Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ghana's Eastern Corridor Road

Thanksgiving Travels

After a great Thanksgiving in the Upper East and a weekend in Tamale, I traveled back to Bodada along the infamous Eastern Corridor Road. Connecting Accra to Tamale via the Volta Region, the ECR is a traditional African highway. You'll experience coastal savannah, the might Volta River and its accompanying valleys, the mountains of central Volta, and the foothills that lead you into the great North Ghanaian savannah. Contracts to pave the road have been signed for years, but more than half of the road is surfaced with dirt. It is considered by many to be one of the worst major roads in Ghana. Here's how it went:

MONDAY: I woke up at 4:00am and got a ride to the taxi station. Then I walked from the main station to the Metro Mass station; I arrived at 4:45. The first bus only had seating for the first 4 rows of people waiting, and I was in the 6th row. The rest of the tickets were sold as standing room only, but I didn't want to stand for 2+ hours in the early morning. I left the station at 7:00 on the 2nd bus, and we arrived in Yendi at 9:10. Yendi is not a known as a peaceful town  because local chieftaincy disputes have resulted in gunfire as recently as Christmas (and probably more recently). Peace Corps doesn't let volunteers spend the night there, but I didn't have any problems walking to the Bimbilla station or waiting for my next car.

The Benz (atro-tro made my Mercedes that fits about 30 people) left Yendi at 10:15. At 10:22, the car broke down. We waited 45 min for another Benz to come, and when it showed up there were already 8 people in the car. I didn't want to push and shove my way into one of the seats, so I boarded last and had to stand for 45 min until enough people got off and I had a seat. The car arrived in Bimbilla at 1:40pm, and I found a car going to Nkwanta.

Unfortunately no one told me that this car was the 4th car in the queue going south. Most cars that go south stop at Damanko (on the border of the Northern and Volta Regions),or Kpassa (firmly in Volta), but this one was going straight to Nkwanta so they put me in it. After an hour, I realized what was happening, but I had already bought my ticket. I wasn't going to be able to make it home in one night, and I had only one option that didn't cost too much money. I called up Linda, a Health PCV in Jumbo, just south of Kpassa, and she graciously accepted me as a guest. At 3:40 we left Bimbilla, and I eventually arrived in Jumbo at 5:45pm. Linda cooked quiche. It had real Velveeta cheese in it. And she had an extra bed for me to sleep in. Linda is awesome, and her site is good. Highly recommended.

TUESDAY: I woke up at 5:00am and left Linda's house by 6:15; I walked to the station in Kpassa. I boarded another Benz heading to Hohoe at 7:00, but the car didn't leave until 9:50. Thankfully I had plenty of "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" podcasts to listen to, and I'm now caught up on current events. After sweet-talking the driver into taking me into town, we arrived in Jasikan at 12:30pm.  I lucked out and my car to Bodada left right away. By 12:50, I was finally home, and I was greeted with rain.

Thoughts: First, the road isn't that bad. In the Northern Region between Yendi and Damanko it is pretty rough, and I can see how it would be even worse in the rainy season. Honestly though, it isn't that much worse than the section between Hohoe and Jasikan.  

Second, I think it might be possible to go from Tamale to Hohoe in 1 day, but one would have to be lucky. By catching the first bus, I think you could get to Bimbilla by 11:00. Then by taking cars to Damanko or Kpassa and then to Nkwanta instead of getting a straight car to Nkwanta, it might be possible to get to Hohoe by 6:00pm. However, this assumes that you get cars relatively quickly, 7:00 or 8:00 is probably more realistic. 

Third, Northern Ghana is hotter than the South, but it's also drier. I was sweating constantly, but it dries so it's not nearly as oppressive.  

Fourth, my site is awesome. In my opinion, equatorial jungle mountains are superior to savannah grasslands (In other words, the jungle where Simba lived with Timon and Pumba > the Pride Rock plains). 

Fifth, podcasts and music make traveling here bearable. I would have struggled a lot more without my iPod.

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