The African Bush Taxi
Above, the typical death trap bush taxi, belching out fumes. Below left, another stop, this time to get some more water for the radiator. Below right, loading up for another day.
In West Africa, travelling onto the next town, more often than not, involves using what is commonly known as the 'bush taxi'.
Ancient Peugeot 505 estate cars, way past their sell by date in the modern world, kept alive and kicking, though only just, provide the only transport for locals and travellers in this neck of the woods. They perform admirably on the rough dirt roads, where no Western driver would ever take a regular vehicle.
They break down all the time. Punctures galore, track rods snap, gear linkages detach and engines over heat. Stopping for mechanical issues are part of the game. It's no joke when I tell you that every ride I took, there would be a minimum of 5 stops. Maximum was 15 in 19 hours. You are of course on African Time. Repairs are only ever bodge jobs, enough to get you to the next town. It never seems to occur to them to get the repair done properly.
Your fellow passengers, you'll be squashed in with them for the duration. Many more hours than you had reckoned on. The interior is very often parred down to the metal frame work. No door trims, no seat belts. Just an old seat. I'd go for the window seat so I could hang the top part of my body out the window, but it means sitting pretty crooked for the duration but at least only one arm pit inches away from your nose.
Personally, travelling in one of these is a bit hard-core. But if you wanna 'do' Africa, there is no other choice unless you have your own 'overland truck'.
Did I mention the waiting game? No, I believe I didn't. Buses, I mean the Bush Taxis, go only when full and the roof rack is piled high. This would often mean waiting for hours on end, every time you wanna go anywhere. Maximum wait was 4 hours when I was there in 2013. That was for the rather short hop to the border between Guinea-Bissau and Guinea. "No big Deal", I hear you mutter. Yes of course not, when It occurs just the one time. For my time there, I reckoned 17 times I waited more than 3 hours for enough'cargo' before the off.
Dusk fast approaching, stopping yet again for the same problem; the gear linkage broken. No 1st gear. The others went off for evening prayer.
Fast Forward nearly 2 years, and as I type my story from the comfort of my friends apartment in Hong Kong, the African madness seems a life time away and I kindda miss it!!