Dawbies in Africa

CATCHING A TAXI

08 Sep 2012

 

They say, “When in Rome, do what the Romans do”. When in Windhoek you catch a taxi.

Taxis are the public transport here. Every third car or so is one. All of them have a number on the side and are generally older in appearance. A driver can take four passengers in their vehicle at any one time. The cost is a flat 9 Rand / Dollars (approx AUD $1.20) to most places in the city.

How to catch one? Basically you stand at the side of the road and one will come by within about a minute. If they have room for more passengers they will honk their horn. Mind you, you only have to be walking down the street and you will have taxis honking at you constantly; you just keep on walking and not look up. Sometimes the taxi will pull over to the side of the road, but generally it just stops. You then indicate vaguely the direction you wish to go, the closest landmark near to your desired destination and how many people wish to go there and the driver will generally indicate that is fine.

Do not expect to get driven to your landmark ( drivers do not go by streets or addresses ) immediately. Depending on who else is in the taxi at the time and who else the driver picks up on the way, your route can be quite a circuitous one. It is no point putting on a seatbelt when riding in the back of the taxi. There may not be one, or not enough, for a start. Also, as other passengers get out and new ones get in you have to keep sliding across the seat anyway.

Driving seems to be done a lot via the horn; the streets are quite loud with the sound of them. You honk to indicate you have more room, you honk if the person in front of you is not driving fast enough, you honk if you are generally unhappy with the state of the road, you honk if its your turn to go across an intersection.

We find ourselves holding my breath every time we come to a four-way intersection. The rule seems to be whichever car is at the intersection first, goes first; the second to arrive goes next and so forth. With a lot of taxi drivers in a hurry all the time there seems to be interesting interpretations of who actually got there first. We had our first near miss the other day. We are well and truly getting into the life that is Windhoek.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress & my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield & the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm18:2)