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Zanzibar's Reading Room

Ticket for a Phantom Bus
by: zanzibar

Hello Everyone, sorry I haven't written in a while. I am about 700 miles or so off the coast of Namibia at the moment, coming ever closer to the time zone of my birth. (still about 6 hours off)

I've run out of internet minutes, but if you can swing it right, you can find a time and a computer where the internet is free, so all of our lives have been consumed with the ever-lasting search for the fabled free internet, which can happen on any computer, at any time. For example, I have it right now. Mwahahaha! I'm even on IM, though I cannot recieve or send IMs, nor can I check away messages. I can only see who is online. If there was a modern day Tantalus, this is what his punishment would be.

So South Africa. Well, first of all, the greatest thing that has ever happened to me in my life happened to me in South Africa. The filling of that empty space that all of us have inside of us... the fufillment of all my dreams of longing... I recieved an envelope full of chocolate Easter candy from my mother. Oh heaven! Halleluia! Praise the lord! Thanks mom!
The rest of South Africa, I must say, was also amazingly awesome. First of all, it was fraught with disasters, as any good adventure should be. Secondly, there were penguins. Thirdly, I reunited with one of my favorite Pomonites, Mr. Ashley Craft, who attempted to take me to shady areas of town to sell me but ended up taking me to some fine museums and demonstrating how to kick pigeons. I took him to lunch and he regaled me of his adventures, which, like any good adventure were also fraught with disasters, leading to Mr. Craft losing all faith in humanity. You will have to ask him about these things yourself.
As for my adventures, I swam in some penguiny waters, rode on many a graffiti'd train, caught rides in matatus, or mini-buses, which "technically" are really "for black people" and we "really shouldn't take" but are super cheap and play really loud racous music and are way more fun than a taxi. For example, a taxi ride costs about R50. A matatu ride to the same destination costs about R2.50. That's right. I also bought, paid for, and independently confirmed a ticket for a bus that didn't exist. And therein lay the crux of our biggest disaster. Phillip and I went about 8.5 hours inland in search of fresh air and wide open spaces and we had to leave a day late because of various reasons involving changed bus schedules and the fact that only one bus goes to Graaff-Reinet per day. We stayed at an adorable little bed and breakfast and talked with the old couple who owned it for a long time, living the slow pace of the small town life and eating like kings because food is relatively cheap here. We ate cheeseburgers for lunch and steaks for dinner, and we tried ostrich and springbok and even had the opportunity to enjoy "Man-sized rump" at the No. 8 Pub, the only pub in town. We tracked baboons and leopards through river beds, searched for kudu skeletons, and watched the sunset over the Valley of Desolation. We found an EXTREME water wheel that could be operated with a two rand coin. We arrived at the bus stop in plenty of time for our 10:30 pm bus which would get us back to Cape Town by about 7 in the morning. OR SO WE THOUGHT!
The "bus" for which we had tickets actually did not exist at all. No bus came through Graaff Reinet on Thursday nights, only on Friday nights or Wednesday nights or one bus on Thursday nights that was coming from Cape Town going towards Port Elizabeth, which was some 7 hours in the wrong DIRECTION. This we did not find out until we had been waiting for several hours for our bus to arrive. I looked over at Phil, my champion-at-arms in fighting with taxi drivers, settling disputes and otherwise being tall enough for me to hide behind and saw that he was very tired and had a faraway look in his eye. If we didn't get back to Cape Town by 9pm the next day, we would miss the boat, the Atlantic Crossing, and fail the semester. If Phil failed the semester, he wouldn't be able to graduate in four years. If we didn't get out of Graaff-Reinet RIGHT NOW, we were DOOMED. So I sprung into action! I called the bus company and found out the bus didn't exist. I called the bus company five more times, each time getting a different person, explaining my story, getting transferred, and then getting disconnected. I was fiery mad but it came out as a sad, lost tale about a young girl stuck at a strange gas station in the middle of the night, needing to get back to Cape Town but being thwarted by a bus company that could do something to help if they had any humanity in their cold, cold hearts. I added a South African accent. To no avail. The last woman said that she could make no decisions until her supervisor showed up at 6am. We should get a room, she said. But it's 1:30 in the morning in a town that closes down at 6. In a country where no one opens their doors after 10. We asked the locals at the bus stop and they tried to barter us passage on a matatu. That would be 8.5 hours in a minivan sized car with 14 people in it, which our newfound friend Michael, (a South African from a different town whose bus had taken off with all of his luggage except him several hours earlier) said that he would never take, not ever, "not that he was prejudiced but no white person in their right mind took matatu anywhere." So we'd heard before. The bus came from Cape Town and I talked to them but there was nothing they could do, they weren't coming back through here til tomorrow at 10:30pm. I slunk back to our roost outside the gas station. It was 2:30 in the morning. We'd gotten up at 5:30 am for a tour that morning. Then... the miracle happened! Another bus came shining through the night. It was from our same company. I went over and explained our story for the 27 millionth time. He said he wasn't going to Cape Town, he was going to Mussel Bay. Also in the wrong direction, but in less of the wrong direction than Port Elizabeth. He thought about it for a long while and then decided that he could take us to Mussel Bay with him. We would arrive at 7 and there was a bus leaving for Cape Town at noon. If we could convince that driver to take us to Cape Town and if he had room, we could get back to town by 6:30 that evening. He had extra seats on the bus enough for us. Michael was not so lucky. His beef was with the rival bus company and he didn't want to take the outrageous detour to Mussel Bay, so we parted.
Upon arriving in Mussel Bay we talked to the regional supervisor and he called the driver of the next bus to make sure we got a spot. We waited for 5 hours in that gas station... and I found the legendary "Turkish Delight" of Narnian fame! It was good! I bought one for y'all to try, whoever gets to it first! Turkish Delight! Who would have thought I could be so lucky? At 12 we got on the bus with a bunch of traveling Brits and watched Shrek 2 and reached the train station fifteen minutes early and took a matatu back to the water front and ate at an expensive chinese restaurant to burn our remaining rand and made it just in time to the ship to watch some more South Park and sail away and fall asleep in our safety beds. My roommate sprained her ankle really badly coming down Table Mountain, so that was a shame. I took a picture of it, but it wasn't quite as bad(awesome) as Caroline's ;). Overall, South Africa was full of amazing sunsets and strange creatures and much talk of Zimbabwean politics. We trekked and tracked and swam and froze and sweated and climbed and drank the finest 5 dollar wines and ate brie cheese and water crackers and Doritos and drank the water and lived the life and survived to tell the story!

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