TGIA – let’s take a drive

{TGIA – Thank God it’s Africa, is my weekly look at the weird and wonderful things that happen when you’re living in Africa.  Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re a little dangerous, sometimes they’re a heady combination of the two. On a continent which faces many challenges, populated with people of extraordinary ingenuity, it makes for some good times. If you’d like to join in please add a link or a comment below}.

Would you like to come for a drive with me in Ghana today? We can crank the aircon and listen to some music, have a chat and see the countryside.

Where should we go?

I thought we might drive north out of Accra towards Kumasi. After all, it’s one of the main roads in Ghana and lots of people I’ve spoken to in the last week have never made the trip.

You ready? Let’s go.

We’ll start by taking the motorway out, and then turn onto the modestly named George W Bush Highway (I’m sure we can thank the American taxpayers for this road, and not the man personally). But lets take a moment to thank them for this wonderful piece of roadwork, it’s a 4-6 lane highway which improved traffic conditions in Accra so much that the street vendors complained  their sales were significantly down. Here’s a photo from a Sunday evening when we had it to ourselves.

Wide open road

We’ll pass a pretty charmless toll, hand over our 50peswas, and head out onto another glorious sweeping 4 lane road, leaving the smog and congestion of Accra behind us. We’ll pass small villages and verdant, jungle covered hills. Take a deep breath and savour that feeling of the wide open road, it won’t last long my friend.

We’ll pass through a town with one of the most blunt, yet hilarious, names I have ever seen, welcome to ‘Signboard’. Though if you can tell me which one is it’s namesake I’ll be very happy, as I’m yet to spot it.

Hold on, why are those school kids waving us down? We’re going 100kph, this is not the time for retail therapy. Oh, I see, it’s the (abrupt) end of the road. A quick U-turn and a handful of coins to the kids, and we join the oncoming traffic. Right, so the road has gone from a double lane highway in 2 directions, to an indeterminate number of lanes going in at least two directions with no lane markings.

I didn’t hear anything about a Wacky Races event on today, but you be Muttley and I’ll be Dick Dastardly.

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For the next half an hour, though it will feel like many, many more, we’ll play a heady game of Frogger-Chicken in the traffic, weaving between massively overladen trucks (charcoal, bicycles, pineapples, onions), fuel tankers, tro-tro’s, taxi’s, coaches (VIP, V.VIP, V.V.VIP, Diplomat, First Class, and the more original GH-Express), roaring 4WDs, twin-cab Buckys (invariable carrying Chinese galamsay to their northern mines), and the rest of us, all trying to preserve our lives and our suspension. Since it’s Friday we’ll also see funeral corteges lead by an ambulance-hearse carrying the deceased and several red-ribbon bedecked cars following up behind.

And just when you think it’s over, and you start to relax into a smooth stretch of asphalt, the bone juddering assault begins again. We’ll reach the town of Suhum. Dominated by a cement overpass bridge, worthy of any major road in the world, designed to last hundreds of years, it sits unfinished. It’s underside populated by a tro-tro station and a temporary market. Everytime I pass through this stretch of road, my heart goes out to the residents. Living in a permanent cloud of dust kicked by the highway traffic.

 

This nutty stretch of road had high aspirations. A four lane highway stretching into the heart of Ghana. One side is partially built, but the other, with no road workers in sight, is deteriorating with the heavy rains of the wet season and the inexorable growth of the jungle. In the two years we have lived here, the only time I have seen road workers was in the lead up to the election. Call me a cynic, but surely it’s not a coincidence.
And then finally, it is over. You can relax now. We’ll drive along a road reminscent of 1970s Australia, where overtaking is done in the on-coming traffic, with not a climbing lane in sight.
One way to spoil your day.

One way to spoil your day.

Are you feeling hungry? We’re about half way now. We can stop at the rest-stop of Linda D’Or. No, I’ve no idea where the name comes from, but we can use the bathroom and buy a cold drink. Maybe have a bite to eat.
Grasscutter is a real delicacy, and is like a giant guinea pig!

Grasscutter is a real delicacy, and is like a giant guinea pig!

