And this is a big one!
In many parts of Africa there is a form of transportation called a “bike taxi”.
The bike taxi strikes fear into my heart.
Take a battered bicycle and put a “seat” on the back of it over the rear tire, and you have a bike taxi.
Like this one?
I wish. No.
Like these ones. (These have really good seats on them, by the way).
I recently went on another adventure to the African continent. The trip in a nutshell went like this:
Fly to Dubai, meet up with Abner, hang out in Dubai for a bit waiting for our next flights, and sleep in the airport. Fly to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania…me via Qatar, Abner direct. Meet up with Abner again. Spend night in DAR. Take boat to Zanzibar. Spend time in Zanzibar. Take boat back to DAR. Spend night in DAR. Take buses and minibuses from DAR to Malawi. Spend time in Malawi. Take buses/minibuses to Mozambique. Spend time in Mozambique. Fly from Mozambique to South Africa. Say good-bye to Abner as he heads to Lisbon. Fly home.
This post is about the middle part of the trip. The part where we meet up with friends in Sani/Nkhota Kota, Malawi. There’s a lot of stories to tell up to this point, but this is as good a place as any to start.
In Malawi, especially in the rural “bush” areas, women wear skirts. So, I was in a skirt. And we were backpacking, so I had a big pack on my back, and a smaller one on my front. And I’m not a young thing anymore…pushing 50 in fact. And we’d been on the road for over two days, so I was tired and sore.
As we neared the place where our bus would drop us off to meet our Malawian friends, I began to wonder how, in the dead of night (it was after 10 PM) we would get from the roadside drop off point to Sam’s house (about 10 km) into the bush. Is it too remote for a regular bush taxi? Would we walk? Or, please God, no, would he have arranged for bike taxis?
As you have probably guessed, it was the latter. I took one look at those taxis and pictured myself trying to jump up onto the back to ride it sidesaddle with all my gear, and in a skirt, and I nearly died. That was SO not going to happen. ”Fortunately”, once the “taxi drivers” saw the color of my skin, the previously agreed to price all of the sudden became seriously inflated. I took that as my opportunity to encourage their immediate dismissal, opting instead to do the long walk.
Sam was quite amused. African women have literally no problem with this form of transportation. Even the very old ones with a parcel on their heads and one grandbaby in their laps with another one their backs. And they are graceful while doing it. Of course, they’ve been doing it their whole life. This would have been my first time.
I seriously hate being a “problem” like that. I try very hard to do the best I can to just quietly do what needs to be done. And normally, I am extremely “game” in most travel circumstances.
But not this time. I just couldn’t do it. So we walked. So I made all of us walk. :-( And I was glad we did. It was so very dark and the dirt road was bumpy and full of washed out areas, rocks, and potholes. Even if I’d have gotten up there, I’m pretty sure at some point I would have fallen off, and possibly injured myself. This is what I tell myself to make myself feel better about not doing it.
Perhaps the next time I find myself faced with a bike taxi I won’t be in a skirt, I won’t be loaded down, it won’t be dark, and there would be a step stool. I’d give it a whirl if so.
But not this time.
In this particular case, I did not make a good African woman.