So we drive on the other side of the road here, big deal. There are far more challenging adjustments that make driving in Tanzania an experience.
1. Dirt roads: don’t roll down your windows in the middle of the day. Somehow the dust seems to not rise as high in the mornings and evenings, but in midday, just keep them up until you get to the main road.
2. Bump, Bump Bump: there are two kinds of bumps on TZ roads, the on purpose bumps and the whoa! What was that bump.
a. On Purpose
On tar roads, there are speed bumps everywhere. There are some that are wide and long, but not particularly high, some that are three little bumps right in a row, and then some that are quick, high, and easy to miss until the bottom of your engine is scraping against them. They were input after the tar roads were built and there was a rapid increase in accidents because people were speeding down the roads without caution. Now, drivers must be very conscious on these roads, especially if their car sits low to the ground like ours does.
b. Whoa! What was that?
These bumps are most commonly found on dirt roads, but this generalization is far from exclusive. The whoa! What was that? Is the bump that you could swear didn’t look that bad, or maybe it didn’t even appear until the tires dipped. Once it hits however, there’s no illusion. You know it’s really there. How to avoid them? Keep a loose grip on the steering wheel (don’t be shy about zig zagging across the whole road) and just take it slow
3. Overtaking: You know how in America you don’t really pass other cars unless you’re really in a hurry, or you’re on the highway? Yep, not true here. There are trucks that drive 5 kilometers an hour and cars that race at 90 – overtaking is a necessary part of driving. All roads are single lanes, so the only way to do it is to move into the lane of oncoming traffic to pass the slow poke. Some drivers are exceedingly liberal overtakers and can cause panic in the lane of oncoming traffic. Often times, public transportation systems are culprits of liberal overtaking. They also tend to disregard the rules of the road in general…
4. Piki Pikis: motorcycles here are a very common mode of transportation, especially within a city. They are cheaper than a taxi, faster than walking, and will stop wherever you want unlike dala dalas. Actually on one of my first days here, I took a quick piki piki tour around the city. It was my first time on a motorcycle, it was fun! (Don’t worry mom and dad – completely safe. We knew the driver and he went really slowly) But you’re right to worry - piki piki drivers can be crazy. They cut, weave, drive on sidewalks. They’re like snowboarders from hell on a ski-only mountain. They cause loads of accidents, loads of deaths, and are in general something to steer clear of.
5. No Street Lights: Driving at night is dark. At first I thought that the other cars were keeping their brights on at night. Then one night Princely pointed out that the glare was in fact probably due to the lack of street lights – the utter blackness besides the headlights. It’s not something I noticed, but it makes a huge difference.
6. Wipe or blink: Driving on the left side of the road is easy to adjust to, but it has taken me longer to grow used to the blinkers. They are on the outside of the steering wheel instead of the inside. Almost every time I intend to blink, the windshield wipers start dancing.
I don’t drive often here in Tanzania, but when I do it’s always bittersweet. It’s so much more efficient, but there are many adjustments to be made. The one that is most challenging for me is on purpose bump. Still, I’m getting better and it’s encouraging, empowering even.