Monday, July 15, 2013

Ghana's Greyhound

One thing that my dad insisted I do while I was in Ghana is see Kumasi--the city he called home during his years in Ghana. It wasn't in our plans for the AFS program, so it was something I had to figure out on my own. And of course, since my dad seems to know someone everywhere on the planet, it wasn't too difficult of a task.

It started with a phone call to a Reverend in Accra. Rev. T said he'd get me to Kumasi over the weekend. He planned to stop over at my host family's house on Thursday to meet me and discuss the plans in detail. He wanted to take me on Friday and return on Sunday. I was hoping for more of a Saturday day trip or leave Friday night and get back Saturday evening. I was already a bit hesitant about who I'd be with in Kumasi, but I also really love my family in Accra and sort of felt guilty at the idea of "ditching" them for a whole weekend. I also had to be ready to travel to Cape Coast by 11am Sunday morning.

Anyway, Rev. T comes by on Thursday and I happened to be Skyping with my dad. They go off in Yoruba about things I tuned out and when they are done Rev. T tells me that he'll come get me Saturday morning at 6am, with the plan of me returning to Accra early Sunday morning.

Saturday, six o'clock rolls around and I'm ready to go. I get into the car and he begins driving. That's when I discover he isn't actually taking me to Kumasi. He's taking me to "the station." My first thought was train, which, while I was surprised, kind of excited me. But no... it was the bus station.

As we drove through the city towards central Accra, an image of a crowded lorry (called trou-trous here) came to mind. I was not happy. How was a bus NOT mentioned in all the plans? He always said, "We" or "I'll take you" and things like that when we spoke to Kumasi. I didn't realize I was going to be on my own. And on a trou-trou?! I sat in dread, which only increased when we drove by the main bus station and he goes, "We'll go to the other one... this one's a bit rough."

When we arrived, I slowly began to relax. There were no trou-trous in sight. Instead the parking lot was lined with coach buses. Ghana's Greyhound is run by luxury buses (Note to Nigeria: Pick it up!). Not only were the buses neat and nicely kept up, but the whole system was organized. The "mate" sold you your ticket, which gave you an assigned seat number. Luggage could be stored under the bus. And the buses themselves were clean, had reclining seats and a foot rest, a TV (which they showed Nigerian and Ghanaian films on), and air conditioner. It was better than the real Greyhound! In fact, it was better than the Megabus!

The five-hour drive was pretty uneventful. I enjoyed the scenery and marveled at the good roads and ease of travel. There was even a rest stop that all the buses traveling stopped at to let passengers use the restroom and grab a snack or meal, if necessary.

The only stressful part was the barrage of taxi drivers who practically accosted you as they sought to claim you as a client. Both when I arrived in Kumasi and returned to Accra, I was grabbed at and jostled quite a bit. They are too busy trying to win you over the others that they ignore your initial protests and declaration that you already have someone coming to get you.

All-in-all, it beat any other bus ride I've ever taken between cities.

Ghana's Greyhound gets two thumbs up.

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