The Wonder of Motobikes
CAC returning volunteer Mike Mazzullo blogs about getting around Dschang, Cameroon with Breaking Ground. Thanks to the Taiji Branding Group who support this project and bring CAC to life with their incredibly creative designs! Check out this website and our Annual Review for proof of their excellence.
June 30th 2016. Our partner for the week is Breaking Ground, who specializes in sport for social impact and emphasizes female empowerment. I, along with many others, have written blogs on the power of CAC’s curriculum in confronting problems. Although Dschang’s participants warrant plenty of praise, this blog post is about something off the main path: motobikes.
It’s a great value: about 20 cents a ride, to anywhere in town.
As you enter the town of Dschang, Cameroon, the bus depot buzzes. Kids hawk peanuts and plantains, drivers honk to signal “let’s go!,” and hands slap the back of buses to say “stop there!” The cacophony of shouts and honks and claps is steadied by another, more constant buzz: motobikes.
When I say motobike, it’s useful to think of a cross between a dirt bike and a bare motorcycle. The long seat extends to fit one, two or more passengers. I have not encountered their kind in the States. Motobikes and their operators have a tricky job.
The clientele varies, and one must be prepared to transport nearly everything and everyone. Most locals of Dschang get around by popping themselves onto the back of the nearest moto, cargo in tow. Some fares involve the carrying of wooden planks, bundles of bananas, or a Western volunteer with his duffel bag and backpack.
The terrain requires dexterity; red earth hardens into ruts and ridges with the sun, and dissolves into puddles and potholes with the rain. Riders must be nimble enough to maneuver the twisty turns and sturdy enough to slog through steep climbs.
Motobikes compete with cars for space on the inside shoulder, and the whir and whoosh of the motos ensure pedestrians don’t wander too far from the outside shoulder. The rules tend to be followed, if not enforced.
Dschang is bumpy and hilly. As you snake from the high center of town, glimpses of farmland and villages pock the distant green. A layer of clouds sits on the waist of the hill-line, providing a latitude of fog cover. One of the great things about beautiful places is the way your eyes can surprise. Riding a moto can be exhilarating, practical, scary. As a foreigner, there’s a slight impulse to treat it like a scenic tour/roller coaster. Glimpses turn into stares. It’s a bit like taking a peek out your cab window and realizing the Empire State Building is before you. Landscapes can have that effect. A casual glance en route invites a momentary break from the world.
Spedometers are an aesthetic accessory. One moto’s spedometer was stuck at 0 kph, another’s at 50. You get the sense everyone is speeding, but no one is in a rush.
How to ride on the back? Do you embrace the driver, grip the side handles, or spend the time texting? Most put their hands off the back fender, as if they were really relaxing in the rear seat of a car. I clutched the driver’s shoulders, almost out of worry he’d forget I was there. Also, if I got lost looking into the hills and clouds, I might forget I was there.