Went to Bolgatanga today, in the usual crowded minivan. We arrived early, and discovered that the Bolga market wasn’t until tomorrow, so we went off to Paga and the crocodiles.
The sacred crocodiles of Paga: there are several legends about it, but the gist of it is that a hunter was lost in the woods and got saved by a crocodile which led him home to safety, and in return he promised that he and his descendants would never eat a crocodile. So there are the sacred crocodile ponds, and according to the residents, no crocodile in the pond has ever harmed a human, despite the fact that kids swim in the pond (which is alive with crocodiles), etc.
Anyway, we got to the sacred crocodile pond and got out of the taxi. A couple of kids were sitting in an octagonal hut, and we went up there and paid 50,000 cedis (about $5), 20,000 for admission and 30,000 for a chicken (the chicken was to bait the crocodiles). Anyway, we went up, squawking, flapping chicken carried casually in one kid’s hand, and the first thing I saw was what looked like a crocodile statue standing in the mud. But surely a crocodile wouldn’t just be standing there, out of cover like that? Then I saw another. And another. The place was full of crocodiles!
The kids went over and tried to lure one ashore with the chicken, but it was slow and sleepy in the sun, and ignored them. The chicken squawked. Next they went up to another one, and waved the chicken at it. It wasn’t interested. Finally, they went up to one, waved the chicken, and it lumbered its way slowly onto land. There it was, a crocodile, sitting right in front of me.
The kids ran up to it and grabbed its tail. I was convinced I was about to see kid hamburger, but the croc just sat there expectantly, waiting for its chicken. They motioned me to come on over and grab the croc’s tail. I came over and tried to think of it as like an iguana, only with teeth. Big, sharp, pointy…I hastily abandoned that train of thought and picked up the crocodile’s tail. Chuku shot a couple of photos, so now I have some very silly photos of me holding a crocodile’s tail. The kids wanted me to sit on the crocodile, but I wasn’t willing to get that close. I thought of posing the traveling tiger on its head, but wasn’t sure if that would annoy it. As a general rule, I try not to irritate things with big sharp teeth, especially ones that have been known to kill and eat adult humans.
The kids finally tossed the crocodile the chicken, and it reared up to catch it like a dog after a bone. Lightning-quick: one, two gulps and the chicken went down its gullet. It sat there, mouth open, looking bored.
All in all, it had the interest of a session at the petting zoo (albeit with big sharp pointy teeth). We paid the kids and went back up to the main road.
Next we went to a former slave camp in Paga, where the guide who met us there took us around and showed us the camp: the crudely carved hollows in a large rock where the slaves ate their dinner, the resonant rock drum where they would play music and dance, the punishment rock where slaves who had attempted escape would be chained in the hot sun and beaten to death with all the other slaves watching. Chuku got a photo of me on the giant rock that was used as a watchtower.
Ghana in general has an unusual number of relics of the slave trade – the slave castles on Cape Coast are probably the best-known tourist destination in Ghana. I have to confess, though, that this doesn’t much interest me: partly because I have little to no interest in history, partly because this isn’t my history – my antecedents arrived in the U.S. about a hundred years after slavery was dead and gone. So, it all seems unreal to me.
After that, there wasn’t much else to do, so we got our taxi driver to take us back to Navrongo, and from there we caught a share-taxi back to Bolga.