The Road System Across Chad: The Good and The Bad

The Road Across Chad: Not as bad as before

My leaders asked me to explain why our vehicle in Chad has so many expensive repairs, and here is what I said about the roads across Chad:

This bus hit something standing on the road on the way to its destination“Although I could speak of the inconveniences of Chadian driving, of how easy it is to get lost without a GPS in places and to get stuck in soft sand, I will limit my comments here to the conditions that are hazardous to vehicles.
The roads in Chad have improved since I started serving in Chad in 1992. Back then, there were only 80 miles of paved tarmac, and we spent most of our time driving around the pits that had been dug in by the big transport trucks. Thankfully in our day, there is a paved highway from N’Djamena to Andoum and beyond to the Cameroon border, and all but 160 miles of highway from N’Djamena to Abéché.

Room for improvement

The other way across the country by road can be dangerous at timesHowever, the road conditions throughout the country are generally not very good. Sometimes the worst parts are on the paved roads where the company built them badly; small holes in the pavement gradually become potholes into the most used parts of the trail.

One of the worst locations for this is the highway from N’Djamena to Massaguet. There, the road is almost too narrow for two vehicles to pass each other on this two-way road. Many vehicle carcasses can be found along this trail, and you have to be prepared to avoid being like them.

It is true that there are fewer abandoned vehicles on the dirt roads which cross the country, but these are much worse on the wear and tear of the vehicle; especially on roads that were once graded and prepared but have not been maintained for over five years, often longer than that.
On these roads, the washboard effect is the greatest trouble; if you go over the road slowly, you get bounced all around. If you go over them fast enough, you can to make the bounces harmonize and disappear somewhat. However, you run the risk of hitting a sudden pothole, or a goat or a camel.

Travel Tactics

stuck in a dry river bed on the road between Iriba and GueredaOur family lived in Iriba, which is a 160-mile trip that takes eight to ten hours to complete. We had to make a trip each month to restock on supplies, and money to pay the rent. There are two ways to make the trip: via Guéréda and via Biltine.

If we go through Guéréda to get there, we go through several larger towns where tires are repaired. but there is a mountain pass that is very rocky, with some of the rocks as sharp as a knife, pointing up at your tires as you go over them. If we go through Biltine, the trail is more sandy; but you have thorns to contend with, along with the risk of an inability for tire repair. That’s why we travel with two spare tires.

Either way, we consider it a miracle the days we travel in Chad without having a flat tire… and although the days are rare when we run out of flat tires en route, they do happen. We have never had a third flat tire en route, thus forcing us to stay in the desert wilderness overnight… but we have been close… and God has been merciful…”

Note: Things have improved significantly since this description was first written.  However, there is still a need to be cautious.

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