We almost didn’t make the trip at all. An hour or so before the accident, my brother and I were actually pondering whether we should put off going to see one of our parents’ plots, located some 45km from my brother’s house along the coast of Dar es Salaam. It was either this or just sit around at his house doing nothing at all. But having procrastinated long enough already, we decided that it was finally time to make our way to see this piece of undeveloped land.
The reason we kept putting off the visit was because of the 45km it takes to get there, about 40km of it is on rough, dusty dirt roads – meaning that it would take us over an hour to get there. Not only would the trip give your car’s suspension a proper work out, it will give you an unwanted brown hair dye if you dare to drive all the way with the windows down. But since my brother had already been to see the place before and I haven’t, he assured me that the trip over there would be worth it.
So, on 28th November 2014 at around 3pm, we set off. Tunes blasting, AC turned on, my brother driving, and me on the passenger’s seat with the seat slightly reclined. Everything was going well, we were cracking our usual jokes, giving opinions on whatever’s of interest: movies, music, politics, that good-looking girl we saw at the beach a few days earlier. As far as we were concerned, it was just another Kisiri brothers outing.
After about 5km or so of driving on tarmac, we arrived at the dirt roads. If you have a decent off roader with healthy suspension, you could drive at 50km/h, while 60km/h is at that uncomfortable “maybe this is a little too fast” zone. We had a 2001 Nissan Pathfinder, and my brother stuck between 40km/h and 50km/h, sharing the roads with everything from bikes to 18-wheelers.
About half an hour in to our drive, we’ve made decent progress and we’re at a very remote part of town with barely any cars on the road. Then I notice a black Nissan Terrano from about half a mile away coming from the opposite direction. He’s driving way too fast, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was doing north of 90km/h. There’s a bump on his side of the road, he hits it, and before he realized that he had to slow way down to go over it, the back-end of his car is getting out of shape, and he starts to skid. He’s lost control, the car is now moving to our side of the road, and we’re at that moment where we’re thinking “Oh my God! We’re about to have an accident!” The front of our car misses the front of his car, but then “bang!” We’ spin violently about 90 degrees and the back of our car is in the ditch. We look to our right and the black Terrano has rolled over.
My brother and I get out of the car, we check on each other, we’re both fine. Three people climb out of the Terrano, they’re all fine as well. Then we assess the damage, and we both swear. The front-right door is badly damaged, the back-right door destroyed, the window by the C-pillar is shattered, the rear axle has been dislodged, the frame slightly bent, the rear-right tyre has burst, the spare tyre has flown into the bushes, the prop shaft has been disconnected from the transmission and is now hanging underneath the car, the rear suspension was all over the place, the back bumper had come off, and the right side-impact airbags had been deployed. All of this happened in less than five seconds.
Was the other driver drunk?
No, just a 29 year-old driver who should’ve known better. We’re literally in the middle of nowhere, and there’s no emergency number to dial in Dar es Salaam. We try searching for Police numbers online, but none of them work. After about five minutes, a passerby on a motorcycle stops to check to see if anyone’s been hurt. We ask him if he could go to the nearest police station and report the accident, and that no one was hurt. He comes back about 25 minutes later saying the police are on their way, and hands us a phone number of the officer coming to the crash site.
The police and recovery vehicles
It took two hours for the police officer to arrive with the recovery vehicles. The problem is that Dar es Salaam is so vast, yet so congested, and so poorly equipped to deal with situations like these that all we could do is just wait. I tell myself the reason why it took so long for them to arrive is because they knew no one was hurt – maybe an ambulance would have been a lot quicker to arrive at the scene.
We explain to the police officer how the accident unfolded, the driver of the Terrano agreed that it was his fault, the officer writes down a report, and the cars are prepared to be towed to the police station. The pair of Land Rover 109s left with this task looked like they should have retired from break down duty about 30 years ago. Our tow car misfired all the way to the station, there was a powerful aroma of petrol in the cabin, and it was very hot thanks to the engine heat. I’m still amazed the old, out of shape Land Rover made it to the station.
This blue 2001 Nissan Pathfinder started its life in Geneva, and was bought by none other than our mother in 2010 for a mere CHF 7,500, with close to 120,000km showing on the odometer. It lived an easy, off-road free life until it was shipped to Dar es Salaam in the spring of 2011, and for the past three years has proved itself to be a car tough enough to endure Africa. It rides very well on- and off-road, and the engine – a 3.3-litre V6 producing 168hp and 266Nm of torque – is fairly quiet when doing low speeds. The only things I didn’t like about the Pathfinder was that it felt a bit underpowered sometimes and it was quite thirsty for a V6 engine. Other than that it was a very good, comfortable and affordable choice for an everyday African run-about. I would have preferred to say bye to it when it had over 500,000km and misfired as badly as our tow car, but I guess now is the time to say goodbye.
What happens next?
From the pictures you can see that both cars were very badly damaged, I honestly don’t think that they will be worth fixing or if they're even fixable to begin with. Our car will most likely be auctioned off by the insurance company and sold for parts. As I post this, it’s been almost three weeks since my mother and brother finished the paperwork, so we’re still waiting to see if my mother will be refunded the value of the car, or if another car will be bought for her. I will give an update as soon as a final decision is made.
Update (17, Feb. '15) : The insurance company has officially declared the car a "total loss beyond repair." The driver of the Terrano will pay a fine for reckless driving, and our mother will receive a cheque for the amount she insured the car for -- enough to buy another second-hand 4x4.
Written by Alex Kisiri