Lesotho is a small country. But public transportation and dirt roads can make it seem a lot bigger.
I’m one of the lucky few who lives right off A1 (the main road running through part of Lesotho). This means I can get around a lot easier than most volunteers.
Running along this road are 5 main types of transportation:
¤Kombi: a van that seats around 15 people plus a driver and a conducter*. Usually very beat up and always cramped, especially if someone brought their box of chickens.
¤Sprinter: a van /mini bus. Has more headroom than a kombi. Usually seats between 15 and 22 people along with the driver and conducter. These have more standing room and the conducter takes advantage by filling that up too. It’s illegal to have people standing on sprinters but conducters find ways around it like hiding people behind bags at traffic stops.
¤Bus: just what you think it is. A big bus filled with people. Usually for people going longer distances. Sometimes there are metal racks on top to carry excess luggage.
¤4+1: What you would call a cab in the states. 4 passengers plus 1 driver. 4+1s are restricted to travel around a certain town and cost around R6.50 per person.
¤A hitch: Hitchhiking is my preferred mode of travel most days. It’s cheaper, faster, and usually cooler. The faster part is what I love. Although sometimes you have to pay in turning down marriage proposals and pretending you don’t have a phone. I’ve met many people in hitches and learned lots of things about Basothos’ thoughts on lots of topics. My favourite hitch invited me to her brother’s wedding and I went.
Taxis (any public transport) stop often to let people on and off. They will stop whether or not the person at the side of the road is making any indication of wanting to get on, which results in a long game of will they/ won’t they.
Taxis also stop in towns and wait to fill up before they leave again. The wait can be hours long.
Most people on taxis don’t like the windows open. In 100 degree weather sumshed up again each other, people think the breeze from the open window will get them sick when in reality it will help prevent it. If you are lucky enough to control a window people will ask you to close it. I just lean into the wind like a dog, pretending I can’t hear them.
And the cost for this party? The more passengers a taxi can hold the cheaper it is. But to my camptown I pay R15, R40 to the capital, and R6 to the smaller town a little ways down the road from me.
With all this going on trips into town quickly become a day long thing and longer distances become a whole day of travel.
*A conducter sits/stands in the passenger area, collects money, calls out stops, and yells at everyone they pass hoping that will convince them to get on.