20 April 2011 – Travel Day

Today I traveled from Tamale to Boateng-Fiema. It was a typical travel day in Ghana. I woke at 5:00 am. I was excited because I was going to the Monkey Sanctuary in Boateng-Fiema. And I wanted to be ready on time because Georgette and Katie, two fellow PCVs, were also going to the station. They were headed up to the Bolga area and I wanted to show them where the tro tro was at the station.

At the station, after I took them to their tro tro, I bought my usual egg sandwich and coke to eat on the bus. Then I settled down to wait. The STC bus was scheduled to leave at 7:00 am but I was under no illusions that it would.

Today I decided to to travel in style. My seat had been reserved the previous day for 14 GHC. The seats were two two on either side of the aisle with plenty of room for my African style hips. I would also have room for to stow my backpack and my bag of books.

Unlike the tro tro ride from Bolga to Tamale yesterday. That day I had to sit on the very back row. These seats have no space under them because the trunk extends under them. The row would fit five people with American model size hips but of course we don’t have those here! In the back row were five average sized people, one of these people was a mother who had a babe in arms and a preschooler with her.

I had to put my backpack on the floor between my feet. My bag of books and my purse were my lap. At first the toddler was on my left squished between me and her mother but after about 20 minutes the mom picked up the large calabash bowl from the floor between her legs and put the older child on the floor between her legs. The calabash ended up on the girls lap. When the child on the floor wasn’t sleeping her feet were visiting the cramped space around my feet.

So after that I told myself I would have the luxury of room on my long trip from Tamale to Techiman!

The next benefit of STC is the AC. On the tro tro yesterday the woman with the two children was sitting next  to the window and she had swaddled her baby in a blanket with the baby had a hat on. They were by the window and even with the baby wrapped well the woman wouldn’t open the window for fear of making the child cold. Yes it’s true! It must have been 80 in the shade. I always thought I had a low tolerance for cold!

So even if I was in the same situation on STC it wouldn’t be sweating the whole trip to Techiman. And if I was too cold I always had my two yard and socks to warm up with! But I was to be disappointed by STC. The AC on my bus was spoiled. With unusual customer service for Ghana they did refund us two GHC and my seat mate had no problem with opening windows so it was ok if not perfect.

The last bonus of STC is that people don’t usually bring livestock on the bus with them. I think it’s not allowed. On the tro tro ride yesterday the floor kept bumping up against my feet. At first I thought it was rocks flying up but it was happening way too much then I heard a goat. There were goats in the boot of the vehicle and they were not happy!

At 7:38 I set off in my roomy, livestockless, relatively cool bus. I was finishing up The Appeal by Grisham and was happy as a free range goat. The first traveling mercy on this journey was the woman across the aisle from me. She had read the Testament by Grisham so we talked small small about his books. She hadn’t read The Appeal so I promised to give it to her when I finished. Any time I find a Ghanaian who likes to read I try to encourage it.

The biggest glitch on the trip was a two hour wait in the Kintempo rest area. I don’t know why we stayed the extra two hours; we were never told. I had a good book and due to cloud cover it was not too hot so I settled into waiting mode.

In Techiman I took a share taxi to Nkornaza. No problems.

In Nkoranza I came upon an almost full tro tro heading to my final destination, Boabeng- Fiema. The second traveling mercy happened here. The only seat left was the jump seat. There are seats added to the end of a bench seat. They fold up to make an aisle to the back seats. The backs of these jump seats usually hit me in the most uncomfortable spot in the middle of my back. Usually the mechanism that locks them into place when they are down is broken so the roller coaster nature of any tro tro ride is amplified when you sit in the jump seat. I didn’t really mind cause I had no more than 30 minutes but as I climbed into the tro tro a nice young gentleman moved aside and let me sit on the bench seat and he took the jump seat.

The third traveling mercy was assistance finding my stop. I asked the young man who had given up his seat for me where the guest house was for the monkey sanctuary. He didn’t know but the person in front in the “big man seat” turned and said he knew. He then told the driver where I wanted to alight.

When I alighted at the guest house I was met by Edmond, the senior guide. He registered me and showed me the facilities. I had totally expected the place to have no running water or electricity but I was pleasantly surprised. There was a shower and flush toilet and a fan and lights in my room. By 4:00 pm I was bathed and laying on my bed under the fan.

My dinner was served at 5:30 in the summer hut shaded by mango trees. The aroma of the mango blossoms drifted through the air, butterflies flitted around, two lizards played in a bush near the summer hut and a small breeze kept me cool. It was quiet except for the sound of birds and insects.

It was a pleasant ending to a long day of travel.

Tomorrow the monkeys!

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