Road Trip – not Taken


May 2, 2017 by petrujviljoen

It’s a trip I wasn’t going to actually make but having done it before numerous times I could imagine the journey well enough. Getting up at 5 am on a rainy morning, wading through knee high wet grass to the closest transport pick up point, waiting and again waiting until the black taxi* should arrive – it could take an hour, depending whether it is school holidays or not. The next pick up point, a mere 12 kms away, does not have shelters under which one can stand, never mind sit, while waiting for the taxi to get full before the journey continues to the next departure point, 35 kms further on. Once there, there’d be shelter, standing room only. Again one waits for the taxi to fill up (with people) before the journey can continue. Peak hour long gone this can take anything from 5 minutes to an hour, maybe longer, even though a bigger business centre.

Along the way various bits of music would blare from numerous loudspeakers, mostly in any of the indigenous languages of South Africa. I’d be the only white person among throngs of black people, a situation I’m comfortable in. I regret not having learnt one (or two) of the local languages, my shyness being the culprit. Or should I say laziness. English and Afrikaans got me through so far. People (black people) are accommodating.

All African music I ever heard has an inherent deep rhythm so one involuntary dances along, even if it’s an inner dance. A silent dance. An appreciation.

My brother, my blood, in hospital in a town 80kms from where I live, had to make do with a phone call. I thus avoided the grating of tectonic plates, coming from a warm, welcoming environment, stepping into one of loud, cold hostility to Other.

Unseasonal rain

Brink of winter’s cold

Hey! Ray Phiri! You rock!


*South Africa’s black population generated a multi-billion rand transport system to answer workers’ commuting needs, the municipal bus system being hopelessly inadequate. It consists of mini buses, able to load 16 people, with the driver, at a time. It’s highly efficient, especially in urban centres. Out here in the country, things go much slower, distances being longer and needs different. The mini-bus would have to be full before it will depart, else it’s not worth the trip.

Linked to Dverse Poets


25 thoughts on “Road Trip – not Taken

  1. nannus says:

    This system streches all over Africa. I know it from Cameroon. There I wondered what it means when the driver said he had to wait “til de bus don flop”. Somebody translated this pidgin expression to me as “til the bus done full up”. So we had to wait. This your wonderful text brings up memories of smoke scent, of dust and mud. Of people carrying luggage. They cut up old tires to make rubber belts for fixing luggage on the roofs of the busses. People selling food or water…

    • Indeed! I could travel all the way to Egypt, Tunisia and so on and from there on to Europe if I liked! I hate flying, so if I ever get the opportunity to travel that’s the way it will be. 🙂 I remember a fellow passenger with a huge suitcase getting in next to me. He nearly squashed my breath out. So I offered to help let the suitcase rest partly on my lap to spread the weight to the amusement and appreciation of the rest of the passengers, never mind the guy whose luggage it was! Many stories.

      • nannus says:

        Going through the Sahara that way could be dangerous. Lots of people are dying on that way.
        Many stories indeed. I once ended up with a little child on my lap. The bus driver had waited until the bus was full (or so I thought). He was probably not the owner of the bus, somebody else collected the money for the tickets. He started and stopped, after a few meters, just arround a corner, and some more people entered and got squeezed in somehow. This was probably his own business now. We had to sit on half a buttock and one little girl was placed on my lap.But nobody complained, it was just normal.

        • I forgot about the Sahara desert for a minute there. Okay, I’ll fly rather then. One African country I’d love to visit is Ethiopia on account of the churches carved from the very rocks. There’s a rumour the Ark of the Bible is kept in one of those churches.

  2. kanzensakura says:

    I too like the silent dance in this. This is a world of which I know nothing so it is good to learn bits and pieces of it.

  3. AnnIsikArts says:

    Thank you for a glimpse into a world I know little to nothing about. I like public transport. Driving is so stressful I avoid it if I can. I did most of my studying ‘in transit’ and wrote a complete draft of a short story once on a half hour train ride.

    • The busy-ness of the compute I talked of won’t allow such an activity. The vehicles are tightly packed with people and there’s no space. A train trip would be ideal for drafting a story though! I have an attempt at eco-printing, on paper, cooling down as we speak so I can open it. Hold thumbs!

      • AnnIsikArts says:

        well, it is true that I don’t travel during ‘high-peak’ periods unless it can’t be avoided and in those cases, getting a seat isn’t easy, so it would be difficult to draft anything standing squashed up with a stranger. I suppose I could talk into a recording device but the content might alarm other passengers. “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” (or something erotic) would cause mayhem on the 17.15 from Charing Cross and end up in my arrest. I look forward to seeing your eco prints. Unbundling is SO exciting!

        • Only later did I think of your comment about drafting a short story as inspiration to do just that, using the journey as content! I unbundled and it wasn’t such a success. I’m not giving up though, and will try again later today. 🙂

        • AnnIsikArts says:

          ‘Journey as content’ – a great idea that I will steal. The eco printing is the same – gathering materials as you walk. I found success dipping the leaves in iron water and spraying the silk/paper with vinegar/water 50/50. If that helps. There’s a good number eco printing groups on Facebook where folks share their techniques. Or sell them.

        • Thanks Ann. This batch didn’t come out too well. The paper is only slightly stained but the embossed leaf shapes are clear. I’ll keep experimenting. I don’t do facebook. Abhor the site.

        • And of course you’re welcome to steal the idea! 🙂

        • Re stealing the idea. Wasn’t it your idea in the first place?

        • AnnIsikArts says:

          All ideas have history – multi-determined is a good word – and stolen I recall from Scott Peck’s ‘The Road Less Travelled’!

  4. Kathy Reed says:

    This reminds me of earlier Motown artists..Marvin Gaye in particular….great listening music.

  5. Love your writing! Thanks so much for introducing me to this wonderful music.

  6. What a very interesting system that i have only read about… and so inventive to use the scarce resources that way… I can really feel how music follows you along.

  7. frankhubeny says:

    I like your description of what music does to one: “one involuntary dances along, even if it’s an inner dance. A silent dance. An appreciation”. That’s the first time I heard of Stimela. Thanks for bringing something new to my awareness.

  8. whimsygizmo says:

    Oh, I LOVE this one. “A silent dance. An appreciation.” So perfect.

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