but if you do it its illegal to export it from the county.
A bus journey along the beautiful unspoilt coast takes Megan to a little town of Sassandra. She goes out fishing in a dug out canoe called a pirogue with a local fisherman. Along the way they see a deadly green mamba and hippo, and cast their rods in the estuary, a prime fishing spot.The final leg of Megan's journey takes her to theMan region where she witnesses a wedding ceremony in the village of Neana. It's an incredible ceremony where masked dancers perform extraordinary acrobatics and the village sage performs rituals asking the ancestors to bless the union. Following the sacrifice the whole village chants and dances until the sun goes down.