This past Saturday I took my first real tro-tro ride to the eastern region of Ghana. Tro-tros are old minivans, in really bad condition, with extra seats added. These vans came equipped to seat 7 passengers. With the "modified" seating, most pack in 12 to 16 passengers. The driver and mate (who opens the door and takes your money) hang out the window and yell the destination and make hand gestures.
I had done my best to avoid using tro-tros, not ready to be packed rib to rib in a rusty minivan with live chickens laying on the floor. But in some regions it's the only way to travel. I had no other choice. After making my way through the lorry station, where you get on or transfer, I began to understand some of the madness. It wasn't so bad after all. If the windows aren't tinted or you aren't positioned directly behind someone's head, the view is nice and it's a good way to see many towns and villages.
My first stop was Akosombo. I planned to take the once weekly pleasure "cruise" on the Volta Lake, the world's largest man made lake. To the tune of a live high life band, I sat and discussed my experiences with two volunteers from Canada. They had been living in the Northern region for the last four months and were making their way south to Accra to fly home. They had advice for me, people to ask for in villages I'll visit, where to stay and the much discussed topic of how much taxis and tro-tros should cost.
The Dodi Princess, our cruise ferry, makes a stop and turnaround at Dodi Island. We "alighted" and were immediately met with outstretched hands. Each passenger was flanked on both sides by small children clinging to their arms and hands. At first it seemed like a welcoming gesture. As we were led along a path, two groups of dancers and drummers sang a welcome song.
The path was steep and when I reached into my bag for my camera, I couldn't free my hand! It soon became apparent that this welcoming gesture of children coming to hold our hands was nothing more than a plot to extract money. The path to the other side of the island was short and we found ourselves in a traffic jam. Their was no where to go and nothing to do. We all stood around looking confused.
We passed an angry Ghanaian man who ranted about what a hoax this was. He hadn't paid his 60,000 Cedis for this! "Why hasn't Ghana developed the island? I paid my money! What are they doing will all the money? Europeans would have developed this island. They would know what to do." We cringed and walked away. Even though Ghana was the first to defeat colonialism and claim it's independence, the evidence of colonialism is still apparent everywhere. So many Ghanaians still feel like "others" do it better. The "others" know what is best.
With nothing to do and no where to go, we decided to head back to the Dodi Princess. I had already shaken off my hangers on. My two new friends were trying their best to break free. At every step four sets of hands would reach up to grab our arms. We asked what they wanted, and now the truth came. . ."geeve mohney"
Everyone on the cruise rode back in near silence. Many people slept. When we arrived back at the dock, we said our goodbyes, exchanged contact information and I took a taxi back to the guesthouse to get my bag.
On to the next town, by tro-tro!
My next destination was Koforidua and New Tafo, home to the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) and many cocoa farms and plantations.