Roads and travel
Travelling in Ghana is an adventure. In a country that is as big as the UK or a little larger than the state of Minnesota and about 340mi/560km long, travelling from one end to the other should not take long. Two things that make this a twelve hour plus journey is the quality of public transportation and quality of roads. Both are a constant work in progress.
The huge amount of currently on going road development is a telltale sign 2016 Ghana elections. The frequency and severity of bus accidents a clear sign new vehicles are needed (as well as enforced road rules). A trip to either end of the country can quickly become a two day journey because of vehicle breakdown at two in the morning, in the middle of nowhere.
Public transport options are a trotro (which are essentially vans) or a bus (amenities range, with air conditioning in the fancy ones). Generally I take a trotro, have taken a bus a couple of times and have yet to tackle the Tamale – Accra trip. I am avoiding it like the plague. Mainly because I have basically never been to Accra and do not know my way around. My goal is to not travel to the capital until I have to – that being mid-service medical, happening sometime in October.
It is law that if a passenger needs to relieve him/herself, the driver must stop. There are not frequent rest stops so this means having to go in the bush. When there is not enough bush, this silimiŋa gets shy! So, generally on travel days, I (as do many other PCVs) dehydrate myself and do not eat much to avoid having to urinate too often and potential runs. I realize I am making this sound awful but there is one thing that makes long travel days better – having at least one travel buddy. My first bus ride from Kumasi to Tamale, I enjoyed Ro’s company with him telling me Coast Guard stories. A few weeks ago, Babush-b’kaw (nickname was acquired on this journey), Foxy and I journeyed from Tamale to Kumasi, which started with a three hour nap in the trotro at the Tamale station, waiting for it to fill up. We love telling this story.
Traveling is a big deal to Ghanaians. “Ni goorim” [And your travels?] is the greeting used for someone just returned. These past two months I have been traveling a lot for ISTs and people have thought I was back stateside, greeting me with “I tingadima?” [And your hometown people?]
Travelling can also be cheap. Taking a trotro, state run bus or non-ac bus between Kumasi and Tamale costs 30-35 GHC ($7.5-8.5) and between Koforidua and Tamale about 70 GHC ($17-20). When it is this cheap, one can hardly complain. However, it may be cheap to me but to many Ghanaians it is not. Perhaps this I another reason why traveling is a big deal and usually done only for business or family purposes.
The roads in the north remind me of the roads in the Philippines circa the nineties. I take this to mean that Ghana’s roads will continue to improve, just like in the Philippines. The Nalerigu road for example, has already gotten better! It is the road running through the Mamprusi regions, connecting the regional capitals of east and west. In the time I have been here, most of the unpaved section has now been leveled and smoothed. Maybe it means it will be paved by the November elections!