Trotro Life

To have a fascinating cultural experience aboard a trotro, you don’t even have to go anywhere. The hour we spent waiting for our trotro to leave Kaneshi Station for Winneba was excruciating, but provided a steady stream of entertainment, better than any movie… just too bad we didn’t have any popcorn. Oh wait, there’s a lady outside the window selling some! Perfect, now let’s sit back and enjoy the show!

To get around Accra, we’ve been dependent upon Uber, taxis are ubiquitous, and walking is always an option. But for any type of extended trip, by far the cheapest and most popular option for Ghanaians is the trotro. These vans run along set routes, and invariably have some religious slogan affixed to their rear window. And since they’re such rattly rustbuckets, the holy blessings are appreciated!

As a rule, trotros don’t start their journey until every seat is full. And in a large van headed toward a less-popular destination like Winneba, that can take awhile. Luckily, there’s plenty of distraction while you wait. A constant parade of vendors passes by, selling everything you could conceivably need for rhe journey, such as snacks, drinks and headphones; and other more random items, such as household cleaning supplies, cotton swabs, and mobile phone cases.

And if you’re in the market for the word of God, the roving vendors at Kaneshi Station have you covered. Midway through our sweaty, interminable wait for passengers to fill the van, a self-styled preacher boarded to deliver a bombastic sermon that freely mixed English and Twi. He seemed to be particularly interested in Jürgen and I, as the chance to evangelize to foreigners must be rare.

It didn’t come as surprise to learn that trotros apparently have atrocious safety records. Fatal accidents are all too frequent — these vans are uniformly ancient, and they’re clearly pushed well beyond their limits by their speed-freak conductors. In fact, it was an out-of-control trotro which we saw smash into Black Star Gate. In general, when other modes of transportation are available, it’s best to take advantage of those. But for many, many destinations within Ghana, trotros are your only option. They may not be comfortable or safe… but at least they’re interesting!

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