I recently had the unique opportunity to drive a car through 4 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.
The route was from Kampala, Uganda, along the west side of Lake Victoria, into Tanzania, more or less south through Tanzania to Malawi, along the west side of Lake Malawi, and into Mozambique through the border near Tete. We then followed the main route over to the Mozambique coast and on down to Maputo, for a total of approximately 3000 miles.
There was a lot to process, and I’m still thinking about it and expect to write more thoroughly about it later, but for now, I would like to share some quick impressions.
1. There are no direct routes in Africa. The closest we came to a direct route was when we took a dirt road more directly south through Tanzania, instead of sticking to the paved route that would have been faster driving, but twice as long, through Dodomo.
2. People can carry just about anything on a bicycle. Big stacks of mattresses, 20’ long poles, bundles of branches, their families, animals, big baskets of (live) chickens.
3. People can carry an almost equally surprising variety of things on their heads. It makes a lot of sense, if you’re walking long distances, to carry things as high as possible. Bundles of laundry, baskets of mangoes, schoolbooks, 5-gallon buckets of water, luggage, fruit for sale, trays of eggs.
4. I can sleep anywhere as long as I have a door that locks, clean sheets and a reasonably clean place for ablutions. The rest is negotiable.
5. If someone greased the road leading up to the Tanzania/Malawi border crossing at Songwe and just let everyone skid into a pileup, it would be an improvement over the current setup.
6. People love to name their trucks and buses. Highlights include: “Fax Machine,” “Fit Truck,” “Woman Nature,” “Barack Truck,” “Whatever,” “Nameless (a minibus).”
7. We humans haven’t really changed all that much in the past few hundred years because when the sun goes down at 6:00 and there is little to no artificial light, it’s easy to fall asleep early and get up with the sun (also at 6:00 near the equator).
8. Malawi has a lot of goats. Most of them are in the road.
9. Bribes are mostly painless.
10. I saw a lot of this:
11. And, I saw a lot of this:
12. Elephants are always a treat.