We rolled out promptly from Accra at nine this morning, in a small caravan of three vehicles, packed to the brim for our trip to the North. Our route actually took us Northwest through a number of towns, large and small -- many of which are not on our driving map. From Accra we headed Northwest to Nsawan and then to Apadwa. From there we went to Suhum, and after a brief stop at Bunso Junction we went to Osino, Anyinam, Nkwankwan, Konogo and finally to Kumasi. The route for the most part is a very well paved two lane highway that cut through endless forest and grasslands that were broken up by towns. It had all the makings of a pleasant drive that wasn't meant to be.
For somebody like myself that spends much of his time commuting by bicycle, I'm not afraid to admit that the trip was hair raising. Our speeds were usually very fast on the highway between 70 and 90 m.p.h and people passed at will along the two-way roads--around blind corners, over blind hills, and between lanes, squeezing other cars to the edge of the road. Along the highway there were the corpses of other cars and trucks that obviously didn't fare well on our route. I'm no mechanic, but as I listened to the sound of our transmission rolling and winding out between gears, I could imagine the drive shaft spinning like a lathe producing piles of metal shavings. In fact, the floor beneath my feet was so hot that I couldn't put my bare feet on the floor mat and had to wear shoes.
As we drove, passing cars, tailgating, breaking fast, swerving to avoid on coming vehicles, I knew that I was not alone in my fears. There were sighs, gasps, swearing, and often I looked behind me to Chad, our assistant camera to share a quick look of disbelief. "That was the worst @!#$% car ride I ever had in my life!" Chad told me later. Justin Brashares, the scientists we're filming, advises his graduate students coming to work in Ghana, that the most dangerous thing they need to be aware of is not crime, and not the animals in the bush . . . it is driving on the roads. Passing through one of the many small towns on our way to Kumasi.
At the top of a hill, our driver cuts back into position and decides not to pass.
Our trip grinds to a completely stop and our driver Ernest, our soundman Chris, and assistant camera Chad pose for a picture on the side of the road.
A recent accident. A familiar site on the road to Kumasi.