Last week was Spring break at Lincoln Community School, so it was time to check off another tourist attraction we’ve wanted to see, but have not yet. This week it was visiting the Aburi Botanical Gardens. “How civilized,” Suzanne says, “having a four day Easter week-end” because of Easter Monday, which is a state holiday in Ghana. So we went to the Aburi Botanical Gardens, about an hour away via some of the best roads we’ve been on in Ghana.
I had been through Aburi a week earlier, when I went to sit in on Rev. Michael Mozley’s introduction of his research topic for his PhD. It was at the Akrofi-Christaller Institute, about 90 minutes “up the mountain,” as they say. It was the first time I’d driven so far alone since the accident, and I was a little nervous, but it was great. I do really love driving around in Ghana, it is such an adventure.
[clip of Mozley presenting]
Akrofi-Christaller Institute is located in Akropong, right next to Akropong Christ Presbyterian Church, dedicated to the Late Very Reverend Charles Martinson. Martinson was the Presbyterian Moderator that presided over the opening of the new chapel building in 1938. Unfortunately, in the congregation’s excitement to enter the new building, he was trampled and died shortly afterwards.
[Akropong Christ Presbyterian Church]
On Easter Sunday, I again preached at Asbury-Dunwell, and I must say it again was fun to preach in a place that is so welcoming. There comes a point when you stop, “boot-legging the gospel,” as my Sr. Preaching professor Bob Shelton called it when you are a guest preacher, and you start preaching as a pastor of the church. I think that happened the last time I preached, and again on Easter. It is wonderful to be at home in their pulpit.
The next day we did what so many other Ghanaians do on state holidays, go to the beach, or to Aburi. The site of the Aburi Botanical Gardens was originally a sanatorium for convalescing Government officials built in 1875 by the British, and in 1890 turned into a the Botanical Gardens. I think the original idea was to create an Agricultural Station, the first of its kind in Ghana, and in the early years coffee and cocoa seedlings were given out. Later the Agricultural Station idea was abandoned because of the soil’s thin and poor quality. Today this three acre site is, according to the press, filled with a “blossoming mixture of indigenous and exotic trees of global importance, aesthetics and medicinal properties.” On Easter Monday it was also filled with 1000s of Ghanaians who showed up to celebrate with their church, or as an extended family outing. It was fun to see people dancing, and playing drums, singing, and eating.
[Dancing, singing and drumming]
[Audio Clip] – here a church was singing, dancing and drumming. I tried to get a clean audio recording of it, but this guy, Prosper, kept wanting me to “snap a picture.” You’ll hear us talking in the audio recording.
[When on a picnic, the drums are as important as the cooler]
[Boys playing football while one of them headloads a box of Cocoa, a cold drink.]
It used to be a tradition that when heads of state visited Ghana, they would be invited to Aburi to plant a tree. I wanted to see the tree that founding president of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah planted in the 1960s, but the best I could do was find the one that former president JJ Rawlings planted in 1990. Oddly it was very close to the one General Acheampong had planted when he was Head of State in 1977, on the occasion of a state visit by then Romanian President Nicolae Cheusescu (who also planted a tree). Its interesting because just 19 months after planning these trees, Acheampong would be shot before firing squad in a coup lead by Rawlings, and even stranger is that 12 years later, Cheusescu would also be shot by firing squad (one that Rawlings had nothing to do with). But in 1977 as they planted their trees at Aburi, neither knew of the fate that awaited them.
[Acheampong Tree – it is not doing so good]
[Acheampong Tree sign] [Rawlings Tree]
[Fox and Zenna looking at trees]
There was this amazing Fichus tree that none of the guide books played up. Fox climbed into, and up. Considering the play that him and Anna are doing at school, Little Shop of Horrors (he is playing the role Steve Martin played, the Dentist), it was a brave move. Turns out, the Fichus is a parasitic tree, and this one, discovered in 1906 in a fork of its host tree Afzella Africana, had by 1936 successfully strangled it. Now the hollow core shows the size of that tree. Elsewhere on the site we saw younger trees just beginning the process of killing its host.
[Hollow Fichus Tree]
[looking up the inside of the tree]
[Fox inside the tree]
Personally, I am not sure the “blossoming mixture of indigenous and exotic trees…” was worth the drive. Our friend Michael who took a TroTro up there about a year ago was certain it wasn’t. For me, the interesting part was watching the people, and how much fun they were having, but I could have seen that any number of places. I found myself wondering what it could have looked like if maintenance was more of a priority. Still I’ll remember that hollow fichus tree, and never look at one the same.
Afterwards we went to the Palm Hill Hotel for a good lunch with a great view. (Mozley had introduced me to the place) and it rained.
[Family Eating, with Zenna]
[Amazing pre-rain view]
[Post rain view] Before the rains, across the valley you could see different fires burning, but then after it, none. It always seems to rain when we get outside of Accra. According to A New Geography of Ghana, Accra and a small part of northeastern Ghana are the driest regions in the nation, at less than 100 cm (39 inches)/year. Rain is always a delight because the temperature drops, the air gets clean, and the dirt of a developing nation gets washed into its gutters.