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Ouagadougou, Moped Capital of Africa

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My cousin Lemuel sent me this link from the BBC on Ouagadougou's Moped Madness. Moped madness (in addition to rickety biycles, dilapidated cars, overloaded trucks, ancient buses, braying donkeys, exhaust-burping SUVs, and the occasional ornamental horse) makes driving in Ouaga a difficult exercise. The unpaved roads, potholes, and random police checks don't help either.

The moped is the preferred mode of transport. I'm sure there are some official statistics somewhere but two-wheeled vehicles vastly outnumber everything else.

The moped's limitations don't prevent drivers and passengers from fully exploiting its carrying capacity. I've seen people on mopeds with:

* foam mattresses and pillows
* huge gourds
* mirrors
* tires
* industrial tubing
* industrial wiring
* chickens (dead or alive)
* goats (dead or alive)
* random meat parts of unidentified animals
* cases of beer
* up to 4 kidlets

And of course, hardly anyone wears helmets. The fleet manager at the office explained that the President's wife once owned an interest in a helmet import company and required everyone to purchase helmets at exorbitant prices, and so everyone rebelled. Other people say that it's just too hot to wear helmets (that I understand) and that women don't want to ruin their hairstyles (also understandable). My colleagues wear helmets according to office policy (during work-related trips such as when field agents visit villages) but not after hours.

Needless to say, accidents are a daily occurence. You can tell when you are approaching an accident because someone has placed tree branches to block off the accident area.

I've visited Lomé, Togo, and Cotonou, Benin, where two-wheelers also rule, but Lomé and Cotonou also have moto-taxis, which are random guys on motos who can take you around for, say, $0.40 (200 FCFA). For some reason these don't exist in Ouaga. Just as well - the roads are challenging enough.

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On April 13th, 2006 01:06 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
I really don't know. It's amazing.

But if you do have to get into an accident, I recommend hitting the foam mattress/pillow guy. At least he's well padded.
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On April 13th, 2006 02:47 pm (UTC), flemmarde commented:
the roads are also appalling in lome though!

i can totally understand how hard it would be for women to even fit a helmet over their elaborate hairdos, let alone convince them to risk messing up the hours they've spent having them done.

mopeds make a lot more sense on those bad roads than cars. when we borrowed a car there it seemed to be in getting repaired every second day when things just broke and fell off. including a whole wheel, and i was so happy i wasn't in the car that trip
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On April 13th, 2006 02:54 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
Not to mention those towering Marge Simpson headscarves.

Plus mopeds are much cheaper than cars, at least here - I know that Lomé is used car central!
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On April 13th, 2006 03:15 pm (UTC), flemmarde replied:
heh heh... yep, marge simpson is a very good analogy!

ok, so i was forced into putting one of them on on new years day when H's big sister brought me a whole outfit for a present. here is my post with pics from my trip to lome, http://flemmarde.livejournal.com/109722.html and if you scroll down, you can see me doing a very uncomfortable marge simpson impersonation. it was 10 very long minutes allowing myself to be photographed and of course H took great delight in showing them to everyone when we got back. all his cousins and friends would gulp and smile, and say "oh, tres jolie barb, tres jolie!" hahahaha
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On April 13th, 2006 03:41 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:

Here we are in matching outfits for International Women's Day.

I guess I'm Marge Simpson in a flaccid headscarf?

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On April 13th, 2006 05:13 pm (UTC), flemmarde replied:
fantastic! you both look wonderful, but your man looks about as happy in his outfit as i looked in mine :)

you and i both seem to do a good line in flaccidity. if that's a word...
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On April 13th, 2006 05:16 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
Who wouldn't be happy wearing the Ugliest Pagne in the World?
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On April 13th, 2006 05:23 pm (UTC), flemmarde replied:

yes, who wouldn't be happy indeed.

i showed my pics to a friend of mine, who exclaimed in horror at what they made me wear. which was such a relief in contrast to all the polite "tres jolie"s.
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