Old vans clog the streets of every city and village in Ghana. So old their makes and models are incomprehensible to the untrained eye. They come in swarming bunches on the street, packed to the brim, arms and heads hanging out of every open window available. Hogging the lane, spewing toxic smoke from the back, sides, and even the front – they own every city they operate in. When they swerve to get in your lane, you give it to them, because they never give way. They are called the Tro Tro
and obey no traffic laws accept the universal road rage law – whoever gets there first wins.
I hated everything about them and like most expats living in Ghana, taxis were enough for me. With taxis, I can get from point A to B in my limited geographic area for a good price and the Tro Tro was just an acceptable nuisance. I pitied the individuals riding in them, shoulder to shoulder, soaking in sweat - they looked miserable. At every stop light I would look at them and they would look at me and in their eyes I could see the desperation.
I vowed to never use one.
Unfortunately, beggars cannot be choosers and due to my new Kiva Field Partner’s office location – I was suddenly forced to accept the fact that riding in a Tro Tro just made sense.
And as a result, I saw a whole new Ghana.
I saw a Ghana where a hand signal-based transit language unique to Tro Tro riders and conductors existed right under my nose.
I saw a Ghana where passengers packed inside these Tro Tros like sardines showed a courtesy between passengers all sharing and helping one another to make an uncomfortable situation as bearable as possible
I saw a Ghana from the point of view of the Tro Tro conductors, who drove crazy and hogged the lanes for a reason – he had a job to do and he needed to do it as fast as he can or he doesn’t eat.
And I finally saw a Ghana where people who make a conscious effort to avoid riding in Tro Tros are the ones to feel sorry for. Relatively Safe. Standard set prices. No energy draining price haggling with unscrupulous cab drivers. The Tro Tro is a win win for anyone trying to get around quickly and efficiently.
Now I love them.
Typical Tro Tro with ever present "Doorman Mate" riding outside.
Typical Tro Tro.
Inside the Tro Tro.