Tamale’s Taxis

1 11 2007

Merciful God TaxiSunday afternoon I had to get out and push the taxi I was in.  That failed to bump start it, but when another taxi drove into the back of it and pushed it along for a while the engine fired.  I then had to sprint to get back into my taxi, which contained my purchases for the week.  I would have been devastated to lose them as I had managed to locate a proper tin-opener.  Keats’s joy on finding a decent urn, nightingale or translation of Homer was nothing compared to mine on finding a tin opener, and added to that proper washing up sponges.  Only water flowing from my taps would make me happier. Is there a sweeter sound than a cistern being refilled after a flush?

But back to Tamale’s taxis.  A more decent bunch of taxi drivers you’d be hard pressed to find, but finding a more decrepit fleet of vehicles would also pose a challenge.  Their modus operandi is to prowl along fixed roots, tooting at likely fares.  When one bites the prospective passenger checks the taxi is going where they want to go and joins anyone else who is already going in that direction.  This means that the drivers are looking more intently at the pedestrians than the road.  I saw one taxi that had driven into a concrete bollard and had pushed the centre of his radiator about a foot closer to the steering wheel. That taxi was no longer mobile.

The fares are fixed and non negotiable for “shared taxis”.  For anyone likely to visit Tamale make sure you are clear when entering an empty taxi whether you want “share” or “dropping”.  If the driver assumes you want “dropping” he (it’s always a he) will take you and you alone all the way to your final destination – and you will pay for the whole taxi (i.e. for all 5 seats) plus an arbitrary amount.  A share taxi follows a fixed route and drops you off at the nearest point to your destination along that route.  They tend to be extremely honest about the fare, to the point that I’ve stopped checking my change, but you need to agree the fare for “dropping” up front, or they can charge whatever they view as reasonable.

As I said the taxis themselves are in a poor state. Almost universally they have badly cracked windscreens, indeed I can only assume that whatever body licences taxis here has it as a prerequisite. And, as Marco and I discovered Friday night, some don’t have working windscreen wipers either, which makes getting home at midnight during a tropical storm a little more exciting than it should be. Fortunately no-one in their right mind is up at midnight in Tamale, much less driving, and the road home is almost dead straight.  I’ve also been in a taxi which decided to continue on to a roadside tyre repair spot (there are a surprising number) ignoring both the damage he was doing to the tyre and wheel and the insistent honks from other road users trying to tell him what he was choosing to ignore.  Mind you, the buses aren’t necessarily better.  The reason Marco and I were up so late was that the bus he caught from Salaga broke down in the middle of nowhere in pitch darkness.  He and his fellow passengers were forced to force a lorry to stop and travel in the back of that to Tamale.Tamale Taxi




One response

1 11 2007
Penny Small

Just to say I’m enjoying reading of your new experiences as we go through our own up here in North Africa. I suspect the state of a taxi here is probably an indicator of the drivers style of driving. I would hesitate to get into one with too much damage!! (The driving here is pretty scary anyway!) Anyway take care, love from Penny et al

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