Arushans! Let us Walk with our Heads High
by lute wa lutengano
Dear readers of this third rate column,
I wish to thank you all because you took your time not only to read the column but also to pray for my sick mum. I am happy to report back that she is presently doing fine. Thanks to you and your prayers.
I drove a total of 2,418 kilometres from Arusha to Ilembula village in the southern highlands and back. That is a lot of driving and it also goes to show you how big this blessed country of Tanzania is. Fortunately, with your prayers and good driving by me and my faithful friend Peter, we managed to drive to and from Ilembula safely.
Before I travel with you to Ilembula and back I would through today's column give you some salient aspects of the trip for all those who live in Arusha and plan to drive south and perhaps to any other parts of Tanzania..
Most of the big passenger buses you will come across on the way will either be passing you from behind and or from the opposite direction. They literally fly on the road and have no respect for traffic rules. A bus will overtake you and you may literally think that you are driving in the opposite direction. Those driving against you will pass by like a hurricane, so make sure you are ready for it by holding the steering wheel tight in your hands and with a firm grip control the car.
You will definitely meet a number of police check points manned by the overzealous traffic police. They literally hide in the bushes beside the road and ambush you as you approach their hiding point. It is very funny to see them, and somehow all have irregular pot bellies, rush on the road to stop you.
Do not panic. They simply want to add a few funds to their already bulging pockets for the evening session of munching 'nyama choma' and some warm beer in the neighbourhood. They try to fault you for anything including something to do with you’re not focusing on the road.
Fortunately in my case, Peter had a Class C driving licence which was issued more than 30 years ago. This shamed them, because most of them were then yet to even breath the air of this world. With disgrace they let us go.
You will also come across thousands of Machingas - street hawkers - peddling everything from fried chicken wings to water - in plastic bags. Beware of these products. I came across a number of drivers and passengers who, because of their pertaking of these products and the resultant stomach troubles, were literally squatting in the bushes besides the road, trying very hard to empty their running bowels.
In this case I would like to advise all travelers to stick to fruits and official soft drinks available on the highway. Otherwise travel with a takeaway from your home or from a respectable restaurant.
Much as I will write more about my trip, I would like to reveal this unique habit which I found in Ilembula. Almost every able bodied person in that village has a bicycle. But it seems all bicycles belong to all villagers.
You are at a drinking joint and you wish to go somewhere you simply go out and pick the nearest bicycle and ride it away. When the owner comes out he will obviously find his bicycle gone. He will, to your surprise, not panic. He will on the other hand pick another bicycle belonging to some one else and proceed to wherever he is going.
Somehow, at the end of the day all bicycles find their way to their real owners. This is an ingenious way to maximize transport usage in the village. How I wish the same would apply to vehicles usage in Arusha.
The only problem is I would hang around joints with patrons who own four-wheel drive Sports Utility Vehicles - SUVs - as they call them in the United States of America, and drive them to Ilembula. The only thing which would be missing is the Ilembula spirit of returning them.
Again, thank you very much for your prayers. I will faithfully write about my trip to Ilembula in the coming issues.
As a parting shot, I just received the good news that the young boys who went to participate in the Dar es Salaam Open Tennis tournament have arrived back with a horde of medals and the overall winners cup. Arushans! Let us walk with heads high!