ROADS IN TANZANIA-JULY 2001

I was met at Kilimanjaro International Airport and was driven to Moshi by land rover. One unexpected stop was at a police station on the Moshi-Arusha road to collect a certificate of innocence. A few nights earlier, the driver had driven into the back of a tractor which had no lights, unfortunately not an unusual occurrence. We continued, with the promise that the certificate would be ready in a few days, until we got close to the town, then turned off down a road where the sides were crumbling away, turning it effectively into 1 1/2 lane road. A few more such areas and we turned onto a wide, tarmaced road which had obviously been recently repaired. The overseas supporters of a nearby college had wanted to improve the environment as well as the main buildings.

The next day a couple of things about Moshi surprised me ­speed humps had to be approached carefully to protect the vehicle and obviously did their tasks well, and roundabouts around the town were well cared for, with large cartoon animal characters as decoration. It was much more acceptable than it sounds. New roads had appeared over the years as the town developed but these were still dirt roads and suffered from the recent rainy season. I later visited Dodoma, and was glad of another four-wheel drive vehicle as we took the road out of town to Msalato Bible School. At one point the ridges and ruts along the road were so deep that it was hard to move across. We met another vehicle coming towards us using the same rut and continued towards each other getting slower to see who would give way. Finally, the other vehicle acknowledged that it was our side of the road and drove up to its side of the ridge to safety.

A later journey from Dodoma to Morogoro was a pleasure. Another Land Rover with an excellent driver, the journey was smooth and safe. Signposts gave regular distances as well as warnings of blackspots and instructions to ‘Drive Safely’. We turned off from Morogoro along the Iringa road to Mzumbe where I was attending the first provincial conference of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, the first gathering of all 1,300 clergy from both traditions of high and low church. The 12-day conference was a blessing and received the commendation of President Mkapa who opened the proceedings .

During that period I journeyed to Berega Hospital for a weekend. A short way back towards Dodoma, then a turn off to the hospital. The dirt road was unsuitable for anything other than a four-wheel vehicle, or a bicycle, a common form of public transport for visitors and outpatients. For many years the hospital has been cut off during the year because of a fast running river. A new bridge gives them all year round access, but it is a much longer journey, so again I used the old route through the water.

My final stay was in Dar es Salaam -traffic jams, traffic lights, speed -a real contrast to the rural areas. But here too was the variety of surfaces and the route between where I was staying and the Mtoni Centre included wide, dirt roads as well as good quality tarmac. A frequent problem, acknowledged by the Tanzanians, is that of maintenance -a road is used until it is unusable and then repaired.

As with general life, Tanzanians make amiable drivers -a smile on their faces as they sometimes push things to the limit. They accept the difficulties with equanimity and pray hard to God for their safety.
Janet Horsman

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