I’m posting this from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. I’ve been spending the week touring East Africa. On business. Blah blah blah. I’ll skip the boring stuff.
I’ve been travelling internationally for almost 10 years. I’ve been to almost 50 different countries. I’ve been living in Africa for 40 years. Pick any of these reasons that might ensure my credibility when I say: “I thought I’ve seen it all.”
I have not.
Life throws curveballs like a monkey on crack. She hides among the tall grass of the savannah, crouching, ready to pounce and charge like the hungry lion she is. Surprising you with unexpected moments, just when you think it’s run out of things to show you.
This time it was potholes.
A pothole, for all the citizens of 1st world countries who are frowning at the moment, is when a road is damaged, i.e a piece of tar is missing. It happens. It has many causes, but if you leave it, big trucks will stomp through it like a herd of Wildebeest and ensure it deteriorates to the point of silliness. And when normal vehicles approach really big potholes, you have two options. Either slow down to sloth-speed, drive through an pray you won’t lose a tyre or swerve into oncoming traffic, like a Springbok dodging a hyena.
I’ve seen many of these potholes, which is normal for a person living in Africa. They start of as little brown holes and quickly grow into shallow graves. Not that I’ve ever needed to dig one, I just assume that’s how they should look.
Travelling in the industrial sector of Dar Es Salaam gave me a radical new appreciation for how severe potholes can become. It’s like the urban legends of big rats living in sewers below New York. Rats, the size of elephants, devouring small children. From what I know, those rats turned out to be only one kick-ass Rat who’s teaching a few mutant turtles some life/karate/kung fu/pizza eating skills.
I’m going to try and illustrate with words how massive these holes were. Then I will add a picture. Why would I bother attempting to explain? I’m a writer. That’s what we do. We complicate everything.
Imagine for a moment, if you will, a river during a severe drought. Just before the mud turns into that odd looking puzzle shapes, cracking up. Scattered along the dry riverbed are pools of brown water. Some of them deep enough, serving as a last resort for a few hippo’s against the relentless African sun. Cramped, all twenty of them, standing, pushing, snorting, scattering their shit, which is actually something they really do.
Imagine, this exact same scene with trucks and bikes and cars and people and carts and more trucks scuffling by, driving through these placid pools, scattering the hippo’s to wherever your mind wants to send them.
To call it a road would be an insult to all the roads that lead to Rome. It’s more like patches of tar, amongst nothing. Our taxi was certainly not equipped for driving on a road which my friends with SUV’s might get nervous about.
Ironically no-one seemed to mind. No one was complaining, or lobbying for better maintenance, or having meetings about where their tax money is going. They seemed oblivious to the fact that the road was three rainstorms away from becoming the ideal living space for a crocodile or two.
Don’t believe me? Think I’m using creative words to enhance the reality. Convinced I’m magnifying something that could never be THAT bad…
Well see for yourself.