The Bridge at Praso

The Bridge at Praso

Crossing the River Pra

Part 1

…. I can tell you that there is one sign my wife and I should have believed when we read it several weeks ago – a sign which can no longer been given much credibility for reasons explained in an earlier blog post.

The sign in question was one advising of the closure for repairs of the bridge over the Pra River on the Kumasi/Cape Coast highway. Four weeks ago, we took a chance that the sign would not apply to us. We were on our way to New Edubiase and it was late in the afternoon when we saw the sign at the junction at Assin Brofoyedru. We knew that if we were allowed to cross the bridge at Praso it was only a short 15 minute drive to our home at New Edubiase. The alternative was a difficult 2 or 3 hour detour on dirt roads and so we proceeded to Praso.

It was 5:45 as we pulled into Praso and parked in front of the accumulated lorries and buses. It did not look good but we walked the next few hundred yards to see what we could learn. The contractor was on the site although there was no work being done and therefore no reason why passenger vehicles could not pass. We asked the contractor, a short stocky very serious looking man, if we could pass over to the other side. He assured us that such a request was out of the question. He told us how the public had been informed of the bridge closure with notices in the “Graphic” and announcements on the radio, as if that was a good enough reason for his decision. We had not heard the news – the Graphic does not come to our village and we seldom listen to radio. Apparently we were being chastened for our lack of awareness.

Nana Pra - upstream

Nana Pra - upstream

The man clearly was enjoying the position of power which he held. We decided to save our energy from further argument and turned around and headed back to the junction where we had first seen the sign. The sun was disappearing as we turned onto the dirt road to which leads to Oda. Several kilometres down the road we came to another junction. We asked a taxi driver which branch led to Oda and were directed to turn left, which we did. The road started well but soon began to deteriorate. From time to time we encountered junctions and whenever able we asked for directions. Two hours later we pulled up to an intersection – one with a paved road that looked rather familiar. It was as I feared – the very highway which we had been on just over two hours earlier… yes, we had looped back to Assin Akonfode – only a few kilometres from our starting point at Assin Praso!!

New advisors, well meaning all (perhaps related to the taxi driver who gave us the incorrect directions?) suggested that we return to Assin Fosu and head west to Twifo Praso and then north to Dunkwa and on through Obuasi to finally reach our destination, New Edubiase. I have some very good road maps that would have shown this route in excellent detail – of course they were safely stored in the glove compartment of the car which we had left behind in Busua – not much help to us now. It was shortly after 8:00 and seemed too early to give up. I was not tired and so the decision was made and off we set, clambering around and through the huge craters that cover the streets of Assin Fosu. Apparently the Fosu Municipal Authority do not hold street maintenance high on their list of priorities – one can only hope that they are putting their funds into other worthwhile projects that will benefit the citizens of that town. After manoeuvring though the Fosu minefield, we reached a lovely paved road beginning on the outskirts of town. We had nicely gained some speed and were enjoying the road when it suddenly ended and turned into the road from hell, one which was even worse than the worst that we had encountered in the previous two hours.

I lost track of the time and had not had the presence of mind to set the trip meter when we began this sojourn. Suffice it to say that considerable time had passed until we finally reached Twifo Praso. We crossed over the mighty Pra River on an old railroad bridge that is no longer used for trains, although that did not prevent me from imagining a locomotive bearing down on us just as we were half way across. The bridge was questionable, to say the least. It has been crudely modified to accommodate road vehicles, with weathered planking placed between and beside the rails to allow vehicles to straddle them. We were greatly relieved when we made it to the other side of Nana Pra.

Nana Pra - downstream

Nana Pra - downstream

Another lovely paved road took us northward but, like the previous one, it abruptly ended and then turned into a narrow lane, no doubt following some ancient route through the bush. Villages were few and far between and were not served by the electrical grid and solar powered street lamps were visible in a few of these communities. We commented to each other that even though our electrical service is not consistently reliable, at least it is much more than these villages enjoyed.

Somewhere along the way, with the road only wide enough for one vehicle to pass and with water filled potholes providing clear evidence of a recent rainfall, we could see that a lorry was travelling a short distance ahead us. We drove for several kilometres and from time to time caught glimpses of his headlights. Suddenly we turned a corner, and there it was – a Nissan van, upside down, roof caved in, wheels still turning, and passengers on the road screaming and crying for assistance.

We stopped. A young man ran up, begging us to help. A woman, clutching a small child to her breast, wailed loudly, telling us that someone was under the lorry. Another man staggered around, clutching his arm and crying out his pain. I backed up, shone the lights on the lorry and got out. My wife tried to calm the distraught woman while I went to the front of the lorry. The driver had gone through the windshield and was lying on the ground. At first he was motionless and I feared the worst. Just at that moment, a Kia truck arrived from the opposite direction. The driver and his mate got down to assess the situation. Just then the lorry driver came back to life and held out his arms. The truck’s mate helped me to pull him clear of the lorry to the edge of the road. Within moments he was standing, still dazed, oblivious of his passengers, and contemplating how he was going to upright his overturned lorry.

Our Land Cruiser was already full with items which we were moving to our house at the village, but we squeezed and made room for the man with the injured arm and set off to the hospital which we were told was up the road at Kyekyewere. All was quiet when we arrived at the hospital, but a watchman assured us that the man would be taken care of. We discharged him, and continued on our way until we finally reached Dunkwa and a paved road. From there the road was familiar to us and we drove on to Obuasi and then on towards New Edubiase, arriving at our house at 1:00 in the morning, thirteen hours after we had set off from Busua.

It had taken us seven hours to drive from Assin  Praso in the Central Region to New Edubiase in the Ashanti Region – a drive that would normally have taken fifteen minutes!! We had passed through countryside which we would not likely have ever had any other reason to travel through. It was unfortunate that we could not see the scenery because of the darkness but we were grateful to have arrived finally and safely at our destination. We agreed that a purpose had been served – we had been able to assist some folks along the way and that made the ordeal worthwhile.