Let’s get going again. Yes, those trucks do go very slow don’t they? It’s frustrating sitting in a cloud of black fumes, but surely soon there will be a good long stretch of road we can try and overtake the six of them in front of us. Or there’ll be a town soon, the trucks always slow right down going over the speed bumps, I can jump them (the speed bumps, not the trucks!) Dukes of Hazzard style, and we’ll overtake a few trucks in one go. Just hope there aren’t any cars coming in the other direction. Meanwhile enjoy the view. Look! There’s my favourite shop…the hubcap man. Shining like a beacon on the roadside, hundreds of silver hubcaps, the finest selection in all of Ghana. And we’re back in Ashanti now, we can stop and buy some tomatoes and pineapples.
hubcaps
We’ll start looking longingly at our little blue dot on Google maps, willing ourselves on, faster and faster, to Nkawkaw. There’s a bypass there, each end is marked by a bustle of bread sellers (and weirdly nothing else). We’ll make some good time here. Don’t forget to look up at the beautiful cliffs which mark the edge of the Volta Basin.
nkawkaw

Our next thing to look for are the towns selling auaer, a grinding bowl (sorry for the spelling?), glazed pottery and woama (the fufu basin and pounders). The roadside lined with stalls of neatly stacked bowls and towers of the wooden basins fufu is pounded in. The glazed pottery shines in the sunlight and the sellers encourage a sale with a flick of their wrist. The colours of the earthenware are broken by bright flashes of red tomatoes.

pottery

Another hour to go for me. I’ll be stopping before we reach Kumasi. Why don’t you stop and stretch your legs? Maybe pick up a video for tonight.video

But you’d better be on your way now. Just keep going on ahead. You’ll pass through a charming toll where you can get all manner of food: plantain, tomatoes, okra, maize, cold drinks and the world’s best popcorn. Keep going through the lively market town of Ejisu, and then you can hurtle into Kumasi on a big double lane road. I hope you make it before dark, keep an eye out for wandering goats.

Make sure you say hi to the Garden City for me. 

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Lexiophiles and bab.la are having a competition for the best international exchange and experience blogs. I’d love it if you’d head over and vote for me. Just find Six Degrees North on their list and press ‘Vote’. Thanks and have a fun weekend.

 

12 responses to “TGIA – let’s take a drive

  1. Greetings.I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years now, and I thoroughly enjoy it.    Your post today struck me though.    I spent time in Ghana in ’11 and ’13, and made the drive you describe a number of times.    I spent time in Asamankese working at a school on the main road between Accra and Suhum, and it made me smile to think that you would have driven right past.   Blessings to you in your journey,  John Blaauwendraat12 Garnet Drive Georgetown, OntarioL7G1K6Home 905-702-1787Mobile 416-460-3725Sent from my BlackBerry Z10 on the Bell network. From: six degrees northSent: Friday, February 7, 2014 8:06 AMTo: jblaauwendraat@gmail.comReply To: six degrees northSubject: [New post] TGIA – let’s take a drive

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    Chris posted: “Would you like to come for a drive with me in Ghana today? We can crank the aircon and listen to some music, have a chat and see the countryside.

    Where should we go?

    I thought we might drive north out of Accra towards Kumasi. After all, it’s one of “

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    • I’ve just come back from Garden City, it’s still the same old no where near as exciting as your experiences Chrissie but I think i’ll stick with the familiar. However think of all the laughs you are going to have remembering Ghana in years to come. Love your blog you are a natural, Mum would be so proud, Love Jacky xxx

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    • Hi John, Thanks for your comment on the blog. I really hope you were far enough away from Suhum to not be perpetually covered in dust! But thanks for reaching out, it’s nice to think you were there too. We arrived Feb 2012. Chrissie

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  2. Great story.

    I know this is not the most important bit but……..I loved Muttley in Wacky Races. I used to drive my family mad doing his laugh all over the house. I too a far impressive of Scooby Do too!

    I hope you are all well. Adrian and Lizzy are off to do a rogaine in Sydney this weekend. Unfortunately Evie has a cold so we’ll be staying home watching highlights of the Winter Olympics on TV, and Doctor Who DVDs.

    Kathy

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  3. Just got back from Garden City now where near as adventuress as your experience. Just think of the fun times you are all going to have remembering Ghana. I love your blog Chrissie Mum would be so proud, Love to you all, Jacky xxx

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