My First ‘Minibus Taxi’ Experience
The next stage of my trip was about to begin: Jeffrey’s Bay. From Cape Town I took a flight to Port Elizabeth, and from there I took a minibus taxi to get to the bay. For those of you who don’t know what a minibus taxi is, it is a van certified to carry 15 passengers but usually packed with 20 and plenty of packages and suitcases placed on top of people’s legs. This is the cheapest way of travelling through Africa and in some countries is the only public transport that exists. That is the reason why this was my main way of transport through the continent. I had been told that they were very dangerous because the number of accidents involving minibus taxis was high, and indeed I saw many accidents myself since they drive too fast and recklessly, but fortunately I was never involved in one.
My first experience in a minibus taxi was a breath of fresh air. Firstly, I thought Port Elizabeth’s taxi rank was the definition of chaos – a lot of different minibus taxis without any name on the front and people shouting and selling things. I was amazed but at the same time I imagine that I looked really lost, because a woman approached me and spoke to me in a language I couldn’t understand, and when I said “Jeffrey’s Bay” she took me to a quite hidden minibus under a bridge, with no name on it, and she pointed at the inside. I thanked her and asked again “Jeffrey’s Bay?” to the people inside the minibus to make sure I was in the correct one, and they nodded. So I chose a spot and placed my big backpack on top of the seat next to me since there was no place for baggage, and the little one on top of my legs. Of course that was wishful thinking, and as soon as the minibus got full I realized that I was going to have to carry both of my backpacks on top of me. A kid came selling some sweets and crisps, and when the last inch of the van was filled with more luggage, the woman who had been collecting the money from us got out and closed the door. We were ready to go!
With my two backpacks on top of my legs, we rode about one hour to get to Jeffrey’s Bay. It was a bit uncomfortable, although soon I would get used to it after travelling entire days like this. But let’s go back to my first ride.
As soon as I entered the vehicle everything felt right; I felt that I was where I was supposed to be. That was what I was looking for when I decided to travel to Africa, it felt real. I was the only white person inside the bus, since generally white people in South Africa always move around in their private cars, they don’t use public transport.
When I saw Jeffrey’s Bay on a signpost I asked a young woman if she could tell the driver to drop me off at the Spar supermarket, because my boss was waiting to pick me up there. She understood and translated to the driver, who stopped immediately – we were at the supermarket already. I enjoyed the freedom that this mean of transport gives you as opposed to the normal buses. As the name indicates, it is a taxi indeed, so you can get dropped off wherever you want as long as it’s on the way. Later on, I learned that you just have to shout the name of the place where you want to stop when you’re approaching it. I thanked the woman and the driver and met my new boss at the supermarket, who took me to the backpacker’s to start my new adventure!