Trotros always give me mixed feelings. I ride them because they’re widely available and get me to my destination, but at the same time I wish I didn’t need to ride trotros. For the uninitiated, trotros are the ubiquitous minibuses which are the bread and butter of Ghana’s public transportation system. The name trotro was derived from the Ga word for 1 pesewa (tro) which was how much it cost to ride a trotro back in the 1950s.
It is reported that over 70% of Accra’s population use the trotro yet it is much maligned. This may be due to the poor condition of many of the trotros and the perception that only poor people ride in trotros. However it is my opinion that trotros are the best way to explore Accra. This is because as trotro routes pass through various neighborhoods the mate yells out the names of the bus stops. The bus stop names, coined from landmarks or past occurrences contain hints of the origin and background of the neighborhoods. For example as you ride the trotro from Circle Station towards 37, one of the first stops the mate shouts out is Silvercup. Silvercup used to be a famous nightclub in the Kokomlemle area in the 60s during the raging disco era.
Since you haven’t really been to Ghana till you’ve ridden a trotro, permit me to share with you these trotro ride scenarios that exemplify the colourful way trotros are part of our urban experience.
RUSH-HOUR TROTRO RIDES
These occur during the early mornings and late afternoons. If you’re not out of the house by 5am, by the time you get to the nearest station expect to see long queues of glum looking employees and students. The same thing happens from 6pm when everyone has closed from work and is looking forward to going home. You don’t know how vicious Ghanaians can be till you try to cut in on the line. Only do this if you have a death wish.
“YOU PEH FOR THE TROTRO INSIDE”
Trotros are usually always occupied because they leave the station with a full load and keep stopping for passengers as they drive along to replace those who’ve alighted. However, if you get in a trotro that’s plying a long route like Accra to Kwabenya or Amasaman during down-time hours, you might find that you’re soon the only passenger in the trotro before the journey is halfway done. When this happens you’ll enjoy the most comfortable trotro ride of your life. Try not to look at the mate. He’ll be shooting dagger eyes at you because he wishes you’d alight so that they can turn around and go searching for more passengers.
LATE NIGHT TROTRO RIDES
You’d think that trotros are everywhere until you’ve been out late and do not have enough money to hail a cab. It’s after you’ve been standing at the bus stop for over 30 minutes that you start to pray to whatever you believe in for a trotro to come your way. When you finally see one plodding towards you, you’ll hop on gleefully even though the trotro looks like it’ll tip over if the driver turns too hard to the left. The good thing about late night trotro rides is that you get home in about half the time since there’s little traffic on the roads.
Trotros are like a microcosm of Ghanaian society since the passengers are from different backgrounds and lifestyles. Despite what popular opinion may say, trotros are for everyone except of course if you live in Chereponi, where motor bikes are the way to go.
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