It was on a Sunday afternoon when Hopolang, Thulane, and myself got to Naledi train station. We knew very well that on Sundays there were no ticket guards. And besides, that Sunday was so boring, so we decided to see other parts of Soweto. Hopolang was 14, Thulane was 16 and I was about the same age as Hopolang.
Before we went to the station we were playing hide and seek, until Thulane came up with the idea of visiting other parts of Soweto for free, by train. Because he was the older one, we obviously obeyed his command and went to the train station in Merafe, which is situated in Naledi via Tladi.
By the time we got to the station it was round about 13h45 and indeed the station was not that occupied, because it was on a Sunday. We waited for the train and without any waste of time it arrived.
Most of the people in the train were women. One of those women asked us where we were going in that time of the afternoon. We just lied and told her that we were heading back home in Dube. To our relief, she didn’t ask further questions.
The train stopped at Qhwezi, that’s where most people got off. Only a few, including us, were still going ahead with the journey. Truly speaking we didn’t know where we were going, let alone when we were gonna come back home. From Qhwezi the train made its stop at Phomolong.
We all came off board and because it was winter, the darkness was starting to change shifts with daylight. Phomolong station was empty, except for the township hobos who were sitting around the fire to warm themselves. The station had those stairs which we didn’t understand.
The stairs were going upwards to the next platform on the other side. Hopolang and myself were still gazing around the nearby township meadowlands. Before we knew it, Thulane was nowhere to be seen.
At first we thought he was playing one of his stupid games as he used to. But after 40 minutes we realised that he was never coming back. It annoyed us to think that this train riding was his idea but there he was… nowhere to be found.
We looked around to see if there was an exit so that we could at least seek help from the nearby township. Hopolang decided that we just ought to sleep at the station, and then we would wake up the next day in daylight to seek help.
His suggestion was rejected by me as it would have been dangerous to sleep at the station without any blankets and again on an empty stomach. We both agreed that we would go to the nearby township and hustle where we can sleep.
There was a small gate as the exit from the station, after the gate there was a small path that led straight to the township. We walked until our feet were sore. By realising that, we started to cry.
While we were busy crying, we came across this huge man drinking a pint of Mageu. The man stopped us and asked why we were crying. We quickly briefed him on what had happened.
He took us to his house which was not far from where he met us. His house was modest and clean, having the Zulu traditional kit: spears and shields. He asked us our names and we told him.
“Where do you come from?” asked the man.
“We are from Naledi,” replied Hopolang with a shy voice.
“Naledi?” The man asked as if he had seen something scary.
“Yes!!!” Replied Hopolang, with a richer voice than before.
“Do any of you know your homestead’s telephone number?” asked the man.
Hopolang remained silent, luckily I knew my grandmothers landline numbers.
So I said, “Yes, I know them.”
“Let’s go to a public phone and try to call them,” said the man.
We went to the public phone and when we arrived, I gave the man the numbers. Indeed my grandma picked up the phone.
“Hello,” said the man, “I’m Mduduzi in Meadowlands Ma and I have Hopolang and Diphapang with me.” The man continued to talk about 3 minutes and after hanging up, the man said: “Yah Diphapang, your granny is on her way to fetch you and Hopolang, but be warned, she is very angry.”
I knew very well that my grandma wanted me in the yard by 6 in the evening and the fact that she was going to beat me up didn’t frighten me at all. All I wanted was to see myself home safely in my bed.
The man took us back to his house and gave us brown bread with a rich soup and meat. He even put the heater in front of us so that we could get warm because it was freezing outside. After about an hour and a couple of minutes, we heard the sound of a car stopping outside the man’s gate. A few seconds later Hopolang’s mother and my granny emerged. Their faces were full of anger. They were accompanied by two policemen.
Without any waste of time we got in the back of the van and went straight home. Before we went home though, Hopolang’s mother together with my granny thanked Mduduzi a thousand times for rescuing us. As they believed that Zulus were very lethal and dangerous when coming to kill children, especially those not of their race.
By the time we arrived home it was 21h12. Hopolang and myself were given a hard-core beating for our naughty behaviour.
The following day we saw Thulane. He explained to us that he used those stairs that were going upwards, to the other side of the platform. He found the last train that was heading back home.
“But why didn’t you tell us?” asked Hopolang.
“Well I thought maybe you saw me and you’d follow,” replied Thulane.
“No we didn’t see you,” I replied angrily.
“Sorry Gents,” said Thulane, “you snooze you lose.”
We explained to him what had happened to us after he disappeared. He laughed out loudly to the extent that it annoyed us terribly. Since that day we’ve never spoke to Thulane again.
Three years later Thulane was killed by a mob of angry people in the train for trying to steal someone’s wallet.
Tell us what you think: Have you ever gotten lost in a town you didn’t know? What happened?