Brakes or Horn In West African Elephant Grass?

There is a joke that goes around  West Africa saying,

“You know you have been in West Africa too long when your brakes and horn both stop working, but you pay to have the horn fixed first.”

In west Africa, honk your horn 2 seconds before any light turns green. Honk at all animals, pedestrians, and any cars entering the road. I first learned this in Abidjan in the mid 1990’s.

I had to make an over night trip into the Iviorian rainforest. I left Abengourou, Côte D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) early on a saturday morning, heading South East into the rainforest. I’d have an 85km ride down a rainy season dirt road, and then a right turn unto a much unused path that would take me eighteen kilometers to a dead end in the village of Abradinou.  By the time one arrives your clutch foot is worn out and neck kinked from all the pounding and jarring caused by the bumpy dirt road.

The last eighteen kilometer section is only one vehicle wide, walled in on both sides with eight foot high elephant grass. The grass stems clunk the mirrors on either side as you drive tgr green tunnel.

All of a sudden, while navigating a corner, i got a glimpse of an ancient green Toyota truck coming at me. I instantly cut the wheel, as did he, as there was no stopping in time. We both went off in the elephant grass on opposite sides of the tunnel. I hit the brakes and was soon stopped up among the elephant grass. It’s difficult to get a door open when sandwiched in there.  I had to back my vehicle out of the wall of grass and back onto the road before I could get out.

The Toyota did not slow down much when he passed me,  he disappeared into the grass a hundred meters, or more, away. So far out I could not even see his truck, though the path the truck took was apparent in the snapped off grasses.

I quickly exited my vehicle to check on the other driver. I could here someone thrashing their way through the elephant grass, and soon a young man emerged with a huge grin on his face.

“That was close.” , he said

“Are you alright?”, I asked in French.

“Oh I’m fine. How about you?”,   he responds.

“I’m fine too. You sure went a long way in there. I think you better get those brakes checked.” I jokingly said to the young man.

“Yes, that is why i am on the road. I am taking the truck to a mechanic in the next village. He is supposed to fix the brakes for us today, they stopped working a few days ago.”

There you have it. No brakes, no problem!

Elephant grass slows you down just fine. Can’t  see a thing while in there, but, hey, it works!

Picked the grass off my mirrors, bumper and engine hood, and carried on my way. 

 

 

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