June 7, 2012

I thought the biggest danger I had here in Tanzania was to fall into a manhole (they are not covered) and break a leg, in particular when I take the bus at 5 am and it’s pitch dark (there’s no street light, but luckily there’s a full moon these days). But I found out there’s something more dangerous: traveling on a minibus on unpaved roads.

The trip from Songea to Masasi was a nightmare. My place was at the end of the minibus, in a corner, where only kids would sit comfortably. My knees were stuck against the seat in front of me and I couldn’t change position because there was no room. We were squeezed like hens in cages and the aisle was full of luggage, bags of rice and corn, boxes. So every time I had to get off to pee (I couldn’t wait for 11 hours, despite me drinking as little as possible) I had to climb over all the seats to go back to my place.

After about one hour on the road, with the bus speeding as crazy, among jumps and curves, we swerved dangerously. I thought we would tip over. We stopped, and the four helpers got off the van and run to the back of it. I thought we had run over someone and they were going to assist him/her. No, in the middle of the road there was a boy that unfortunately was at the wrong place at the wrong time and they started kicking him and punching him. After some time he managed to free himself and run away, but he was really beaten up badly. People on the bus seemed satisfied. The beast that almost caused an accident was rightly punished. I was in shock.

We left, faster than ever. So I started to sleep. Or at least pretend. I’d rather not see what was going on around me. I opened the window, to have an escape exit in case we found ourselves wheels up, and I placed my head on the front seat. In that position I was almost comfortable because the pelvis was slightly behind and my knees hurt a bit less.

In Tunduru, roughly half way, a few people got off. Many more joined. When I went back to the van, after the pee break, there was a bag on my seat. At first I thought it was good, because I could sit on it and let my legs free and comfy on the nearby seat. But a guy got on the van after we left (he entered from the window because there was no chance he could get in from the front door, two guys were actually leaning from the door already), and sat in the back with us. No more space for my legs. I had to keep my legs bent on the bag for 5 more hours and only when we stopped was I able to stretch them out of the window. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I arrived in Masasi with my head exploding. I finished the biscuits packet, took my malaria pills, and at 7pm I was in bed.

The next day another minivan, but the road was paved and even if the driver was going too fast again, it felt less dangerous. And my legs were slightly more comfortable, so it was bearable. But I was looking forward to getting to Mtwara to be able to rest and we stopped 3 times because there was a problem with the van and the expected four hours for the trip became six. Ok, at the end in Mtwara I found a really quiet place and I could rest really well.