Thursday, July 27, 2006

Road Rules

Ghanaian roads. Ever evolving, always under repair, rarely striped or shouldered.

We marvel.

Many roads start as tracks, mostly for pedestrians. Once the grass is trampled and killed, a few cars may start to follow the tracks for convenience.

Like this one...

If the track goes somewhere, it becomes busy enough to become a dirt road. Not like a fire trail dirt road in America, but a bumpy, rain eroded, rock strewn dirt road like in Ghana. We take a few of those to get to our house most days.

Like this one...

Then there are the legitimate dirt roads- these are graded through streets that begin at a paved place and continue to another paved place and are heavily used and occasionally maintained (with the notable exception of one very near our house on a pretty major path to the A&C Mall that I can't even take my little station wagon on because I scrape bottom at least three times trying to navigate the pits and holes in it!).

LIke this one (definitely NOT the one I excepted above). :-)

Between Jungle Road and the Shiashi Loop (a main route from our house to the rest of Accra) is what we call the The Village Road. It was a dirt road when we first moved here and suddenly one day, they paved it!

Paving in Ghana is like this- a graded dirt road is left to settle and be packed down by constant traffic. Once that happens (could be years, here), an incredibly thin layer of asphalt is laid down to pave it. It's not even technically asphalt- it's kind of a tar/something mixture- but it hardens and makes a smooth, roadworthy surface.

Until a little bit of wear and water start to loosen it.

Then we get potholes down to the barely concealed dirt road beneath. These pop up randomly and plentifully, especially during the (just finished) rainy season (the first of two).

The solution?

Road crews.

Hundreds of them. As the rain eases, hordes of cheap Ghanaian road crews spread out all over town and start filling potholes. Sometimes with the asphalt-like stuff, sometimes with cement(!), sometimes with just more dirt, hard packed. Labor is cheap here and it's astonishing how much they can get done in a day.

How do they know where to go and what to fix? They just go where these little white squares are.

How do the little white squares get there?

Other hordes of cheap labor have been trucked around Accra for weeks, carefully hand painting these squares with brushes marking all the spots that should be repaired.

Imagine if this would happen in the snowy Midwest every spring! ;-)