Motos are motorbike taxis. They are everywhere here (Kigali). I was at the bus station and heading to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. My host had said it should be about 400 Rwandan Francs (about 40 pence). The first guy quoted me 1000. I said no, how about 500. Which another guy said he’d do. (There were about 7 of them laughing at me with my little map trying to tell them where I wanted to go. It was quite funny.) The first guy also agreed to 500 so I went with him. (The fact that the second guy jumped at the chance to take me for 500 confirmed that this was definitely not ripping him off and that the initial 1000 was an attempt to take me for a ride – pun intended.)

For those who haven’t read any of my previous posts about foreigner prices here’s a brief summary: of course local people want to charge foreigners as much as they can, foreigners have more money, 500 francs is a lot of money but 50 pence is not, however, not all foreigners have lots of money, it’s not fair to charge us more just because of the colour of our skin, if we let them get away with it then they will keep doing it and that makes it harder for the others coming after us. So I am in two minds – I don’t want to rip them off, I don’t mind paying a little extra, but I don’t want to get ripped off either. It’s a delicate balance. And the balance does depend on the mood I’m in, if I have eaten, how long the process is taking, whether I feel like I am being ripped off, etc.

Motos are an exercise in trust for me. I don’t find them thrilling or exhilarating. I find them quite terrifying. I want to tap the driver on the shoulder and tell him to slow down, put his phone away, don’t lean into that corner so much, don’t pass that car down that side, don’t try to overtake that truck, don’t stick your nose so far out into the traffic, etc. But I have never driven a moto. He has. A lot. This is what he does, every day. This is how he makes his living. He knows what he can and can’t do. And I should trust him. My judgement in this domain is not sound. Plus, letting go of my hand holds to tap him on the shoulder is certainly not possible after the thing has started moving.

So I hang on tight to the little handles that are beside and slightly behind me. All the muscles in both my arms are rigid with tension. I lean slightly forward and try to keep my core (and therefore my centre of mass) exactly where it is. When he leans into a corner, I try to go with him, or at least not fight him and pull him off balance. I close my eyes when it’s particularly frightening. I try to breathe. And I remind myself that this is an exercise in trust.

Getting a moto has now been ticked off my list and I didn’t die. So I don’t have to get another one, but if I do, I can do it with slightly more confidence.

Update: since writing this, I have been on two more motos. The second was by far the most terrifying. I had my rucksack on my back (and kept imagining falling off the back of the bike). The guy was going quite fast even after I told him to slow down. These were rural dirt roads with ruts all over them. There were a lot of hills. I kept gasping in fright. I had my eyes squeezed shut for most of it. Having the visor of my helmet fall off while we riding didn’t help matters either. The third moto ride was better. It was the same trip as the second but in reverse (by which I mean the opposite direction rather than the moto reversing along the road – that would have been silly!). I paid for a second moto to carry my bag. I listened to music on my MP3 player. I asked the bilingual guard of the school I was leaving to ask the driver to go slowly because I was very frightened. And he did. I then gave both moto drivers a tip to thank them for being so considerate and so helpful.

One Response to “Motos”

  1. Sam says:

    They are called Bodas here! Same exercise in caution required!

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