18 January 2007

Frightful drive back from the NCA

To get to the crater and back in a day required us leaving the house at 4 am. The drive there was not bad, Dennis Ikanda (a Tanzanian lion researcher) drove and I got to sleep most of the way. Dennis also drove us all around the crater all day so once we got to the NCA gate on our way home I took over driving. Now at first things were fine, but it started to get dark and I started to get pretty tired. If you were reading my blog last June you might remember another drive in the darkness story where I tried to explain how freaky it is here. During that drive though, I was within city limits and not exhausted. This time however we were out in the rural country. Imagine one-lane each way, no median, no shoulder, no street lights, no reflective guard rails, people and animals on the sides and middle of the road. I’m driving a land rover, which is not an easy car to drive. You can move your hands, while holding the wheel, from 2 to almost 4 o’clock and still not cause the car to swerve. The last 3.5 hours getting home were on roads with potholes large enough that you get a sufficient thump if you hit them (and I worry about the shocks and tires). The light on the dash board for the bright lights is so bright that it almost blinds you, definitely ruining your night vision. This was not a problem the entire time because my brights went out about halfway through the 5 hour trip (we had to take an hour and a half detour to take someone home). So, I’m driving on these lovely roads, I’m tired, my brights aren’t working, I can’t see well anyway because of the light on the dash board, I’m trying not to hit the potholes, there are people and animals to watch out for and there are loris (TZ semis) coming towards me with their brights on. Twice the lori did not switch to the low beams and I almost ran off the road. I was further frightened by Dennis tell us that the lori drivers are often drunk and/or sleeping (which frankly I believe after last night) and so I always would start flashing my lights at them from a safe distance to get them to respond with a flash back so I was sure they were awake, all the while slowing down and preparing myself to go down the embankment should they not give me enough room to pass (which many only barely do because they drive in the middle of the road). Dennis took over driving with about an hour left, which was nice other than he drives faster than me (I was only doing like 45 mph the entire time) and I was still worried that a lori was going to hit us. On top of it all, this car passed me, then slowed down and stopped, I was worried there was a reason (like someone in the road, a car in the road, etc, all possibilities). As I slowed down Dennis says “don’t slow down, don’t slow down, keep driving, there are bandits on this road, don’t stop”. Now yes, there have been bandits on the road, but not often, but it just added to my anxiety. I mean if I didn’t get run off the road by a lori I was worried I’d hit a pothole, pop a tire and have to change a tire all the while hoping someone didn’t run us over or stop and mug us. I can be so frank now because I’m fine, but I really was pretty scared for the first time in this country and I will not be driving outside city limits at night again!


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