Okada ride

What I learned in Kumba this weekend: the back of a motorbike provides a much smoother ride.

Only in town, I hasten to add. The pavement in Kumba is far from smooth but the big holes are easily enough avoided when you're dealing with two small tires in a row. (How bad are these streets, you ask? Walking from the Lutheran church in Tancha to catch an okada in Fiango, the Cameroonian told the two North Americans -- who were hugging the sides of the road -- to come walk with him. "Why are we walking in the middle of the road?" I asked my friend. "Because the potholes are worst in the middle so the cars stay on the edges." In fairness, that stretch is outside of town and is unpaved. The holes in town are fewer but deeper.)

I quite enjoyed my first okada (motorcycle taxi) ride. It was great fun jetting through town cosied up to the driver, weaving through traffic and dodging the ubiquitous holes. These little bikes have not even the barest suggestion of a windshield, so my eyes were watering from the wind and the dust -- I don't know how the drivers manage without at least a pair of glasses.

"How do you know which motorbikes are okadas?" I asked.

"Even if the vehicle isn't an official okada, they may take passengers to earn the extra money. Basically, when I need a ride, I hail a passing motorcycle not already loaded up with people. If it stops and the driver and I agree on the terms, we go." Makes sense.

On another note, the sight of 3 people on a motorcycle doesn't even make me blink anymore -- it takes at least 4 or 5 to be noteworthy. A motorbike NOT loaded up with passengers is the more unusual sight.


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