The Northern Circuit: Awudua, Gambia and Prestea

The Northern Circuit starts in Awudua, which is the seat of the Apintohene, the second highest ranking chief in Wassa Fiase. Awudua, which is presently placed to the east of the River Ankobra, is the result of a relocation that took place in the 1920s. Before that time the town was  located some distance to the south west, on the opposite bank of the river. The ancient abandoned settlement is currently known as Awudua Dada (Old Awudua). Close to it lies the site of Fort Ruychaver which was built by the Dutch in 1654, as a trade lodge, and a warehouse. was destroyed by dynamite explosion in 1659 by the Factor of the Lodge. Unfortunately, therefore, nothing can be seen here, as all the structures have disappeared.

According to the Apintohene, Awudua Dada was moved to its present site near a railway because tolls were imposed on those travelling across the river. The Apintohene appoints village chiefs, and works with them and a group of elders to manage all resources including land, to settle disputes and problems within the area, and to see that the area prospers. The Apintohene has worked very hard to ensure that these inland areas continue to develop and grow. He has personally put resources into education and led his people to focus on the area’s development and education. You are welcome to visit the Apintohene and see his palace, which contains many cultural artefacts from the area.

While in Awudua, you cannot leave without visiting the sites where Fort Ruychaver and Awudua Dada once stood. There are no traces of the fort, but it remains a place of memory. An archaeological reconnaissance survey revealed that the ancient settlement of Awudua Dada was quite expansive and completely encompassed Fort Ruychaver in ancient times, except to the south, which was bordered by the Ankobra River.

It is recorded that some Dutch merchants travelled up the Ankobra River and reached Awudua Dada, where they found people willing to barter sea salt for gold. There were many gold pits in the area! The merchants negotiated for land on a hill and constructed a fort, on the condition that they protected the local people from outsiders. For a few years, this fort was a successful trading post, until disaster struck. There was an inherited debt, which the new successor – a Chief - refused to pay, and so he was arrested in the fort. This caused an uproar in the area, which led to the hostage being released. However, the Dutchman involved refused to pay the fine imposed on him for detaining the Chief. The situation grew increasingly worse until war broke out. During the dispute, the Dutch commander blew up himself, the fort and some of the villagers, to avoid being captured.

This was a sad end to the thriving fort, and it was a foolish abuse of power by one man, rather than a description of normal relations at the time. Yet, the gold trade continued, unhindered!

Despite the temptation of gold surrounding them, the Dutch didn’t mine gold from these abundant fields. Instead, they contented themselves with trade along the river. This is surprising in some ways, as gold was the currency for exchange at the time. Maybe the traders had heard the rumours about the gods (gold itself is considered a deity and therefore it is believed that humans cannot relate to it without its permission or without performing pleasing rituals). It is also believed that gold can become invisible, to stop people from laying claim to it. Likewise, it can be visible and make itself found. Gold, too, can be cruel to a man who does not respect its customs. If you are too greedy, be warned: gold may punish you by causing you to go mad. Some gold demands blood – a drop for life. This is often referred to when commenting on mining accidents. However, if gold is sought with proper respect, it can determine a favoured fortune. In many parts of Ghana and, indeed, the world over, political realities have grown thanks to the widespread gold trade.

While in this area, you can take further boat trips up and down the river, reliving the trader’s routes from many years ago, as you pass the sites of the fort and Awudua Dada. There are many industries to tour, including soap making, palm extraction and tapping, cocoa processing and drying, and many more! There are many adventure tours and walks through the plantations of cocoa, bamboo and palm trees, which can be enjoyed with a refreshing picnic!

Gambia is the next stop of the Northern Circuit. This is a small Wassa settlement about 10km south of your final destination. It is in the heart of a forested plateau where one can clearly see the devastating impact of mining. Within the forest are cash crop farms containing vegetables, plantain, cassava, cocoa, citrus and oil palm trees. As well as touring the plantations and processing stations, you can take an indigenous mining tour. These tours show the three major gold extraction methods, which have been used for centuries, in these areas. In Gambia, alongside the horror of environmental degradation, you also see the beauty of conservation. These lush forests provide fertile ground for many bird and butterfly species. Visit the bird park or butterfly sanctuary to see hundreds of native species.

Prestea is the final destination of the Northern Circuit, located in the Prestea-Huni valley. It is an old mining town close to the Ankobra River. It was a hub for many gold mines in the area and has had some of its environment degraded by mining practices. Unlike many other areas, the workers at Prestea engaged in deep mining, and many old machines and pieces of equipment that used to be used in these mines can still be seen. Come and see how, for centuries, men would tunnel to find precious gold!

Prestea wasn’t only known for its mining; there was plenty of creativity in the community too. You can see handicraft production in the southern areas of the town, mainly in boat or canoe construction and basket weaving. In the northern areas of the Western Region, basket weaving is a common art, as is woodcarving. Each area carves and weaves differently, due to the influence of culture and custom. Ask your local guide to explain the intricacies of each technique to you.

1. Awudua

Where to Stay
There are no hotels at Awudua, but home stays are available for visitors who want to stay among the Community while on tour. Visitors may also stay at either Bogoso Golden Hotel in Bogoso (Tel: +233 244 990 565/+233 208 097 222) or Asiedu Arthur Lodge (+233 244 951 194/+233 244 951 195), and connect to Awudua from there.

With the assistance of your site guide, locate a Chop Bar and enjoy a local dish and a local drink, preferably palm wine or Akpeteshie (local gin), for appetite.

How to Get There
From Takoradi, drive to Tarkwa and continue towards Bogoso. Then branch off at Awudua Junction and drive 8km on a dusty untarred road to Awudua. From Kumasi, drive through Bogoso towards Tarkwa and branch off at Awudua Junction, to Awudua.

2. Gambia

Where to Stay
There is no accommodation in Gambia. You will need to put up in Prestea.

How to Get There
From Prestea travel South to Bondae and further South to Gambia.

3. Prestea

Where to Stay and Eat
Hotel Accommodation is available in Prestea and Bogoso. There is the Majaro Hotel Prestea (+233 243 157 657), Akapii Guest House (+233 244 459 302), Garden Hill Hotel (+233 244 225 399 / +233 277 617 724), Bogoso Golden Hotel (+233 244 990 565 / +233 208 097 222) and Asiedu Arthur Lodge (+233 244 951 194 / +233 244 951 195). The rooms are currently inadequate for large groups. For visitors who want to stay with families, a few home lodges are available.

With the help of a site guide, visit a local Chop Bar and treat yourself to any of the mouth-watering local dishes, with ‘appetite’ from the local palm wine drink, or a shot of the local Akpeteshie drink, if you like it hot.

How to Get There
Drive through Tarkwa and Bogoso, and join the Prestea road at the outskirts of Bogoso. If you are coming from the north, just join the Prestea road at Bogoso. Contact the Town Tourism Development Committee (TTDC) of Gambia to register and offer patronise their guide services.







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