We saw lot of these gravel making operations. I suppose the gravel is used for building foundations for some of the better buildings. It seemed to be used sparingly on the mostly dirt roads that we drove on.
I knew that even a decent paying job in Tanzania might be a couple of dollars per day. I imagine gravel makers get less than that. It was still difficult for me to imagine that labor and life could be valued so low that gravel production could be done this way. It was one of those up close and personal encounters that helped me better understand the poverty in Tanzania.
We traveled on that morning to the main highway and a three hour drive from Arusha to Babati. The first two thirds of the distance was a reasonably well paved narrow asphalt covered road with drainage ditches on either side. No traffic signs, no burger joints, very few intersections, and a sparse collection of cars, trucks, and buses once we drove out of the city limits.
The biggest danger on the paved road seemed to be really fast buses and really slow trucks. Every few minutes we would overtake a slow moving vehicle and have to pass. Curves and hills meant that ocassionally we passed blind, hoping that nothing was hurtling toward us just around the bend or over the hill. We saw numerous breakdowns, especially of the huge trucks that run this road. The road from Arusha to Babati is part of the "great northern highway" and is a section of a large loop of highway that connects Tanzania's major cities. Primitive but servicable.
The driving was a bit scary, but it did not prepare us for the unpaved road ahead.This photo was shot out of a side window of the Landrover. The Bao Bob tree is enormous and not uncommon. The photo doesn't reveal the scale of the ruts, the side of the bumps, and the thick layer of dust that was raised by each passing vehicle. The dry dirt and rock surface had formed up into a continuous washboard. Apparently the best approach is to drive quickly (50 miles per hour or more) so that the wheels and axles bounce violently, but the cab of the Land Rover simply vibrates and bucks a bit. Of course an unforseen large pothole can cause a violent lurch that sends everyones heads into the roof line of the Land Rover. That was especially true for whichever lucky two family members had to sit on the small sideways jump seats at the rear of the vehicle.
I was shocked that this was a main artery of commerce within Tanzania. There are a few dilapicated rail lines. There are bush planes. But most freight and passengers bounce along these rough roads through a sparsely populated, very dry and desolate expanse of savannah.
Periodically, along the side of the road people walked, often with large loads balance on their heads. There were quite a few bicycles as well. They were often loaded with water containers or carried a passenger on a little shelf mounted over the back wheel. Heavily laden bikes and even bikes without cargo generally had to be pushed up long stretches of hill. The ongoing mystery was where these folks came from and where they were going. There were miles long empty stretches between even small villages. Below is a pretty typical roadside scene when we came to a small village along the road.
Well, we haven't even made it to Babati yet, but I will have to break here and post more later.