Friday, February 14, 2014

Weekend of wildlife, geography and history: Paga crocodiles, Burkina boarder and a Slave Camp.

This weekend all of the International Service teams got together here at Bolgatanga, for a field trip up to the attractions at my home town, Paga. Our first stop was at the Paga crocodile pond, which is the most popular crocodile pond in Ghana. It is located around an hour north from Bolga in the Upper East Region, close to the Burkina Faso boarder.

The crocodiles at the pond are friendly and well behaved, as many of them came close to us at the edges of the pond, out of the water. One particular crocodile ended up participating in a ‘photoshoot’ with us, where some people even touched its tail and got on its back! It was such good fun to be there especially with the Tamale and Sandema teams present.  There is a myth that the first man to settle in the area had his life saved by one of the crocodiles when a crocodile led him to the pond to drink. Thankful for his life being saved he then declared the crocodile ponds in the area ‘sacred’ and declared that all crocodiles in Paga were to be treated as royalty. It is believed that the soul of every native in the village in Paga has a corresponding crocodile in the pond.

From here we walked a few minutes up the road to the Burkina Faso border where we exchanged some dismal French with the border patrol.  

We ended the trip by visiting a former slave camp, at Paga Nania, where the tour guide took us through the history. It was set up in 1745 and operated till 1784. Nania was developed as a trade centre for Hausa, Mossi and Zambrama traders. It became the first stop-over and auction market for slaves captured in the surrounding lands.

The camp was situated in a rocky area referred to as ‘pinkworo’ meaning ‘rocks of fear’. We witnessed the life of hardship the slaves lived, as the drinking water had a limited access as a small spring under a rock.  Their food was served in a rock that had dips they carved out as bowls, and they would use stones to grind cereal like maize to eat. The slaves would often be given a false sense of consoling, with a area made for dance to ‘trick’ them to keep morale up and keep working. They would be reassured they would gain freedom and asked to celebrate, which was a lie. Those who stopped dancing were also punished. Further down from this there was an arrangement of rocks in a towering structure; here the slave masters would climb up to watch over their land for runaway slaves.

We also saw the ‘punishment rock’, where slaves would be tied on the hot rock under the sun whilst tired and hungry, and forced to stare at the sun and be whipped. Mixing between male and female slaves for example was punishable. A mass cemetery was present next to the punishment rock, highlighting the deaths that occurred and how the slaves would be thrown into the mass graves. The slave camp gave us a real insight into the brutality of the past slave trade and all the volunteers enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the region’s harrowing history.

Overall it was great fun to see all the volunteers again and we all enjoyed our weekend in Paga; I particularly enjoyed showing the volunteers around my hometown. 

Your blogger today was Mathilda

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