Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Road

Day one of our recent road trip through Zim was all about practicing our Dukes of Hazard moves.  In a situation we still cannot figure out how exactly we found ourselves in, we took a three hour detour when our- apparently incorrect- tarred road suddenly became an occasional combination of sand, gullies, large rocks, washed out dirt, and cattle. I’d always scoffed at American trucks that had ridiculously large monster truck wheels, but scoff no more.  Now I know.  They were all on their way to Africa.

If you ever experience a wrong turn, the result looks a lot like the process of grieving. 

1. First there’s denial and isolation: “No, this has to be the right road. The pavement should come back any second.There's no way we are as far from civilization as we look...”
2. Then anger: “How is this possible?!  Nothing is on this godforsaken map from 1920!”
3. Then bargaining: “Please, God. If we make it out of here alive, I’ll quit making sarcastic comments on my blog. I promise.”
4. Finally depression sets in: "We'll never get out of here.  I'm gonna die in a ditch with my road map..."
5. Then acceptance: "Okay; we're lost.  Follow the first vehicle or livestock you see."

Desperation should probably be somewhere in there, too, as we actually pulled over and tried to get directions from this little guy, who spoke no English, and had most probably never been more than 15 miles from his home.

Never should I ever have considered myself lost before.  When you are in the middle of Africa for hours on a non-road, with no concept of where you would be on a map or where you are going, and no ability to turn around, that is the true definition of lost. Thank God for four wheel drive, pieces of the Shona language, a patient child, and the ever friendly Shona and Ndebele we have met every place we’ve gone.  This lovely pick-up full of gracious men finally led us to a paved road... here they are, picture taken about one second before a near catastrophe with an oxen-pulled cart.

Though the roads throughout the country vary greatly from city to city and field to field, here are some generalized tidbits we picked up during our almost forty hours of cross-country driving:

1. We went through 39 police stops before arriving safely back in our driveway.  Police here almost never have cars, but instead stand in the road to stop oncoming vehicles. There are many things police look for.  Too many to mention.  But for example, cars cannot have a radio in the car without a special radio license posted on the front window.

2. Many roads look like this:

 One lane of pavement shared by two lanes of traffic. A dangerously efficient way to provide roads.

3. Tolls are $1.00.

4. Though speed limit signs are less than common, crazy crossing signs are standard.

 painted dog

5. Hitchhiking is insanely common.  It is many people's only mode of transportation.

6. Occasionally roads will just turn into large slabs of rock.  Keep driving.


7. It's not just a cliche.  Livestock really does spend a lot of time on the road.

I have about 8,000 of these pictures.  

8. Roads are dangerous, and not often traveled at night. 

9. Africa is beautiful.  Wherever you are.

Highly recommended: the road less traveled.