HOME IN 10 HOURS: The Journey (part 2)

The bus is ready to leave and they realize a seat is empty. A guy who didn’t have a ticket is admitted into the bus when an occupant doesn’t show. He packs his bags on the bus and also gets down to handle some business. By the time he comes back, the original occupant of the seat had come back. What a loss! Moral of the story: if you get the chance take it the first time no fuss. (Reminds me of the parable of the ten virgins)

As I say good bye to the city of my birth, where everything is being renamed, I keep thinking how relieved I am to be leaving. Battery check, both batteries, data working, internet assured, seat adjusted to comfy level. Now let the journey begin. Ten hours to get home!

Thankfully the road out of Accra is a highway as if metaphorically the powers that be want to decongest the city although nobody is taking them up on the offer. All the way to Nsawam is the highway then the rough patches start. It is so bumpy that you actually feel it even though it’s supposed to be a luxury bus in good condition. You get bounce about quite a bit. Why can’t they just fix those places to the proposed Suhum overpass? Well we wait!

Three hours later we make our first stop at Linda Dor Rest Stop. This rest stop has the most expensive items I can think of. Small items usually cost about three times the market price and sometimes I wonder if it’s because of the location. Wanting something to munch on, I decide to buy my favorite packet of ginger snaps which usually sell at 80p only to be told it is sold at GHc2. Wow! Since it’s only that I want something to munch on and get my jaws moving, I decide instead to forgo the ginger snaps and buy some fried yam.

The Linda Dor Rest Stop is an interesting spot if you are a ‘human watcher’. People from all walks of life pass through there and you might even meet a friend or two going the other way or even maybe going the same way. It’s so much fun at times to see the various passenger buses stop and passengers dash off to go to the washrooms. Some people even walk lopsided because of the load they carry and are in a hurry to offload. There was this one time a guy couldn’t even stop to pay the 50p gate fee and the attendant attempted to follow him into the loo. Guy just put his hand in his pocket and threw a whole wad of bills at the attendant to hold on to. The look on the attendant’s face was worth putting on a billboard. It will sell anything.

It is this look that inspired me to start taking notes to write this article. But first I had to find paper to write my notes and hence writing on the inside of a paper takeaway of the rest stop. Taking a pen from the cutest girl on our bus, I start taking notes and folk look at me like I am from Mars. Mind you, I’m writing in the dark since the lights on the bus are off. The only light is coming from the video screen with Azonto Ghost Reloaded playing.

Kumasi passes by in a blur since I spend the whole time chatting with my crazy friends on whatsapp. Only reminder of that journey is when the bus stops and people get out to pee and incidentally it stops at the St Louis High School bus stop just near the school gate.

Techiman passes by in a blur of lights and quiet streets. Soon we are at first point of escort. (On a particular dangerous stretch of road plagued by armed robbers, the police and military people escort passenger vehicles till they get to a safe point)  We stop and wait for the first escort. It’s a beautiful night. Crickets chirping away and there is a full moon. It’s not too cold and I crave a romantic walk. Have a few candidates in mind. Most passengers are just asleep and I type away on my phone keeping in touch with friends. Very soon escort arrives and we move again only to stop again after another hour for the second leg of escort.

This is in the centre of a town that doesn’t sleep. Sellers are shouting wares and stuff: yam, bread, eggs (boiled and fried). Some of my colleague passengers get down to eat because they are hungry and they order eggs. All I can think of at this stage is the damage they can cause when they get on the bus with such gaseous bowels. I take a cue from how harmful second hand cigarette smoking can be and then I get down to order two fried eggs and three boiled eggs (boiled eggs cost GHc1 for all three) and eat them right there and then. If anybody decides to release gas in the air-conditioned bus, they are in for a surprise because I am going to reply in kind. Fire for Fire!!

I observe at the stop also that there are a number of 4×4 vehicles in the convoy of buses that are waiting to be escorted across. These ‘big men’ are on a journey to the north and it is obviously their first time because they look antsy and are still in their ties although they have lost the jackets. It is past one am in the morning. Wonder why they chose to drive when they could have flown to wherever they are going.

Before leaving Accra I had charged my phone batteries fully (my android phone is so busy I carry around a spare battery and the charging cords in my pocket for backup) and I knew that by Kintampo both batteries would have run out. Each battery lasts four hours approximately. I had made provision for charging at Kintampo. There is this young man who has set up shop at the filling station where the buses stop to wait for the escort. It just a table with extension boards and different kinds of chargers, which he uses to charge any model of phone you have for only 50p.

Ali, that’s his name, runs his ingenious business and stays up all night servicing customers. When university graduates are sitting in the capital jobless and unemployed Ali is an entrepreneur who not only sells phone credits to travellers at a time they need it most but also charges their phones for a mere 50p. Sometimes his chargers are so busy people queue up to charge their phones. Having called earlier, I get pride of place and somebody’s phone is taken out and mine fixed for some charging.

Usually on a journey like this, I find one cute lass to strike up a conversation with. This time I took up a conversation with this buxom Muslim girl. She was dressed the part. I revelled her with my travels all over Ghana and on a long roundabout trip to Zaria and back. All this while her older male cousin just looked on and gave me a don’t-you-dare look I ignored. She listened to my stories with rapt attention about the route she was traveling for the first time to see relatives in Tamale then she dropped the bombshell. She has just finished junior high school and was going to see her grandparents. BAM!

Wow! I instantly had goose bumps and now the stares from the older male cousin started making sense. She was just a young girl about sixteen or seventeen with the figure of a mid twenty year old. That made me almost twenty years older than she was. The male cousin couldn’t restrict the young girl talking to me but he also wanted to protect her from older men like me without being rude. I respected his stand so I just had to say a few words and have him whisk her away. It was her pen I was using to make notes for this article and I had intentionally held on to it as a way to open up a conversation which had been successful so I gave her pen back.

Soon we were on our way again and with my phone recharged made a call to my most favourite insomniac sweetheart Marian Boham and laughed for almost an hour until the networks set in since I was on the road. Networks keep fluctuating up and down in and out.

The black and white Volta towns of Yeji and Buipe passed in a blur since I started napping and before long I started seeing the walls of the SOS village which are on the outskirts of Tamale. I could envision home in sight. That is exactly what I tweeted ‘home in sight’.

The first thing that hits you when you get off the bus is the pure dawn air. Unlike the early morning smoke fumes that persist in Accra when people burn their rubbish at dawn.  It is four thirty in the morning and as if on cue the seven mosques in my community spring to life with the muezzins calling the faithful to worship. I have indeed arrived. Carrying my bags and tweeting, I trudge on home. After almost ten hours I had only four hundred meters to get home. My heart beats fast.

I pass by the public toilet that only smells at dawn when the children squat and do it on the outside (some are already present) and adults queue to go in and do their morning doodley at the adjacent one. The goats are out and about and the cacophony of noise goes on even that early in the morning.

Soon I’m at my door and just before I knock, it opens on its own. My favourite house guest Ivy stands there welcoming me home. That’s nice! And Wenzel too. I drop my bags and head straight to the bedroom where my twin and roommate is asleep. I have always loved watching her sleep and I just sit on the bed and watch her sleep for a few minutes. Sensing a presence in the room she opens her eyes and silently mouths my name and draws me into her bosom and into bed with her, even with my clothes on.

Finally I’m home. After ten hours!

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