The drama of driving on terrible roads

Aine McCarthy has a beautifully-written tale of trying to free her car from a river in Tanzania, as a storm moves in:

So, we get out of the truck and start to push. This includes me, Loi (field assistant, driver, friend), two distributors with babies on back, and the family planning training facilitator, who is a nut. A handful of Witamhiya residents are standing around at the riverbank watching us, washing, watching us, watching their cattle. So we ask someone to go get village leader. They send the traditional healer. He is pretty useless. His friend, however, gets two oxen to pull the truck and one more strong man. We try to push while the oxen pull (literally attached to the tow of the front of the truck). Oxen=Tanzanian AAA? Not exactly. It still doesn’t budge and the front tire is getting deeper into the sand.

Also, there is a lot of cow poop. We are basically standing around in a warm poop-green river.  They send for two more oxen. We sit around the river talking about Obama. Four oxen pulling and eight people pushing does nothing for the truck. No cell service in Witamhiya. More sitting around and looking at the oxen. By now, it is 6pm and as if on cue, a dark cloud appears upstream. Huge and growing. The sun is setting and the awesome yet ominous wind that smell of rain starts to blow in our direction.

The whole thing is great, and will ring true to anyone who has tried to navigate crappy developing-country roads in the face of imminent rain. It joins The Economist’s classic tale of a Guiness delivery truck in Cameroon, “The Road to Hell is Unpaved”, as one of my favorite articles about infrastructure in Africa.

1 thought on “The drama of driving on terrible roads”

  1. My favorite line from “Unpaved”:

    “According to a rather optimistic schedule, it should have taken 20 hours, including an overnight rest. It took four days.”

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