Riding though Africa you quickly learn the local road rules. Might makes right- trucks and buses won’t move for you, no matter what the ‘official’ rules of the road might say. In towns and villages people and animals always have the right of way- well, they act like they do and the idea of trying to explain ‘right of way’ to a mob after hitting a kid pretty much gives it to them. On the paved highways, vehicles are king. People dodge around to cross, but never expect anyone to slow down. Trucks plow through animals without a second thought, and if passing requires you to run someone off the road, well, that’s just part of doing business.
I know that my relatively recent ‘incident’ might raise some doubts, but I’m generally a fairly slow and careful rider. Cars, trucks, and buses are always passing me on the highways since there is no way I’ll go faster than I can see. I don’t know the roads, so I don’t know when a paved portion will switch to gravel, or massive potholes will appear, without notice. This, along with the rather hyper-aggressive African driving style, leads me to favour riding on the curb side of the road. This normally doesn’t cause any problems with pedestrians since, outside of towns and villages, they are very aware of their secondary status.
On my way to Luanda, after a few days of absolutely dire roads, this happy state of affairs was shattered. Riding down a perfectly nice portion of road, a woman walking along the shoulder while carrying a large log, turned. I don’t know why, but I assume she was startled by something, because she turned without thought and brought the log straight across my lane. I didn’t have a chance to do anything- my vocal chords were just beginning to vibrate with my curse when the log and I collided. The log hit me directly on the bicep, wrenching my arm around and throwing the bike off the road and through a stand of reeds. Beyond the reeds smacking into me and the bike I couldn’t see anything until I was able to turn back onto the road, gain some control, and stop. I looked behind me and the log was on the side of the road, while the reeds waved violently as the woman ran into the bush. I didn’t really expect her to do anything else and, if I’m going to be honest, it was her best choice since between my rage at her stupidity, the language barrier, and her obvious poverty, the outcome of any confrontation would have been needlessly traumatic for her.
So, what to do? My arm was well beyond simply ‘sore’ and the swelling was already beginning to look fairly impressive. I hadn’t dropped the bike, but I didn’t think my ride through the reeds would have done it any good at the speed I was going. As it turns out it, my luck held out… again! The bike had reeds poking out of every corner, but none of them had ripped, torn, or damaged a thing on the bike- despite their obvious strength. My arm was in bad shape, but didn’t appear broken and I could still ride. So, ride I did. A few hours later I got to the outskirts of Luanda and a hotel for the night. Only then did I take off my riding gear to take a proper look at my arm.
Yeah, I wasn’t pleased. By the next morning the bruise had migrated to completely encircle my arm from elbow to shoulder.
Thing is, I felt lucky that nothing really bad had happened, but this time I couldn’t fault myself or my riding- I had been doing everything right and this sill happened. It was a bit of a blow to my confidence since I couldn’t blame my lack of skill or experience, this was just one of those things that happen. The world doesn’t care how careful you are, how much you plan, or how aware you are of risks- sometimes it’s just going to shit on you.
I guess it was just my turn.