After 4 months of driving through Africa I’ve lost count of the number of times our truck has braked suddenly and I’ve winced, expecting to hear the thump and splattering of goat / donkey / dog / human flesh across the bumper. Somehow our body count remains a benign zero. Roads aren’t just for vehicles – they’re for walking, socialising, markets, football games, praying, and for 8 year old boys to heard their families’ animals.
Driving with our guide in a battered old hatchback on our way to Debre Damo (see previous post), we sped through a small village, where a local mongrel, upon seeing our car from a distance, pricked up his ears, raised his head and cautiously started wagging his tail as if finally his owner had come to liberate him from life on the streets. As we drew closer he coquettishly trotted towards us and then sprinted towards our bumper with full unguarded joy. At this point I concentrated at a random point in the distant landscape and winced, as usual expecting the splat of dog flesh across hot bumper. It never came – we swerved and missed the mongrel by a foot. Our guide ruefully smiled, shaking his head and turned to us in the back seat,
“In Ethiopia we have a joke about driving. A donkey, a goat and a dog all get on the bus. When each of them reaches their destination they have to pay as they get off. The donkey diligently pays his fare and collects his change. Next, the goat skips off the bus and dodges the fare. Finally the dog pays, but the driver has run out of change and promises to pay him back next time.”
Our driver nodded and softly chuckled at this point, as if he’d heard the well-rehearsed joke before but enjoyed the retelling. Now laughing, our guide explained,
“This is why when driving in Ethiopia donkeys do not move for cars, they don’t care. Goats always run away, but dogs? Dogs chase after you. They want their money.”