Thursday, 15 January 2009

Driving in Ethiopia, by Mands

Driving in Ethiopia, by Mands
A few days ago, I got to drive through rural Ethiopia. This was a remarkable event and not just because it marked only my second stint behind the wheel?! (When your husband is such an experienced driver, why cause the unnecessary high blood pressure?)
I drove a mere 150km from the dusty town of Dila to the welcoming waters of Lake Langano; a modest distance and yet it took us almost 3 hours! And this is the reason why…
Picture a tar road, freckled with continuous potholes that have to be avoided, without careering into the other lane. Then add oncoming traffic (all ludicrously crazy drivers, by the way) which is also avoiding the potholes on the other side of the road, but has no qualms about careering into the other (that would be my) lane.
Added to which, the rural livestock population: namely goats, donkeys, cattle (and the oddly misplaced couple of herds of camels). Such sanguine creatures all of them. So placid (or stupid) in fact, that the threat of a much larger, faster and heavier metal vehicular creature coming toward them poses zero threat whatsoever. No, they simply stay put, either showing off incredible courage, or immense vacancy. (No prizes for that one).
Added to which, the rural human population. So delighted (?) intrigued and curious are they to see two big loaded cars full of  "faranji" that they have to step out into the road to get a closer look. How we didn't see piles of sprawling people on the roadside is beyond me! Then add the screaming children's greetings of "You! You! You! You! You!" playing like a stuck vinyl. Clearly and genuinely happy to see a car full of white people, it is hard to ignore these faces of delight and double-handed waves. I, for one, have never felt more like the Queen in my life, for all the waving I did. Added to which, face-ache from so much smiling.
By the time we reached the volcanic waters of Lake Langano, I was more than ready for a cold beer. Unfortunately, I developed a migraine. No prizes for that one either…

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