The second trip was just as memorable, with tiny variations. Another bus, more of the intimate interlocking of the knees with total strangers. This time, a goat ate a lady's skirt, and a Muslim passenger threw a smoked antelope, someone was bringing home for Christmas dinner, out of the window, because it stunk to high Heaven or, may be, it was a sin to have a smoked antelope in a close proximity to a Muslim.
Talking about Muslims: that part of the world is largely populated by them. As the result of it, five times a day everything stops and the faithful followers of the prophet Mohammad (revered be his name) get on their knees on little rugs, which they carry with them, bow in the direction of Mecca and say their prayers, while others are left to wait for the resumption of the daily routine or pray in their own way. I was very impressed by the Muslims' religious discipline.
This time we stayed in someone's house. It was a one story structure, where our hosts lived in good rooms, and we had a pleasure to sleep in empty, rubble strewn parts of it. All that was OK, because the house had a real shower in the hosts' quarters! Our rooms didn't have glass in the windows (I guess, it was a rarity in Africa). All night long I kept looking at the ruin of a shower, sure that a snake was making its way out of the rubble in it!
Early, early, early in the morning, a rooster flew up on the sill of the window opening and yelled his all important (because he had to repeat it so many times) message into our rooms. The empty walls and cavernous spaces echoed in reply for about twenty minutes. We got up, dressed and came out into the dark, cold yard. Before we started a morning prayer, the wife of our host came up to ask, what we wanted for dinner that evening. "Chicken" we replied in grim unison, pointing at the blighted rooster
Even from the house, we could see a hill with a large cross on its top. That's where we decided to go first. I persuaded the guys to get a taxi. The driver brought us to the bottom of the hill, told us, he'll pick us up 40 minutes later from the same spot and rode away, wiggling on the gravelly road. We made our way up the hill, following another lady with swaying hips and a basin full
of cassava on her head.
The hill itself gave off an aura of tragedy. It was burnt black, with no shrubs or grass to soften the impression. The cross on the top had no sign or explanation. It was just there. We stood together, numb from the implications of that symbolism: a cross on a barren hill. The prayer was the only appropriate response to our emotions.
Thoughtful, we walked down to our meeting place with a taxi. Thinking about it now, I believe that the silence around us meant something.
A man showed up from around the corner of the fence. He kept shouting something. Gabriel yelled: "Run!" From what?!
A bull followed the man!
It was white and massive, at least six feet tall in the shoulders, with the horns, jutting straight from its head. As if it already knew, we were there, the bull charged us. I was half my present weight then and I never ran that fast! Another man showed up, with a whip. He hit the bull and returned it on its previous course. The whole thing took just about half a minute. We stood there, panting in relief, when the next bull showed up. We sprinted madly, not believing ourselves to be able to outrun the certain death behind us. Again, a man with a whip camee to our rescue, but the third bull was already there.
A small farm was nearby, and we dashed towards it, with a bull in hot pursuit. Like in the movies, our taxi driver showed up just then and courageously raced his car into the farm's yard. We jumped in. The bull tried to gore the taxi with his horns, but the car tore away. Pop-eyed and out of breath, we looked out of the car's back window. We didn't know, what to say to each other. Who would believe this wild story?