Journey to Lesotho Part 1
During fall break this April, I went down south to Lesotho. A friend from my tiny high school class is about to finish is service as a missionary there, and if you attend the same high school and college as someone and you end both end up in a place as distant (geographically and culturally) as Africa, it’s pretty much a rule that you have to meet at some point. You can see his blog here. The destination was certainly something worth writing about, but having just gotten home, the journey is on my mind so that’s what I’m going to write about now. (After having a go at it, it’s too long to write all at once so I’ll make each day of travel into a different post.)
Some numbers at a glance: 5 days spent traveling, R1024.50 spent on transport alone (maybe I should have just flown!), 3 or 4 violations of Peace Corps safety guidelines. I could get fired for those so I think I’ll not mention them.
I got up with the sunrise, bag packed and my room more or less cleaned, and went out to wait at the bus stop. After half an hour of waiting and a couple of trips back to my room to grab things I forgot, I couldn’t help but notice that the bus (which stays conveniently across the road from my house) wasn’t going anywhere. I went to check it out and a lady at the house told me that a tire was flat (“punched” in South African English) and someone would come fix it “soon”. I knew that was my cue to start walking. It seems like all good trips out of my village start this way, with forces conspiring to keep me from leaving and me going anyway.
On the main road I picked up a couple of gugus who were waiting for the bus too. “Gugu” is Venda for grandmother and it’s totally a polite thing to call a woman. It wasn’t until we had climbed the hills and descended the valleys out of my village that a friend picked us up and gave us a ride to the nearby town.
By the time we got there, of course, I had missed all the buses to Pretoria. It should be no surprise that you can’t get there from here: this town is too small to have a taxi going directly to Pretoria, so I took my time, checked my mail, and then hunted for a taxi to Louis Trichardt. Apparently going to Louis Trichardt from here is a very popular thing to do, because there was no taxi, but rather a line where the taxi should have been. As I got in line, a bus that I had seen before but never ridden stopped on the other side of the road. The line ran across the road to the bus and I followed. Ten rand and a few minutes later, I was in Louis T.
From there, getting to Pretoria was relatively smooth. A man in dark glasses who might have been a taxi marshal directed me to the taxi to Pretoria and Johannesburg, and after waiting a long time for it to fill but nothing I’m not used to, we were off. A curious thing about these long distance taxis is that they charge a lot (I guess that isn’t so curious), and that they want you to fill out a register with your name and next of kin.
I arrived late, having started late, and rode the Gautrain straight to the district with the backpackers. The Gautrain is an efficient and well-groomed train for the affluent South African, and it doesn’t really fit well within the budget of a Peace Corps Volunteer, but it’s what I knew and I didn’t have time to figure out the metro for commoners. The cheap backpackers was all booked so I was forced to stay at the more expensive one with the lovely spacious rooms, friendly staff and delicious breakfast. Oh woe is me.