or The Kellers in Africa
In all my travels, I have to say Uganda’s capital, Kampala, has some of the worst traffic ever. Don’t get me wrong. I think Lusaka here in Zambia is quite dangerous, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Kampala. Sure, people here consistently cut each other off with only centimeters to spare (here everything is metric, so the gaps are even smaller than inches). Don’t forget the occasional driving on the wrong side of the road or on the sidewalk- that sort of thing is typical, even expected at times.
What makes traffic bad here in Africa? The Taxis. A typical taxi here is like a minivan, except with 30 people inside. Not that 30 people is the limit, because there is always room for one more. Taxis are also usually poorly maintained (Read: needs a push to get started and brake pads are an optional extra). Most taxis have an assortment of dents to show for the lack of maintenance and driving ethos. With these things cruising around you never have a dull moment on the road.
Now both Lusaka and Kampala have lots of taxis. However, there are two big differences, I believe, in driving in these places. One is the speed. Lusaka is messy, but usually slow. Sometimes very, frustratingly slooooooow. This means accidents are not as dangerous as in Kampala. Slow never seems to be an option in Kampala. If you are a pedestrian, then crossing the road always seems like bungee jumping with dental floss. Not fun at all.
The other big difference between these cities is the Boda-boda. These things are legendary to anyone who has ever visited East Africa. They are a small motorbike, a lot like the Trail 110 bike my dad and I rode on our hunting trips in my earlier years. In Lusaka, during heavy traffic, taxis will use up all the space between the other vehicles. However in Kampala, they seem to manage to fit the Boda-boda between those centimeter gaps that the taxis leave behind. When you combine all of this with the speed I mentioned earlier, it really makes for a ride of your life – literally.
I found all of this out the hard way. Waiting for my host to arrive one day I realized: class was about to begin and I wasn’t there. A bit of a problem since I was the teacher. By the time she arrived, we didn’t have time to catch a taxi so we took Boda-bodas instead. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the breakneck speed we maintained while darting between all the big trucks, taxis, and cars. There were times I had to pull my knees in from the sides in order to keep my knee caps from getting completely smashed on the sides of a car. I also wondered if helmets were out of fashion, because no one seemed to be wearing any.
To top it all off, the driver of this rollercoaster on wheels began texting. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. So at that point, I just closed my eyes. When I opened them, we had arrived in one piece, which is a sure testimony that God is completely sovereign and extremely gracious. With a feeling of injustice I paid the drive (a dollar) and rushed into the classroom.
I now know why African’s are such prayer warriors. They get a lot of practice on Boda bodas.