Cow on the road and an exploding fuel tanker
“Come, now!” I hear my friend screaming in my ear. In a way I still can’t get used to this imperative way of talking. “Yes, yes, I’ll get my stuff and take the bodaboda (motorcycle)” Recently I found a nice place to work on our project, however it’s a bit outside of town so I have to take the boda all the time. Deo is already waiting for me when I reach the main street.
“We have to go around a little bit cause there has been an accident on the road ahead” Fine by me, I love those little boda rides, though it’s a bit dangerous. Yesterday an American girl died in an accident. She had no health insurance so now many people are collecting money to get her body back home. Horrible! The other day I was on the boda with Abass and saw another woman getting mugged. They ripped her necklace right off her neck while she was waiting in the traffic jam.
But, I do love those bodaboda rides. We go about 80 km/h without helmet, this time. Sometimes he has a helmet with him for me but not today. It is hot, even the wind is hot. The road is dusty and I keep my shawl in front of my mouth and nose. We don’t talk much, there is no way we can hear each other. The skin on my ankle hurts, not long ago I burned it by putting it against the exhaust of the boda. It is still not healing well as the flies keep the wound open, apparently they seem to like eating my burned skin.
We turn right and end up in a small traffic jam. Deo drives through the cars, busses, bikes and people. It’s quite dangerous as no-one really pays attention to anything and anyone but themselves. A bit further down the road we see the reason for the traffic jam. A lady tries to get a cow over the road, the cow doesn’t really seem in a hurry as she just lay down in the middle of the road. Around the scene are many people standing, shouting, pointing. Some are kicking the cow on her buttocks.
Deo decides we might be able to help so he stops. “She is tired” the lady tells me. “Where does she need to go?” The lady points at the grass on the other side of the highway. I stroke the cow without having any idea how to get her over there. Deo comes over and also strokes the cow, he whispers something to her and tickles behind her ear. Apparently that’s all she needed as suddenly she gets up and walks to the other side of the road without any help. “I’m a farmers boy” Deo tells me when he sees my big brown questioning eyes.
This time Deo decides to drive a little slower and tells me his story. He grew up on a farm in Mityana where his father owned a lot of land. He was supposed to take over the land until an issue occurred and people accused his father from stealing land. This wasn’t really the case but the people in the village became jealous that he did so well. It took a lot of time and in the end his father ended up in jail and the land was sold to the neighbour who now owns the largest farm in the region. He came to Kampala to earn money for himself, his mother and sisters. First he worked as a garbage boy and with all the money he earned he bought his bodaboda. Now he’s doing well and earns enough money to get his sisters to school and he recently bought some land for his mother. When I asked him when his father would be back he just shrug his shoulders “dunno, you never know in Uganda”.
We reach a roundabout and turn right. When I look back I see a tanker and behind it a Toyota which is driving way to fast. Within seconds the Toyota loses control and ran into the fuel tanker, which is carrying about 30.000 liters of fuel. The tanker explodes. “Drive, drive, drive!!” I scream at him. Without hesitation he pushes the accelerator and we move fast, away from the scene. Behind us we hear screams of people, cries for help. Sounds that I know I will never forget. “We have to help” Deo says. “We can’t help” I tell him. My body is burning, the heath is incredible. It feels like the tanker exploded right next to us. We just keep on going and going.
Finally we reach the pool place where I met with my friends. Deo and I immediately order a Club Beer and sit down. We are a bit in shock and our friends see it. “What happened?” they asked. While we tell our story people are running around, news has spread. 20 dead, 30 dead, 40 dead. The number increases and increases. People who survived the crash died a little later of the gasoline in their trachea. Many people died when they tried to scoop the spilling fuel. Deo and I can’t believe what just happened. I decide to get back to the guesthouse where the news also reached, however in a different way. Like it didn’t matter, people die in Uganda every day, so what?!