Traveling by road is usually fun for me because I get to see the scenery, pass new places, and see funny sign boards like “Stomach paradise restaurant”, “Father’s Moustache Restaurant”, a school signboard where discipline was part of their motto; and to buttress this fact, there’s a picture with children kneeling down with raised hands.
Travelling also affords one the opportunity of observing the way of life of people as one travels along. I have passed through places were sitting in the trunk of a car is second nature to them, and six people mounting a motor bike is a common practice.
There are many factors that significantly reduce the thrill of traveling by road. Let’s start from the first step: getting to the park assuming that you are travelling with a public vehicle. When you get there, you realise that the park officials seem to be in no hurry to leave no matter how far the journey is. The passengers would be complete but the bus would not be loaded till like an hour later.
Then we move to the luggage, people can travel with things sha, from mortar and pestle to mattress and bag of rice. I once was travelling from Ilorin to Jos and the entire floor of the bus was lined with bags of cocoa, included in the luggage were two bags of rice, I was embittered and kept asking myself why one would travel with rice as if there was no rice in Jos. My doubts was cleared barely two years later I had started working then and by the end of the year the company gave us a bag of rice, reasoning that a bag of rice was too much for me, I decided to send it home, I went to the park with my tail between my legs and sent the rice home, a few people in the park murmured on how someone would travel with rice, I just shook my head and said under my breath “I was once like you.”
The next hurdle I sometimes face when it comes to road travel is from fellow passengers. It comes in different forms, shapes and sizes. It might be in the form of a woman with three children who paid for just a seat and who automatically believes that the next passenger(s) would temporarily adopt one of her kids. It might take the shape of a passenger who decides to sleep during the journey, which is fine. The real problem arises when such a person decides to turn you into a pillow, no matter how many times you wake him up to remind him that you are not one.
It could also take the form of a passenger who does not fail to buy everything edible along the road, and who disturbs you with the scent of egg and other foods. This passenger interrupts the journey with an urgent plea to answer the call of nature.
Speaking of that, I once had an experience while travelling from Abuja to Jos after attending a workshop. Earlier that day I had a running stomach which was a result of the food served at the workshop, so I decided not to eat anything along the way. As the journey progressed, hunger set in. When we got to Godogodo, the bus had a little problem and stopped. I saw fresh bananas and decided to buy some. The bus was fixed and we moved on, but it Went bad again after like 15 minutes and it was practically crawling. At about that same time, my stomach began to growl. I needed to visit the toilet badly. My head was filled with beautiful visions of my toilet at home. I wished I could just close my eyes and when I open it I’ll be home. I broke out in sweat despite the cool weather. I willed the bus to move faster but it crawled away.
It was like an hour of torture, finally we got to Mararaban jam’s and I could take it no more, I alighted and waved goodbye to fellow passengers, as if that was my scheduled stop. My eyes scoured for a filling station where I could use their restroom but there was none close by. A woman kept hounding me to buy olives and I explained my predicament to her. She then offered to take me somewhere – it was under a bridge. I saw that various people like myself had visited, but I didn’t mind. I did my business quickly and left. She was still waiting for me so I felt obligated to buy some olives from her, after which I boarded another vehicle that took me to town.
There are also fellow passengers who are too excited about sharing their life story with you and who are hell bent on talking you to death (In Jenifa’s voice) when all you just want to do is sleep.
Then there are the hawkers, who wish that the soldiers at the check point hold you for much longer. Even if the stop is not long enough, they have nimble feet and run after vehicles to deliver their merchandise or collect their pay, I sincerely believe that if a sports scout goes to stand at the check point he could pick a few natural sprinters from there. They are also good marketers too; they come up with phrases that’ll make you buy stuff from them even if you didn’t plan on buying things like “daddy yoyo”, “Iya kabo omo kule”.
What if the driver decides to play music on the journey? If you are fortunate enough, the music would be your type of music and not the driver’s village music. The speaker would also be well filtered and not making scratchy and distorted sounds that even the thickest of earplugs wouldn’t be able to block out.
Then as the journey progresses there’ll be a need to pee. While travelling by road in Nigeria, especially by public transport, you do not get to choose where you get to fill that need. You just have to go with wherever the bus stops. On one occasion the bus stopped in a fairly public area. It was a luxurious bus, so there were a lot of passengers on board. The men didn’t have any issues, while most women got down with their wrappers and went close to a nearby fence to pee. I watched seven (or more) women expertly cover themselves with their wrapper, squat down and pee without any hassle. I was too pressed, but I wasn’t sure I could manage such. I kept watching and observing intently as other women got down and peed. When I felt I had acquired enough experience, I got down, armed with my wrapper and headed to the fence and carefully reenacted what I had seen. I do not know if my delivery was good or not, as I did not get up to meet a standing ovation. All I know is that, there was no wet patch on my dress or wrapper and I was relieved. I walked back gleefully to the bus.
Then the roads are too bad that for every two hours journey you add 30 minutes. Some potholes are so deep, that a car entering into it completely disappears from the view of other cars coming behind it. It was during a journey through a bad road that I realised that I had extra fat on my svelte and lithe body, because immediately we hit the bad road, my whole body started vibrating and I could see fat dangling, I was shocked!
The best way to travel by road though is with your private vehicle; that way you have control over almost anything that happens along the way. You stop at a restaurant of your choice. You get to admire the scenery and take pictures; and most importantly, you get to drive carefully and at your own pace, not being at the mercy of drivers – who are in a hurry to make ten trips a day and do not bother about the passenger’s welfare.
The year is drawing to a close and it’s travelling season, so let us all endeavour to be considerate as we travel along with fellow passengers.
Photo Credit: Sam74100 | Dreamstime.com