Travelling without moving

This is the first overseas posting where Ive been given the option to drive. Question is “Do I want to?”

At certain times of the day traffic is at gridlock in the streets of Nairobi. Massive SUVs, 4x4s, matatus (minibus), public buses and a few brave cyclists compete for a patch of road. Vehicles inch along at walking pace and when they reach a cross roads it’s a general free for all. No one will give way or let you out until you are physically blocking their path. So you have to nose your vehicle out into the oncoming traffic in a confident manoeuvre and hope that they stop. They usually do as no one wants to get their car pranged.Image

Every junction is an elaborate jigsaw of moving metal as one car edges to left, another enters from the right, leaving just enough room for another to enter the fray from ahead while allowing a small gap for another. And so the slow cog of traffic turns; inch by inch, turn by turn, clouded in a fog of dust and fumes. Amazingly everyone stays very calm and polite with no hooting, no loss of temper and no road rage.

Ive been warned that if you so much as brush another vehicle it’s another story. You are supposed to get out and wait for the police. They take your licence and then you thrash it out between you and the owner. Some money exchanges hands, the policeman gets his cut, you get your licence back and everyone goes on their way. Ive been told that as a foreigner the blame will be on you.

For the moment I’m taking my chances on the “sidewalk.”


One Comment Add yours

  1. Jo Mus says:

    When I lived in Uganda I merrily drove around Kampala, on the roads out to Jinga without a second thought.

    On return speaking to a friend who works for a UK based NGO I now appreciate the stupidity of some of those drives, at night down to the airport on my own being the classic. I was thankful though that when I needed to escape during the day I could jump into the trusty SUV and take off without arranging for a driver.

    Take some risks, but stay safe would be my advice.

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