CHICKENS ON THE ROOF !          - 31/1/2012      <--Prev : Next-->

Having lived a very privileged life in Zimbabwe for many many years I had often wanted to take a rural bus trip on one of the fascinating buses with the "chickens on the roof". Being the bossy sort I could attempt to persuade the travelers not to throw their trash out of the window too.

With the demise of Air Zimbabwe (hopefully temporary ) HeeHoo sent me on an exploratory trip from Harare to Bulawayo to ascertain the potential of the long distance luxury buses which one now sees frequently in Zimbabwe.

I was most impressed at the start of the trip at the rotunda, to see the loo was marked "powder room" it was clean and there was loo paper !! Now that was an excellent start ! There was also a "powder room" on the bus although I did not venture into it although I was advised it was perfectly user-friendly and comfortable.

It was a magnificent bus, a double decker, air conditioned, reclining seats, leg rests in fact I would venture to say probably more comfortable than an airplane seat !! HeeHoo booked me into VVIP Class kindly, which was downstairs but being ultra inquisitive, I would have far preferred to be upstairs where I could see the countryside! (Not that I am ungrateful of course.)

What would the bus equivalent of an "air hostess" be I wonder? Well at any rate, he was charming, soothed us with a prayer for our safety at the commencement of the trip and then again at the end of the trip, which I wasn t quite sure how to interpret, and then played nice gospel music quietly to sooth the savage beast.

It was a fascinating trip, my companion in the seat next to me was charming too, she occupied her time by texting furiously. A young entrepreneur, she owned her own medical supplies company and worked furiously on her Blackberry on "Whatsup" as long as her battery lasted. She was a friendly young lady and was soon nestled comfortably in a deep sleep on my shoulder !!

In front of me was another even more enterprising fellow, he was vigorously servicing some sort of small electronic machine. If one has to spend five hours in a bus why waste time ? The businessman across the aisle to my left was swapping between flow charts and e mails happily on his lap top.

Upstairs in "Cattle Class" were the school kids, the Falcon and Girls College students returning from Harare to Bulawayo after an exeat weekend, wish I could have been a fly on the wall upstairs. Impeccably turned out in their "Number Ones" I am always so taken with our beautifully mannered and well behaved Zimbabwe children. They soon persuaded the "air hostess aka bus host" to change the music to something much more hip !!

Most people in VVIP Class had a laptop, a tablet, a kindle or a fancy cell phone, but I did see one man reading an old fashioned actual "book" !!! Every journey seems so much shorter when one has a cell phone and with the excellent cell phone coverage in Zimbabwe, one can download emails, potter around on the web, and I could even play "scrabble" endlessly with my "words with friends" buddies all over the world. America was asleep, but the Aussies ware awake so there was always someone willing and able to play a game with me !!

The countryside was lush and green, glorious in fact. The road was very busy and with the incidence of traffic fatalities in Zim, I was feeling a little more secure in this giant bus than I would have been had I been in a normal sedan.

We were stopped by the police road block at Selous but at least they did not do to us what they like to do to the rural bus passengers - make us all stand in a line in the sun and produce our IDs while they searched our luggage.... !! There were many roadblocks checking the cars at every single town along the way.

We were issued with a traffic fine for some obscure reason, the traffic police in Zim are having a field day at the moment. HeeHooMustFish was issued with a fine on his recent boat-towing trip back from Binga last month. He took his shirt off as he was overheating and the cops fined him for indecent exposure !!

Similarly a young lady friend of mine, on her way home from the Gym, wearing a pair of running shorts, was fined for the same heinous crime !! Then there is the classic story of the fine emanating from the driver of a 4 x 4 driving into town from his mine, he was fined for having a dirty car !!

Bus Breakfast arrived, it was a "chicken or beef" hamburger, not bad at all, and a soft drink. Thank goodness I had enjoyed a coffee at the bus terminal as no hot beverages were forthcoming. Dear Bus Host was slow in taking away the food containers (but they do that on the planes too, I am sure it is to make you stay out of their way in the aisles,) but I did vaguely think this was probably why they "chicken on the roof" travelers threw their detritus out of the window !!

The crops in Mashonaland were looking fabulous, not so as we approached poor old Matabeleland which was doing its normal "drought" thing.

They had promised non stop television entertainment for the journey but sadly a few systems were not functioning, this did not perturb me as I am too small to see the TV screen over the top of the chair at any rate.

The digital clock was running many hours behind so attention to detail was lacking, my tray table needed a mere screw to make it fully functional, but these were my only small criticisms and all in all it was an extremely comfortable if lengthy trip. However if one takes into account the time one has to be at an airport ahead of the flight, and the time it takes sometimes to get the baggage off a plane, there was not a lot of difference in the time it took the bus to get from A to B and the time it took to travel by plane on the same journey.

Its actually perfect for the businessman who can do a morning s work sitting in a bus with all the mod cons we have nowadays as far as electronic communications go. With the handy econet "dongle" and the Three G and EDGE capabilities on mobile phones and its certainly a lot safer than driving between Harare and Bulawayo.

Remind me however that I must get down to writing a booklet for air flights and bus journeys on the Elbow Etiquette expected on the arm rests of public transport. Being only "liddle", I have callouses on the outsides my elbows from having to keep them inside the armrests while the more imposing passengers hog the arm rests !!

And I can promise you there were no chickens on the roof !!