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Crosstown Traffic

29 July 2006 - 2:45pm -- Joseph

Our office is a casual three minute stroll from the house, which is handy whichever way you look at it, but particularly so given that there are no toilet facilities at the office... So sometimes the stroll back to the house is not-so-casual.

Another reason to be glad of our easy walk of a commute is that I wouldn't want to spend too long on the roads. As I mentioned before, some of the roads up from Douala were terrible. Actually, a lot of the roads around here are pretty good, especially the road the office is on, which is a dual carriageway in very good conditions. Why this road should be so good, but the roads around Douala (the economic heart of Cameroon) be so bad, I don't understand.

Anyway, the rules of the road, or at least, the implementation of them is, shall we say much less formal, than in the UK. Most of the cars on the road are taxis, and it's not unusual for them to stop on the dual carriageway, and reverse thirty yards to pick up a fare (though the dual carriageways aren't like ours with exit junctions and all that jazz). Taxis seem to spend half their time tooting their horning at possible customers, and the other honking their horn at pedestrians and other cars that they deam to be in their way. So basically, drving is done mostly with the horn (so to speak).

When we first arrived, I was quite startled at the constant sounding of horns, but I think my ear's atuned somewhat, and I can tell the difference between the 'want a ride' toots and the 'get of my way' honks. This is probably just as well, as some of the taxi drivers are pretty intolerant of obstructions.

We were in a cab last week and the taxi driver took exception to an inconvenient pedestrian (who admittedly was strolling casually along the fast lane of the dual carriageway, with his back to oncoming traffic.) The driver honked his horn from a way off, which the pedestrian ignored. As we got closer, I thought the driver would honk his horn again, but instead he produced a whip-like contraption, which could have been a knotted rope, or a cam belt. Not sure which, but it looked nasty.

As we passed the pedestrian, the driver leaned out,shouted at the guy, and whipped him across the back/bum. It seemed like he got two or three strokes in, though how he managed this I'm not sure as he didn't slow down much, and we were going about 30/40mph.

It must have really hurt, but I was too stunned to turn around and see the guy's reaction (plus the taxi was pretty crowded, they pick up passengers until it's full, which usually means three in the back, three in the front, but can be more if there's kids to be squeezed in).

And you thought our taxi drivers were an obnoxious lot...

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