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Guessing my Way to Lesotho Part 5

June 16, 2012

DAY 5 (or DAY 2 of the journey back):

We woke up into an Easter morning, ate a couple of slices of bread that is the complimentary breakfast, and got on the taxi. We arrived at the bus station before sunrise and before the offices were officially open. I wasn’t sure where the taxis were because I had never been to the rank there, so the driver walked me there. We had to take a longer route because it was so early that the shortcut through the mall wasn’t open. The taxi rank is a big, concrete, practical place that doesn’t look too welcoming when it’s still dark and there are only two or three taxis sitting there without any passengers.

After saying goodbye to the driver (I actually had to walk back because I forgot my lunch in his cab, something Mrs. Flora packed for me before I left Lesotho), I sat on the side of the taxi rank, among the empty vendor stalls, and waited. This place has a high roof held up by steel beams, with the names of various locations spray-painted on them. It didn’t take long for a taxi to pull up to the beam painted “Louis Trichardt”. I walked up to the driver and he told me to get in. Then he got out. He climbed into the taxi of another driver who was parked in front of the sandwich stands which were just beginning to open. And he stayed there.

After maybe an hour of sitting in a taxi that was empty except for me (and this was a larger taxi than I had ever ridden on, maybe holding 20 passengers instead of the usual 14), I decided this was silly and walked back to the buses. By this time the sun had risen and the offices were open. The lady at the office told me that the bus I needed would leave at 8 or 9 and arrive at 2 or 3. That wouldn’t work for me. I was still clinging on to hope that I could get there by 1. So I dejectedly went back and sat in my lonely taxi, and waited some more.

So at 8:30, a bunch of South Africans and a thoroughly frustrated American departed in a taxi to Limpopo, and as soon as we were out of the metropolitan area, we pulled into a gas station to fill up. I was fed up with this business, but the icing on the cake was that the station was playing “Pop Goes the World” by the Men Without Hats over the radio. Fine, I decided. I waited three hours for a shot to catch my bus on time. I can wait a little more.

I’ve already written a rather purple post about the ride to Louis Trichardt so I won’t write about it again, except to say that if you’re planning to travel to Limpopo using public transport, it’s better to take a bus rather than a taxi. I plan to write a post comparing bus lines later, but there’s only one line that serves Limpopo and it’s a rather nice one, cheaper than a taxi and much less cramped. In the huge taxi where this story takes place, there were four seats in my row. I was sitting by the window, a woman was by the door, and between us were three or four kids taking turns sleeping on me or spilling food on me.

I kept checking the time as we got closer to the town, and it became apparent that I would arrive just in the nick of time. At maybe 12:50, I got off the taxi at a rank on the outskirts of town. This isn’t where I normally catch my bus, but I knew my bus and I knew that it stops here on the way out. I would have been more comfortable finding the bus in the middle of the city where it waits for passengers, but I didn’t want to risk getting there too late and missing it altogether.

I decided I would wait 15 minutes for the bus to arrive before moving on to plan B, asking the other volunteer for help. After that 15 minutes passed, I decided to wait another 15 minutes. I asked some people selling fruit and cloth about my bus. They tried to be helpful, and it felt good to be able to speak my adopted home language Tshivenda again, but none of this helped because they didn’t really know.

A bus from the same company as the one I was looking for pulled up, and even though the word displayed on front wasn’t my village’s name, I asked the driver anyway where he was going and when I could expect my bus. A lady sitting in front told me that she was going to the same place I was, so I got on.

My bus is the only way into and out of my village, but it doesn’t show us the same loyalty that we who depend on it show to it. It won’t run at all if there’s bad rain, or an obstruction in the road, or, as I learned that day, if it’s a major Christian holiday. The bus that I was riding dropped us off at an intersection, closer than a taxi would have taken me but still too far from my village to walk to it before sunset. So we waited, three of us in the on the side of the red dusty road in the middle of nowhere, hoping someone would come driving by and help us complete the last leg of the journey.

While the man with me found a seat on a rock, the lady who told me to get on the bus stood and chatted with me for a while. She was a graduate of my secondary school and unemployed. I made a mental note that she may be a resource, as I was still trying to find volunteers for Scouting at the time. In the two months that have passed since this actually happened, I have forgotten her name and where she lives.

After about half an hour, a nice-looking black car drove up to us and stopped. “Let’s go, Mpho,” a woman shouted to me from the passenger’s seat. I recognized her as my host sister, the one I rarely see because she lives with her husband in Gauteng. She and her husband were visiting the family for Easter. I climbed into the back seat while they told my companions that they didn’t have room for them (I suppose it was at this point that I crossed the lady off my mental list of potential volunteers), and we were off.

My journey finally ended around 4:00 when we pulled into the house. My host mother gently scolded me for not calling, and I tried to explain that I was a little preoccupied with making it back in one piece. The electricity had been off since Good Friday, so I had to help get it working and clean the rotten food out of my refrigerator. Peace Corps is a lot of things, but it is rarely restful.

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