Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Local transport: Dala dala (Minibus)

My favorite way to get around town is the local bus, locally referred to as a dala dala. Dala dalas have set routes on all the major roads in town with frequent stops. Unlike some other developing countries I've been in with similar systems, it appears that the dala dalas don't stop anywhere the passenger demands, rather they have set stopping points (though with enough persuasion they'll stop anywhere). These stops are very frequent, probably every 200-400m, and the operators of the bus are very efficient in getting people in and out. 

Two dala dalas queue for passengers. 

The most fun part of dala dalas is how packed they get. Typically there is a driver and a "conductor", locally called the "konda". The konda is in charge of collecting money, communicating to the driver when to stop and go (usually by slapping the roof twice), as well as "fitting" new passengers inside. I say "fitting" new passengers in because there is one thing that does not exist in the lexicon of dala dalas: capacity limit. 

They can absolutely fit about five more people in here. 
Once all the seats are overloaded the konda will have people stand in the tiny aisle, oftentimes sacrificing his own position to hang outside the dala dala clutching the roof like a dog feeling the breeze out of a window. If the dala dala is close to town and the door needs to be closed, the konda needs to squeeze himself in. It's a treat to watch the konda shape and contort himself to fit inside, closely resembling a Tetris piece. Things get a very cozy in the dala dala, but it's all part of the fun. 

The konda looking for passengers. 

The major downsides of the dala dala, apart from oftentimes beings squeezed between nine people, are mainly the inconsistency in the frequency the routes run, and waiting for buses to fill. The dala dalas are available and running often on the main roads, but at night they shut down and routes to further to reach places outside of Moshi typically stop in the late afternoon. If you don't plan well, you are usually stuck hiring a taxi or chartering a motorcycle. If you're leaving from town, you have to wait until the dala dala fills up before it leaves. Waiting in the hot sun for 20 minutes can be uncomfortable though usually that's the maximum amount of time one will wait.

In the end you can't beat the price, or the experience. I can take five trips to town for the cost of one on a motorcycle, AND get the added bonus of watching the konda pack the dala dala. So far the record I've seen is 35 people (there are 21 seats) and every time I board, I'm hoping to be part of a new record. 

No comments:

Post a Comment