I briskly walked past a row of smokers outside Nando’s on Long Street. Only a week earlier, I would have had my jacket zipped up to my neck and my hands stuck firmly in my pockets because of the cold. Poor boy from West Africa. Thank God it wasn’t a windy evening. Since I had not got used to seeing cars drive on the left side of the road I looked both ways a good number of times before crossing towards that shout that had me confounded for a few days: “POOOINT!” We were headed for the posh side of town. Sea Point had an ocean view and gorgeous buildings. It seemed almost scandalous to be going there by mini-bus taxi. As I plopped myself into the backseat, jarring pain shot through my hip-bone as it struck metal. I could have been in a trotro in Accra.
Proper metro buses actually did run the route to Sea Point. Unfortunately, none was ever around when I needed one, so here I was, rooted in a mini-bus taxi – or trotro, as I know it. The seat had sunk in, making the metal frame a lot more accessible, so I endured my balancing act between cushion and metal with each sway of the bus. We were elbowing our way through traffic at break-neck speed. I had placed my life in the hands of a daredevil driver for the princely sum of 5 Rand (just about 1 Ghana Cedi).
There was no conversation in the car. I already missed the tongue clicks of native Xhosa speakers. Maybe nobody knew anyone. That never stopped anyone in Ghana, though.
We had left the stunning city centre with its beautiful monuments, hotels and office complexes far behind. Past the magnificent Cape Town Stadium, and along the streets lined with shops and restaurants we zoomed like an ambulance towards Sea Point. The mate was sitting awkwardly on the small backless foldable seat, just the way we do it in Ghana, booming every few seconds, “POOOINT!” Next to me was a young Asian man vigorously shaking a bottle of frozen vitamin water, whatever that is. I was glad when he got off the bus, and for selfish reason. I wanted his seat. Unfortunately, like most coveted things, it offered no satisfaction. I found myself perched on another piece of metal.
Sometimes, it took me a while to hear what South Africans were saying, so I hardly heard a word of what the driver was saying to me. That he was sipping on a Coke while facing his windscreen didn’t make things any easier. However, since I was the last one left in the car, I supposed I was being asked where I would get down. With my best frown, throwing Ghanaian hospitality to the winds of Cape Town, I said I was going to the last stop. He sized me up and down and sped off.
That’s what you get for travelling cheap, but regular taxi had cost me 10 Rand per kilometer when I moved from a backpacker hostel to The Ambassador Hotel. I tried to hide my horror as I saw the numbers on the metre ticking away like excited mosquitoes, and vowed to never jump into another taxi until my days in Cape Town were done.
The similarities to a trotro ride in Accra were confirmed when the driver stopped right next to another mini-bus taxi parked on a small curve, effectively blocking the road as the mate, sticking out right up to the waist through his window, bellowed for prospective passengers. All the angry BMW and Jaguar drivers behind could do was blow their horns and whisper what I presume would be obscenities in Afrikaans. As quickly as the bus arrived, they were heading back towards Long Street. No waiting, no delays.
I was at the end of the road and had no idea where I was, but since a part of the rocky beach looked familiar, I walked towards it. Runners with iPods strapped to their biceps went by, as did people walking dogs of all breeds. I was gaping like a Johnny-Just-Come at the luxurious apartments which looked nicer than my hotel. The sun was descending behind Robben Island on the horizon as container ships sailed towards the harbour. A white boat sped towards the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront as well. I breathed in the salty air and gazed at a couple sprawled on a blanket, sipping white wine on the white beach. This is what Jamestown should have looked like, I agonized to myself. I sighed heavily, for the next day, I would be leaving Cape Town and returning to Accra, and my daily commute from Bridge to Ridge.