A TALE OF ROAD TRIP
I am in my hotel room pacing up and down. I have this nagging feeling that there is something important that I am forgetting.
Before I try to call it to memory, I stare at my phone. She said she will call me back and I don’t want to be a nag, lest she changes her mind about giving me the interview that my job depends on. Plus we can always do it after my return from Maseru.
I remember. I am supposed to book my flight to Maseru. But Phil, our driver is already here. I quickly scan through the online directories and make a few phone-calls, which basically confirm that all flights are fully booked.
Two days later, we are cruising through beautiful, lush green landscapes of growing maize and sunflower plantations miles away from the bustling city of Johannesburg.
Phil has been regaling my cameraman and I with stories ranging from the dangerous Joburg beauties,(and boy, aren’t the beautiful ones beautiful!) to thieving customers stealing his jokes and with them his career in comedy, to grannies flying through the skies on giant Sufuria lids, against the backdrop of lewd country lyrics blasting from his car’s stereo.
“Yes, it’s true. They found her on this yacht, an old wrinkled thing. And when they asked her where she came from she said she had an accident. She was travelling to a wedding from Mozambique with two of her friends and they had a collision with another lid ferrying another set of witches, when negotiating a corner. She fell and landed on the yacht. It’s a true story! She even told the police and it was on our newspaper!” then he bursts into raucous laughter upon seeing our disbelieving faces.
“Don’t you have such things in Nairobi?” he asks.
It’s almost like a girl ignoring a guy who she keeps careful tabs on; that is how I would describe the attitude on witchcraft here. No one practices or believes in it because they are Christian, but they are careful just in case. There have been cases of Muti crime, where a poor boy’s genitals or another’s ears were cut off to be used in the making of potions and no one wants to be caught flat footed. Upon investigation, I find out that the sangoma business is a very lucrative one in Joburg. But I digress.
After wiping a few tear drops and mopping his brow with his handkerchief, Phil joins in the song playing. His musical prowess is really nothing to write home about and the way he is singing, I am afraid that he will break into dance at any moment, even though he is the one behind the wheel. You need to know that Phil is literally as large as life, and his tummy is ‘ big and shiny’ in his own words. I can tell it’s going to be a ride to remember.
I stare out of the window. We approach a liquor store whereby Phil mutters a thanksgiving prayer under his breath, as he mops fresh perspiration across his forehead.
We stock up then hit the road. Phil promises us that Maseru will be hot. He has never been there before just like us. He moans having to ditch his weight loss herbs, yet he was making such good progress on reducing his gut. You see, he will be on the road with us all throughout and he can’t always just run to the loo all the time to shed off excess fat. That is how his herbs work.
Six hours on the road, we get to the border, which is less than an hour from Ladybrand. Our passports are scrutinized and stamped. Then we exit the gate and there is a sudden outburst of a city centre. We are in Maseru.
It is 7:00pm. The air is different. There are people trying to sell us mineral water, a man is slamming newspapers and publications against our windows as if swatting away nonexistent flies. He is urging us to buy. There are a few bums seated on the steps leading to a fast food cafe, right next to a liquor store, where Phil is headed. People entering the country drive past us. Others walk having disembarked from the buses.
We then enter the fast food café. I queue for a while and then it’s my turn. I place my order. She looks at me blankly. I repeat. It doesn’t register on her. Then someone speaks to her in sesotho. It is Phil. He just joined us with an armload of six-packs which he plans to empty as soon as he gets to his hotel room, where there is no wife to wag a finger.
“This one doesn’t understand English. It’s like she never went to school” he whispers in my ear even though I am certain that everyone within 2 meters radius can hear, “yet she works at the city centre, it’s a shame.”
That sets the mood for more of my encounters in the ‘Sky Kindgom’, where the only roundabout is called ‘The Big Circle’.
…To be continued…