Across the world, people have various means of transport. The number one and commonest is by foot or walking. No matter what means you use, you’re sure to do some walking except those who have some form of physical disability that prevents them walking. Apart from walking, we also have cycling(bicycles), riding(motorbikes), driving and flying. Elsewhere, movement is also possible by water and trains. It is interesting how various modes of transportation have developed and evolved over the centuries in different parts of the world. As people discovered new technologies and developed modes of travel, travel became easier, faster and more convenient for travelers. During the Stone Age, people made journeys by walking, and only a few were using animals such as donkeys, horses and journeys over water were made using rafts and so on.
Then again through technology, trains and cars, aeroplanes, jets and more complex means of transportation through water were developed. Today, we find a lot of luxurious and comfortable cars and vehicles on our roads. Let’s save the luxury cars conversation for another day.In my country, Ghana however, most of our traveling happen on land, the commonest means of transportation by road being trotro, which we nicknamed trosky. Most trotro do short distances within cities and towns even though you can find some trotro doing long distance; sometimes over 300km or doing over 5 hours travel. One thing that make trotro convenient is that you don’t need to book any special ticket, or wait at a specific time, anytime you want to go somewhere, just stand at the nearest bus stop and a trotro will come your way. It’s also important to note that trotros are found in every part of the country, the Northern part included.
If you go to the Northern regions, you will find the tricycle. These three – wheeled vehicles are nicknamed Pragyea in the South, but in the North, we called them Cambuu, yellow yellow (the first tricycles that came were yellow in colour, but now we have them in various colours) or Keke (k3k3). Unlike trotro which will alight you at a bus stop or by the side of a road, the Cambuu can take you right to your doorstep.This is one reason why the Cambuu quickly replaced the trotro in some places such as the Upper West Region. Privacy is another reason passengers will choose a cambuu, you can charter it and sit in it all by yourself without interference from others. The Cambuu is also affordable, for as low as one cedi, you can get a ride but then you have to pay more if you want some privacy or if you want the ride to end at your doorstep. Even though there are still a few trotro, most people will choose the cambuu because of its convenience and affordability.
The Cambuu became popular around… and a lot of people in the transport industry in the north lost their jobs or had their businesses slowed down but it also created jobs for a lot of young people (men especially, we have very few women cambuu drivers, in fact I have never come across one but I know people who have met some especially in Upper East region). If you interact with most of the Cambuu drivers, they will say the business is no longer as lucrative as it used to be from the beginning (same with Uber) because there are so many of them in town, but at least you will make some profit. Because of this displacement, most taxis are no longer operating in town, they load as station cars to some communities, in the Upper West Region for example, when you get to the main lorry station, there is a taxi station where taxis load to Nadowli, Jirapa, Lawra, Nandom and so on. So if you don’t want to wait for long, you just join the taxi because trotro have a longer waiting time. Some people even use the Cambuu for their wedding, interesting, isn’t it?
When you stop a cambuu, don’t be so quick to look down on
your driver because you never know who is riding, some of them are teachers, civil servants, a few nurses who are riding cambuu as part time business. You might just be interacting with the nurse who will give you an IV the next day.
Accidents happen with the other means of transportation, the cambuu is not an exception. One of my cambuu riders advised me to always sit in the middle if I am alone in the cambuu, to give it balance. Sitting at the corner puts a lot of weight to that side of the cambuu and makes it difficult for the rider to control the cambuu, thus can easily throw it off. Small as the cambuu might look, it’s accidents can be fatal, it can be that bad, even crushing into anything. It is therefore important to sit in a way that gives the cambuu balance.
Another issue with a cambuu ride is that sometimes, you can get into the hands of bad boys who will take you out of town and rob you. To avoid getting into this kind of trouble, avoid taking cambuus you don’t know at night or at dawn. If possible, have the contact of one or two cambuu drivers on your phone who you can call to pick you up when it’s late or when you are going to places outskirts of town. Also try as much as possible to avoid cambuus that have two ‘riders’ (sometimes you find two people, one is just idling on the front seat while another is the rider). When you find them like this, the probability of they being bad boys is higher than when it’s just one rider
Anytime, I post pictures of me in a cambuu, I get comments like, ‘Eih are you not afraid? That thing can throw you off oo’, ‘me I can’t risk my life sitting on that thing’, ‘you Northerners are brave’, well you all have the right to be afraid because accident with a cambuu is as deadly as accidents with any other vehicle. Cars get accidents everyday but we still sit in them.
Talking of the convenience of the cambuu, they are used in place of ambulances in most communities. They convey patients including women in labour to the health centers. Remember that it was a cambuu that carried my dad and I to the health center when he wasn’t well before he passed away.
There are two types of tricycles, one has a wagon at the back and is used for carrying luggage and load, in southern Ghana, they are referred to as ‘Aboboyaa‘ and mostly used to carry garbage or borla from homes to the waste disposal sites. In Northern Ghana however, they are used as a means of transportation in communities where you hardly find cars. They are called ‘Nyaaba lorry’ in the Upper West Region.
One challenge of the cambuu is that, because of its open nature, it’s difficult to be protected from the the weather conditions. The sun is manageable, but when it is raining, cambuu is not a good option, you will get wet to the skin by the rain. Some of the cambuu drivers have however improvised tarpaulin as a cover to protect their customers from the rain, but sometimes even that is not helpful. One interesting thing I found out recently from my friend Simon, who owns a cambuu is that some of the cambuus I see in town are not for commercial uses, they are used as personal and private means of transportation by the owners. All along, I always thought all cambuus were for commercial purposes. Small as the cambuu might look, its importance cannot be underrated, and riding in it is a lot of fun. Next time you are in any cambuu riding community, give it a try. CHEERS!!!