Isdore Guvamombe

 

Back in the village in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve it was the period between the harvesting season and the next planting season.

At night, a cross rhythm of drum beats engulfed the villages, supported by singing and dancing, each village with its own function. It was mainly time for premonition ceremonies. It was time to bring back the spirits of the dead from the graves.

One such place was Kachuta communal lands, where Korekore tribe traditional ceremonies took shape. The dirty road to Kachuta snaked from Guruve Centre, past Shinje River into Nyangavi, then Museka, Chimufombo Matsvitsi, Chemachinda and Kachuta Centre, where it branched to Bvochora or Kemutamba or Gombarashama.

Buses that plied this route daily had damaged the road forming rib cages that were a pain to smaller vehicles. There was stiff competition. More often than not, the buses chased after each other burying the coterie of villages in dust that left a golden hue. Passengers, the young and the old, were shoved in and out disrespectfully, as the competition increased. The buses left as early as 3 am or 4 am, the time elephants bathed in Manyame River. Villager intimately knew the drivers either by their names or by their structures of dressing. They knew the buses by their types, engine sound or make.

There was a driver known by his nickname Manzeve (big ears) at times they called him by his totem (Gurundoro), there was another called Beven, then there was Jevas, there was also Kabhareta (the beret man). Kabhareta is the one this villager will talk about in this installment. He, like this villager and his hat, prided himself in wearing his assortment of berets. No one had ever seen the crown of his head.

His bus ended its daily trips in Gombarasha, where the Zambezi Escarpment opens up as a valley below the escarpment. There Kabhareta went drinking in the villages, womanising and dancing to the music before retiring for a short sleep in the bus and starting his engine around 4 am.

This night, it was very dark. The low clouds, which bloated out the stars lent their own eeriness to the gloom. The old buses did not have lights in the cabin where Kabhareta kept his clothes. He had wanted to leave at 3am to beat his rivals, at least up to Guruve Centre, where all feeder roads converge into the highway to Harare.

When he woke up, it was already a few minutes before 4am. In a huff he woke up and dressed up. He started the engine and the passengers who milled around started getting into the bus. He raved the engine, typical of his daily morning stunt.

Of he took, for Guruve centre picking up passengers from each bus stop as the engine rumbled on. At sunrise he arrived at Guruve centre.

There several buses ranked, having done trips from various places but all destined for Harare. There were mini buses too.

Each engine ran differently and there was a cacophony of sounds: para-pfu, para-pfu…pfuuu! Kiln-klin, pfu! Kiln, klin pfuuu! Vrum, vrum vrum, pfu!  Pe, peee. Pepeee, pepe!

Then there were shouts from the touts; Harare, Harare, Harare, Harare-e-e! The drivers normally remained in their cockpits, mercilessly raving engines and moving them a bit, in mock take-offs, to lure passengers.

The touts beat the sides of their vehicles, clinging precariously on the doors. Their palms were strong. They shouted praises about their engines too. Turbo charged, VC 10, AVM, DAMA, etc as if villagers knew what it meant. There was shoving of passengers.

The few tuck-shops dotted around the terminus saved tea. Hot morning tea. A half loaf of bread was handy, too. And, drivers loved it. Tea quickly shook off the lethargy of slumber, so they said. It gave the body the much needed warmth.

Kabhareta made the last rave, left his engine running then headed for the tea shop. There he sat, ordering his tea and half loaf of bread. There were many people in the shop. A driver was a celebrity. Each person wanted to see him properly.

Many people in the shop broke into laughter and the service girls followed suit. In seconds people gathered by the door and all over laughing to rib-breaking point. The touts left their shouting and joined the fun. They pointed at his head and he saw nothing funny. Bhareta, bhareta, bhareta! They shouted.

Out of curiosity he took of the beret, and, and, and lo and behold, it was his pant. Yes pant. He had mistaken the pant for his beret in the darkness. He took it into the pocket, stood up and left for his bus. The crowd still followed him.