16.06.2010 - 16.06.2010 28 °C
Dangers of driving in Africa
After a gruelling 6 and half hour drive ,we arrived at Karen Blixen camp in the Masai Mara which is about 280 km from Kisimu where we spent the night.
As a wise man once told me the best and the quickest way to replace adrenalin is with a whiskey. So I am going to the bar to order a triple on the rocks and will make sure the barman has the next one ready.
You need nerves of steel, a Toyota Landcruser, 6 pairs of eyes and a strong body to manage this trip. We were told the trip would take us 7 hours and me in my sarcastic way told them I could get there quicker even on my bicycle. How wrong I was.
The map showed most of the road as tar. But that does mean a thing. We could go faster on the dirt road than the tar roads. In parts the tar roads have pot holes larger than swimming pools. It is hard to describe how bad the road is. The fact that we were averaging only 20 kph in parts and at that speed cars were getting stuck in the holes. Thank goodness we had a four wheel drive.
The scary times are when you get a new good patch of road, build up speed to 80 kph you suddenly find a pot hole half a meter deep. The vehicle I am driving is a modified Landcruser it has a heavy reinforced roof which can be removed for game drives. This makes it top heavy and has been extended to accommodate three rows of seats. It is not very stable on the road when you need to avoid these pot holes at high speed.
Most roads that we have experienced here in Africa have a wide shoulder for the pedestrians, bicycles and motorbikes. This road had no shoulder. So an adrenalin draining event would be to see a motor bike in some cases with four passengers on board on the left side of the road, a 75 year cyclist, on the right and a taxi approaching at 120 kph from the opposite direction, both vehicles honk their horns and you hope somebody is going to chicken out and move out of the way. You learn quickly it will not be the taxi. The other close encounter we had was when I blew the hooter to a cycle he got such a fright he nearly fell off. Some of the things you see being transported on the road add to the dangers and challenges on the road. Yesterday we overtook a motorbike with a coffin strapped to the back being steadied and watched by the pillion passenger who was facing us.
We were travelling along what appeared to be a reasonable stretch of road when we encountered a local roller blade skater on the middle of the road. When I hooted at him to move over he polity showed me that I should overtake him. We subsequently passed another two skaters on the road. Where in the world do you find a speed skater skating along the main highway – only in Africa
If the pot holes weren't enough of a challenge you also need to contend with a new sign language from your fellow drivers. It is a sign language I cannot understand. If the car in front puts on his right hand indicator it can meat two things either he intends to turn right or it is a sign that's ok to overtake. How dangerous is that. When an on coming car flashes lights can mean police ahead or ok to overtake now. There are police, traffic police and revenue police that you come across every 5 to 10 km. The taxis give a thumbs up or down depending who is ahead. They then stop 500 meters from the check point and off load the excess passengers.
These taxis are dangerous they can have anything from the 14 passengers they are allowed to carry, up 20 plus luggage. They will overtake you ant any opportunity regardless of oncoming traffic and normally have a conductor hanging out of the passengers door calling out the direction he is going in. we had one such taxi overtake up with three men hanging out the door. When Melanie started taking pictures they clearly indicated they were not happy. ( I have attached some photos ) As dangerous as what they are, we followed their tracks as they knew the best way arround the pot holes.
You quickly realise there are no sign post either for directions, for traffic rules or warning signs. When I asked why they had none I was told that as quickly as they put them up they are stolen. So what do you do – this is Africa
As you approach every small town there area series of speed humps. These humps have no markings on them, no signs to warn you to slow down, so as you drive along you find yourself being held in the seat by the safety belt as the car becomes airborne. I am a slow learner so it took three of these airborne events to realise you have to slow down to a crawl as you approach each town. You have to be going at 5 kph to negotiate some of them. Some are so high the cars have to go over them sideways.
Melanie and I both wanted to wee For me it was not a problem to stop anywhere. Melanie wanted to find a bush where there were no pedestrians 100 meters in both directions we joked as it took us 20km to find such a spot, there are people everywhere. Where they come from or where they are going I do not know.
We have a GPS with us which has been fantastic so long as you stick to the main roads. As we said before you can ask anybody for directions to any where and there will be somebody to help. What we have found it does not matter where you are going they want a lift to that place (mostly we have refused ) but what we have found strange it what was he going to do if we did not come by. We have now worked it out always ask for directions from people walking in the opposite direction to where you are going.