Photo: The lure of the open road consumes the lonely traveler. Courtesy www.horizonsunlimited.com
Yeah, so I did it. I seem to be hooked on the message of popular consumer brands these days. After my Guinness Greatness write up last week, I woke up on Saturday morning and felt like I could do something exciting with my free day which doesn’t come too often. I decided to take my usual walk around town, only this time a little bit farther.
I jumped into my China-made Tommys (seeing these days China gets all the knocks) and bolted out of the house with no definite destination in mind. On getting to the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange I suddenly felt the urge to run to Tema! Tema is a town almost 30 km from Accra. In my mind I never knew how I could achieve that feat. Something told me just do it and I started jogging as I made my way past Game and then Action Chapel. As I approached Action Chapel on the Motorway, I suddenly felt my throat dry up, it was the first sign of dehydration.
After Kelly Rowland’s collapse on stage in Lagos 2 weeks back as a result of dehydration, I decided it wasn’t wise to go on without making plans for liquid so I stopped at the Action Chapel to see if I could find a shop to buy bottled water. I had observed a few worshipers emerging out of the building obviously from early morning prayers so I thought there might be a few shops open that early. As I walked down the slope to the premises, I met a young man who politely informed me that the shops had not yet opened for business but that I could get water from a school on the other side of the Motorway.
It seemed like a good advice until I got back onto the Motorway only to realize that on the opposite was a huge forest. What to do? I couldn’t go further without water nor did I want to return home without having achieved my aim of getting to Tema. Then I saw a bus slow down not too far from me to drop off a female passenger so I got in it and headed for Tema. I figured if I got to Tema and bought water I could then make my way back to Accra on foot.
On alighting at Tema, I quickly searched for a shop to buy a bottle of water and some biscuit. Luckily, I had taken some money with me. I guzzled the liquid like someone who had been lost in the desert for days until saturation. Afterwards, it was all go as I found my way back to the Motorway and began my return journey to Accra, this time with a bottle of water in hand and a pack of biscuit in my pocket.
It looked daunting at first but something kept telling me that I could do it. I started jogging and after a while I stopped to rest by walking and would later break into jogging again. That process offered me an opportunity to see at close range some of the very interesting sights by the roadside. Things one never takes notice of while in the comfort of a car.
I saw the rolling hills and the undulating plains that make Africa so beautiful to the eyes. I also saw a couple of homeless people sleeping under the shelter of the bridge. They wrapped themselves up in thick polyester sacks to protect themselves from the night’s biting cold. On the hilly part of the bridge were a herd of cattle. They were feeding on grass while their minder stood close by wielding the big stick at the erring ones.
I noticed a church with strange lettering on the other side of the Motorway. The letters looked like Korean. But how would I know, most Oriental languages are written in like manner. I made a mental note to check it out sometime.
I kept on jogging and after about five kilometres I felt my legs no longer able to take it so I stopped to take a rest beside a milestone. It was Kilometre 19 on the road to Accra. I had done more than ten kilometres. At that moment, several scenes of my life flashed across my mind. I thought of the past, the present and what the future holds. I was pretty tired and in such a state, gloomy thoughts could really creep up on one. But I saw the bright side of things. I saw the reports that I’m going to be filing, I saw the books I’m yet to begin, the people I’m yet to meet, the woman of my dreams, the beautiful children we’re going to have; I saw this moment that I’m going to be writing this account and I said to myself, “You can’t give up now, what story will you tell?”
I picked myself up, like all great people have done all through the centuries and dusted myself up and returned to my journey. Slowly and painfully, I trekked the long road from Tema to Accra. Thank God that the sun hid itself behind the clouds for most of that morning. I passed brooks and springs, crossed bridges and was overtaken by many a moving vehicle all speeding away to the city.
Then it occurred to me, life’s journey is a lone road. We might be lucky sometimes to get a companion that would make it with us but as much as possible we do it on our own. The measure of each man is to make life’s journey as bravely as they only can for the shoes will hurt several times and the strength will fail, but we need to always stop and rest to regain energy and plod on because nobody ever received a prize for quitting.
I trudged on until my pace slowed down to a snail’s. And suddenly out of nowhere, I saw a billboard over a hill which led me to think that Accra was just on the other side of the hill. My hopes rose and I quickened my almost dead pace only to get to the top of the hill and realise it was a mirage. I sat down on a concrete slab to rest my aching feet. I had just taken my last drop of water from the bottle and was tempted to hail down cars to ferry me back home. I did hail them but none stopped to carry a weary stranger in the middle of nowhere. So I continued determined to make it on my own.
And just then I saw a sign post which read “End of the Motorway”. It was such a huge relief that broke over me. I screamed “Yeah, I’ve done it” with my parched mouth. Such personal fulfillment that no words can explain filled me up. I felt nothing can take away this experience from me, ever. When I tell people about it I’m told that it was a crazy idea.
“What if something had happened to you? Who would have helped you?”
Well life belongs to only the crazy. You need to be crazy to achieve anything in this world. The lure of the open road is so huge in me now. I can’t wait for Saturday to start another trek. I am all healed up now and this time I’m going to walk to and fro Tema. Consequently, I’m thinking of trekking Ghana. Something in my mind keeps bringing back the Nike pay off line: Just do it, it says. Sure I’m crazy enough to think it can be done.
Graduate of University of Lagos and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. Chief Editor, Goal.com Nigeria edition. Former Online Editor and West African Correspondent based in Ghana for TELL Magazine, Lagos. Alumnus International Institute of Journalism (INWENT), Berlin; Reuters Foundation and Agence France Presse (AFP) Foundation. Photographs published in USAToday, BBC Focus on Africa magazine, AllAfrica.com, The Guardian, ThisDay, The Punch, Showbiz and Daily Graphic (Ghana). Photos exhibited in Krakow, Poland. Nominee Journalist of the year at The Future Awards, Nigeria 2010.