Thank God for
I never thought that I would actually say this, but after three days of
Don’t believe me? Just one day in
Peak traffic conditions – between 07h00 and 10h00 every morning and 17h00 to 19h00 every evening – is truly something to behold. A distance of less than twenty kilometers between our residence and our offices in town can take anything between 1½ and 2½ hours to traverse. I kid you not!
And I do not use the verb “transverse” lightly either. I now understand why there is such an abnormally high concentration of 4x4’s and SUV’s on the roads.
Allow me to sketch a typical afternoon ride home as I experienced just a few hours ago.
We leave town at 16h30, happily thinking that we have missed the worst of the traffic and looking forward to disembarking in an hour or less. Unfortunately we had to pick up another passenger at the bottom end of town and the half an hour wasted was just enough for us to hit the big time traffic jam.
You have to understand that nobody “just drives” in the streets of this African city. It is a constant game of “chicken” that you have to experience to appreciate. You know the game? Two drivers head straight for each other and the one who dares to brake or even make eye contact, loses.
One of the major arteries leading to our humble abode normally is a two-way, one lane on each side, road. I am not quite sure that this road is ever normal, as I have yet to see it being used in this way.
What really does make it exciting, though, is the afternoon traffic.
The lane into the city becomes a dual lane, with scooters, bikes, cars, SUV’s, minibuses and trucks all vying for their place on the road.
The outgoing lane, though, is the one to experience. It turns into a four-lane free-for-all road with vehicles traveling anywhere between 3 km/h (1 mph) and breakneck speed. There does not appear to be any speed limits around here, and if there are, they are not applied.
Imagine this: One lane of cars traversing the middle of the road and forcing on-coming traffic out of the way, the second lane only centimeters away and with all four wheels on the tarmac – well, most of the time anyway – the third lane again extremely close to the second with two wheels on the tarmac and the other two on the gravel/sand of the shoulder, and lastly the fourth lane screaming up the shoulder of the road. The latter section driving though sand and deep potholes and over and around various obstacles along the way. These obstacles include parked, broken down and abandoned vehicles, dogs of all shapes and sizes, pedestrians of all ages, street vendor stalls and a collection of tree trunks, bricks, rocks and anything else you may imagine. I tell you, you have never seen anything like this in your life!
Every so often the road narrows to the point where it becomes physically impossible to carry more than one lane, and all four lanes merge into one. This is where the fun and games – especially “chicken” – really takes place. The only vehicles which appear to have right of way are trucks, but then only because they are too big to be taken on by any other vehicle. For the rest all that counts is whoever has enough guts to push his vehicle’s nose a centimeter ahead of the others, forcing the others to brake to avoid a collision.
The worst of these kamikaze drivers are the minibus taxis. Never in my life have I seen so many of them on the road, each and every one driving as if the road was made for them and them alone. No wonder they win the chicken driving game most of the time.
So here’s a piece of advice. Next time you drive in the peak traffic of
Tomorrow I am up at 04h30…