One of the most common ways that Lesotho PCVs get around the country is by (sorry, Mom) hitchhiking. Hitches are generally cheaper, faster, and more comfortable than public taxis. While Peace Corps staff doesn’t explicitly condone hitching, they understand why we do it, and it isn’t forbidden either.
Everyone creates their own personal rules for hitching – some only do it with a friend, some refuse to get in cars if they’ll be the only woman, and most of us look closely for signs of drinking and driving before getting in a vehicle. Our Sesotho language skills tend to help us communicate and build trust with drivers and make judgement calls. When we follow these rules, it is a perfectly safe way to travel… and it makes for some great stories!
I’ve met some of the most fascinating, entertaining, and helpful people while hitching. One time I rode with one of the top dogs in the Lesotho Evangelical Church, who had prayed at the Prime Minister’s swearing-in ceremony the week prior. I’ve hitched with members of almost every government ministry, and it is always interesting to pick their brains. My friend and I hitched with Canadians on a Southern Africa trip, and we convinced them to drive us even further than they had planned on going. I’ve become friends with a butcher who has driven me a few times, and I’ve learned that he doesn’t ask me to pay so long as I watch a few of his Jehovas Witness choir videos. Earlier today, I placed an order for shirts (they will be used as incentives at a future testing event) with a couple who run a printing company… and I met them in a hitch.
Hitching, like any method of transportation in Lesotho, is unpredictable. Sometimes you’ll get a ride immediately, won’t be charged anything, and get to your destination as fast as possible. Sometimes you’ll wait on the side of the road for hours, get harassed by passing taxis, have to pay a large fare, and realize your car is moving slowly and looks on the verge of breaking down. It’s all part of the game!
Recently, my friend and I got a hitch in a Lesotho Electric Company car. The LEC workers asked if it was ok if we made a few stops – they had some structures to examine – and we said yes. We ended up driving 40 minutes out of our way to the Mantsonyane Dam, the first hydropower plant in Lesotho! The ride took longer than expected, but we got an impromptu and extensive behind-the-scenes of the power plant, which powers a large portion of my district.
This was a place that I never would have visited (or likely even heard about) by myself. Through the power of hitching, a typical trip turned into a very unique peek into Lesotho’s infrastructure!
Transport is definitely one of the most frustrating aspects of living in Lesotho. I sometimes daydream about Lyft, the subway, and even LA buses. But in between all the waiting for rides, squeezing into vehicles, and sharing your neighbor’s sweat… sometimes something very cool happens!