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My African adventure

And your specialist subject is - the trotro!

GHANA | Thursday, 11 February 2010 | Views [679] | Comments [5]

Well it may not be the most suitable subject for Mastermind but just in case it crops up at your next pub quiz, here are some interesting - and not so interesting - facts about trotros (TTS)

1. All TTS have a driver - hereafter called "the driver" - and his sidekick/conductor - hereafter called "mate". As in "Mate, I need to get off at Barclays Bank" or "Mate, where's my change?"

2. The driver mainly drives (but will hand signal to get potential passengers' attention) and although he (driver and mate are always without exception, male) looks no older than 14, in fact by definition has to have passed his driving test so must be at least 18

3. Almost without exception, all TTS have a windscreen that at least has a chip in it or more likely, several cracks, making it not only hazardous but difficult to see through

4. Fares start at around 25 Gp (about 11p) per journey to get round Accra, 80 Gp to get from Swedru to the orphanage (25 min ride), 1.80 GHC (80-85p)from Swedru to Accra (anything from 2- 3 hours, depending on traffic) and 4.20 GHC from Swedru to Takoradi on the south coast (3-4 hours)

5. The driver is compelled by law to wear a seat belt - note that the law doesn't include the passengers or the mate ...Every few miles on main roads, there are police checks, where they check the driver is belted up (they also look to see if there are any suspicious-looking i.e. Nigerian passengers - but that's another story!)

6. The mate spends most of each journey half out of the window gesticulating and shouting madly to attract anyone's attention who is a potential paying passenger

7. The mate bangs on the door - or roof if he can reach it - to let the driver know to stop, either to let passengers off or to allow yet more to squeeze into an already full-to-bursting TT

8. The mate also organises the seating arrangement inside the TT. In other words, the more he can in, the more he earns, so it's in his interest to pack 'em in. He won't let you sit on the "extra" seats until all the regular ones are full

9. The TT is distinct from a shared taxi, being more of a bus, though the shared taxi ( as distinct from a "drop" or charter taxi) will similarly take people to a designated destination, the main thing is that you don't mind sharing with other paying passengers. Confused? Good!

10. TTS allow preachers on board either before the journey starts or picked up along the way. The preacher whiles away the journey, sometimes not pausing for breath for an hour or more ...

11. Almost without exception, and even if you ignore the cracked/chipped windscreens, no TT would pass an MOT. Doors fall off, lights are dodgy, often no wing mirrors, sometimes parts of the floor are missing so you can see the road

12. Amid all this chaos, there is actually order! You start to recognise the same TT and mates if you do the same journey several times such as I did going to and fro the orphanage

13. TT journeys are a perfect way to do your weekly shop. We Brits are missing a trick - who needs Tesco when the supermarket runs alongthe side of the TT, as it slows down to let passengers on and off? You can buy anything through the TT window from sweets, plantain chips, boiled eggs and all sorts of other culinary delights, to more obscure roadside purchases such as flannels ( an essential in this heat), ties, toilet paper, cotton buds (you just have to have them when you travel!), superglue, mirrors and so on. WAtching a TT pull up at a stop makes such compelling viewing - traders/sellers creep out from who-knows-where to ply their trade

14. TTS have the capacity to carry from 10 passengers (but frequently will squeeze in 4 or 5 more) up to 20 (squeezing in even more). Squashing together is the order of the day- it's easy to make friends when you're sitting so close!

15. Flagging down a TT isn't always easy - the mate calls out something that is often incomprehensible and you have to interpret it as best you can. So if he shouts out Labadi, you know he's going to Danquah Circle (where the internet cafe is that I'm sitting in and where it all happens generally) and he shouts out Circle, you know he's going to Paloma, which is around the corner to the hotel where I'm currently staying. If you are really unsure, you either pluck up the courage to ask - or else take a taxi!

16. Filling up with petrol leaves something to be desired. The driver never switches off the engine while petrol is being put in to the tank. Life in their hands?

17. The driver considers his TT is broken down if his horn doesn't work. This is because he hoots his horn all day - both to warn other drivers not to knock into him (not always successful)and to alert people that he's got spaces so come on inside

18. The TT often doesn't leave for its destination until it's full. So you can wait for hours (literally) sometimes especially if you're going on a longer journey. But you won't go hungry ( see point 13 above)

19. The "better" TTS sometimes show films if it's a long journey. Always African, usually Nigerian (English speaking) and I promise you, all are dire. But so dire, that they are great entertainment

20. Most if not all TTS are imported from Europe so it's not unusual to see German/Dutch/Swedish writing on the side. They are almost without question rejects!

So that's the information on TTS. Sorry if I've missed anything out but now here are some questions to ask you ...

Q1. What is the driver's companion called?

Q2. How much does it cost to go from Swedru to Accra?

Q3. Name 3 things you can buy from roadside sellers when sitting on a TT

Q4. Would TTS pass an MOT?

Q5. Do passengers wear seat belts?

Q6. How do you get a TT to stop to let you alight?

Q7. What does the mate do for most of the journey?

Q8. What's the difference between a TT and a "drop" taxi?

Q9. Why does the driver beep his horn?

Q10. Would you like to experience a TT journey?

Pictures of TTS and their mates plus sellers and passengers will be posted soon. Answers to the above Qs will be marked accordingly ...



PLEASE PLEASE go to check whether they ever completed the blackboard greeting from WEL to WELCOME ........... it's only 2 years - they may finally have got around to it!
And how close have you got to ramming the megaphone of the trotro preacher up his godly passage?
Love it all!! Desperate to see the pics,
Keep blogging, girl!

  Wendy Feb 11, 2010 6:22 AM


Sounds rather like Glynneath buses actually,just cheaper. We'll be thinking of you on the 20th. One newbie too - Sue Childs!
Will text as promised but I'm feeling incredibly well.


  Suzi Feb 12, 2010 9:10 AM


This is such a wonderful posting, I was giggling as I read it. It's clear that people travel long distances without hesitation - is fuel cheap? And the tro tro vehicles themselves - there must be squillions of them - do you know what it would cost to buy one? We could do with a system like this locally, couldn't we? You could get Simon and Matt to be driver and mate, and we could ask the deli man to run along the side of the car when it pulled into Pinner. I feel sure it would be popular and the tube is hardly working at all at weekends right now so business would be brisk...

All love

Mrs O H

  Mrs O H Feb 14, 2010 6:22 PM


Such a good posting on the trotros!
Phil died Friday night in the Archers - Jill, Peggy and Chris went out for the day to a hat museum (?) and on their return we could hear Elgar music and then Jill saying oh no Phil...and more Elgar to fade out. No usual theme tune. So just getting ready for 7 pm Sun broadcast to hear more. I am worried about Helen - has taken Annettes brief pregnancy /abortion very hard. Annette now gone to her grandmas. I think Helen is broody ! Or could she be pregnant (also by Leon) and not know it..( she didnt know that Annette and Leono had had a fling). All for now ! xx

  Sue Feb 15, 2010 5:35 AM


Just read this article - reminds me of Comprehension tests at primary school! And apropos my comment on your previous post, surely I missed a trick and could have turned my car into a miniture tro-tro!

(The horn works but the brakes were slightly dodgy so it would have been ideal!)

  Colin Altman Feb 16, 2010 9:54 AM

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