Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Back to Pretoria

Back to Pretoria Ronald the manager said he would take us for a bush walk at 6:15 am, this morning. He was not ready until 6:30 and acted like he had forgotten all about it. Somehow, the French couple was up and ready too, though they were not scheduled for a bush walk. Ronald was a bit put out that they seemed to think they could go, but we did not understand why it mattered. It would only have been Ron and I anyway. Ronald did a fast walk, hardly pointing out a thing. Unless Ron and I pointed out something and asked about it, he just walked on by. He seemed to be out of sorts that the couple was with us or that he was left doing the walk. It was a major change from our walk with Mark. Regardless, the Frenchman seemed to be having a great time and we did see a buffalo. The woman trailed behind. We had the distinct impression that this whole thing was not her idea of a vacation, but was appeasing her husband. Back by 7:00, we were told to hurry and get breakfast as our ride was due at 7:30. There was no breakfast out yet, so we had to wait anyway. Then we rushed through breakfast and this woman from Viva came to bring us to the bus stop. She confirmed with the driver that our fare was paid by Viva Tours and wished us well. I asked how we were to get from the bus station in Pretoria to our hostel since the service was to be door to door. She called Trevor and he asked her to give us 100 Rand each for a taxi when we got there. The bus held 85 people and there were only 7 of us white folks. This was a real interesting experience in itself. If the bus were not so overcrowded without any knee room, it would have been an excellent cultural experience. The seats were newly upholstered or cleaned, but the head and arm rests were covered in ripped leather. The driver only made three stops for bathroom breaks and they were only 10 minutes. There were other stops for picking up and letting off people, but we were not allowed to get off. Since the majority on the bus was women, I felt for them, with the lines at their bathroom curling around the gas station. I hate riding in cars or buses for more than 2 hours at a time, so I had to hypnotize myself to sleep in order to get through it. It was raining again, making the humidity as high as a giraffe's horns. There was no air conditioning running. No one would open a window. The very young man sitting next to me would open the window at each stop and we filled our lungs with fresh cool air like we were about to take a dive into the ocean, but within minutes the woman in front of him yelled at him to close it. People were actually sitting with down coats and wool hats on like we had taken a wrong turn to the Artic Circle. There is nothing more precious for hypnosis than hot, stale, recycled air. Wham, I am in the dead zone. When I was awake, I tried talking to the young man next to me. He was very polite and only about 12 years old. He was traveling alone and not once did he leave the bus. Behind us was an older man who was disheveled and really hefty. Each time we stopped, he would push his girth down the aisle chanting “I need a smoke.” The driver sent him back a couple of times. My chant was “Give me some fresh air.” Seven and a half hours later, we were in Pretoria. The taxi ride to the hostel was 40 Rand, so we were able to pocket 160 Rand for discomfort and lack of a tour back, not really equitable. Back at the hostel, our room was changed to their second house, a half block down the street, where we had an ensuite room. The room was huge with a double bed and a bunk bed. The bathroom had a tub plus a stall shower. Again, we had a hot water pot with all of the fixings for tea or coffee. We returned to Eastwoods for dinner. This was my last chance for steak. They do not have the cuts of steaks as we know them in Hungary, so I needed to get my fill as I did with pumpkin and sweet potatoes in Cape Town. I had a T-bone with pap. Pap is corn that is ground, then soaked in something and then cooked. It looks like mashed potatoes, but is also similar to polenta. Ron had chicken kebabs and we each had a large beer. The servings are more than satisfying. The bill with the tip came to $22.00 for both of us (I checked it on my Visa statement). Our flight the next day was not until 8:40 pm, but we wanted to get there early to check in and go to the Diners Club lounge to check e-mails for possible bookings for our B and B. We arranged for our ride to the airport for 3:00 pm at a cost of 160 Rand.

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