"Accra, Tema Circle, Accra!"

I’ve navigated New York City by subway, toured L.A. by train, shouted “Ciao” from the deck of a waterbus in Venice, ridden through the Ozarks in the back of a ’64 Chevy flatbed, gone snowboarding behind a Ford in Michigan, and racked up a few frequent flyer miles crossing the Atlantic. But none of this has prepared me for a solo tro-tro ride to the heart of downtown Accra, all in the search of beads.

 Tro-tro: (noun) a primitive form of transportation, distant relative of the mini-van comprised of the driver and the mate who collects the money and signals the bus route to those waiting.

There’s almost an art form to tro-tro navigation, kind of a frenzied dance with a cumbersome and rusty partner. You pick your partner and hope for the best as she barrels down the road, creaking all the way, dropping bits of fourth generation welds and mends along the path in Hansel and Gretel-esque fashion. Luckily there is a mating call to ensure a good match, complete with intricate hand signals and gestures similar to a bird’s mating dance. The one I was watching for today was the shrill cry of the downtown headed bus, “Accra, Tema Circle, Accra” with the accompanying swish and flick of the wrist signifying the circle part.

The ride, I must admit, wasn’t that bad after I mustered up enough courage to leave the safety of my room. A short walk down to the roadside and I was quickly in a tro-tro headed towards Pig Farm, then on another that would take me right to Makala Market, which is a fete of sheer will power and nearly impossible with your own car due to the lack of parking. There might have been a woman who smelled of urine talking to herself (gee, I hope it was to herself) in the seat ahead of me and an old man who kept eyeing my watch, but all in all it was gloriously uneventful. And you will be even more pleased to know I was successful in my bead hunt landing a few strings of pearls which I will do…something with I’m sure.

Perhaps even more of an adventure than riding in one of these steel death traps is reading their eloquent slogans from the safety of another car. And with traffic only Ghana could offer you get a lot of opportunities to see even the smallest of print on taxis and tro-tros!