Traffic, mayhem and Bodabodas


What if you have to go somewhere quickly in a city perpetually clogged with traffic? Easy: You take a motorcycle taxi. 

There is a lovely tradition in Dar es Salaam not only the expats but pretty one everyone indulges in: Sundowners. Basically, you go somewhere high up or close to the ocean, have a drink and watch the incredibly beautiful sundown.

I am meeting someone for one of those sundowners when I realize that I am running late. Moreover, it is a time when traffic into the city center is bad. I could take a Daladala, a minibus, but they are slow. Usually they only leave when the bus is full, and in Tanzania, a bus is not considered as full unless at least one person has to hang on to the open door. There are the Bajaj, the threewhelers that people who have travelled to Asia probably know as Tuktuk. They, however, need a special permit to be allowed into the city center, and the only Bajaj driver I’ve ever met that was willing to take me into town seemed drunk. I could take a taxi, but with traffic the way it is, I’d probably be faster walking.

There is one more means of public transport that I’ve been to chicken-hearted to take so far: The Bodaboda, a motorcycle taxi. Definitely time to try it out.

At first, I just think the driver is short – he approximately reaches my shoulder. When I sit behind him I realize that he’s not short, but young, he looks like he’s about fifteen. Moreover, he wears headphones with ridiculously loud music coming out. Irritatingly, it sounds a lot like the music American ice cream trucks use to advertise their goods.

He is fast, however. Every tiny gap between traffic jammed cars he manages to wiggle in, and doesn’t hesitate to drive on the opposite lane if there aren’t any – or at least not too many – cars there. All the while ignoring the stressed out Mzungu on his back seat that keeps on yelling „Pole pole! Slow down!“ It’s a bit like taking a ride in a amusement park, just without the benefits of a safety belt or at least a helmet.

When we finally reach our destination my legs feel like jelly, and my respect for Tanzanian women who –  thanks to the traditional long skirts –  usually ride Bodaboda side-saddle has grown immensely. „That was fun“, I think to myself. „Let’s just not do it again anytime soon.“


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