At the tender age of 16, I was lucky enough to go on the trip of a lifetime to Ghana! Having never left my mum’s side for more than a night, it was a massive deal and I had been dreaming about going on the trip for my whole school life.
Our flight departed from London Heathrow and we landed into what truly felt like the other side of the world, in Accra, the capital city of Ghana. Accra felt so far removed from what I was accustomed to back in the UK. Pulling away in a taxi, passers by waved from market stands and I remember being totally shocked at how welcoming everybody was.
Note for taking a taxi – the roads are completely crazy so don’t freak out if you end up weaving in and out of traffic and hearing car horns beeping left, right, and centre!
We stayed in a hostel in Accra for our first night and ate the traditional Ghanaian dish, jollof rice and chicken. Our group made close friends with the owner of the hostel who sat and told us stories and played the bongo drum until late at night.
The next morning we were up early for a six hour drive North to the rural village of Pampawie, where we were to spend our first week. Pampawie is absolutely tiny and really disconnected from cosmopolitan life. There is very little technology, and if you want to use a computer you need to visit the local library. It was quite refreshing to take a break from social media and just live like the locals for a week.
For the first week we worked in Pampawie Primary and Secondary School, teaching English classes to the students and playing with them during free hours. It was such a wonderful experience and really made me feel lucky for everything I have back home. It is so humbling to see people who have less than you yet are so content with what they have. This has been a lesson I have taken with me for the last six years since the trip.
Whilst in Pampawie, we took part in different rituals and blessings with the chief of the village. This involved traditional dancing, reading speeches, singing, playing music, and taking shots of veeery strong rum. Each of us took turns to shake hands with the chief and thank him for welcoming us into his village.
As our week in Pampawie drew to a close, we said our emotional goodbyes and prepared ourselves for a ten hour drive to the next town. The drive was quite horrific with zero air conditioning and very few stops. We were very often stopped in the streets by passers by selling us bananas and fried chicken through the windows of the mini bus. They would wear the food in a dish on their heads and flock towards the mini bus to sell their produce. We were also really delayed by all of the cows in the roads!!
So here is where the sight-seeing guide begins! After our week volunteering in Pampawie, we spent the next 7 days travelling around the country. Although it was filled with travelling, it was so worth it to see so many beautiful parts of Ghana.
We began in seeing Boti Falls, a waterfall located 2 hours away from Accra. You have to hike for quite a while to get to the falls, but once you do it is truly magnificent. You can swim right up to the rocks and the water is so fresh on your skin. We went at the beginning of the dry season so the falls weren’t as heavy as they would be during monsoon season.
Another must-see is the Kakum National park. It is a rainforest that is home to many endangered species and features an enormous rope bridge that trails 130 feet high in the trees – definitely not for those afraid of heights!
If you go late at night, they say you can hear the elephants roaring in the rainforest!
We also spent a day in the Monkey Sanctuary near to Cape Coast. If you go on one of the guided tours, the tour guide will give you a banana to coax the monkeys onto your shoulders. Definitely don’t wear anything fancy or carry anything you want to keep as these pesky fellas will run off with your hat!
Towards the end of our trip, we stayed in a beautiful resort called the Stumble Inn, located in Elmina. It was a little taste of luxury as we neared the end of our stay. Although if compared to a 5* resort in Los Angeles you might think it is more like a hostel, we were absolutely in love with the place after spending the last two weeks sleeping on roll out mats.
It really felt like a dream as we arrived at Stumble Inn. Our rooms opened out onto the beach and it felt like a little corner of paradise. After not eating well for the majority of the trip, I absolutely devoured a plate of beans on toast, which to this day, has stayed with me as the best meal of my entire life.
I woke up strangely early that first morning in Elmina, at around 6am. I took a wander onto the beach and watched the sunrise which was so serene – I love how the photos are all duey from the morning fog.
Shortly before we left, we also had the opportunity to visit Cape Coast Castle. It overlooks an enormous port and has such a terribly sad history. It was one of the forty something ‘slave castles’ that remain, dating back to when African slaves were sold and shipped to ‘The New World’. The stories were harrowing as this place was the last home for many African people before they were sent to America. We were unable to take photos inside the castle, but it was a truly eye-opening experience.
My trip to Ghana was one of the most humbling and beautiful chapters of my life, and I feel so grateful that I had the opportunity to visit. It is such a rich and special country, and I hope one day I will have the chance to return.