Saturday 13 August 1960 - Accra
Mixture of ancient and modern and told when I got back that I had wandered round parts where whites, “Just don’t go!” Most buildings looked unkempt, mildewed and very much in need of paint, but no doubt deteriorate quickly in this climate.
A large percentage of men in rigas, draped over shoulder with western shorts and sandals with single strap or bare feet. Some with big blousy thigh-length shirts. Rigas looked heavy for this climate but were useful in rain (which had stopped by 7 a.m.) and for curling up inside to go to sleep.
When rain stopped black clouds continued to hang heavy and obscure all glimpses of sun. Not called the white man’s grave for nothing. Felt like breathing through wet cotton wool and face persistently wet with sweat although it was not uncomfortably hot until the sun came out, as there was a cool breeze off the sea.
I found my town plan useless in that the numbers indicated did not mean what they seemed but the roads leading to these. Long wander making many enquiries from natives, who seemed astonished to see a white trudging round on foot. Nobody seemed able to tell me where Government House and other interesting buildings were, so browsed on round old European houses surrounded by litter.
Out eventually to newer part of town in the east where I came to the 1957 independence monument inscribed, “Freedom and Justice.” An arch in a circular patch islanded by roads on a bare area of wasteland where building construction had started in parts. Here I saw a white overseer – the first white I had seen since leaving the hotel.
Went across the wasteland to the cliffs – low and earthy, past many men sleeping on the clay cliffs rolled in their rigas. A little colony of bare-breasted females bathing and feeding their babies behind wooden huts at the back of sandy beach, where the grassy wasteland sloped up unevenly behind. Males washing feet. Scatter of small boat wrecks, driftwood, corks and coconut shell husks. Patches of grey stones, grey boulders, grey sky, grey sea and grey buildings on horizon. Only birds seen were three cormorants. Clay cliffs eroded and full of litter, some parts earmarked as public conveniences. Bare worn tracks through low, worn but green vegetation. Grass grows taller further from the coast and is cut for hay – saw small boys turning it with forks – beside patch of half grown maize.
Quite a lot of flowers:- blue and white Convolvulus or Ipomoea, yellow Hibiscus, blue Tradescantia, orange daisies, creeping yellow pea, purple bean flowers, Opuntia, Aloe and red, white and blue unknowns. Grasses in flower.
A host of Agama lizards. These dragon-like lizards – the males orange and black occurred in the hedge-banks near the hotel, as well as here on the cliffs. Three to six inches long – females ordinary khaki frog colour.
Lark-like birds on cliffs and “pied crows” with ruffled black head-feathers cawing round buildings. A hawk swooping over the town.
Long curved canoe-shaped boats – heavy and small commonly of half naked fishermen (or in rigas) lying on the sand. Enamel bowls of pilchard-sized fish were being carried up the cliff on men’s heads near tall wood construction against cliff face which were probably used for drying nets. Fish handed over to group of robed females for drying – some dried fish on the ground by big calabashes mended with leather thronging and full of knick knacks. Hens and chickens everywhere. Fishing nests spread out to dry and some boats out at sea with square sails. Sails like those of junks, worn cornerwise.
Some line fishermen here. Made detour inland as cliff path blocked – creeping through underneath big warehouse type building belonging to the Forestry Department where chickens and lizards sported in the dust.
Four burley fishermen, their rigos hitched up over their shoulders were carrying two 20 feet long bamboo poles which they laid each end of a long spread net.
... Houses and buses, as well as boats and boatsheds bear odd texts. Houses :- “Think twice” and “Well done.” Buses :- “Jesus is mine” and “Do no wrong.” Terribly hot but only place to sit apart from the kerb was the Post Office – no cafe lemonades etc. Talked in the Post Office to almost the only white I’d seen all morning. He horrified at where I’d been and told me to stick to the seafront if I wanted to remain safe. All I wanted at this stage – sun out now – was nearest way back to hotel.