A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about driving

Rules of the Road

Tanzania’s rural traffic is, luckily, not as insane as its urban traffic. Though the madmen who drive the intercity coaches seem to have a death wish. Not only on their behalf, but also on that of their passengers and me…

semi-overcast 24 °C
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Dangerous overtaking

Dangerous overtaking

A few hundred metres ahead of me, the oncoming coach pulls out behind a long line of lorries. He is heading straight for me, and I feel like a bug the second before it gets squashed on a windshield. I flash my headlight at the driver, who quickly realises that there is no shoulder in this road and nowhere for me to go, so he pulls back in behind the lorries. He can overtake them once I have passed him.
After 950 km of Tanzania’s highways, I’m getting a feel for how to behave. Road shoulders, those bits of the extra road on each side of the actual road, are essential for motorcyclists here. In general, if someone bigger – pretty much everybody else – are coming against me and wants to overtake someone, I’m expected to move out of the way. E.g. drive onto the shoulder so that the overtaker can use my lane. On the positive, if there’s a lot of traffic or slow-moving trucks, I can use the shoulder to overtake them on the inside while everybody else has to wait for the oncoming traffic to pass. However, as mentioned above, if there is no shoulder on the road, driving gets pretty standard, and other people almost treat my bike as a proper vehicle.

Dar traffic jam

Dar traffic jam

Driving around the hectic (some would say crazy) traffic in Dar es Salaam was excellent preparation. Of course, the nay-sayers would call it fatalistic or outright suicidal to cross southern Africa on a tiny motorcycle. That was also what they said when I arrived in Dar, took a quick look at the congested traffic, and bought said bike without ever haven ridden one before. Look who’s laughing now!
In general, traffic on Tanzania’s highways is sporadic at best. There is a large number of trucks, but they are slower than me. I see very few regular cars, except for governmental SUVs, who are driving insanely fast. Every time I pass through a village, there will be a bunch of motorcycle taxis and tuk-tuks, and possibly a minibus waiting for passengers, but towns don’t last for very long.

Open road (notice shoulder)

Open road (notice shoulder)

My biggest foes on the roads have no doubt been the couches. Those long-distance buses driving between Tanzania’s major cities. They will slow down for nobody, maybe expect traffic police. I not only have to keep a keen eye on oncoming coaches. These guys are faster than me, even going uphill, and I will have to watch my rear-view mirrors closely throughout the day, trying to spot fast approaching threats on the horizon. Again, roads with shoulders make being overtaken by a large, fast bus less nerve-racking. Once the coach is close, I can simply indicate, pull onto the shoulder and let the driver pass. Having a large bus about a metre next to me while I go 70 km/h on an oversized toy for a couple of seconds isn’t my idea of fun, but it sure beats having one tailgating me for a few minutes until it can pass me even closer.

Monkeys on the road

Monkeys on the road

But in general the roads are pretty empty, and I do get times where I can enjoy the ride for five or ten minutes without anyone else in sight. That is of course until a government SUV appears out of nowhere to overtake me with 140 km/h, abruptly pilling me out of my day-dreaming bliss. I do tend to let my rear-view mirror guard down a bit when I’m allowed just to enjoy the ride.
All this, of course, have not touched on the wild animals, herds, children and old folk who also enjoys crossing the road rather suddenly — or at least likes to hand out near the road — giving just about everybody driving nervous tics!

Posted by askgudmundsen 12:36 Archived in Tanzania Tagged traffic travel overland driving tanzania buses motorbike couches accident danger southern_africa trucks Comments (0)

New Blog: SOUTHERN Africa Road Blog

Driving a glorified moped from Dar es Salaam to Cape Town

sunny 28 °C
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Planned Route -ish...

Planned Route -ish...

I’ve got a dumb idea. Fun, exciting, but dumb! Why not drive, the small 110cc motorcycle that I’ve been driving for the last year or so, while working for the European Union in Tanzania, all the way down to Cape Town?

“Motorcycle” is probably the wrong word – glorified scooter will probably be more correct. Setting out for a 12,000 km (that’s 7,500 miles for the Americans) in Southern Africa, on a glorified moped is dumb. Silly at best. Particularly when taking into account the lack of driving skills in Southern Africa, or that a city bike probably shouldn’t be driven up a mountainous gravel road in rural Lesotho, or that the 140 km I can travel on a full tank (on smooth, plain tarmac) often will not be enough to take me to the next gas station… At least the diplomatic plates will spare me some of the bribery attempts and easy the border crossings.

Regardless, I’m sure plenty of people called Amundsen dumb when he decided to go look for the South Pole and Edmund Hillary insane when he decided to climb Everest. Adventure always require some caution thrown to the wind. I did the same in West Africa, and many more people seemed interested in that adventure, so I will once again be doing my fair share of travel blogging here on the site and post a daily photo on Facebook. Consider this the official relaunch of the Road Blog!

The Bike, known as 'the Diplonator' by friends

The Bike, known as 'the Diplonator' by friends

Highlights will include Lake Malawi, Mozambique’s Coast, the Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, the highlands of Eswatini and Lesotho and, of course, Cape Town – and many, many hours spent on the road with an increasingly sore bum.

I will set out from Dar on September 24th and expect to be in Cape Town before Christmas.

PS. If anyone is making a poll on when the bike will break down, my guess is on one of the first days in Lesotho. Then again – I know absolutely nothing about bikes.

Posted by askgudmundsen 08:43 Archived in Tanzania Tagged adventure driving africa tanzania zambia malawi zimbabwe motorcycle south_africa lesotho roadtrip southern_africa mozambique swaziland eswatini Comments (1)

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