Lungulungus: How to avoid Accra’s traffic

Admit it. Sometimes, you love it when the car you’re in is tearing through neighbourhoods and rumbling over pothole-riddled off-the-map dust paths that even 4×4 drivers may wince at. Of course, you don’t like the jolting, and you show your displeasure with some self-righteous grumbling at the driver, but when you see in the distance all the traffic you’d have been baking in, and you reach your destination in record time, deep down within, you acknowledge that the driver has saved the day. To satisfy your conscience you deflect the blame for such indiscipline to the government’s poor handling of the traffic situation on the Spintex Road, the Kasoa Road, or at Jamestown – usually caused by an unannounced road block for yet another outdooring or funeral. When it comes to the ins and outs of the city, look no further than Accra’s taxi drivers.

Every once in a long while I treat myself to the relative luxury of the backseat of a taxi to work, though it has more to do with oversleeping than with an upgrade of social standing. The thought of scraping a layer of accumulated dirt with my knees did not excite me one morning, so off I went, avoiding the mass of humanity waiting to attack the gate of the next approaching trotro. Soon, we were faced with the first traffic jam.

Muttering to himself, the driver swung the steering wheel right, then left, veering onto the road adjacent to Emmanuel Eye Clinic, the very same one that has been blocked with short pillars. With nothing but road in front of us, he floored the accelerator. I was certain he was a stranger in the area and was already regretting this whole episode. My pleas for us to return to the main road fell on stubborn ears. O, me of little faith. The next thing I knew, he had squeezed round the last pillar on the right, rolling over a mound of sand that had collected at the edge of the gutter. He made it. Needless to say, he held bragging rights the rest of the journey.

Not every brazen attempt at outwitting the system, however, ends in glory. One cocky taxi driver tried to dodge the snaking traffic, moving off the Mensvic Hotel road and attempting to go through the Shiashie village. More traffic. Further into the village he took me, towards the station, past squatters in uncompleted houses and two scruffy dogs fighting on the road. A man was ambling into the bush, an edition of The Daily Graphic tucked loosely in his unbelted trousers. I reasoned that he had no intention of reading about bomb blasts in Iraq. Or even if he did, the paper had further use.

I had no idea where this route would end us up. Within seconds, we were in another hold up, facing Legon and going nowhere. It would be a painful wait before we would make the U-turn to join the slow flow heading towards the Tetteh Quarshie Overpass. The traffic lights were green for us for all of ten seconds before the fresh three minute standstill. In that time, I saw coming to pass many cars that we were in front of on the conventional route. This adventure was officially a fiasco. I was fuming. In the next lane, an elderly lady was dishing out an earful to the driver of the trotro she was in. We had gambled and lost.

No wonder I never follow taxi drivers. I once heard of how a normally disciplined driver took off behind the taxi speeding past the maddening jam. Off they went, through a sprinkling of compound houses and children, unashamed of their nakedness, bathing outside. The pair went over the bumpy road, sending chickens scattering out of the way and loosening a few screws for good measure. Without warning, the taxi driver just parked in front of his house and went in. A dead end, with nobody to blame.

Any road is good enough to be a short cut

I’ll bet I’m not alone in experiencing the highs and lows of taxi or trotro drivers cutting corners to swerve traffic jams. How about you tell us about them? Is the bush path’s dust transferred onto your white shirt worth the trouble?

Perhaps it’s a man’s thing. Or maybe it’s just human nature to want to prove that we are smarter than the rest who have chosen the path of suffering, when it could so easily be avoided. No doubt, I was late for work, and in the process threw away some good money on an unprofitable venture. Sometimes, we just have to learn the hard way.


P.S Next Monday’s edition will be our first by a Guest Commuter.

About Kwaku Dankwa

By day, I'm an advertising copywriter. That's what I've done all my working life (National Service doesn't count). Husband of Esther, father of Jesse and twin boys Mark and Andrew, and servant of Christ. I previously wrote a blog on the dramatic side of public transport in Accra, "The Daily Commute: From Bridge to Ridge." Enjoy.
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12 Responses to Lungulungus: How to avoid Accra’s traffic

  1. Ama says:

    No, your guy going into the bush was interested in bomb blasts of a far different kind! ; )

  2. Kay O says:

    Haha great! You know, thats why I enjoy my motor so much. I can wake up late and still make it to work early 🙂

  3. Guy Lou says:

    You hate it when these rogue drivers cut corners and beat the traffic whilst you labour in your sedan. But admit it, when you are their passengers, or indeed, using the route they discovered, they are no longer gormless. No one mucks around with Accra taxi and trosky drivers ooo. They are the bestest

  4. Tetekai says:

    I took a drop today because i was in danger of being late for my first day at training for a new job. No, I did not oversleep, trotros bound for Tema Station where not coming to the bus-stop.
    I got to work with seven minutes to spare, thank God. The taxi driver swerved all the traffic. 🙂

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      I learnt this the hard way: take a dropping to the interview, take the trotro back. Luckily for me, the interviewers were late as well! As for how these drivers discover all the lungus, I have no idea!

  5. moshi says:

    taxi drivers are lecturers in their street lecturer rooms.

  6. malik tahir says:

    Every driver should follow the traffic rules in order to avoid accidents.

  7. Sally says:

    I love this piece. Sometimes the lungulungus and unapproved routes help. But sorry if a policeman pull your car over for using unapproved route, more trouble for you ooooooo and more delay.

  8. Obenten says:

    When traffic is impossible, driving is nightmarish for the innocent myself driver and its a bit of good riddance for all the trotros and taxis to veer off into the byways and alleys.
    Thanks Ama for referring me back to The ( Real ) Accra Mall on the 28 June blog. It certainly did contain all the juicy nkonkonsa i was longing to read! I still cant control myself with laughter on thinking about the cute little puppies being paraded by the roadside for sale. The thought of sharp cutlasses also being wielded for attention gives me goose pimples though! I always wonder why our security agents allow such frightening sights. May God protect us all always.
    Now the “Tie” seller!! Do you know that i actually heard the importer once on radio? He had called in to a programme where some importers were being interviewed to say that he imported “Ties”. Just when the interviewer was commending him for helping to meet the high demand for good tyres on our roads he cut in to say oh no he doesnt import car tyres but rather “ties” for killing birds!! With shock, dismay ,and disbelief clearly in his voice the interviewer asked how much of it he had brought into the country. He replied, one containerful. To this i gave a hearty laugh thinking it was a big joke.——-Not until a few days later i began seeing and hearing Yeees Ties Ties resounding from “The (Real) Accra Mall”.

  9. Eric says:

    There are times when their use is inevitable. I remember one evening when I had to resort to a lungulungu because the main road was choked by a bunch of confused impatient drivers.

    But for my smartness that evening, a Koti would have siphoned some hard earned cash from me. I had to put on the hazard and feign the car was faulty.

    Kudos Asimasi for your thoughts that flow so easily like River Congo

  10. Sis says:

    Nice piece, very entertaining!

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