Friday, October 08, 2010

Tro-Tro Travel

Tro-Tros, or the packed mini-buses that transport the majority of Ghanaians, are one of the more interesting experiences in Ghana. Comprised of the driver and the mate (the guy who collects the money, announces the destinations to potential travelers, and generally takes care of everything so the driver can -mostly- focus on the road), the tro tros are at once exhilarating and terrifying. A tro-tro ride drops you in the middle of the sites and sounds of Ghanaian society. As you drive through the congested roads, you experience at once the smells of the food vendors, the music on the streets, the funerals, the pollution, the muddy roads and ingenuity of Ghanians to make most anything work. There is an area around Kumasi called "The Magazine" where it has been reported that you can see any trashed-out European vehicle picked apart, re-combined and reassembled into the tro-tros that are driving down the road today.

That's the exhilarating part.

Terrifying because, well, there are not many official rules to the road. In some sense, that makes driving paradoxically safer because no one assumes that they can predict what any other driver will do. Hence, the constant horn "tooting" to tell everyone, "Hey, I'm here, don't pull over into the lane". The game extends to passing, where I have seen tro-tros pass directly into oncoming traffic without blinking an eye. True to form, the oncoming tro-tro simply nudges over a bit and the two pass by, seamlessly.

The tro-tros also give a good opportunity to brush up on German - many of the mini-buses formerly belonged to German tradesmen, so former mini-buses owned by the local Schreinerei, Elektriker, and Klimaanlage repairman are the order of the day.

It must be said - the price can't be beat: the 45 minute trip from our village of Ankaase to Kumasi costs 70 peswas, about 50 cents. It's also an experience in community. Being bunched up with a bunch of people for an hour requires patience, restraint and an acknowledgment that you are enduring some unpleasantness along with your fellow Ghanaians!

Above: One of the bigger tro-tros at Kejetia Station.

The mate (in yellow shirt) working out the payments and change in a tro-tro on the way to Kumasi. All in his head, he takes all of the payments first, then makes change for each of the passengers.

Selling dried plantain in Aboaso

(For those concerned for the health and well-being of Kacey and Townes - they are always safely tucked away in a taxi. Tro Tro's are only for me on my solo trips!)

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