Sunday, December 19, 2010

Physics of a Dalla Dalla

Safely off the peer we found a Dalla Dalla headed to the very northern point of the island. This is where we learned about the unique physics of these covered pick-up truck beds. In the bed of the truck there are wooden benches sometime with a thin padding on top. The “roof” always elaborately wallpapered with a pattern it looks like your grandma picked out in the early 80’s. If you are lucky (or under 5'7") the roof is just high enough to sit up straight all the way. Then between the “roof” and the edge of the pick-up bed there are steel bars with “windows”. Most of the time you can catch glimpses of the passing world and scenery through them.

The pickup beds look like they can fit about 20 people max, but they actually have the ability (depending on the fare collector) to fit about double that in addition to some children, babies, and chickens. Legs. Arms. Heads. Everything everywhere. Stranger sitting on your lap. Holding someone elses baby. A fully shrouded muslim women resting her head on some strangers upper thigh. Anything goes as long as you can make it past the traffic cop. All the while packed so tightly you literally cannot move.

We sat like this for two hours taking in the lush vegetation and the pace of live on this tiny island. Drenched in sweat and covered in dust we reached the end of the road where we would need to find another form of transport to our final destination. We ended up on a dusty street corner in a one road town and the phone number we had for transport did not work. Everyone in the town had bikes, not cars. Soon local men and boys laughing at our huge bags (at some point Jamie’s very tall pack was named the giraffe bag) helped us devise a plan. Mostly Swahili speaking the older men called over some teenage boys to translate. In need of a toilet one boy led me down a dirt path past small houses built with mud bricks, sticks, and thatched roofs. The one I went with a toilet inside was a cinderblock and cement house with corrugated tin roof. As I entered through the gate there were about 12 children gathered around a television set and about a dozen other people sewing and cleaning very surprised to see a sweaty Mzungu standing in their courtyard.

Back at the street corner a man “helped” find a taxi for us. It was ridiculously priced considering it was 10 x’s what it had just cost to drive across the entire island, but given the choice between being the evening entertainment in this dusty one road town or heading to the beach we decided to dole out the shillings.

As we drove through and around mud puddles in the dense tropical jungle we could not wait to see this epic beach. Visions of rinsing off the heat of the day in the tropical water danced in our heads. As we saw the sign, “Virani Beach” we were thrilled. It had been a long day. As we pulled onto the property is looked more like we had come to someone’s muddy cow pasture on the edge of the ocean. As we stepped out of the taxi the flies buzzed around our head and we inspected the “Eco” huts. Well make that used to be Eco huts and now more like crumbling bug filled huts. The only hut left was a “double bed”. Like other furniture here the bed with a traditional frame had a sort of hammock frame made from twine. With two people it was sort of like sleeping in a giant pita that you could not avoid falling into the middle of no matter how hard you tried. But that prospect looked better than camping in the cow pasture so we took it. Ok let’s just go to the beach and rinse off. “So sir, can you tell us where is the best place to swim right now? Oh actually you cannot swim right now. The tide is out and the ocean floor is covered in sea urchins. The best time to swim is tomorrow morning”. Our heats sank. We should have known when you think you are going to paradise life plays tricks on you!

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