You’ve flashed across the Limpopo – and come to an abrupt halt, perhaps two hours or more, in the bus parking yard of the South African border post at Beit Bridge. Why can’t these people think through their work flow, you wonder, so that everything is done just once, but effectively – not three times over.
Soon it will be dark, hmmm…. the bus will roar on through the night, down the N1 – that’s the fabled Cape-to-Cairo highway – but you do want somewhere to sleep, so let’s call it quits here at Louis Trichardt, hub of the Soutpansberg country of Limpopo Province.
To quote Johannesburg local Catherine Reichardt on Tripadvisor, “South Africa’s achilles heel for tourists is the almost complete absence of public transport“.
Tourism here is geared, if not at luxury tour groups, then at domestic tourists setting forth in the family car. Whilst I enjoy the homely comforts of the Louis Trichardt Lodge, and the hospitality of its manager, Willie Botha, I start to get that Hotel California feeling: you can check out, but you can never leave… no buses until tomorrow at least, no rental cars in town, nothing to eat except supermarket salads or franchised junk. By midday I’m ready to call quits – it’s far easier to call the airline toll-free and reschedule my international flight than it is to get a seat in something heading south (this is South Africa’s Highway One, remember). Trains stopped running some time ago, they say.
So, after a second night at the Lodge, it’s back to the good old-fashioned, out there on the highway, thumbing a ride routine, at six next morning – and we’re away, aboard a rattletrap bus full of black commuters. Johannesburg, here we come. By two-thirty I’m enjoying a hair-raising 45 km taxi ride down the R21 expressway from Pretoria to O.R. Tambo International Airport, in a vehicle with a windscreen smashed and cracked from end to end.