22 June 2011

Hitch hiking as a lifestyle

Let’s start at the beginning. Makalondi (where I live) is 100km from Niamey (the capital). 100km.  By car - it’s about an hour and a half. Not too bad! But you see, I don’t have a car :-) I have a moto. Now by moto, this trip takes about an hour and 45 minutes. Also - not too bad :-) 
However, I do not always have the opportunity to ride my moto or catch a ride with the missionary couple who drive out there certain days of the week. 
So bush taxi is my next option. This option averages about 4 hours each way.  What do you think of when you think “bush taxi?” A lot of things come to my mind :-)  As you can tell from the pictures below, these are quite the loaded down vehicles that travel to and from the capital, or from Burkina to Niger. And inside these minibuses, are always at least a couple dozen people - plus kids! To best describe this form of transportation, I will relay one of my most recent bus trips to you :-)

Standing on the side of the road, as the lone white person in town, is always the start of this journey. This past time as I waited (only about 1h15min this time!) I watched a group of little boys playing “fishing” in a puddle left by the rain. They would take turns pretending to catch a huge fish and then have to help each other pull said fish out of the puddle :-)  There are always a few rides that I firmly - though often laughingly (as is the culture) decline. 2 men in a small cab pickup - no thank you. A monster wood truck where everyone sits on top about 30 ft in the air. No thank you. A bush taxi? well I suppose that is what I’m waiting for!  Now this time as I climb inside, there is one little seat left (so I thought, there’s always more room for paying customers) so I took my place by the door. Ahem oh yes.. the door doesn’t close! lovely. so I prayed a quick prayer that there would be no sudden turns that would send me flying out of the bus! Once inside I look around and realize that I am not only the only white person (no surprise there) but I am also the only female this time. Again, awesome. But this is where it gets interesting everytime, who am I riding with? There are the couple rows of fulani bush men with their 
swords in hand ready to.. eat a mango or whatever else the sword comes in handy for along the way :-) There is the “mr. cool” who is definitely from the city with his tank top, sunglasses, and headphones. Then there are a few very old men who were from who knows where :-) Well about 30 minutes down the road.. the bus breaks down. Now while not surprised as its condition was rough, i have ridden in worse busses!  So we all climb out and wait for a different bus to come get us. Well that next bus gets stopped at one of the government “paeges.” So we find now our third bus. How far was this again? Oh yes 100km. Well by that time we had been on the road for so long, that apparently everyone needed to stop in the next little town for dinner. Ah! So we sit all packed into our little bus while the first couple rows get out to eat the street meat and mangos. And put as many bags of onions on top of the bus as they thought they could. At last - on our way to Niamey! What do we pass along the way though, but some kids on a donkey cart - nothing unusual at all, except for the one older boy who is sporting a santa hat; in 110* weather; in June. Awesome :-) 
Well let’s just say that by the time I made it to Crystal’s apartment in Niamey, I had been in 5 taxis and spent 5 hours en route. Yes. I am taking my moto more often now :-)
Hitch-hiking here is always an adventure, and I always meet someone, somewhere along the journey that makes it all worth while. So while I try to take my moto as often as I can, the hitch-hiking lifestyle will probably always be alive and kicking :-) 

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