A friend of mine, Jack, had been cycling through Africa from Egypt in the North, right down to Cape Town in South Africa. Now there are a lot of people who think that Africa is a country. It isn’t. It is a continent with lots of different countries on it, just like Europe or South America. And just as countries in Europe or South America differ in culture, language, terrain, weather and even the look of the people, the same is true of Africa.
It was Jack’s first time in Zims (Zimbabwe), so of course, a trip to Victoria Falls was in order. After visiting my family in Bulawayo, we grabbed our little back-packs and set off to the hiking spot to hitch a ride to the falls.
It was a sweltering hot day! One of the those days where you can see the heatwaves dancing in the distance. Very few cars or buses were driving past and the minutes seemed much longer than they actually were. After about an hour a truck slowed down in front of us. Hurray! The driver wasn’t going to the Falls, but he did offer (an offer in exchange of money) us a ride to Dete, a place about 30 minutes outside Hwange and about 2 and a half hours outside Vic Falls. That still got us a lot closer to the Falls than we currently were. Jack, who is over 6 foot tall, helped me into the truck and we set off.
The ride started off very bumpy, but surely it would settle once we got further down the road. The driver was very chatty, and there was lots to talk about! He was on his way to Dete to pick up the load for his truck, so it was the front half of the truck we were riding in. As the journey continued, it got a lot bumpier, and then I noticed it. The heavy duty spring – in the drivers seat!
We bounced and bounced, and the bigger the bumps, the more the driver’s seat sprung up and down, and the more he chatted. Whilst our tummy’s turned and it felt like all of my insides bounced up and down with the truck. This is how I imagined a journey would be for a baby kangaroo in its mother’s pouch. Did the makers of that truck not consider putting springs in the passenger seats?! Perhaps they did, and then the budget was used for a bribe. Whatever the reason, our seats had no springs, and our guts were about to jump right out of where they currently were and present themselves to the driver. The end of the journey couldn’t come quickly enough! To say I was relieved to get out of that truck is an understatement.
A quick toilet break then more hitchhiking. A blair latrin – a hole in the ground. I can’t use them. I mean you don’t know what’s down that deep dark hole – apart from shit. There could be a snake, just waiting for a bite of my black ass as it squats over it, or even a hyena that will just start laughing. I’d rather go behind a tree. At least there I’d have a better view of what’s about the bite my bum. And so I did, thankfully without any drama.
We didn’t have to wait long for our next ride. A chicken-bus stopped as soon as we’d put our thumbs out. It was a comfy bus – not a luxury bus – the seats were intact and there was some pleasant music playing and people chatting away to each other in Ndebele and in Shona.
It wasn’t long, less than an hour, before we arrived at the Hwange Bus Terminus. Like most bus terminus’ it was busy with people boarding different buses, and vendors selling their wares from outside the buses. Buckets and bowls balanced their wares on their heads as they circled the buses and shouted out the name of the items they had for sale to attract buyers. “Ma freezit, mazai, chibage” were the most common cries as they sold ice lollies, boiled eggs, and maize cobs (white corn) and passed them through the windows in exchange of cash. Please nobody buy the boiled eggs! We’ve got 3 hours yet in this bus!
The vendors had done a few rounds before we started wondering when this bus was going to leave. Was the driver, who had earlier got out the bus to visit his family who lived in the near-by houses, not back? They must have served him sadza and meat that made him fall asleep with a nice full belly, because it had been an hour now! Now I know that nothing runs on time in Africa, but for goodness sake, this was pushing it!
Another half hour went by before the driver of another bus announced that we could all jump into his bus using our tickets. Thank God! All the passengers got out of the bus and boarded the next and we continued on our way to Victoria Falls, driving past the still driverless, empty bus that we had been sat on.
There were a few short stops on route, nothing out of the ordinary. A Bus Stop in Africa is a place where a bus stops. It’s wherever the bus stops. We picked up some people, one of whom was a man, about early 60s. His family helped him on and bid him farewell, and he walked down the isle of the bus towards the back row, with his white cane guiding him. He sat two rows behind us in the middle of the back seat that goes right across the bus. The bus drove for another 40 minutes, about an hour since we boarded it, and then Bang! A lound sound and a sudden stop. Had we run over an animal?
People sat on the bus while the driver went out to check. It was dark by this time but he did have a torch. After about 20 minutes curious passengers started speculating about what must have happened. Some went out to see, and then came back in, only to collect their belongings and disappear again. ‘I’ll go see what’s happening’ Jack said, and off he went, coming back about 5 minutes later to tell me that the Chassis had fallen off the bus. ‘What is a chassis? Can they put it back on? Had it flown off in the wind?’ I didn’t know what a chassis was until that day. Until I saw one lying on the road under a bus. ‘Oh! Shit!’
By this time people had started hitch-hiking again, hoping to finish the rest of the journey before too long. We’d have to hike too, amongst all these other people, but just as we were about to leave I remembered, ‘The blind man Jack! He’s sitting on the bus all on his own. He has no idea what’s happening!’ I went and told him that he’d have to either teleport, or come and join the rest of us hitchhiking.
Miraculously, we didn’t have to wait long before…a bus turned up. It was an empty bus that could carry us all. Thank God for that! As we boarded the bus I recognised the driver. With not an ounce of shame, he welcomed us aboard the bus with a big welcoming smile.
We made it to Victoria Falls in the end. A journey that would normally take about 6 hours took us about 9. We camped at a site in the middle of town, and saw the sites the next day after a much-needed rest.
And you won't miss a thing! Receive email updates and resources to help you keep fit and healthy.