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Daily blog Sleep Eat Routes
December 2023

Sho’t left

One of the things I love about travel is the unsettling combination of trepidation and delight generated by engaging with the unknown.  Sadly, one seldom sets oneself up for this discombobulating experience on home ground.
Since our return, Charl’s children have shared the burden of putting us up and putting up with us - Marise near Lanseria and Martin at Hartebeespoort. The prohibitive cost of Ubering from these distant locations to visit others persuaded us to take minibus taxis for a test drive … in other words to take local transport as we would anywhere else in the world.
The last time I used “black” taxis was in the mid-1990s when I was living in Linden and working in Wendywood and could not afford to replace my chronically unreliable car. I had forgotten much about the (positive) inner workings of the taxi system…
Our first trip was from the Randburg Taxi Rank to Hartebeespoort, with three lengthy trips that followed. The Randburg rank is well-organised and the “loaders”* well-informed and helpful.
*I do not know what these general factotums are called. They hover at the entrance to the rank lanes and are also to be found at less formal loading points outside shopping centres and at popular spots along the road. When you approach the taxis, they approach you and ensure you board the correct taxi to your destination, know where to change taxis if required and what the price is.
The loader does not take the money - this is handled by the driver en route, a distraction that might explain the high accident rate! What I absolutely love is the collaborative process amongst the passengers that assists the driver as much as possible. Not only do passengers try to pay the exact amount so that change is not required, but each row tries to collate the fares to pay for that row, often working out the change between them before passing the money forward. This is done with a tap on the shoulder of someone in the next row and an instruction: “R18 x2; R19 x2” (shortened to “18 2; 19 2”). So the money filters forward and any change filters back. Often the person in the front passenger seat will manage the entire exercise for the driver so he can focus on driving.
Speaking of money, we witnessed a sad attempted theft. An elderly man was seated beside the driver who was managing the payments himself. He initially placed the cash in a recessed shelf in the dash. When he had collected all the fares, he gathered the cash together and slipped it into a band behind the sun visor, dropping a R20 note on the floor as he did so. He then got out of the vehicle for a brief time during which the old man pretended he had dropped the R20 note out of his own wallet and picked it up. The returning driver, clearly aware of what had happened, had a very discreet discussion with the passenger, tapping the recessed shelf repeatedly with his forefinger until the old man relented and refunded the R20. You must be pretty desperate, we thought, to steal R20.
The on- and off-boarding process is also collaborative. People board with luggage and shopping into what is a very tight space. This requires patience and perhaps placing someone else’s battery or xmas gift box at your feet or on your lap. When passengers want to board alongside the road, they hold up their hand signing their destination, a language you need to learn. For Cosmo City, for example, you sign a “C” with thumb and forefinger. To disembark, people call out “shopping centre” or “garage” or “after robot” or, a term that means at the next intersection, “short left” - sho’t left.
We depart Johannesburg tomorrow on our newly-serviced bikes, headed to Dullstroom for Xmas and points beyond…

Randburg Taxi Rank
Randburg Taxi Rank
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