Dispatch: Following The Rider in Dar es Salaam
Photo by David Cogswell
Picture this. A group of about 30 travel industry buyers and a few media people arrived in Dar es Salaam on a ferry from Zanzibar to attend the Swahili International Tourism Expo, and after gathering for lunch at a hotel near the port, we dispersed into different cars to go to our various hotels.
The government of Tanzania is so vigorously supportive of this tourism event that it provided police escorts for the cars.
With one other media person, I got in a car driven by the vivacious Mariana, a driver for FabCars who followed closely behind a motorcycle police officer who put on one of the most thrilling demonstrations I can remember experiencing.
This was rush hour in Dar es Salaam, a giant city on the Tanzanian coast of the Indian Ocean, that for purposes of this story is much like any other giant city at rush hour. That is, totally not navigable, totally packed with bumper-to-bumper cars.
In Tanzania, cars drive on the left, and at 4 o’clock, that lane was a continuous line of cars. Our police escort officer (our driver called him “The Rider”) was driving his motorcycle in front of us, forging a path through the insurmountable traffic snarl. Red lights on both sides of the frame were flashing, a siren was wailing and he sped headlong into the oncoming traffic in the right lane. The cars coming toward us all veered off to our right, onto the side of the road to get out of his way as he barreled straight down the … um … wrong side of the road.
We couldn’t see the faces of the drivers — it was all happening so fast as we sped by them — but we could sense their surprised responses as they scooted rapidly out of the way of The Rider.
To those who did not get out of the way fast enough The Rider veered into them, weaving his motorcycle back and forth, one hand on the handlebar and the other waving wildly at the oncoming traffic, siren blaring, lights flashing.
If any of them had not seen him fast enough to get out of the way, a headlong collision might have dented their cars, but he had no metal surrounding him. He had the authority of the police on his side, but surely he would have come out on the bad end of any collision with a car. But he was apparently totally oblivious to this possibility and with pure bravado and daring just plowed right through the traffic, creating an opening through the densely packed two-lane highway.
It was like watching Moses parting the Red Sea. Following behind him was like tailing a cowboy riding a bucking bull, or a surfer taming giant waves. It was truly one of the most spectacular performances of any kind I have ever seen.
Mariana, our driver, was almost as impressive as he in keeping up with The Rider. Following in the path The Rider created through the cars Mariana had the disadvantage of piloting a car that was much wider than the motorcycle. She had to fit the car through the spaces opened by the motorcycle, but the space required for him to pass through was much less.
But Mariana, too, was dauntless. She leaned forward, staring intently, aiming the vehicle with great dexterity and lightning reflexes through a hundred near misses as we sped through the city. She obviously knew this routine well.
There were times we seemed to come so close to other cars I thought for sure we were going to collide and the party would have come to an abrupt end. But no, Mariana never flinched, never failed and never let the car touch anything. Sometimes the cars came so close it seemed that they must have passed through each other, or temporarily dissolved into nothing on the strength of pure faith and daring.
Bravo! It was impossible to remain unmoved.
This was our introduction to Dar es Salaam. Thank you very much. Tanzania values its number one industry so highly that it provided these potential buyers and media people a police escort to get us through what otherwise surely would have taken approximately forever.
Thank you Dar. Thank you Tanzania! What a ride!
More by David Cogswell
Get Travel Deals and Travel News
Recent Travel Opinions
Features & Advice
Airlines & Airports
Destination & Tourism