By 6:30 am on Monday morning I was sitting at the STC station, ready to take the bus from Accra to Tamale. As departure time came closer I realized how important it was to come early; as people arrive luggage is arranged into a queue for the destination. Since I was relatively early, my large bag was towards the front of this queue, and thus was weighed early on. After your bag is weighed you must pay for it, and then an STC attendant will load it into the bus’s luggage space (for a small price, of course). I watched in amazement as refrigerators, fans, and bags bursting at the seams all miraculously fit in the storage space under the bus. I truly did not expect everyone’s luggage to fit, seeing as many people had brought many more than the 2 suggested bags, but somehow the STC attendants had all the bags tucked away and doors closed around 7:45 am.
Next, everyone boards the bus and a STC official tells you which seat you are assigned to. I felt very lucky to be in seat number two, right behind the driver, with a spectacular view out of the front window of the bus. In the next 10 minutes we were on our way! I quickly picked up a few things about driving in Ghana: 1. Typical traffic rules don’t apply. Most drivers will simply honk and then move into the opposite lane to pass anyone they deem going too slow. 2. Honking is used very commonly, for the aforementioned reason, and to get people, animals, bikers, anyone or anything, out of your way. 3. Many of the roads are not paved, which makes for a very bumpy ride, so brace yourself!
Despite the bumps and the honking I fell asleep for some of the 12 hour ride to Tamale. When I was awake I took in the gorgeous lush landscape, very jungle-esque in parts, and less so in other parts. Many villages looked quite similar, appearing on the road side all of the sudden out of nowhere: mud huts with thatch roofs, people hunched over cooking pots or sitting on benches would wave as goats and chickens ran from the road. As quickly as they appeared, they would disappear, as the STC bus moved along at 80 kph+ speeds. Passing through the city of Kumasi was particularly memorable, in part because of the children in bright school uniforms walking home from school, and also because of how busy the city was. Kumasi is in the Ashanti region, and home to the Ashanti King. We crawled through the busy traffic, and I noticed scenery very similar to Accra; many shops along the road selling everything from tires to toasters and all that falls in between.
The in-bus entertainment was a series of Nigerian Films (which are very popular because they are in English). I was particularly intrigued by “Worlds Apart 1” and “Worlds Apart 2,” a series about a Prince who falls in love with a woman from the bush, a sort of Nigerian version of “My Fair Lady” if you will.
The rest-stops were also very interesting. We stopped at four, all very similar except for one crucial variant: the bathroom facilities. At the first rest stop I learned that before entering you must pay (I think it was 20 pesewas) and you are handed a small roll of toilet paper. This bathroom was very large with many stalls, and not so bad for a rest stop bathroom overall. The last stop, however, was a bit intimidating. I would not call it a “bathroom” and it was not really advertised as such, instead it was a “Urinal” and if you don’t think there are some key differences between a “bathroom” and a “urinal” you are mistaken. The “Urinal” (which I have seen frequently in the villages and towns here in the Northern Region) is made of cement walls, and basically, you walk in behind a wall and take care of business. Meanwhile your head is usually bobbing above the wall and for the inexperienced and embarrassed traveler, like me, it can be a very intimidating experience! Besides the differences in bathroom facilities, the rest stops were similar in that they had places to buy food, some having a more extensive market area than others. Since I was nervous about getting sick on the bus I ate trail mix I had packed along for most of the day, but a lot of the food at the rest stops looked like it would be delicious if I wasn’t so nervous!
Soon it was pitch dark and we were hurtling closer and closer to Tamale. Finally the street became lighter and lighter and I realized we were entering a city. Before I had time to fully process where we were, we had stopped at the STC station in Tamale! I got off the bus and was instantly bombarded by taxi drivers asking “Taxi? Taxi?” Luckily, Fatawu and Habib were there to pick me up, and quickly found me and my bag and took me to a nearby restaurant. They had been driven from Dalun to Tamale by Mr. Daout, a very friendly and funny man I met a few moments later, who works for the Simli Center Radio Station. After I ate, we got in the Simli Center truck to head back to Dalun. Although the journey probably took at least 45 minutes it felt like no time at all, and around 10:30 pm we had arrived at the Simli Center. The Simli Center (formerly known as the Ghanaian Danish Community Program) is an initiative between Dalun and an organization in Denmark. The Danish are highly involved in multiple efforts in Dalun, the GDCP or Simli Center being one of them, and thus, one of the primary functions of the Simli Center is to house and feed guests to Dalun. Arrangements had been made for the other intern and me to stay in a small compound with three huts, a bathroom, a shower, and a kitchen area. It was very dark and I was so tired I would have slept anywhere, but I was very pleased when Fatawu showed me my hut, complete with a wardrobe, two beds, a desk, a chair, and most importantly, a ceiling fan! After the long multi-day journey I had finally arrived in my new home!