Piki-in’ All Over The World

By Halina Schiffman-Shilo

Called piki-pikis in Tanzania, motos in Rwanda, and boda-bodas in Uganda, these low-grade motorcycles are to East Africa what the yellow-cab is to New York City: ubiquitous. Driven by men of all ages and levels of sobriety, the piki-piki is by far the fastest way to get around. It’s also the most dangerous.

Piki-piki drivers do not seem to be hampered by fear – or traffic laws. Carrying people, lumber, gas canisters, household goods, animals (I even saw a dead boar tied to the back of one once), piki-pikis navigate through roads filled with cars, trucks, pedestrians, bicycles, dalla-dallas, makeshift rickshaws, and the occasional goat, without even breaking a sweat. That is, until they crash. In Arusha, there is a whole hospital wing, lovingly nick-named the “warda-warda,” to treat piki-piki injuries.

And yet, it’s a terrifically popular means of transportation. Exhilarating, frightening, and a touch addictive, riding on the back of one looks cool, too.  Just remember to hold on tight, and remember not to mention it to your travel insurance company, or your family.


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