Thursday, November 20, 2014

Local Transportation--George's Post

One of the primary, and most obvious, differences between Westerner cities and Blantyre is the road infrastructure and transportation system. Except for a limited network of paved roads, most roads in the townships are unpaved, red soil dirt roads and alleys, pockmarked with ruts and potholes, which are occasionally narrow, winding, and steep. Often the roads, both and small, are flanked by deep trenches or ditches, which may be on either or both sides. These are to drain off the heavy storm waters that come with the rainy season. Without a four-wheel drive, most American suburb-bred drivers would think twice about getting off the main paved roads for fear of getting stuck or sliding into the side ditches. This is a photo of the first back lane Carole and I tackled to get Carole to her appointment with the Sisters in the Branch.
From that downhill angle it doesn’t appear too treacherous. But this uphill photo shows to better advantage the lane’s grade and how rocky it was.
These two additional photos further illustrate how challenging the back roads are for drivers:
Even major arterials have occasional potholes and are usually heavily congested with cars, trucks, mini buses and an endless flow of foot traffic streaming along the sides of roads. These pictures show the constant street activity, which gives great vitality to the city. Fortunately, drivers are extremely courteous, judged by Westerners standards, and drive slowly in deference to the road quality and mass of people constantly crossing the roads and walking with and against traffic. Many of the primary roads have speed bumps to regulate speed. Foot traffic along the highways can be chaotic and those walking the streets often pay little attention to the passing vehicles. We have been surprised by how few modipeds, motorcycles or other motorized bikes we have seen. The costs of cars is prohibitive for normal folks.