MEDA Blog - Stories from the Field

Upper East Adventure

Part One of a two-part series on an awesome adventure by our interns in Ghana.

Hi friends! Janelle and Sarah here. July 1st is Republic Day in Ghana (and also Canada Day) so we decided to take advantage of the long weekend and travel to the Upper East Region. This area falls directly east of the Upper West, where we live, and borders Burkina Faso to the north and Togo to the east. Our destination was Bolgatanga and nearby Paga, which are located about smack-dab in the middle of the region. Even though it’s only a few short hours away from both Wa and Tamale, the terrain is vastly different from any we have seen in Ghana so far. There are rocks everywhere! Nevertheless, it seems to be more fertile there, or at least they have received more rain than in the Upper West, because everything was very green and the maize and millet were already knee-high.


One of the main reasons we wanted to visit this area was to see the Papa Crocodile Pond. This community is purported to “live at one with the crocodile,” which basically means these crocs are the tamest I’ve ever seen. In order to have the full experience you pay an entry fee and buy a guinea fowl. The crocodile hears the guinea fowl squawking and comes out of the water to lie on the bank. At this point the visitors can go to the (wild) crocodile and have their picture taken. Like so:

The story behind this village and their relationship with the crocodile goes back to before the village was even settled. According to the stories, a hunter was saved twice by a crocodile and when he settled in the area an Oracle advised him never to harm a crocodile as an expression of gratitude. Children swim in the pond and are never harmed so, apparently, it’s true!

After the crocodiles, we visited the nearby Pikworo Slave Camp where over 700,000 slaves passed through between 1700-1850 on route to the coast for transatlantic sale. Typically, there were about 200 slaves there at a time. Although most of their day was spent tied to rocks and trees, they were given time to eat and sing. Sadly, they were punished or sometimes auctioned off to the community.

 

 


This was a place of contrasts: it was one of the most beautiful and serene places we have yet visited in Ghana, but has such a dark history. It was lush, the rocks offered natural seats and it overlooked a quiet and peaceful valley. This was a place where slaves rested and built their strength before the rest of the journey. A place where they were told they were travelling somewhere better. Having visited both Cape Coast and Elmina Castles, this was definitely not the truth.

To be continued!

Upper East Adventure (Pt. 2)
The Babati Team