Thursday, August 14, 2008

Let's take a ride!

In my last post, I shared about part of our trip to Logba Tota. We made it to Kpeve for the first night. Most of the drive was, well...FAST! I dont think Ghana has any (enforced) speed limits -- so out on the open road, it's flat-out pedal-to-the-metal traveling! It can be exciting -- and it can be harrowing, too! The few times I've actually seen my life flash before my eyes were when I was riding in a van in Ghana!

Another part of the drive, though, was not so fast. Getting through the city of Accra is a slow crawl, with traffic EVERYWHERE, cars and trotros nosing in to merge, coming within inches of each other. But -- along the sides of the road and in between the cars, there's a fascinating business world going on. That's the ride I want to take you on today.

In Tema, we piled into the van with our friends, luggage, supplies, and food for a couple of days. This time, we had an air-conditioned van that had complete seat belts! This was the first I'd actually worn a seatbelt in Ghana -- taxis in previous years rarely had both pieces of a seatbelt; when they did, most times the buckle didnt work. It was also the first time we'd had the luxury of air-conditioning in all our vehicles. (This was because David had specifically requested it b/c of my breathing difficulties.)

Comm. 25 in Tema has few paved streets, so we started out bouncing along potholed dirt roads, dodging mini-ponds here & there. Water all across the road? No problem, just drive to the side & make a new road!

Hitting the "main drag" through Tema and on to Accra was easy; the traffic in Tema wasn't too heavy. There are several roundabouts in Tema (a "memorial" of sorts of British rule, I think). Merging traffic in the roundabout can get a bit scary, but we never had a problem ourselves. And, surprisingly, I never saw an accident. A LOT of near-misses, mind you -- but no accidents.
As we left Tema, we had to stop and pay a toll to get on the freeway to Accra. Clustered at the tollgate were many vendors, selling snacks and newspapers and drinks. That was just a foreshadowing of what we'd see in Accra!

We zipped down the freeway. I'm unsure of the speed. For one thing it's in kilometers per hour -- and all I know that 88 km/hr = approximately 55 mph.
But the main reason -- I've learned NOT to look at the speedometer because it can freak me out to see the needle pushing way beyond 110. :)

As we neared Accra, I could see the Kotoka International Airport on the left. That's my signal that we're in the city. There's a huge red & white checked tower (I think it's a water tower) nearby, and the air traffic control tower that are visible from the freeway. When we turned onto the exit near the airport, the traffic quickly slowed to a crawl.

The "drive" through Accra could more appropriately be described as a crawl. It took a long time for us to get to the other side of this city. If I were an impatient person, that would likely drive me crazy! But I took advantage of this time to observe a common daily activity in free enterprise!

People -- men, women, boys, & girls -- line the streets with their wares to sell. Some of them have "headquarters" -- small shacks or stands where they operated their business. Sometimes kids or women would balance their items on large platters, perched atop their heads. Other things would be draped over the arms, forming almost a "cape" of items to select from!
Just watching these folks, as they wove in & out among the cars and trucks, gave me a chance to marvel at their sense of balance. AND I appreciated that they are so enterprising.

So -- just to give you the full picture -- take an imaginary ride with me, and see folks selling things like this:

THINGS YOU CAN BUY ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD IN ACCRA:
Cookies
Handkerchiefs
Cell phone minutes
Bagged or bottled water
Windshield wiper blades
Tennis shoes
Dress shoes
Universal TV remotes
Ab reducer/exercise equipment
Insecticide
Cans of air freshener
Car air fresheners
Books
Magazines
Newspapers
CD's & tapes
Ties
Tie tacks
Cell phone covers
Belts
Hats
Onions
Bananas
Electric hair clippers
Meat pies
Watches
Note pads
Bread
Eggs
Candies
Peanuts
Paper
Pineapples
Blenders
Soccer balls
Plantain chips
Brooms
Tables
Kleenex
Flashlights
Irons
Ironing boards
Shirts
Chocolate bars
Semi-cool Coca Colas
Apples
Clocks
Popcorn
Sugar Cane
Soap (in long yellow bars)
Fabric
Small flags
Maps of Ghana
Maps of Africa
Clothes hangers
Clothes pins
Bras
Panties
Mens' Underwear
Silverware
Dishes
Glassware
All types of furniture (beds, dressers, chairs, sofas)
Plants for your yard
Ornamental Crockery ware (for the plants)
Wood carvings
Drums
Tires
Wheels
Cemetery wreaths
Coffins
Doors
Wrought Iron gates
Jewelry

Just to name a few!!! This is NOT a complete list -- it's just stuff I saw that particular day, on a short stretch of road in Accra. :)
For me, this "outdoor mall" is fascinating to watch!
And -- it's a "fun" part of the culture for someone not accustomed to seeing this kind of merchandising!

I realize this post is a little bit "off the beaten track" but I just wanted to try to paint a word picture for you about the unique experience of traveling in Ghana. :)

God bless you all,
Anita <><

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