Round and Round We Go

Interesting fact: Over half of the world’s round-a-bouts are in France.

I just finished a marathon of a road trip with Hannah around Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland. We visited many cities, gained new friends and did some really cool things! A recap of all we did will most likely come in bits, but I want to take some time to talk about driving here in South Africa. Anyone who has visited a large city in Africa can begin to understand the madness of traffic and lack of road rules. The roads can only be navigated by a person that is okay with driving on unmarked roads with no signs and no lanes. When there is two lanes of traffic, it can suddenly turn into four just as quickly as a swarm of birds synchronize a sharp turn in the sky with no obvious sign or reason. You would have thought Hannah was small child on her first roller coaster the way she covered her face and yelled thinking we were going to hit cars as I followed the quick shifts of traffic and swerved in and out of the new instantly formed lanes. Doing all of this while getting used to sitting on the right side of the car, changing gears with the left hand, and driving on the left side of the road required a bit more skill than what we were used to.

Cape Town

Cape Town

I didn’t mind things being reversed or the traffic so much. I was actually okay swerving around cars and letting them swerve in front of me. It made me feel like I was in one of the Fast and the Furious movies. What instantly turned me into an angry person were the round-a-bouts in Cape Town. On many occasions when I finally got out of a round-a-bout, I had to apologize to Hannah for yelling at her. It was this terrible traffic design we figured out that made me so angry–possibly even more than dogs barking at night and the bad customer service. From the moment I approached them to a few minutes after I exited, I was overwhelmed with stress. Round-a-bouts were two and sometimes three lanes going around. If I was taking the first exit out I needed to be in the furthest left lane, and if the second exit then the middle lane, and so forth. This took an amazing amount of calculation and concentration because Cape Town was a surprisingly big city and it’s very easy to get lost as we found out quite frequently. Sometimes the two furthest lanes of the round-a-bout would exit together on the first exit and sometimes only the furthest left would. Never is the road you want to exit on parallel to the one you entered from so it was always a guessing game which road was the right one. This makes it very confusing when I’m in the middle lane and I want to exit but I’m not sure if the car on my left is going to exit with me or if he’s going around to the next exit. If there were signs letting you know which lanes did what, then we both completely missed them. We sometimes circled around a round-a-bout several times before deciding which exit we wanted to take and then figuring out which lane we needed to be in for that turn. We were forced to make this decision at every new road in Cape Town as they apparently don’t believe in the classic traffic light (or ‘robot’ as they call it in South Africa). If it’s true that half the world’s round-a-bouts are in France, then I’m almost certain that the other half is in Cape Town. Just my personal observation.

-Jody

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