Today, has been by far the worst day of travel in either of our lives. Hands down.
In writing, it is difficult to convey just how hard the day was. Worse than say, being stranded in an Atlanta metro station in a blizzard uncertain when the next train will save you from the freezing cold. At least we knew, something would eventually come, that saving thought, being in the US, keeps one’s breaking point in the distance. However, being in a developing country where the possibility that no one will help, the “train” may never come, and the general confusion and concern for one’s safety in an unknown place is all to present, intensifies every situation exponentially.
It was bound to happen, we’ve read about it, heard accounts from fellow travelers, but it had yet to happen to us. About 45 minutes on our 4 hour ride to Takoradi from Kumasi our driver pulled over, the engine stopped. After several failed attempts to get it going again, he rolled the van back forcing it to catch, abruptly sending dark smoke out the tailpipe. We laughed saying something like “that’s one way to do it.” I leaned over to Alex and whispered, this could just be the beginning. What was in store, we couldn’t possibly have conceptualized at that moment. We were on our way again, but not for long. As we approached a hill it was clear we weren’t going to make it to the top. We stopped, yelling in Twi began and everyone filed out of the car. It would be another hour of nothing happening before a friendly woman on the bus told us, we would be here for a while. She wasn’t lying. The driver, ever not helpful or concerned told us to find out own way, but apparently they persuaded him to get another car. Either way, we would be at least 5 hours late. Both of us were admittedly extremely frustrated, and unlike the US there would be no refunds, or concessions, or even apologies. Certainly makes you appreciate 1st world transportation and service. I would like to say I was able to laugh it off, or not worry about something I couldn’t control. That, didn’t happen, I felt such extreme frustration and anger it took everything I had to not yell at the driver myself (not that I needed to, our fellow passengers had that covered).
We sat, in the heat outside, a slight wind making everything slightly less awful, but not by much. Then, it rained. We waited it out in the hot stick of the humid, broken down tro. Hours passed, nothing happened. A woman, Emanuella, who would prove later to be our saving grace, befriended us and translated all of the yelling. Turns out, the driver did abandon us, but not to worry, another car was coming. It didn’t come. Eventually, something did. But, instead of being empty, there were only three spots, and twelve of us. There was so much yelling and near fights, I felt uncertain of my safety. I just wanted to leave. It became startlingly clear, if we didn’t get on that tro, we may have to spend several more hours here. The shear panic of that thought propelled us towards the van, dodging between screaming bunches of people. We asked where it was going, luckily Takoradi, unfortunately, we would have to pay again. $20 bought us new tickets, and two hours after we should have arrived, we set off, bags on laps. We felt most terrible at that moment leaving everyone else behind, including our new friend, since they wouldn’t (or couldn’t) pay the fee. I would have paid for everyone, but that wasn’t an option, we had a choice, leave or stay.
The ride was uneventful, aside from a further hour delay due to construction and back pain from uncomfortable seats. When we told someone where we planned on going, they informed us, at this hour (7pm) no tros would be going there. But, we could take a drop taxi for 30x the cost. Fine. They ask several questions, talking back and forth and I feel my hands start shaking. Noise around me softens into a dull pounding in my head. I’m trying to will myself to listen, to move, but I can’t. Tears well up in my eyes, I have never felt so tired in my life. I couldn’t handle anything more. Even the beautiful crashing waves a mere 50 meters from the road couldn’t bring me back. Normally, the ocean has a profound calming affect on me, this time I could only observe, I felt all emotions would require too much energy, of which I had none. A woman in the front tells us she’ll call a friend who is a Taxi driver, telling us if we try ourselves, in a city that doesn’t see many tourists, we’re going to get ripped off. This much we knew. What we didn’t know was that she would accompany us the whole way, completely out of her way (2 hours, to be specific), for no other reason than because she wanted to. This single act of pure kindness is so rare. It was hard to accept, I felt guilty, unsure how to react. Again, nearly in tears, though this time for extremely different reasons. During one of our most trying days, she was literally our savior. Even when the taxi driver was uncertain how to negotiate the dangerous last portion of the trip she managed to get another local to ride along, just to be sure. The road was indeed, dangerous, our new passenger informed us had we done this alone, the result would have been gravely different. Our car got stuck in mud, and barely cleared the bumps, stalling several times, sending waves of panic though my entire body. The small sign post of “Green Turtle Lodge” was the most gratifying sight I’ve ever seen.
It would be difficult not to be affected by such limitless and rare humanity of a complete stranger. What turned out to be an exceptionally trying day was laced with a profound experience I doubt either of us will ever forget. I’ve heard of such acts, so simple, in the grand scheme, but so impacting none the less.
Not to be forgotten, I don’t think I would have made it without Alex. His strength and ability to keep calm under pressure when I’m feeling like I might break at any moment never ceases to amaze me. When all I could do was keep myself from breaking down, he took charge and did what was neccesary to get us there safely.
We did, in the end make it to Green Turtle Lodge. Though dark, I can see why people love it. The atmosphere is slow in its relaxed-beach environment, complete with crashing waves sounding as if mere feet from our door. We made it in time to split a sandwich, have a drink and re-hash the absurdity of the day, knowing tomorrow holds an infinitely better day. Certainly, today will be etched permanently in both our memories.