Tuesday, May 26, 2009

If you think you’ve tried all the fun activities in Accra...

If you’re one of those people who’ve been in Accra so long or are so adventurous that you think you’ve tried everything, if you have the been there, done that, got a t-shirt attitude when it comes to Accra and what it has to offer, I have a question for you. Have you ever ridden an Okada in Accra? Yep, you heard right. Okada, not in Lagos, but Accra. I certainly hadn’t until this morning when I had a thrilling ride from Korle- Bu to Abelempe! Woohaaa!

For those who may not know, Okada is what Nigerians call the motor bikes which are used as a means for public transportation. Read the wikipedia definition here. It’s really like a cab on two wheels. It has only two seats: one for the biker, and the other for the passenger. I first encountered the okada during my trip to Nigeria last year. I remember thinking at the time what a great alternative to the cab that was but upon reading articles about how dangerous it was for people who don’t wear helment, in This Day, a Nigerian daily, I forgot all about it. Until two weeks ago.

A fortnight ago, I went to Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital for my routine annual physical and pap test. And what did I see on the main road in front of the hospital? A nice selection of okadas lined up and waiting for passengers. Yeah, for real! At that time, I made a mental note to maybe blog about it, but really, what had I to say except, oh did you know that we now have okadas in Ghana? So I abandoned that blog entry. But today when I went back to the hospital for the report on my medical test, I was tempted to take photographs of the riders. Then I had this crazy idea to hop on one. So I did!

Now I’ve ridden on a motorbike before. Way back in college, one of the guys from Hampshire College who was in my electronics lab class gave me a ride on his spiffy new bike. I don’t know much about bikes but it looked exactly like what one would expect a rich American college kid to own. That ride was fun. The roads were good. It was a real thrill and I even went away thinking it wouldn’t be bad to own a bike someday. But even with some biking experience –if it can be called that- I was a little wary about these older-looking bikes and harboured some doubts about the driver’s competence, but the driver handed me a helmet, I wore it, and made someone take a photograph (Thank God for camera phones) and I was ready for my adventure.

I need'nt have worried. We went through Industrial Area, through the neighbourhoods of Tesano, on to the Mallam- Lapaz highway and straight to Abelemkpe without a glitch. It was a comfortable ride. The only thing I didn’t like about it was that at certain times I felt I was inhaling the exhaust fumes from other cars. I asked the driver how long he’d been riding the okada and he said they’d been around for a year but only at the place where I’d seen them. The driver said I was a wonderful passenger, and that other passengers, especially women seem very scared and nervously clutch at him when they ride his bike. The compliment made me feel good. I sauntered into my workplace in high spirits.

All in all it was a great experience - I got to my destination faster than I would have in a cab, it cost me a little less (4 GHC), and it was mad fun! I had a wide grin on my face for the entire trip. Would I ride an okada again? Sure, why not? Should you ride one the next time you’re in the Korle-Bu area? Absolutely! There’s more to life than tro-tros, taxis, and air-conditioned luxury cars, I tell ya. A ride on an okada may be the next thing you need to check off on your list of 101 things to do in 2009. Go on...live a little :)


  1. I am sure riding on the Okada may be pretty cool and maybe even awesome. I have only one concern,and that is do the drivers of Okada obey driving regulations? As you know Esi,you have lived in the states before and you are aware motorbikes are treated as vehicles on the road,they wait in line with other vehicles to get a green light at the traffic light before they move,they obey speed limits and you even need a license to drive one(now that one surprised me when i found out). I am aware that Ghana is not the US,and so i don't expect them to obey speed limits after all how many private vehicles and taxis actually obey them and i am 100% positive nobody is going to give them a ticket for that. If they at least obey the driving regualtions on the road like other vehicles do,then we are safe. If my memory serves me right,in Ghana,Motorbikes and Bicycles didn't have to stop on red at the traffic light(not the rule but i guess that is how the drivers of motorbikes feel),so they would bypass cars in the queue to run the red light.....The fact that both passengers and drivers wear helmets is a plus though......This is an interesting piece...Keep it up and keep it coming Esi...thanks...

  2. That sounds like a lot of fun. Daring but fun. Would I ever try it? Probably not, unless I know the owner.... Glad you had fun and arrived in one piece.

    I really miss Ghana :(

    Oh and I love your dress, CUTE!

  3. Interesting Post, Esi.
    The way I see it, you will be getting your own bike pretty soon.
    A bike perhaps is the answer to the congested streets of Accra.

  4. +1 for motorcycle commuting! There's nothing like blowing past lines of traffic-bound cars. Between the super aggressive car drivers, the dust, and the heat, I'm not so sure I'd be comfortable doing it in Accra though...