Here I am doing the writer thing at a coffee shop in OR Tambo International Airport. As always I am hours early for my flight but better that than racing for the gate, gasping and perspiring.
I am off to see part of my family in the mother city, that fairest of them all, Cape Town. I wanted to drive. I think it is such a shame that we are now so ruled by time that we have to get there, wherever there may be, and time to stop and smell the roses and admire God’s creation diminish constantly.
Who can not be blown away by the beauty of a crisp July morning in the Karoo, unnamed colours flashing their greeting to the day, distant snow-capped mountains proclaiming their presence against a cerulean sky. Or the infinite vista of dull gold of the Free State, small dams reflecting the sky like drops of sapphires.
Onto the mountains and valleys of the escarpment, feeling on top of the world, then gasping in wonder as you descend into valleys of magnificent trees, streams gushing over rocks, birds enticing. Hard to stay on the road. That is another tale.
Whenever I mention taking a road trip I am greeted with a chorus:
On your own? So far? But it is dangerous. And my best: What if you break down in the middle of nowhere?
How many people do you know have actually broken down in the middle of nowhere? I have travelled many miles alone over the years: from Eswatini to Cape Town, to Maun in Botswana, to Praia do Chizavane north of Xai Xai in Mozambique frequently. Those are the long trips. Then there are the runs to Nelspruit, to the Drakensberg, to Durban, to Howick, to Harrismith, Johannesburg.
In the fifty years since I got my driver’s license I have only ever broken down far from anywhere once and that was my fault. I have a bad habit of taking photographs while I drive, because I might want to paint that scene one day and I don’t necessarily want to stop every few kilometres. Travelling from Nelspruit to Eswatini one day a gorge ablaze with flowering aloes caught my attention. I had painted it from memory. Now I wanted to see how accurate I’d been. I was fiddling with my mobile, getting the camera on, not looking at the road. Discordant grinding and a bumping alerted me and I looked up to find I was heading down a steep slope towards a dam. I corrected quickly, but hit a rock on my way back to the road which trashed my front tyre.
So here I was wanting to drive again, and facing familiar incredulity and resistance. My son, who knows me better than most, asked only one question.
“You cool with that, Mum?”
Yes, I answered. Ok.
It was a good 72 hours later that the objection came, carefully worded. We’ve been talking … we think … we really feel … we will buy the airticket. What about all those germs, closed space, airplanes are where I have picked up my worst sinus infections. None of my arguments prevailed.
Which is why I am sitting in OR Tambo International Airport with hours to spare.
Taking a shuttle bus was one danger too many, and it was mooted that I should drive. Now I have to tell you I find driving to cape town a lot less daunting than driving to ORTIA This airport is the most terrifying destination, a fraught expedition involving finding the correct lane, outsmarting death-defying feats of Gauteng drivers, misreading the signs into the Airport resulting in having to drive around and start all over again, leaving me with an accelerated pulse, gasping in shock and disbelief as I dismount shaking from my vehicle. So for years I have opted for the shuttle in spite the limitations it places on flights and connections.
I had two days to get my head around this, prepare myself. I can do this. Done it more times than I can count. Butch up. Self-speak going flat out.
The trip was uneventful, except for getting off the N14 onto the ORT highway at Boksburg. Whoever designed that interchange should be taken out and shot at dawn. You have to negotiate getting across a lane that is introducing traffic from another highway, and the spacing positively does not allow uninterrupted flow. Cars to the left, one up my bum, another in the front, a fourth somewhere on the periphery of my vision. I hate Ford Rangers. They are the most obnoxious of all vehicles on the road and of course it was a ford ranger pushing his way ahead of everyone that caused the whole confusion. I believe firmly God sent a couple of angels to lift me out of harm’s way!
The Valet people had kindly sent me a video to show me where to meet their driver. For some reason when I played it coming into ORT it was mute. Throwing caution to the wind I found a safe spot, put on my hazards, to watch the silent directions.
Amazingly I was in the right place and it was an easy hop from there.