Wednesday, February 15, 2012

From here I can go anywhere, almost!

The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Ghana has an interesting and comprehensive ground transportation system that once you get on can take you almost anywhere in the country. After walking, bicycles and motorcycles the most common way to move around Ghana is by ground transportation. Volunteers do a lot of walking, some bike riding always with a helmet, but no moto's unless it is an emergency. Even being a passenger on a motorbike is the beginning of a fast trip back to USA. I walk a lot as I am restricted from riding a bike in the village since the only paved street is the heavily used highway and the Peace Corps has decided that is too dangerous, even with a helmet.

This is a picture of the taxi stand in the village where I live. The blue kiosk is a lady's hair dresser and the palm cover spot is a place to buy fast food, mostly rice dishes, while you are waiting on the taxi or just need something to eat. It is also a place to get out of the sun. The small cabs, mostly Japanese or Korean made, wait until a full load is on board before departing, usually four adults plus the driver. I have never waited more than 20 minutes for the ride into the market city, takes 15 minutes for about 50 cents. Similar taxis go up and down the road about every 20 seconds looking for passengers by blowing their horns and slowing down. An array of hand signals allows you to indicate number of passengers and how far you are going. For me living at the far end of the village, it is easy to walk 30 feet to the road and signal a taxi, but I was told the Village Chief has established this taxi stand and villagers are to go there to take a taxi in order to support the continuation of the local service. So I walk to the stand.

Once in the market city, you are dropped off at a large, busy taxi stand, where you engage the longer distance transportation vehicles. Everything from large, luxury buses to the most common means of Volunteer travel, the "Tro-tro," In almost all cases the Tro's are increased seating, mini-vans or larger vans all re-fitted for max passengers. They leave in all directions from multiple locations in the city and like the taxis wait until they have every seat filled with a person and all the stuff you are bringing. Get in, get settled because that is how you are going to stay for the trip. I have seen some of the larger Tro's with goats riding up in the baggage racks. So by asking questions or knowledgeable trip planning you are able to go from taxi to bus, back to taxi or another bus, and throw in some walking until you reach your destination. Coverage to destinations in Ghana is pretty complete and the system amazingly works in moving people if you discount waiting time, transfer difficulties, break downs and sometimes having a stranger sleeping on your shoulder. However, this type of transportation has risks with frequent overloads, vehicle maintenance concerns, road conditions and many times very aggressive drivers. Peace Corps staff does not want Volunteers traveling at night because of the increase in those risks.

Personal automobiles are rare in the village, most being light trucks or used as taxis. I am told no railways are currently operating in Ghana. And as I was writing, I realized I have not seen an aircraft of any kind since leaving Accra almost eight months ago. Big difference from the sky around Virginia Beach and its military presence.

I have not done a lot of personal traveling in Ghana yet, but will look forward to seeing more of the country during my next term break in late April. I am certain it will add to the adventure.

1 comment:

  1. wow Ernie, it looks like you really doing the whole thing. thanks for a great, complete report. things at the beach continue to be about the same. we've had a very warm spring and even warmer weather in the forecast. the chapel family seems happy and content. for that I am very grateful. I suppose by now you know the that Donna Kipp and I were married at a service at the chapel on the first of january. the day before the wedding we found out she had cancer. she had a hysterectomy and is now cancer free. she is been through a lot the past few months. we think of you often. And pray that you are happy where you are. Ken