South Africa has a network of national highways and several transportation options. It is pretty neat that I can access 70% of major South African cities by grabbing a taxi from my site (getting to the Western Cape would take 2 days but it is still feasible) and if I had my passport accessible technically I could get to Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, or Botswana within a day through minibuses (Zimbabwe has travel restrictions in place at our post). South Africa is huge and while long distance bus rides are exhausting it is a great opportunity to see the natural landscape evolve. Each province has its own personality reflected in the landscape from KZN’s boastful mountains and labyrinth of sugar cane fields, Free State’s stoic plains, Mpumalanga’s meandering paths that gently transition through all of its attractions, Gauteng’s glittery urbanity, and Limpopo’s nostalgic orange soils that provide a taste of tropical Africa. You can read a book in the way to Pretoria (from here it is about 5-7 hours depending on the method), or you can look out the window and understand one of the reasons why Tutu calls this the Rainbow Nation. Both are pleasurable depending on my mood.
There are two main forms of transport used by rural South Africans: the minibuses and buses. Minibuses or taxis run Southern Africa at large, and in South Africa they are the lifeline of the rural communities that PCSA serves. Some areas have spotty taxi service and you have to be creative. In site 1.0, usually I would have to walk up the valley 30 minutes to catch a taxi and ride another 30 minutes up until it turned around and reached shopping town 1.0. I love hiking and until security issues surfaced at the site walking up was not a problem, just a source of exercise with a good story to tell. Getting anywhere from site 1.0 (minus Winterton which was a different routes) required another taxi from shopping town 1.0’s taxi rank. My current area serves more as a link for rural Schntizeland, which means I have a stable taxi network 1000 meters from my house (and a rank across the street). I can get to Schnitzeland, Scottland (with a minor transfer but nothing to stress about), and the most popular destination Duke City (with a reliable taxi rank that serves most of South Africa). There are also taxis for the other rural communities in the area.
Buses are more spacious and comfortable for long term travel. There are the more expensive Greyhounds (chuck your expectations at the door Americans…Greyhounds are living large here) and slightly less expensive Cityliner, City to City, or Translux. The nice thing about these buses is that they provide a straight shot to Pretoria, with a brief stopover in Johannesburg’s Park Station (also home to the international buses as well) before heading to Bosman Station where a PCSA approved taxi service can pick you up for 100 rand (call ahead first…I have had luck calling them at Midrand about 20 minutes away from Pretoria).
The disadvantage is that these buses always run late. At site 1.0 I would wait an hour on the N3 for the Cityliner and would not get into Pretoria until 8:30 PM (it is due around 6 PM). At that point, the 100 rand ride to the backpackers is worth it. The other logistic is figuring out how to get back your rural site, as the buses connect major hubs and usually not the rural communities. Duke City is on the pricy Greyhound route, but I can easily get to Pretty City and stay with the SpEd for the Cityliner bus. I learned that if the Cityliner from Pretoria gets to Pretty City later than 2:00 PM, there was no way I could go further and the SpEd has graciously opened her site for visitors who cannot get home that day. Also, I have learned the hard way that if you cancel a bus ticket and ask for a refund, it can screw up a preexisting itinerary (inducing a meltdown in the Pretoria bus station the day before my birthday, because instead of providing a refund they canceled my ticket and on a public holiday the bus my friends who were coordinating a small observation with cake was full.)
Transport: never a dull moment.