Jul 06 2011

An African Bus Ride – by Rita about Monday’s Travel

Category: Family & Friends,TravelRita Kelley @ 02:40

The day began with an early rise and a phone call to wake our taxi driver for a ride to the station. Even though arrangements were made in the evening before, it seems to be a good idea in Africa to make sure the driver is awake and actually on his way. Times for flights and departures always include leeway time. Traffic can be quite bad and even though the road from one main city to another is pretty good, there are spots where pot holes are the size of bathtubs and as deep!

It was one of the first mornings the sky was clear and we could see the mountain range East of us. We had our tickets and guaranteed seats purchased the day before but we actually arrived and hopped on the bus 45 minutes before its scheduled departure (so we could get a decent seat). Of course this did not happen until we have watched our bags being placed into the baggage location on either side of the bus. Future travel note: We will find a seat where the window opens! Why is it that the passengers that do not want to open the window are the ones that grab the seats where the window actually opens? There is a constant flow of passengers getting on and off the bus while sitting at the bus garage as transactions are being made. There seems to be a man collecting fees and tickets as well as intermittently the driver confronting passengers as to what I’m guessing is either fare disputes or direction concerns. We finally begin pulling away but not before the driver stops to let a passenger back on the bus (a 15 or 16 year old that had run to get a drink to bring with). Good decision but almost with the loss of his seat on this bus trip.

I suddenly heard a recognizable voice and sure enough, I am right. On our trip down, we were accompanied by a sales guy with an entertaining presentation of the many goods to purchase and its availability via him. It is Sunday morning so he begins today’s presentation with a bit of prayer. Randy felt it was similar to the Baptist style he grew up with and soon the passengers were singing hymns. The guy spoke Pigeon English so we were able to understand a little. One comment was about Randy, talking about him not asking permission to take his picture, which really only consisted of him videoing taping so you could hear the music. My thought was he really did not ask us if we wanted to listen to his sales pitch either, but we are a captive audience and have not complained. I think he may actually work for the bus company. We have brought water but sip only once in a while as the concern is a bathroom stop. This driver had more the lead foot style and potty breaks would be only in an available bush. Though for the states, it would have been a little too aggressive of a driving style, with close calls and horn honks, but for Africa, it was a better choice of driver that made the trip shorter and more endurable.

I wanted to tip the passenger in the rear seat area for opening the rear vent. We were all sweating, meaning my sun shades were fogging up, and not to mention the smells that we were inundated with via others favorite foods, perfumes and fumes from the exhaust of other vehicles and such. (Not the least of which was a really smelly air freshener stuck up one seat in front of us by the bus company staff -Randy). Evidently carrying a little plastic bag for potential incidents of ‘throwing up’ is common. Some drivers seem to mosey through small village areas allowing passengers to buy food through the open window? You’d better be ready with this driver or pack a snack to take with. Arriving at our destination was coupled with the fact going to the bathroom was much in need but the bathrooms were so unsanitary I was willing to hold it until we arrived at home base. Lucky for guys who just ran to the nearest bush. At least I’ve had practice, being a driver myself! I will say that waiting near the bus location does cause certain issues as there are no lines or markings for where to stand. We saw many near misses while busses, taxis, cars and pedestrians moved about. This was indeed a different experience on a bus!

Hope everyone is fine. Our best, R&R

One Response to “An African Bus Ride – by Rita about Monday’s Travel”

  1. Al Banda says:

    Oh la la, you got the original Cameroonian bus treatment didn’t you? (Ashia ;) The bus agencies receive commissions from the companies that send commercial agents to publicize their products. And I do the exact same thing when traveling: ease myself before the trip and only take small amounts of fluids along the way. Those smells… ugh… unfortunately the only thing I can say is you get used to it the more you travel this way (I’m in one of these buses averagely 3 times a month). On a few occasions the destination is actually worth the trip. Looking forward to hearing how you find it up north. J.A.D.I.A (Just another day in Africa ;)

    Much Love