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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Round the bend

by Ben

So we've been in Tamale for 3 weeks and I'd say that so far - and I'm definitely not biased - I'd give us an A+ for our acclimatisation. We've eaten just about every Ghanaian dish that we can find - including delights like gizzard kebabs, we've dealt with the spiciest chillies they could throw at us and navigated the market successfully, we've made friends with the locals and even picked up some of the language.

But an area that I personally have failed to adapt to is the rules of the road. Frankly I'm not sure if there are any!

Bus travel Tamale Ghana

Now I should begin by stating clearly for the record: I have never had a driving lesson in my life. I went go-karting once, wasn't too bad, but aside from that I've never sat behind the wheel of anything except those driving games you get in the arcade of a bowling alley! I do feel, however, that I have a stronger grounding in the rules of the road than some of Ghana's budding young motorists. For me, the journey to work is one of the most interesting parts of my day and it's always worthwhile having the camera to hand.

Mopeds/bikes are a common form of transport in Ghana. Unlike in the UK though, it's not one person buzzing through the traffic; I've seen upwards of four on one bike! It's not uncommon for a mum to ride to work with her two young daughters casually chilling on the back. No helmets, no protective clothing, not even hanging on!!! Sometimes even the side of the road that traffic is supposed to be on seems to go out the window with people casually cycling against oncoming traffic.

In fact it seems that anything goes:

public transport tamale ghana

I decided it'd be worth finding out some more information on this so, as we all do, I turned to Fatawu, our local volunteer who is a resident of Tamale. What he told me simply confirmed my worst fears. It turns out that to ride a moped or bike you simply have to register with Ghana's DVLA equivalent and they don't ask you for license details. Handy because most people on a bike apparently don't have one! Insurance also doesn't exist here; if there was an accident the people involved would try to resolve it amicably on the roadside!

My brain was frazzled but I pressed on… surely there are more stringent rules in place for actual cars? Surely they need a license? Well, it turns out the majority of people do have licenses and I sighed a sigh of relief. However, it wasn't to last, I should have known better. In order to receive a license you simply pay someone to give you the document and there is normally no test involved… excellent.

I don't know about the rest of the team but I'm feeling a little less confident about the journey home!

cow on a bus Tamale Ghana