Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tourists for the Day - Navrongo Catholic Mud Cathedral

On Sunday 10th February Team Sandema took a day trip to Navrongo, the capital of the Kassena-Nankana District to explore the famous Catholic Mud Cathedral. We travelled to our desired destination in our favourite mode of transport, the tro tro*. Known for being overcrowded and uncomfortable, the tro tro journey was surprisingly smooth. Despite Will having half of his derrière hanging out of the window and a few bumped heads due to the never ending pot holes, we arrived in Navrongo in one piece… just about.

Getting cosy on the tro tro

Upon arrival our tro tro was mobbed by a group of eager passengers. As soon as the rusty door was pulled open, men, women, children and babies dove onto the tro tro to claim their seats. Fighting, pushing, screaming and shouting, Team Sandema were helplessly stuck in the back, whilst a grown man scrambled through the back window and a woman threw her baby onto a seat. Bemused and a little frightened (lets be honest), we managed to push our way through the boarding passengers and alight the bus. Will and I managed to escape, whilst Poppy and Tracy were still trapped in tro tro hell.

Noticing a little white hand reach out from the mass of bodies, Will grabbed it and out emerged Poppy, followed by Tracy who angrily voiced her views to the passengers. “These people seriously need to learn how to form a queue!” Once we calmed down from our traumatic travel experience, we walked to a roadside food stall and relaxed with a well-deserved egg sandwich. A bloody big one too, as Poppy’s order of ‘three egg with bread’ resulted in a three-egged sandwich, each. Filled with egg until next week, we then ventured into the town centre and met our rock, Mr. Festus.

Festus has a close friend from Navrongo, Martin, who also joined us and acted as our tour guide for the day. We asked him to take us the Mud Cathedral, which he was happy to do. “Of course!” he said. “It’s not that far, we can walk there”. Note to self; never listen to a Ghanaian when they say ‘it’s not that far’. After an hour or so walking in the sweltering Ghanaian sun, desperately seeking shade and a toilet that wasn’t a hole behind a mud wall, we finally reached the Mud Cathedral. It was an enjoyable walk*, but it reminded me of when I was younger when my family and I would travel to Cornwall in the car, and I could be constantly asking my dad, “Are we theeeeeere yet?”

Taking the scenic route

As we entered the cathedral grounds we were welcomed by angelic choir singing coming from one of the rooms, which was a suitable backing track as we turned the corner and clapped eyes on the beautiful Mud Cathedral towering above us, looking like a perfect sand castle. Feeling very much like tourists we paced the building taking lots of photos and posing for the camera in front of the bell tower.

Tourist photo - me outside the Mud Cathedral

The Mud Cathedral was organised by three missionaries, the ‘White Fathers’, who travelled from Burkina Faso to Navrongo in 1906. The White Fathers, who were French-Canadian, initially desired to settle in Paga, but were moved onto Navrongo as they were thought to be slave traders and were not trusted. They were eventually permitted land in the forest by the people of Navrongo, but were only allowed to stay if they established peace with the animals.

Once this was evident they began their ‘catholic mission’ and built a small chapel in 1907, followed by a slightly larger chapel in 1910. The striking Mud Cathedral was later built and completed in 1920 and is still used for worship today. The interior of the cathedral is very impressive with the walls decorated with catholic symbolisms and animal engravings to represent the animals the three Father’s lived amongst.

Poppy and Will get holy

The long journey to the mud cathedral was worth it in the end and Team Sandema and I had a lovely day. We braced ourselves for the long trek back to Navrongo town centre, only for Martin to take us on a short cut that brought us into town in less than half an hour. Cheers for telling us about that shortcut, Martin. Much appreciated.

*Massive lie

- Jenna 

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