“A good traveller has not fixed plans and is not intent on arriving” – Lao Tzu
I am on the bus to lira and there is a whole lot of drama going on around me. I have been sitting here almost three hours and the bus still hasn’t left. I had intended on getting the first bus but missed it because of the traffic into town. When I got in I was told that it would be leaving at 10.30 am, it is now 1.39 pm. And all the time I have been sitting here the engine has been running polluting the environment and giving us false hope that we shall soon be departing.
Unfortunately there is no set timetable so the operators wait around till the bus is filled before setting off. It’s only two thirds full at the moment so it might be another hour before we eventually leave. We have had a bit of drama so the wait has not been too boring. Within five minutes of sitting down a fight broke out between two women. They are both hawkers, one selling drinks the other bread and cakes. Apparently the bigger one (selling bread and cakes), had tried to block the door as the other one tried to get into the bus. She pushed her way in anyway, and went for her fellow hawker. They started slapping each other and pulling each other’s hair, eventually both ended up on the floor in the corridor. All the while the conductor and the other hawkers were trying to tear them apart and to get them out of the bus. The few passengers just looked on uninterestedly as if such things happened every day. Maybe they do, I don’t know. They were eventually pulled apart and thrown out. For a short while hawkers were barred from entering the bus so they took to banging on the windows or calling pssssssss to get our attention. They were eventually let back in.
They are selling all sorts of things, from solar panels to shaving kits, cakes to nsenene. This one hawker has come to me about five times now trying to sell me bedsheets. Five times I have told him I don’t need any. I am sure he will come back again perhaps hoping that I have changed my mind. I wonder how many miles a typical hawker covers a day and how much they make. I have been keeping an eye out for someone selling bananas, for some reason no one appears to be. The one lady I spotted with a basket full of some on her head walked past the bus, I tried to get her attention but she was looking in the other direction.
Just now a rather huge and scary man walked in and started shouting at the conductor in Swahili. I couldn’t understand what he was saying but I hope that he was telling him off for hogging the space in the park for too long. Since we have been here three buses in the bay next to us, all going to Gulu, have come and gone. I think next time I will take the Gulu bus instead, they fill up quicker and the guys boarding are better looking.
Update: So we eventually set off at 2.15 pm, two hours into the journey the coach broke down. There was smoke coming out of the front, the mechanic had to take the boda boda to the nearest town to get the parts he needed to fix it. There is no such thing as breakdown cover here so the coaches always ensure that they have a mechanic on board. After an hour of banging and running back and forth he got it running and we were on our way again.
Unfortunately smoke started blowing out of the front again within forty minutes of taking off and again we had to stop. The mechanic again hoped on a boda boda to town but this time he returned empty handed. He has now joined the rest of the passengers eating mangoes in the compound across the road.
I am tired, hungry and scared that we will not make it to Lira this side of midnight. I called the old man to ask if it is safe to hitch hike and he is not answering. I might give it a go anyway, what is the worst that can happen?