Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The African transport system

Following our elephant walk, the journey back to the park was very insightful, providing a shocking window into South African culture. At one junction, we passed a group of people drying fish on a wire fence next to the roadside ready to sell. The fumes and dust flying around surely make the finished product unhygienic, or at the very least unappealing, and we saw nobody stop to make purchases, but this is how these people make a living.

We also bore witness to the South African transport system. Very few (if any) municipal buses run in this area. Instead, minibus taxis run along the arterial routes between the main townships. People walk alongside the road until a minibus approaches, at which point they make a sign with their hands to signal where they want to travel to; for example four fingers means "Fourways", pointing upwards means "Johannesburg", etc. There are hundreds of these signals which all locals and taxibus drivers are familiar with, and often people have to catch three or four different routes in order to get to work. If a passing taxi driver sees somebody signalling their route, they pull over to pick them up, often cutting across three or four lanes of fast moving traffic to do so. Although the minibuses are designed to carry 12 passengers, they often carry up to 25 people, as the driver is paid based on how many people he delivers, so tries to cram as many people as possible in.
School children risk their lives walking on the South African highways
Returning to the park, we went to play with the lion cubs. There had not been many visitors throughout the day, so the cubs were very playful. One in particular befriended me, thankfully one of the smaller ones, and decided that the camera around my neck looked like a tasty snack.

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