Monday, May 10, 2010

Traveling Makes Me Crazy, Part 1 - Buses

The smile is all show.

And matatus, for good measure. See, this is part one because my journey inevitably begins with a bus trip, but also ends with one. Funny thing, up until yesterday I thought I would simply be ranting about the lack of timeliness with the bus system. Hahahahaha! Just you wait.

Let me start with this observation: I hate buses. There is nothing that tries your patience as much as the endless, endless waiting you have to endure on a bus trip; it's Africa time exponentially worsened. However, I normally take the Post Bus from Kabale-Kampala or vice versa because, though it is much slower (averaging 9 hours) it leaves the Post Office on time - and that, to me, makes all the difference. From then on, I just open a window slightly, let the wind lull me to sleep, jump off at the larger stops to pee, and so on. I can deal.

Except when the Post Bus randomly acts like a regular coach bus, which was the case when I recently traveled from Kabale-Kampala. I arrived at the Post Office at 6:30, as I always do: the bus leaves at 7 and I am early enough to not have to fight my way on and find a good seat. Yet in front of me was an ever-growing crowd of people and no bus. So we waited, for over an hour, until the bus showed up already half-full, prompting a swarming of the door and much elbowing to get inside. Seems the bus had driven around to various villages picking up people, exactly what its not supposed to do. We then stopped at every roadside stand between Kabale and Mbarara so the conductor and driver could buy matooke, tomatoes, pumpkins, pineapples, etc, etc. To make matters worse, I wasn't near window opening and, since Ugandans hate wind in their face, no one would open a window, which meant I woke from fretful naps profusely pouring sweat. In order to get some respite I would stick my face against a crack in the window to feel the barest bit of breeze

"Are you tired?" the man next to me asked?
"I'm just fucking hot!"

Not so bad, though, until I tried to return to Kabale a couple of weeks later. The Post Bus was again late (bastards!) so I decided, "Screw it, I'll just take my chances with a regular coach." Fateful words! I arrived at the Horizon bus station at 8:30 for the "9:30" bus, but it was raining. As we all know Ugandans are made of sugar, the rain meant that few people were willing to risk leaving their homes, so the bus took a fabulous four hours to fill. Trying! But to be fair, once we got underway we were making excellent time, reaching Mbarara before 5:30. "Not so bad, after all," I thought, and began to alternately read and doze, until suddenly:

CRASH! (The sound of the bus rear-ending a truck.)

WHAM! (The sound of my head violently hitting the seat in front of me.)

What happens when a bus hits a semi.

On a positive note, the accident did allow me to go off and pee, though it did leave everyone stranded on the side of the road while every penis within twenty kilometers had his say in the ensuing argument. I'm pretty sure they're equipped with some sort of radar that alerts them whenever three or more men are grouped together.

Half of these people weren't on the bus.

Seeing that nothing would be resolved any time soon, I hopped on a matatu or, considering it was jammed with about 25 people, a "coffin on wheels." So many people, in fact, that I was amazed (and irritated) each time the conductor stopped to add more. Three hours in this claustrophobic hell and again, because of the whole wind thing, no open windows. At one point in Ntungamo, when we stopped in order to properly fill up all available space, passengers began violently arguing with the conductor about the inflated price of passage. My head pounding from the accident, ears ringing form the yelling and almost in tears with frustration and no air, I lost it. "For the love of god, can't we just fucking move!?" Poor little mzungu losing her head; it did nothing.

I finally rolled into Kabale around 9pm, tired, thirsty, dirty and desperately in need of a poo. God damn it, I hate buses.

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