|The flooded donga...which had been dry the day before.|
My plan in Maputsoe was to "get a lift" or hitch to Maseru. I walked past all the taxis with their aggressive drivers and conductors trying to get me into their near empty cars to my usual hitching spot. There I stood for fifteen minutes with no one even slowing down in the rain for me. A taxi pulled up and gently encouraged me to hop in. I warned them I was in a hurry and would get out if they stopped for long but I got in. In the next major town, where taxis sometimes wait for hours, I was prepared to pitch a fit and hop out. Instead, almost as soon as we stopped, the other Maseru-bound passengers and I were shuffled onto a nearly full taxi.
I was still wearing my raincoat, but had not put on my sweater as I wanted it to stay dry. The taxi was freezing because the driver's window was stuck open with a screwdriver in the opening to help hold it in place. As taxis usually do, we stopped and started the entire way to Maseru while I hugged the backpack on my lap pretending it provided warmth. When I reached the Maseru taxi rank, I hopped off the taxi and onto a 4+1 to go to the Peace Corps office.
Nearly 100 Maloti and 6 hours later, I arrive at the office.
Today, I made the same trip. It took less than the usual thirty minutes to walk out of the village because it was cold and dry. Moving faster kept me warm as I passed through the fog-filled donga.
Nearing main road, I could see only 50 meters in any direction. I heard a taxi pass by before I reached the road. Once there, worried that the taxis might not see me. Before a taxi arrived, a car driving from Mokhotlong to Maputsoe picked me up. We cruised along, discussing the weather and my work. In no time at all, I was getting out. Because I knew the passengers were paying the driver for the ride, I handed them some cash before I left.
Only 25 Malot and 3 hours after leaving home, I arrive.
Hitching is a popular mode of transportation for Lesotho PCVs. While it is not encouraged by Peace Corps, it is also not against the rules. Between the time spent waiting in taxis for movement and the aggressive nature of the drivers and conductors-particularly those that drive through Maputsoe-hitching becomes the go to, especially for distance travel.
I never hitch in and out of my community. In fact, today's lift from the main road is only the third time I have take a ride instead of a taxi into town. If a taxi had arrived first, I would have taken the taxi into town. That goes back to last week's post about befriending the taxi guys. They do not like it when they see people hitching in their area because it represents lost income. I respect them, so I ride with them.
But when it comes to traveling out of Botha Bothe, the difference in time and money is profound. There are three major towns between BB and Maseru. That means waiting for a taxi to fill or fill again four times. That is a lot of sitting around not moving towards the final destination. It is exhausting.
When I first came to Lesotho, other PCVs talked about hitching and I pretty much wrote it off and figured I would take public transport all the time. The American in me saw hitching as too dangerous for a woman alone-just like in the United States. But, after a few long trips and increasing comfort with the culture and language, I too found myself on the side of the road flagging down cars.
|Getting a lift is a great way to make new friends like these|
two lovely ladies with their snazzy phones!
The conversations with people as we travel are always interested and enlightening. Often they know more about what is happening in American news than I do. They have interesting questions and perspectives. And so while hitching saves money and saves even more time, it, like so many things in Peace Corps and in Lesotho, becomes about the people and the conversations.
Traveling from Botha Bothe to our Peace Corps training villages outside of Maseru: