I reverse our vehicle out of the driveway. Since I can't hear any sirens, I feel fairly certain that the Prime Minister's high speed motorcade will not T-Bone me on the way to his residence down the street. As I pull into the left lane, I think "driver in the middle" of my right-hand drive vehicle. While accelerating down the road, I see a cow basking on the centerline. I carefully pull around the cow as several other cattle and the attending shepherd disinterestedly watch.
|Oh Look, a cow in the road!|
A few turns later, I have to slow down for a humped zebra. Fortunately, it's daytime so it's easy to see and my windscreen is clean. At night on unfamiliar roads, faded paint and a humped zebra have conspired together to give us a real jolt!
|No, it's not a camel crossed with a zebra|
|On the left, A four plus one - they cause a lot of accidents as they vie for fares, but they are the main mode of transportation for thousands of people here. On the right, a taxibus.|
There seems to be a slowdown ahead. A few minutes later I come upon the problem: a broken down dump truck is having major engine work done in the middle of the lane and people going around have to wait for oncoming traffic. Everyone is calm about it and the drivers automatically fall into a routine of letting a few cars through in each direction in turn, signaling one another by flashing their headlights. After passing the impromptu garage, I begin to accelerate but ahead of me I see the dreaded "L" of a learner, who are drivers who are under instruction and seem to never exceed 15 mph. After overtaking him, I decide to drive approximately the speed limit. I glance in my righthand mirror and see the red X plate of a government bakkie, which is overtaking at nearly twice the posted speed signs. In the distance is a woman with a baby waiting to cross the street. I begin the slow but then remember that here, cars (in order of size) have the right of way and that due to other vehicles, it is actually more dangerous to the pedestrians if I stop to allow them to cross.
|It's pretty common to see horses or donkeys even on main streets|
I am now at the main traffic circle. Two lanes, sometimes three, sometimes a dance, sometimes a battle, as drivers vie for the circle's 5 entries and exits. Now another slowdown. A police checkpoint! I ready my license to display for the officer. I greet him in my best Sesotho, confident that my vehicle will pass any inspection they have. He smiles at my efforts, then quickly looks at my data dot and hands my license to me, waving me on. I pass several detained four plus ones with the police questioning their drivers. Most of the time they are not being detained for traffic violations. They are being detained for improper papers, licensing or having a taillight out. One of the drivers is doing pushups on the sidewalk at the direction of the policeman. He doesn't have enough money for the fine.
|This is a well-traveled road. Most roads that are not paved in Lesotho look like this. Some are even rougher|
Reaching the turnoff to our church, I slow to a crawl as I leave the paved road and enter the unpaved paths that serve as roads for most of Lesotho. I carefully maneuver around a bathtub-sized hole and then climb over a section of cantaloupe-size rocks, grateful for my high-clearance vehicle. We have arrived safe and sound; we can be thankful for God's providential protection. And we didn't even need to go to a panel beater!
|Bodywork, anyone? Just beat it into submission|
This story of course was a dramatization of many unusual driving experiences packed into one trip, but all of them have happened to us at one point. Most of them happen in any week's driving. At first, this driving experience was very stressful for both of us. But with time, we have become used to it, and mostly at peace with it. At first I raged against the lack of rules and enforcement, but when I accepted that the drivers here operate on a different set of rules, I began to adapt. Some days I still get upset about the person who runs out of petrol and parks his disabled vehicle in the middle of the lane, causing a traffic jam. But then I remind myself that efficient use of time is not an important value here, and that he is probably not an inconsiderate person - he has just not been educated on how to pull over. It is important in those moments to remember that we are not here to bring the Autobahn. We are here to share the love and life of Jesus with people who live in deep need of it. Perhaps the road conditions will not improve, but if they do it will be because of the life of Jesus flowing from the drivers who put others before self as He did. In the meantime, whether we are at work or just driving to work, we are here to follow in His footsteps.
|We are blessed to have this vehicle. It has high clearance for taking the unpaved roads in Lesotho. Its size and the bull bar on the front forces the four plus one drivers to give us some space and respect|
Reverse - Back up
Humped Zebra (Humped Zebra Crossing) - Speed bump / crosswalk
Robot - Traffic Light
Four-Plus-One - A taxicab, usually a compact car such as a Corolla or Honda Fit that theoretically fits four plus a driver (often has more people in it)
Indicator - Turn Signal
Ho Joalo - That's how it is.Hoot / Hooter - To honk the car's horn, the car's horn
Garage - Mechanic shop, also a petrol ("gas") station
Overtake - Pass
Bakkie - Pickup truckData Dot - A paper that is displayed on your windscreen in addition to your license plate to show you've paid the registration fees for the year (similar to tabs on US license plates)
Windscreen - windshield
Panel Beater - Body Shop
Petrol - Gasoline ("gas" is propane)