From Winneba to Accra through roundabout
Oheneba Akyeampong Opinion
Winneba was the largest town between Accra and Cape Coast, the regional capital. From 1928 to 1962, it was a thriving port; one of only three ports that handled the country’s maritime trade. (Accra and Takoradi were the other two). With the commissioning of the deep-water harbour at Tema, surf-port operations ceased at Winneba (and Accra).
Petty trading now assumed greater significance in the local economy. For purposes of re-stocking, most retailers had to visit Accra, the national capital.
Winneba Roundabout was the town’s most important transport node after the two stations; almost all vehicular traffic to and from the town passed through it. Intra-city transportation had not yet developed at the time.
‘Winneba Junction’ had not gained currency yet and there was, indeed, no purpose-built bus-stop. People travelling to other parts of the country joined Swedru-bound trucks, got off at ‘Roundabout’ and continued the journey.
The route through ‘Roundabout’ was, however, not the only one to Accra. A second one went eastwards from Winneba town through smaller communities and joined the highway to Accra at Ekotsi.
Parallel to the main Cape Coast-Accra highway, the Bereku Road, as it is known, was shorter but un-tarred, bumpy and dusty; consequently, it is avoided by most motorists.
Farm-steads, green spaces
The left-hand drive was the rule in Ghana. The 40-something year old driver sat behind the steering-wheel to the right-hand of the vehicle and changed the gear with the left hand.
There were even larger tracts of green spaces and farmsteads along the route.
In fact, Awutu Bereku was the largest of the three or four settlements. Milestones enabled one to determine, at any time, the distance left to be covered.
As we approached Odupong-Kpehe, the last town in the Central Region, we passed by a vehicle with Save Me O God (SMOG) inscribed on it; the passengers were standing round the vehicle, probably stretching their limbs.
Soon, we passed by the driver’s mate as he jogged. Putting two and two together, one could figure out what was happening. A driver from the opposite direction had signalled the presence of the cops a few meters ahead by flashing the lorry’s head-light while pointing downwards with the right hand.
The driver of SMOG had, therefore, made a strategic ‘stop’. He would have had to part with money for carrying one passenger more than permitted. His mate would have passed by the cops by the time they set off again. Drivers of those days treated the police with a modicum of respect.
The driver’s mate on our vehicle had been cooling his heels up to this time. He dozed off, every now and then.
We were about leaving Odukpong-Kpehe, the last in the Central Region, when the rain started. He quickly got up to demonstrate he was on top of his brief. In a minute, the ‘shutters’ came down.
The ‘shutters’ were, actually, five pieces of tarpaulin curtains. They were folded and fastened around the roof of the truck and unfurled during rainfall.
Passengers seated on the extreme ends then held the loose ends closely to the vehicle in such a way that all were shielded from the rain. The vehicle suddenly turned into an oven-on-wheels.
Breathing became a chore as a result of stuffy conditions inside the vehicle. Once in a while, a particular gentleman would flip the curtain to allow in air.
Though partially drenched, he persisted to the admiration of some of us. We all heaved a sigh of relief as the rain subsided.
The year was 1967, 64 years since the advent of automobiles in the Gold Coast. Technological advancements have significantly lowered the level of hassle and discomfort associated with travel.
In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus Christ alluded to the dangers that confronted travellers of the time. ‘Travail’, the root word of ‘travel’, captures it all.
In 1954, the coastal road from Winneba Roundabout turned right at the Panbros area and entered the city through the suburbs of Chorkor, Korle Gonno and Akoto Lante.
Today, Winneba Road remains an abiding testament to the initial design. In the early 1960s, however, Accra, ‘moved’ as Okaishie, emerged the new Central Business District (CBD) and an industrial estate sprang up some three kilometres to the north.
In the ensuing spatial reorganisation, the redesigned coastal road passed through Kaneshie.
After Mango Line, the milestones vanished, while built environments exceeded the total acreage of open spaces. I needed no telling that we were on the outskirts of Accra.
Nearing Accra Central
Our vehicle stopped at the police barrier, opposite Accra Academy. However, the police officer merely exchanged courtesies with the driver and waved us on. We were, for the first time, held up in traffic.
A newspaper vendor rushed to our vehicle. But, unlike his counterpart in Winneba, this one was not lucky; no one appeared interested in his wares. It turned out we were approaching Abbosey Okai, now Obetsebi Lamptey Roundabout. This roundabout, unlike the one in Winneba, was so busy that traffic jam could induce street hawking.
We turned right at the intersection and turned left, after about 100 metres. At a bridge over the Korle Lagoon, I spotted Accra High School; its decrepit buildings did not match the name.
At timber market, we turned left again for the home stretch. We had spent about two hours covering the 60 kilometres, without any dual carriage-way; no traffic jam, no army of street hawkers, except the newspaper chap encountered near Abossey Okai Roundabout.
The fare was 30 pesewas, almost half of the minimum daily wage of 65 pesewas.
Pre-departure information search had thrown up landmark features such as high rise buildings, neon signs, department stores, the two Makola markets and cold chocolate drink sold with meat pie.
I had also learnt about Kojo Thompson, a local politician who attended Winneba Methodist Middle School, with the longest road in the city named after him.
So, as we entered the CBD, I was primed for these sights and more. At the central lorry station at Tudu, a horde of hawkers, not four as witnessed in Winneba, sought to draw my attention to their wares. I continued walking towards the Ghana National Fire Service station said to mark the centre of the CBD.
Suddenly, there was this public place of convenience that emitted a pungent smell. That one was a familiar sight, though not found in the literature.
The writer is a retired lecturer.