Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Riding Along In My Automobile...

Have you ever used public transportation? the city bus system? a Grayhound? a taxi? the "L"? a subway?
Until moving to Ghana, I'd spent most of my life riding around in the good old family car. Besides a subway ride in NYC during my Senior trip, I'd never had any experiences with public transportation. I'd read about it, seen it in movies, but never experienced it myself.
Now, public transportation is a part of my daily life. Because......we don't own a car. For all my American friends I'm sure that seems pretty strange. It was definitely a little hard to get used to, but now it seems more normal than owning a car!
Here in Ghana, very few people own cars. In fact, in the city I live in, there are more commercial vehicles than private ones! To get around in the city, we use taxis, tro-tros, and 207s. A taxi is simply any car driven around as a business. You can either "join" a taxi -- jump in with others already in the car and ride in it to the next junction, or you can take a "dropping" -- you can bargain with the driver to take you to your destination. If a taxi is too expensive, you can catch a ride with a tro-tro or 207. A tro-tro is a very small Asian mini-van, the flat nose kind, that has been gutted and refitted with seats for 18 people. I. kid. you. not. Oh, and that 18 is adults, because kids lap two (or three!) to a seat. A 207 is just a bigger tro-tro made out of old German cargo vans. Those puppies can sit from 36 people to who knows how many?
All of these options are great for city life, but the question now is how do you get around outside the city? The answer is.......a donkey! No, I'M KIDDING!!! We have several companies that run intercity buses. Kind of like Grayhound, but without bathrooms. It is always an adventure to use the intercity buses, but some trips are a little more adventurous than others. Our last trip was such a one. The company we usually use is run by the government. We like to use this one, because they actually have a leaving time. All the other bus companies just sit until the bus is full and then go. That kind of makes it hard for us as our lives run a little more on a schedule than that. At least, most days! Okay....maybe in my dreams! Anyways, a few weeks ago, we had to make a paperwork trip to Accra.
Our bus was supposed to leave at 7:30 a.m., but it didn't end up leaving until 8:30 a.m. We had a bit of time to kill -- since check-in time was 7:00 a.m.-- so we took some pictures.
Our bus waiting to go:

Waiting patiently:

And, my favorite, the price list for extra cargo:

(if you can't read it well, right click it to make it bigger)
Our trip to Accra was a bit long, since these buses don't move too fast, but pretty uneventful. Our trip home to Kumasi, well, EVENTFUL would probably best describe it! We were only in Accra for about 24 hours and then it was time to head home to Kumasi. We arrived at the bus station for check-in and were greeted with some interesting news. They didn't want our bus to go. We were the only people who had bought tickets for that bus, and they didn't want it to make the trip. So what were we supposed to do? They said we could just simply join the Tamale bus to the north at 3:00 p.m. instead of the Kumasi bus at 2:30 p.m. Nice and simple. They promised us our choice of seats, no hassles, no stress.
When 3:00 p.m. rolled around and no one was loading the bus, we started to think it might not be as easy as promised. At 3:30 p.m. everyone was called to line up and then the fun began. Not only were we not given our choice of seats, there weren't enough seats at all. They had overbooked the bus and then added our family! People were hot and tired and tempers were short, but finally around 4:00 p.m. our bus pulled out of the station, albeit with six people sitting in the stairwells and aisles. We were on the road, but now we were stuck in Accra traffic. I think we were traveling about a mile an hour for a while. After a solid hour of bumper to bumper traffic, we got to the outskirts of town only to be told that they had just a few more passengers to pick up at their secondary station! I never did quite figure out where those people sat!
In the end, God was so gracious to us. We were in the very back corner of the bus (we call these seats the roller coaster seats!), so at least the four of us got to sit together. To add to that, the driver turned off the filthy English rap music that was playing on the bus' radio the whole time we were waiting to leave the bus station, and then, the R-rated movie that the bus driver tried to play on the bus' movie screens wouldn't work. To heap blessing on top of blessing, both Carey and Ella fell asleep for the two hours it took to get from the edge of Accra to the rest stop where we could buy food. And if you know my girls, you'll know that one was a miracle!
So after a nice stop at Linda Dor Rest Stop, where we could buy some yummy Ghanaian food and pay to go to the bathroom, we hopped on the bus and made the rest of the trip home in relative calm and quiet. The bus dropped us off at the junction near our house about 9:00 p.m., and with a little juggling we were able to get the girls, including sleeping Ella, all our luggage, and ourselves home in quick order.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Home sweet home. Never more to roam.......at least I can hope, right?!?
Do any of you have any great travel stories?

No comments:

Post a Comment