During one of our first days in Togo we sat down with the base leader who gave us some information about the area we were in. As she tells us about transportation in the local cities she says “There’s these things called Semi-Johns. They’re like taxi’s, but they’re motorcycles. You get on the back, tell the driver where to go, and then pay him at the end of the ride. Don’t ever take them. You don’t have to have a drivers license here to drive a motorcycle, so any fool can get on one and make some money. Take a taxi instead.”
The next day half of my team and I are in the middle of the capitol city of Togo. We’re out on the side of the road and our guide friend tells us that we need to take some semi-johns to get to our first stop. Amid my loud protests she explains that we can’t take a taxi, and one by one the rest of my team follows her and gets on Semi-Johns, behind some pretty sketchy looking drivers. There’s nothing I can do. I’ve never been on a motorcycle before in my life, and the roads here look more like a Mario Kart game than highways. Reluctantly I get on behind my driver, burning my leg in the process because I don’t know to avoid the hot tailpipe. As we zoom down the crowded, bumpy dirt roads we pass chickens, goats, and babies all being held by the locals as they happily ride along on the semi-Johns beside us. I hold on to the back of my bike, scared to death and praying my heart out.
Needless to say we all made it to our destination safely that day, other than the burn on my calf… When we met up with the other half of my team I hung my head in shame as my team tells of their adventures riding on the motos. My co-leader looks at me, “You let them ride a semi-John!!! YOU rode a semi-John!!!” “Yah, her knuckles were white she was holding on so tight!” My teammate laughs.
You know what though? I kinda liked riding them by the end of the trip. J