Alternate Transportation

ATWhen one partners the words “Africa” and “transportation” a lot of pictures come to mind. I know it’s an idiotic notion, but my mental picture almost always involves a jalopy of a minibus careening down a dusty desert highway. There are lots of chickens, loud music, and people hanging off the rack on the roof.

Before you deem me ignorant or too quick to judge, I’d like to say that my other experiences traveling around Africa have resembled this partially. I don’t think there were any chickens, but there were people hanging on the side of a bus for a while.

When you travel to some more adventurous locales you have to divorce yourself from a lot of notions you have held about the way people travel from one place to another. This means you have to start thinking outside your transportational box.

I got a lesson in this area in India. My experiences there involved a hotel that was only accessible by a rowboat, riding an elephant, and driving an autoricksaw in lieu of our drunken guide. There were journeys in a caravan so terrifying that I still wake up in sweating horror. The trick was to sit with your back to the road. What you can’t see can’t make you soil yourself.

West Asia and Africa were a similar lesson in alternative transportation. There were horrifying hair-pin turns in a minibus in Israel, a camel ride in Egypt. There was a flotilla across the Nile and bus rides in which Mark had to sit on an oil drum in the back. Fortunately, they played an Egyptian Bollywood film at an inconceivably loud volume to help him get his mind off of it.

I’ll admit it, these sorts of transportation issues are not easy for an American to get used to. We need to have everything just so. Can you imagine buying a bus ticket in New York to find out that your seat is an oil drum? Can you imagine going to a ferry office and being informed that the next ferry “should come within the next few days.” Can you imagine staying at a hotel which requires that you propel a rowboat across a lake?

No, of course you can’t.

It was difficult for me to get used to seeing transportation differently in terms of its forms, comforts and reliability. But when I did, it came with a great deal of peace. Being able to go with the flow rather than stress about everything, including things I can’t control, helped me relax. Because if there is something I love doing, it’s stressing about things. Especially things I can’t control.

As we now look into our inter-Ethiopian travel choices, I am trying to put my mind in that same place. It’s the rainy season, which can delay planes for days. It might mean coping with discomfort, or the occasional oil drum.

At the very least it’s a good story for when we get back. Plus, I’m looking forward to the Ethiopian version of Bollywood.

  1. #1 by greg galeone on July 9, 2015 - 2:17 pm

    Hey Damo, Nice post. I think two humped camel might be more comfortable than a one humper if you get my drift. Food and baseball await in North America-enjoy yourself-Dad.

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