A Travel Experience On A bus From Bolgatanga Heading Accra
Motor accidents are existential realities, they no longer look abstract to me, following my last experience in February 2022. I was on my way from Garu in Upper East region after participating in an event at Kpikpira. It is their annual Danjuar festival.
My return journey to Accra was not without drama.
I could only get vehicle plying Garu and Bawku. There was a certain consternation in me passing through Bawku because of the conflict there and the curfew imposed on the town. When we touched Bawku, i felt very uneasy. I could spot only security patrols in what looked like deserted town. It was hours in the high noon, thus i was dismissive of the curfew as cause of emptiness of Bawku on that occasion.
Quickly, i checked into some vehicle that was not rickety but only providing space for contents, passengers and goods, hence space inside was beaten to minimum. We all hanged in awkwardly before getting to the regional capital Bolgatanga. It was my desire to avoid travelling in the night on the long journey to Accra in the south of Ghana. The first two buses on scale were already full. One was loading and the other was fully booked, per the ticketing. Then someone suggested that a long bus with some of its seats vacant was heading Bolgatanga from Bawku. The station therefore arranged that i join that bus for the cross-country.
The journey started well into late afternoon due to delayed take off and whistle stops on the itinerary. By the time we got to Tamale, it was already dark, launching journeyers into what was predictably going to be a long haul in prevailing conditions.
There were police checkpoints in the way. This rekindled sordid memories about happenings on long journeys like this, especially the particular road we were traversing. Well, the stretch between Tamale and Kintampo/Techiman in Bono region is a common passage for commuters and not uncommon was the fact that the highway was prone to armed robberies and severe motor accidents. Fresh on my mind were two accidents that occurred near Kintampo with tragic consequences. The buses caught fire in the ”nightly apocalypse on wheels” and dozens were burnt to ashes.
Let me say, that experience kept nudging me to stay ”widely awake” in the fashion of watchdogs.
I was seated on the roll just before the last seats on the bus so it was quite a difficult self-willed venture of trying to be the silent watchdog in safeguarding the itinerary. Before I continue from here, let me digress a bit with the indication that i am a peripatetic who did not find this particular journey too extraordinary, save the heightened anxiety that characterized this one over reasons already stated above. In one such journeys the vehicle on which i travelled caught most of its occupants off their guard as we were dozing off by the time accident occurred. One lost his life and others sustained injuries. Hindsight would guide me on this journey and the leaf taken from that experience was a conscious compliance with safety guidelines.
Back to my preoccupation, i observed our bus driver was closely following another vehicle for extensive part of the distance. It was almost rhythmic movement and i was soon to deduce from the actions of our bus driver that he maintained that tempo to chart his way. It was atmosphere of poor visibility which i could only detect color of the vehicle ours followed. Doesn’t this ring any bells in the undebated argument calling for street lighting ? For heaven’s sake, this is one of the major roads, geographically contiguous with parts in northerly countries, to form a transnational highway.
It was so dark that i could not make out the towns we whizzed past, only to discover that we were around Kintampo where it started drizzling. Delays at a police checkpoint finally opened a wedge between our bus and the bluish vehicle we were following. By the time the police allowed us to proceed, that vehicle had disappeared into the darkness. Our bus driver prodded on, we were alone at this stage but looked steady on the road. I texted my family, saying our bus driver was good and i am confident about the journey.
We were still in the neighborhood of Kintampo but with only bushes on the sides of the road, when the unexpected happened or should i say history chose to repeat itself. Accident had arrived, unfurling before our very eyes. The cinematic incident involved our bus which swerved to the right, left, and then to the right again before the bus fell to its side in the bush in turbulence. It was so instantaneous, rapid, frightening, left-to-chance situation, life and death affair, seemingly brutish. The bus appeared to hit a deep gully on one side of the bush. The initial sound I heard were shouts by passengers and the acoustics from the bus’ rolling tyres. It was ocular experience and proof of the difficult moments accident victims might have gone through before their lives escaped.
Those of us at the back of the bus immediately secured a space in the windows and jumped through it, landing on vegetation and in stagnant water. I did not know how women and children on board exited the ill-fated bus. Even in that calamity, i was still brooding the ”two troubles one God phenomenon” where it was possible to come under attack by ruthless robbers as was the case sometime ago. Heartless wasn’t it ? I therefore made a dash to the roadside waving hands for any passing vehicle to pick me away. Whilst there, our bus driver showed up to explain what caused the accident. He said, he almost ran into a stationary vehicle parked on the road without a warning sign. Was our driver seized in some nap before the sudden twist of fate or it was simply the opaqueness of the night ?
In my haste to leave the scene, I zoomed into a mini bus that had stopped for me. It probably sensed danger and offered to help. We travelled a distance before my enquiries found the bus to be heading the direction i was coming from. I got hotel accomodation in that small hours of the night but slept awake. So unusual was the headache that i had to report to the Kintampo District hospital where tests revealed my blood pressure had shot up to dizzying heights. The doctor asked me whether I was hypertensive, to which i said NO. No because i was not on drugs for a condition like that.
I was told the acute headache was blood pressure rise but I knew it was triggered by the accident. Since that night, I have been reflecting on rapid response to accidents which might occur at anytime because had we been trapped in the wreckage of the bus, in the inauspicious moment, it could have been a dilemma in the deep blue sea.