September 24, 2015
Follow the leader. For three days, perhaps. And don’t get too set on any one leader, for, in our game, the leader changes.
Our first in-country travel adventure has just concluded, during which we traveled, in a party of five to hike the country’s highest mountain
, and visit its biggest waterfall.
The first leader was our trip planner-my running buddy and fellow fifth-floor teacher. A worthy leader, managing to get us the entire way by trotro, which is by far the most economical mode of travel. Comfort must be tossed to the wayside, to be sure, with the long hours spent bouncing from one pothole to the next while packed into a rickety van with as many people and possessions as can fit. And if one passenger requests a stop, no doubt the tro will stop again shortly thereafter to add a new roadside passenger to the mix: an almost seamless motion of door-opening-as-tro-slows-while-new-passenger-is-pulled-into-the-tro. The door may or may not make its way closed again before the action repeats or is reversed.
As for what to expect if inclined to seek out a trotro adventure oneself, the basic expectation should be that there is none. There is no departure time, for instance: it departs once every nook is filled with a body or a belonging, and every one of those space fillers is paid for. There is also no guarantee: the aim is to make as much money as possible; so if someone is willing to fork over a bit extra for bags of grain, luggage will be removed from the back and placed on the owner’s lap. At one point in the trip, we were eyeing my bag for quite some time as it was displaced, looking as if we were going to leave without it
; at least, as far as we could tell, there was no place for it to go. Eventually, instead of being closed, the back doors were tied together with cord so as to create a little pocket of extra room for luggage.
By this point, with an hour and a half of sitting on the tro while it filled, I was so relieved to be starting to move that I lost my earlier questioning as to whether we should abandon this tro and look for another. But at least one never need go hungry or thirsty while waiting–any groundnuts, fried plantain, water Baggie …or mouthwash, you might need can be purchased through the window from a basket perched on someone’s head.
But for all that might fill an interest level on this mode of travel, there is nothing to make it pleasant. So by the end of the six hours getting there, it was with creaky bones and sticky skin that we stiffly made our way down to the lodge.
First order of business being a creaky and sticky walk, we set out to stroll through the village and see what we could find. Within a few minutes, though, we were no longer wander in but rather following an insistent youngster who’s entreaties to “follow me” and “this way” we could not resist. We investigated the cocoa nuts she showed us
, meandered down some paths behind her
and then, when she safely deposited us back where we were staying, we decided to keep going a bit. With time before sunset, I assured everyone that if we kept going down the path and then turned right, we could loop back to the main road and make a triangle leading us back to where we started. After a series of right turns with which I led them right into clearly wrong destinations, the party was primed to accept the leadership of another: a gentleman exited to show us all his field, and the rice growing in it
(does rice really look, and grow like this, we wondered?).
At this point we all noticed two important factors to consider:
#1 being that the sun was setting, and we were wandering in an unfamiliar village.
#2 being that said setting sun was bringing with it the accompanying insects and critters that we generally avoid (one round of malaria so far for Peter and I hopefully not to be repeated too soon!).
Two points considered, we turned on our heels and came back
…the group graciously allowed me to resume leadership, at a significantly speedier pace, on the condition that our path would henceforth not diverge from a direct route. We made it safely back, before dark, and that’s about all she wrote … For day one of the trip, and chapter one of the story, that is. Stay tuned for the rest of the story: the mountain :-)