Of all the things I have done in Botswana that I would not do in the US I think hitching has to top that list. If only because it is going to be such a hard habit to break. It is it the only way to get to my village, and even when there is public transport in other places, hitching is usually faster. But, not all hitches are created equal. So for this blog post I have decided to describe the different types of hitches that I have seen. This list only concerns rides between Kaudwane and Letlhakeng, this is because during this stretch hitching is the only option and the hitches between places like Gabs and Moleps can be very different from these.
Note: several of the different types of hitches can overlap. Especially in the areas of speed, comfort, and amount of people. So there are several different combinations available.
Type 1: Having the appropriate amount of people
This has happened to me a total of once. Just once. In 5 months at Kaudwane. And this was only because it was in a car, and not a pick-up truck. Unless the vehicle you are in is only seats and without a truck/bed to fit more people this never happens.
Type 2: Undercrowded
This type means that there is plenty more room for people to fit, and it is only due to the lack of passengers that you have space. Not as rare as type one, but still fairly rare. I have only encountered this between Kaudwane and Salajwe (the first or last step of my trip depending on direction). Once you start that trek between Salajwe and Letlhakeng this type ceases to exist in favor of….
Type 3: Overcrowded
“Excuse me ma’am but you are sitting on my foot, and have been for the last 50km. It is alternating between being asleep which means I just know I will fall over when I stand and pain spasms. Please be getting out of this vehicle soon.” While I have never actually said this (at least not in this words, especially the last sentence), I have thought it an awful lot. There is the stereotype that Mexicans can fit a lot of people in a truck. Bullshit. That award should go to Botswana. It is simply fascinating how many people and things they get in a truck. Honestly I think these hitches break at least three laws of science, yet they happen all the time. I will never have space bubble issues in my life since I always seem to be constantly touching people due to these rides.
Type 4: Going a respectable speed for the conditions of the road
Not real. Next.
Type 5: Going painstakingly slow
Unlike the undercrowded/overcrowded distinction, this one is about 50% of the time. It would be one thing if the slowness made the ride more comfortable, but the drivers of these hitches always seem to be in the worst part of the road, making it so bumpy I can’t even read. So instead I get to lazily watch the landscape go by and wonder if I shouldn’t have waited longer so I could have gotten on that truck that just passed us. Worst offender: a red truck belonging to an old man in Kaudwane, but I always take it because I know he will take me the whole way.
Type 6: “You have a brake pedal, please use it”
Let me clarify that the general speed these hitches go is not necessarily unacceptable…if it was a real road. But you have no reason to go as fast as you do on a paved road when we are on loose sand. Please slow down. Just a little. Every time we hit a big bump everyone gets air. And then I alternate between thinking I might fly out of the back or coming back down at the wrong angle on the paint bucket I am sitting on and bruising the left side of my butt for 3 weeks. This last one happened to me about 4 weeks ago. Yet I do prefer it to the slow ones for the reason that I get where I am going quicker, if only because…
Type 7: Comfortable
Also not real. Next.
Type 8: Uncomfortable
Remember my foot story from a few types back? Well between too many people jammed in to give adequate space, the driver always finds a way to pick the worst part of the road. I don’t know how they do it. And I know there are better parts, because when they swerve to avoid cows the other part of the road is always better. STAY THERE! But this has given me a glimpse into the reason why about 95% of the people here have big butts, they have nature’s padding for these uncomfortable rides.
Type 9: The ideal hitch
You would think this is a combination of types 1 (or 2), 4, and 7. But you would be wrong. It can be any combination of types as long as it is one thing. Free.
The worst hitch ever! So this happened to me today actually. I find a free ride leaving my village going all the way to Letlhakeng around 6:30am. Awesome. “Oh we just need to go pick up something from where we are camping.” No problem. “Oh we are just going to wait to eat breakfast first.” It was already being cooked, so no problem. I had plenty of time. FOUR HOURS LATER!!!! “Oh we aren’t actually going.” SCREW YOU! The only progress I made was four kilometers in the WRONG DIRECTION, waiting for you useless wastes of space. So I am now outside my village, in the bush, in the wrong direction. I hear cars coming by. So I literally run out of the bush to find….
THE BEST HITCH EVER! So I have no idea what the South African tourists first thought when they saw a white man run out of the bush and flag them down. But they gave me a ride. A ride all the way to the door of the place I am staying in Moleps. They even waited for me to pick up a package in Letlhakeng. And they fed me. FOR FREE! Seriously, weird day with my two ultimate hitching extremes.