Going for a ride in a taxi is a cultural experience. Here’s how it works:
Where do you want to go?
The guy Norwegian Anne (Greatmore is nothing if not international) calls the animateur leans out the side, banging the roof and shouting the destination: Mow-breee* … Winey-winey-winey-WINEberg** … CAP-ty-oww***. If business is slow, he hops off to round up customers on the street.
If you’ve decided that this is the right taxi for you, and there are fewer than 20 people crammed inside, you climb in. And often, over old ladies, shopping bags, small children, teenagers with long legs.
There is a flat rate of 5R to go pretty much anywhere. The animateur collects this in between touting for business. Because he’s so busy, everyone in the taxi is expected to pitch in and help collect the money and make change.
Where not to sit
I was warned never to sit in the front of a taxi with no conductor because you will have to do his job: shouting, banging, money-collecting and all.
The rules of the road are for other vehicles. Taxis overtake on the left (and the right and any direction they feel like). They use left-turn-only lanes when they’re blatantly going right. They rarely indicate. They have a loose tolerance for red lights. And strangely enough, this system works because all of the other cars on the road leave lots of space between themselves and the taxis.
When you get on, you tell the animateur where you want to get off. As you approach your chosen destination, you point out a likely landmark (for reference, I often go with Woodstock police station – sends a suitably stern message don’t you think?) The taxi screeches to the side, you climb over the other passengers and hop out. Or, in the case of one boy who was sitting next to me on the back seat, you climb out the window. Whatever works.
And, in conclusion
The taxis are strangely efficient. And cheap. And they make me laugh. So all in all, I rate them as a means of getting around. Cape Town – don’t sell yourself short. You do have public transport. A couple of weeks ago, I was at a presentation where two graphic designers presented their concept for a transport map that would include all the taxi routes. So next time you’re in Cape Town, you’ll be able to jump on a taxi too. Just don’t forget the right change.*Mowbray **Wynberg ***Cape Town