Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Road to Njiro...or, "This is Njiro, My Friend"

The road to Njiro, the area of town where I am renting my house, is wildly different day to day. With so many rich people living out here, both foreigners and Tanzanians, you might expect the road to be in good condition. You would be oh so wrong! Although they did do some repairs and reconstruction during a particularly rainy period a few weeks ago....But let me start at the start of my Njiro experience.

The major roads in and out of town and through the main business districts of Arusha are paved and in good condition.  All the residential roads and secondary business roads are packed dirt. Some roads have drainage ditches, but many do not. We are just coming to the end of rainy season, and it has been hard on many of the dirt roads, including the road to Njiro Container.

Driving from the center of town, there is nice pavement through the heart of Njiro, past Nick's Pub all the way to the Njiro Cinema Complex and out to the Amani Bar (all my new haunts). But then you hit the dirt road. The first couple of weeks in my house, it rained hard almost every morning and the road was a quagmire. Along one section a hundred feet long, one side of the road just crumbled away and washed downstream, leaving room for only one lane of traffic. In late afternoon, traffic is heavy, so cars would be backed up waiting their turn to pass. Our first time in K2's Corolla, a modest car by Njiro standards, he pulled into the narrow part. A woman driving an expensive car from the other direction pulled in too instead of waiting to let us pass. After a minute or two, K2 obligingly backed up so she could pass. Instead of smiling and saying thank you, she looked down her nose and said, "This is Njiro, my friend." I missed the subtleties of this remark, but K2 told me she was dissing his car because Njiro residents drive fancy, expensive cars--mostly big shiny SUV's. Since then, we have received that same snooty look several times when people thought we had placed the Corolla in an inappropriate spot. But now we frequently turn to each other when something interesting happens, and say, "This is Njiro, my friend."

For several days after this incident, traffic backed up every evening as both lanes waited to pass through the narrow spot. Even worse, one or two cars got stuck in the slick mud every day. (Which kind of wiped the smirk off the drivers' faces.) Then, a construction crew showed up for several days in a row. They dumped several loads of dirt into the washed-out parts of the road and ran a steam roller over it for compaction. They closed different parts of the road at different times, sending us all on wild detours through the neighborhoods with even worse dirt roads. (We discovered a restaurant and an internet cafe tucked away in our neighborhood while taking detours, though, so that's something anyway!) The construction happened during several consecutive days of hard rain. So, as the crew was laying down the new road, many cars and dala-dalas were getting stuck in the new mud and spinning their wheels and digging ruts down the shoulders. The more this went on, the testier all these rich people became while sitting in their expensive cars.

I believe this is the result of spinning tires, but it has now become a defacto drainage ditch

I took these two pictures today, and it hasn't rained for several days, so this is nowhere near as bad as it was during the long rains. Also, no rich people were around this afternoon, so here are some working class guys who got their big truck stuck in the remaining mud

We hired a man with a pickup from one of the less-rich parts of town to deliver a sofa to the house on one of these rainy days. K2 was driving right behind him and reported to me that when the delivery man got to the tricky part of the road, some rich Njiro resident in a fancy SUV gave him some attitude about blocking the road. The delivery man leaned out the window and shook his fist and went off in Swahili, telling our neighbor that he had every right to use the road even if he was not rich and that he had a job to do and that if this rich person said another word he would slap him. K2 was laughing and I was wishing I had been there to see it. Our rich neighbor backed right down! Yay for the working class! And K2 gave the delivery man a tip on top of the agreed-upon fee.

Although K2's Corolla is modest, I have to say he can drive it through anything. Through all of the construction and detours, he never came close to getting stuck. We slid around a bit and backed away from certain detours because he judged it inadvisable to drive across the ruts laid down at the intersections by wheel-spinning dala-dalas, but we never got stuck! Yay, K2! And yay for the end of the long rains!

2 comments:

  1. We have potholes, too, in the nice paved roads! Although they don't seem as bad as the ones you get after a hard winter of freeze and thaw.

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