Earlier this week, making the return journey to Accra from Dormaa-Ahenkro (D-A), in the Bono Region, instead of a direct night bus to Accra, I decide to do it ‘the way’ – a nickname for a series of journeys.
(A tro-tro is a commercial, shared transport mostly for short distances, originally cheap, the fare for a ride was, in the Ga language, tro or three pence.)
On Monday, August 9, the first stage of my journey of some 477 km or 295 miles begins at about 9 a.m. via a taxi to Sunyani, the Bono Regional capital. From there, I will begin stage two, by a bus to Kumasi.
By 9.40, we’re in Berekum and its main street is bustling as usual. The next town is Nsoatre. For as long as I can remember, there has been talk of the present Sunyani airport giving way to a new one at Nsoatre, but when?
In Sunyani the taxi drops me off and by around 10.30 I’m in a queue at the ticket window of the makeshift terminal of a Sunyani-Kumasi transport company.
The fare is GH¢20 and GH¢8 charge for my suitcase; seat number 22. I notice two already full buses are departing, so I wonder if the I.O. Ampomah Transport bus will fill up quickly. Fortunately, it does and minutes later we’re off!
But social distancing is clearly unheard of to these transport companies. There is very little legroom and the twin seats are too narrow and too close together. Thus the promise on the ticket of a “Safe, Reliable Comfortable Transporters” appears not quite accurate!
My back-support mini cushion makes me feel even more uncomfortable, but I need it to soften the impact of the inevitable potholes on the highway.
No sign of anybody wearing a seat belt and when I look for mine, I find that it has retracted and doesn’t pull up.
Furthermore, apart from myself, only a few of my fellow passengers are wearing nose masks. Number 21, my seat companion, too, has no mask, so I make sure mine is fitting well, only taking it off briefly to eat a sandwich and drink some water. My hand sanitizer too is in constant, liberal use.
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As we drive on, I reflect that I am seeing very few place names and I wonder why. It seems that local, district councils no longer take pride in identifying their communities.
When we get near our destination, I decide to answer the prompting from nature now, before we get stuck in Kumasi traffic. I walk up to the front of the bus and tell the conductor that I need to use a urinal, so if the driver could kindly stop at a suitable place …
A few minutes later, the driver pulls into a ‘Plus Energy’ fuel station. It then emerges that I’m not the only one who needs to answer nature’s call. Others, too, get down – including, surprisingly, a woman sitting right behind the driver!
Inside the dilapidated women’s urinal, a nice surprise awaits me: an appropriate urinal for women! It consists of two parallel ledges with a gutter in the middle. This is the first time I’m coming across such a female-friendly urinal in Ghana. How refreshing!
In this country, usually one finds that what is supposed to be a urinal for women is actually designed for the use of the male anatomy.
So well done, PLUS ENERGY Company! This is certainly a huge plus for your management.
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On arrival in Kumasi, I take a taxi to the JEON VIP bus station for the last stage of my journey and I get lucky. When I pay the GH¢60 fare, (an additional GH¢10 for my suitcase) I get a good seat right in front; number 3 and, bliss, a single seat, so no seat companion. Plenty of legroom too; and a seat belt that works.
However, what is definitely not agreeable is the state of the toilets at the VIP station: small, cramped, broken flush handles and stinking. Simply disgusting.
How can the Ministry of Transport and the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly allow this blatant disrespect to passengers?
At about 2.50 p.m., our bus gingerly manouvres its way out of the congested terminal and I relax for a comfortable last leg of my journey.
But suddenly I remember that I’m missing something, my back-support cushion! Left in the Sunyani bus! Fortunately, I still have the Sunyani ticket and there are two contact numbers on it.
Happily, the manager of the bus company answers and promises to check with the bus driver. Almost immediately, he calls me back to reassure me that the driver has indeed seen the cushion and will return it to Sunyani and he will keep it for me.
A relief – and gratifying that some companies take passengers’ concerns seriously. So the “reliable” part of their promise is true, after all. I relax and eat another sandwich.
Later, when the driver pulls into a fuel station to top up, seeing a sign indicating washrooms, I head that way to investigate. Inside I make a delightful discovery: a clean, neat toilet whose flush works, with no stench at all; with clean basins and soap available. Wonderful!
The facility seems to have the familiar Goil orange and white colours and the driver confirms that it is indeed a Goil fuel station; and the location is Boankra.
So, big congrats, management of the Boankra Goil Fuel Station!
Although elsewhere few place names are seen, the Kwahu West does even better. They have novel, imaginative ‘before and after’ signs: ‘Welcome to Kwahu West Municipality’ and ‘You are leaving Kwahu West, Goodbye’.
Well done, Kwahu West Municipal Chief Executive Mr. Yaw Owusu Addo and your management!
We finally arrive at the VIP terminal in Accra at about 8.30 p.m. Ironical that the GH¢25 taxi fare to my home at Dansoman Estate is more than the 122 km Sunyani to Kumasi fare! Inexplicable Ghana!
On the whole, rather interesting, the D-A to Accra by the tro-tro mode, but evidently not cheap; and exhausting! Nevertheless, quite an experience and well worth it for me.