Thursday, September 21, 2006
T A X I
Buea is basically one long road that steadily climbs the foothills of the mountain. We are about 1/2 way up in Bounduma. The post office and radio station are a little higher in the Clerks quarter and the University and some shops are a little lower in Molyko.
To get around we use taxis. Joe has written a little about his in his crosstown traffic entry. However this is a topic we could write many entries on. A typical journey cost 100 or 150 CFA per passenger (depending of the length of the journey). That's 10 - 15p. We try to save up our 100 CFA coins as taxi tokens!! They have just put the price up to a shocking 150 or 200 CFA per person.
The taxis are yellow, mostly Toyota's as nearly all the cars are. Most are in a pretty bad way. They keep them running as long as possible then when they are well and truly dead they are stripped and the parts are used to fix other taxis. There are a few 'garages' dotted about with decaying old taxis outside.
A couple of weeks ago we had to jump out of a taxi that looked as if it were about to blow up!! We were going up the hill to the post office and the engine started spluttering then plumes of black smoke started pouring out. The driver pulled over and I jumped out the car and ran away. Joe ran to the front of the car, I ran to the back (I figured if it was going to blow it would be the engine). We could not see each other for a while due to the thick black smoke. It soon cleared and the driver suggested we got another taxi!!
These are share taxis which means they drive up and down the road picking people up and dropping them off. A taxi is full when there are 3 in the back and 2 on the front passenger seat. This is not much fun if the person you are sharing the front seat with is more traditionally built!
You may notice the huge gutters on the side of the road. All the way down the road on each side there are these huge deep gutters. They are needed when it rains heavily to take the rain down the mountain off the road. they are about a foot across and 2 foot deep. At junctions they are covered so cars can drive over but most the time they are open. Kids loose there footballs down them, which is better then running out in to the road to fetch it. I have seen the occasional goat or chicken in them also. We have to jump over them to cross the road. I am sure one of these days I will be crossing the road, chatting to Joe not looking where I am going and will fall down it!! Especially in the dark, there are no street lights so it is difficult to see them if there are no car headlights about. Shelia said she has often seen drunk men sleeping in them at night.
The condition of the roads is terrible. On Tuesday we went to Douala for the day with Genesis. We hired a car and had a complete nutter as a driver. I was sat in the middle of the back seat so had a view out of the front window. This mostly meant I could see the cars approaching us head on as we where driving on the wrong side of the road dodging pot holes or overtaking lorries. When we arrived all in one piece Genesis took his number them promptly told us he will not be phoning him for any journey again. This guy was a police officer. So had no regard for the rules of the road.