Monday, February 13, 2012

Ghanaian Pit Stop

This weekend, we traveled to the Volta Region via tro-tro. From just outside of campus, we took a tro-tro to Medina, where we could catch another tro-tro to Hohoe.

The ride to Hohoe should be about four hours, but you really never know how long it will take you to get anywhere in Ghana. You have to plan accordingly in terms of food and drink consumption. If you eat or drink too much, you might not have the opportunity to use the bathroom. However, if you don't have enough to eat or drink, that also makes for a miserable tro-tro ride.

I had a granola bar for breakfast and picked up a Bofrot just before leaving.

Brofrot, the Ghanaian donut

Along the way, the tro-tro stopped twice. The first time we stopped, all of the men exited the tro-tro and lined up along the side of the road to relieve themselves...some times it would be nice to be a man... We stopped again, and the tro-tro was swarmed by men and women selling things, everything from toothpaste to dried fish. Several minutes later, after a flurry of hands reaching out the window with money and returning with food, we were back on the road.

Miraculously, we arrived in Hohoe in only four hours.

We were not so lucky on our return trip. On Sunday, we left Hohoe around 2:30 PM. I was seated directly behind the driver, and about an hour and a half into the ride, I noticed the driver was having difficulties switching gears. Sure enough, about thirty minutes later, we pulled over at a road side "repair shop." For about an hour, a few men fiddled under the tro-tro and added some sort of fluid to the clutch. 

While waiting, I enjoyed a fresh coconut.
We were on the road for another hour or so when we all started to realize we were riding the struggle bus. I really don't know much about cars, let alone those with manual transmissions, but it seemed like the car kept stalling out. The tro-tro was unable to get started following a complete stop. The solution? We tried to avoided coming to a complete stop at all causes. As we neared a toll booth, one of the men in the tro-tro got out, ran in front, gave the money to the attendant, and hopped back into the moving tro-tro. I couldn't help but laugh. We were hungry, tired, and cramped, but it still seemed so funny. Luckily, our stop was not too much farther along. We exited the tro-tro (while it was completely stopped, so I am not entirely sure if it ever got going again), and grabbed a taxi the rest of the way to campus. We arrived at our hostel around 8:00 PM tired, sweaty, dirty, and cramped, but quite impressed with ourselves and the adventures of the weekend.

I'll take a moment here to talk about "rules of the road" in Ghana. Long story short, there really aren't any. There are very few speed limit signs, and when there are, they are hardly ever followed. Ghanians are speed demons! Most Ghanaian roads aren't in great condition (even when paved), so driving is like an obstacle course--avoiding pot holes at all costs. This means you are often driving on the wrong side of the road, or in the shoulder.

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