We jokingly termed our friendsgiving week road trip to and from Accra, Ghana as our West African garden route road trip. And although it wasn’t a garden route, there was much to see and hear along the way. The road peppered with little towns with people bustling about, marketplaces packed with people, the roadside “mama” stands in the mornings with lunches packed and ready for the taking, loudspeakers sending out messages and news, and a lively and welcoming atmosphere that is west Africa. And like all good gardens, Mother Nature felt we needed a nice rain storm (torrential downpour) for us to emerge from on our way back into Cote d’Ivoire. Along the way we explored and took in the sights and sounds and history of Ghana. Stopping to rest and catch up before ending in Abidjan for a Thanksgiving day meal.
Along with the hustle of city life throughout our route were the reminders of Africa’s past. Visiting the Elmina Castle gave an illustration of the slave trade learned about in school. Similar to the tour we were previously given at Fort San Antonio in Axim, we were guided through the rooms, given glimpses into the shear cruelty of generations past. Throughout the tour, I was reminded of a quote I saw in a museum years ago…”those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Our guide spoke frankly about what happened within the walls of the castle as a means to educate but also with the hope that by doing so we will not be condemned to repeat it. It was surely not an easy visit but a powerful visit to understand the history.
The beauty in looking out into the Gulf of Guinea through the trunks of palm trees is such a contrast to the harsh realities housed within these walls. Reminders which dot the coast of Africa still today, acting as reminders of the past for us to not repeat again. Our route also gave us glimpses into life today, the fishing, the festivities, the flurry of activity. We passed men hollowing out boats to use for fishing and saw those boats in action out at sea. We rested for a night in a bungalow in Axim. We swam and sat and were lulled into relaxation by the constant sound of waves crashing just below. We sat out looking up at the stars thankful for the path that led us to this trip. We reminisced of the places we’ve seen and things we’ve experienced our friends and us and contemplated what was next.
And no Thanksgiving week would be complete without a nice meal together on Thursday. Instead of a plentiful table of turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and all the fixings, we lounged in the seating area on couches, talking about our travels, highlights of our lives over the last few years, planning future trips together, and joking while sipping aperitifs. After a long day of driving from Ghana through torrential downpours washing out parts of the road with all of us keeping an eye out for hazards in the misty haze before us, all we wanted to do was sit back and enjoy a delicious meal with minimal effort. Our table was filled with seafood dishes of scallops, shrimp, and fish all perfectly prepared followed by sweet desserts. Despite not having all the holiday fixings, we finished our meals satisfyingly full and in a coma reminiscent of those we’ve had at home. Our few years away has taught us to appreciate all we have, our time with family and our time with friends no matter how infrequently we see each other, and to embrace change. Although our families were far and our traditions new, we were with family nonetheless making memories to share for years to come. Our route didn’t stop on land when we arrived in Abidjan instead we took to the water seeing the city from the lagoon, experiencing a glimpse into the life on the water, the contrast of small hollowed out man made canoes with big tanker ships, dredges, and barges. Watched as men and boys rested after a morning of fishing, others still out catching what they could. As if we hadn’t eaten enough at our Thanksgiving feast the night before, we paired our tour of the lagoon with a lunch of local dishes at Rosa Beach. We feasted on perfectly grilled whole merou sitting on a dock. The table was packed full of all the sides, potato and yam fries, alloko, attieke, salad, tomato sauce, and piment sauce. We were left again with a food coma that we rested off on the boat. We were sad to see our friendsgiving week road trip come to an end but were excited at the prospects of where we might meet up next and what other part of the world we might explore by land or by sea.