A Close Shave – Day 73

Posted on May 16, 2012


There have now been two incidents in my life where time has momentarily stood still and the preceding seconds after have happened in slow motion. A much as I love The Northerner it wasn’t when we met on our first date. The first incident was 20 years ago. I was walking down a steep residential street in South London on my way to the train station when I was hit by a car. The pensioner driving the vehicle was 83 years old. She lost control of it when it went over a speed bump too quickly. The car crashed into the side of the library and then hit me head on. I fell underneath the car and miraculously survived even though I was dragged for around 40-yards while still trapped underneath it. I have a few scars and the recovery afterwards was hellish, but I was lucky. Even today I remember the moment of impact and the look on the woman’s face.

This afternoon was the second incident. I was returning back to the B&B from Buliisa in a matatu. The journey down to the lake wasn’t that bad. I sat in the front and we were cruising comfortably at around 70 km/hour over the potholes. I was on my way to an interview with a senior official for natural resources at the district sub-county offices. En route I got to pass through Bugoigo, the village I should have been staying in but had a fortunate escape. And boy am I glad I changed my mind!! I saw lots of illegal fishing gear and paraffin lamps. Plus the majority of the sand was covered in Mukene being dried for animal feed. I photographed it all. Then a further 20 minutes down the road I saw Tullow Oil’s new camp for its workers. They are situated very close to all the villages that the company is keen to get their grubby hands on. These poor people have no idea about their land rights or the scale of the prime real estate they are sat on. Some have already been forced to sell for a mere few thousand pounds so that oil exploration can begin. I digress….

…..The road to Buliisa District is one of the worst in the area for the entire two hours. My return journey along country roads was nothing short of a lucky escape because the driver at the helm was a lunatic. I was picked up by the roadside at around 3pm and as the side of the taxi door slid open I could see it was full to capacity. “You get in the back,” barked the conductor. I hoisted myself up and squeezed inside and moved to the back row where me and a boy of about 8 shared a seat – half a buttock cheek each. Then as the door slid shut Schumacher put his foot down. It was a white knuckle-ride. I am not afraid of speed or indeed a bumpy ride but there was a point where I thought: “Maybe I should get out and wait for another one.” I don’t know why I didn’t. Perhaps I thought I would be ok. I don’t know how fast we were going but everyone looked scared. We were flying over the potholes so it must have been more than 90 km/per hour. A woman sat to the right of me, in the row in front was holding her toddler tightly. Next thing I knew, there was vomit everywhere! The little boy pebble dashed the floor and the stench of sick filled the taxi. Those in front began to turn around to see what and where the odour was coming from. It was bound to happen, the driver was going über fast. I should have taken this as a sign to get off, but stupidly I didn’t. Why Asha? Why? The driver was going at such a speed that he even managed to catch up with a taxi that left Buliisa a good 40 minutes before we did and he then over took him going up the escarpment which is very steep and dangerous!

As we began to approach Biiso, the road surface changed, it had rained heavily this afternoon, where as it was dry as a bone in Buliisa. The front tyres of the taxi hit something and the taxi spun, we slammed into the side of the embankment. The wheels went into the muddy ditch spinning furiously to get a grip, the back-end of the vehicle swinging left and right. Bags hit the ground and I flew into the side of the door hurting my knee as the weight of everyone else pushed against me. The woman with the baby ended up on the floor AND IN THE SICK. And there was fish everywhere as one sack opened up and spilled its contents. As the driver struggled to gain control we skidded across the other side of the road zigzagging as we went, while people were screaming and shouting. At one point we were on two wheels and I was sure we were going to topple over and roll. Thankfully no other traffic was coming the other way or it could have been serious. It must have only been seconds but it felt like minutes. Once he gained control of the vehicle we were almost home. I fell out of the taxi slightly shocked, dazed and confused by the close shave. I stumbled around the vehicle surveying the damage to the left hand side of the door, turning over what just happened. Then I found myself at the driver’s window: “YOU F@CKING MANIAC!” I screamed leaning in towards his face. Tuesday is market day in Biiso, so I had an audience. I’m already the talk of the town so God knows what they now make of the “crazy” Muzungu. He looked bemused probably because (a) he didn’t have a clue what I was saying and (b) if he was as mental as I think he was, he probably thought it was a compliment.

By the time I hobbled into the B&B scowling the reality of what happened hit me. I ordered a strong coffee and just sat staring into space for about 20 minutes. The girls apologised on the idiot’s behalf, but seriously it was a bit of a wake up call how loony the drivers are on country roads. I am not taking any more taxis to Buliisa. I was actually quite unnerved by the incident and I’m not easily rattled. I was hoping to go back that way next week, but that plan has now been biffed. I’m fine other than being peeved. The road traffic police are totally pointless and redundant, what they actually do in these towns is a mystery. They ignore the bad driving, the over loading of goods and passengers because they all “allegedly” take bribes!!! One fat copper comes into the B&B everyday to stuff his face and sit on his A_double-S, I’ve not seen him do anything constructive in a 8 days.

I don’t have concussion or anything, I didn’t hit my head, but my left knee and leg are a little tender and will no doubt turn purple by the end of the week, just as all my bruises from forest walking accidents have disappeared. Typical, I really am going to return home looking like a domestic.