I’ve made various introductions to the driving experience here in
I’m going to start with a description of the vehicles. In Accra (Ghana’s capital city) it isn’t uncommon to come across beamers, Audis and a good ol’ Mercedes Benz once and a while, but the high majority of traffic noise is made up of broken down taxis and tro-tros clogging the road ways.
I’ve mentioned the honorable condition of the tro-tro’s before and I’ve discovered that the ones that appear to be in the best state tend to break down first. They are beat up old 12 passenger vans and it seems almost mandatory that duct tape be some how incorporated into the inner décor and multicoloured panels on the outer. The exhaust comes in multiple colour choices from blue to black to white, and sometimes all three at once!
They are the most common form of public transport from within city “milk runs” (the term for ones that stop frequently) and the long distance ones from village to village. Usually, they are run by the driver and a mate; the mate’s job is to make sure the tro-tro is full and collect all the money. Sometimes the mate’s duties are a lot more intense than that (like when we were driving to Tamale and he literally had to run to every water hole to fill a jug with a water to keep the radiator full and the engine from over-heating.) Now, when I say “keep the tro-tro full” I don’t mean 11 people full. I mean 16 people full, sometimes 18 or 19 people full. It’s not uncommon to be squished 4 or 5 in a row between two enormous market ladies with pans full of commodities taking up any possible head room you might have had and bags of yams under your feet so that you are curled into a upright, immobile fetal position (now imagine 3 hours like that.) If you are lucky enough to get a spot on the end next to a window, you will receive the luxury of smacking your noggin on the low curved corner of the roof where it joins to the window seal. Riding shot-gun doesn’t combat any of the glories of traveling by tro-tro. You just get an up front and personal preface to the horror that is traffic in
Most of the people who own cars will hire a driver, paint the fenders yellow and send it out as a Taxi to bring in some coin during the day. I always thought this was an ingenious and resourceful use of an asset that in no other way could make you money in the long run. Ranging from North American standards to “Oh my God, you want me to sit in there!”, they tend to be an equally dangerous, but more comfortable way to get from A to B.
There are two ways of traveling by taxi here and it is extremely important to clarify with a driver before getting into an empty cab which one you want. The first is called “dropping” and it is the same as how we use Taxi’s in
Drivers have to make a certain amount just for the owner of the vehicle before they can claim any of it for themselves, so they are as aggressive as one can be about giving rides to sell their services. Horn honking becomes a language all its own that can communicate easily with hand signals. It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the beeping and blasting of the cars and it will make you feel a little jumpy behind the wheel if you are used to driving in
One night driving through
I think the drivers here follow the passage “better to ask forgiveness than permission.” They pull out/ open their doors/ pass around corners/ drive through intersections/ drive backwards down highways and will ask questions later.
I am 100% serious when I say (whether I’m in the car or not) that the biggest threat to my existence in this country is the traffic.