“It is always hard to see the purpose in wilderness wanderings until after they are over.”
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
By popular demand, I give you our 12 fellow travellers on our South African #roadtrip:
‘Petrol Man’: outside Bloemfontein:
We took a country road towards the Lesotho mountains. TomTom was not pleased. Petrol Man explained that his car had run out of petrol. In parts of the Free State you get the feeling that you’re driving from the middle of nowhere to the middle of nowhere. So we drove on. Eventually we came to a juncture. There was’t even a tiny pin-prick of a suggestion of a village, but with nothing else to suggest we turned down the dust track. What materialised eventually was a twilight-zone-like-derelict-one-stop-hamlet consisting of a road, 6 dwellings, a couple of people and a petrol station!
‘Painted Lady’: near South East England
Painted Lady was walking on the side of the road carrying a load on top of her head. She was wrapped in a traditional skirt and blanket and her face was painted with a reddish clay. Though we tried every language we knew, we could not make ourselves understood, so Hubby drove on and occasionally I looked back to give her a thumbs up. Her signal for us to stop was a tap on my shoulder.
‘Peace Corps man’: Clarens, foothills of the Maluti Mountains, Free State
Peace Corps Man was a friendly, chatty American with a rather scraggly beard and wearing hobo-hiker-like garb. He was going to Lesotho. He’d been living with the Basothos in a mud village for over a year with no refrigeration, no heat and no running water. He was teaching English. At the border control we discovered he already spoke quite good Sotho. There too, I was ‘processed’ and a warning stamped into my British passport – Act no.17 ‘Attempting to gain advantage by entering or leaving South Africa on another passport’.
‘Gentleman in Tweed’: crossroads near Kayamnandi, Transkei
The Gentleman in Tweed was my favourite. He quietly sat through our terrifying experience with the Transkei Taxi Mafia and shook our hands warmly after his 2 hour drive with us.
‘Xhosa women bearing loads’ x2: Kei River pontoon crossing, Eastern Cape
“Mama,” said one “Can we have a lift?” I said yes and the two sizeable women and their bags climbed in, careful not to sit on my mother’s ice-cream cones. A short lift up a steep hill and two happy women waved us goodbye. The only problem was that they had addressed me as ‘mama’. ‘Mama’ is the respectful term for an older woman. Hmmm.
‘Studenty-type girl’: Mooi Plaas turn off R349
Handbag over her shoulder she stood against the hard shoulder with her thumb out. “To Soto,” she said. Hubby tried out his Xhosa greetings. She giggled.
‘4 large hotel kitchen mamas’: Morgan Bay Hotel
It was about 4pm. I left the Morgan Bay Hotel, a satisfied patron of the Stinkwood Spa. 4 women in blue uniforms waved at me and I stopped. “Could you take us up to the ‘location’?” asked the spokesperson. “All of you? I’m not sure you’ll fit.” With that, the passenger door was opened and the sardine-stuffing operation began in earnest – toes tread on, bottoms squished, instructions given, skirts tugged, much laughter and the door slammed safely shut.
‘Old woman in the rain’: Incara Drive hill, Morgan Bay
At the end of our holiday it began to rain. When it rains in Morgan Bay it rains for the whole of Africa. Mom, Hubby and I sat at Yellowwood Forest sipping cappuccinos and eating chocolate cake. When we drove home we took the scenic route. An elderly woman carrying baskets of beads and reeds and curios made slow progress up the hill. She wore a black bag over her clothes, which only partly kept her dry. How blessed I felt to be in a warm car and how lovely it was to share that blessing with her.
P.s. Have you noticed that when you disobey the TomTom’s recommendations the voice actually seems to get shrill and irritated? “Turn around where possible!”.
P.p.s. During the sardine-stuffing incident I was driving my Dad’s car, a small 3 door Suzuki jeep. Suzuki would have loved to have that on video!
P.p.p.s. The warning in my passport was a matter of officious muscle-flexing. I was not doing anything illegal, just handed over the wrong passport by mistake. Consider me warned.
P.p.p.p.s. ‘Location’ is the term for an informal settlement or township.
P.p.p.p.p.s. Please note: we do not recommend hitching or giving lifts in South Africa – it’s risky! We did it carefully and prayerfully. It was a unique and special experience to share briefly in the lives of these strangers.