The First Leg and a Birthday

After a night of dreaming about organised attacks against us while travelling I awoke feeling rested. It was 5am and neighbourhood dogs had just been barking. I took a turmeric tea bag through into my grandfathers kitchen, through a small hallway and the beautiful dinning room where we chatted and laughed over a beef lasagne the night before. As it has been my first time eating meat for quite some time, I hurriedly nipped into the toilet then downed a green smoothie I had bought in preparation to combat meat.

Soon after the kettle boils the house is awake and we’re checking the route. My uncle is part of many action groups and during recent riots apparently pulled families out of areas of combat. My mind trails off and remember two times we had been those families caught in between taxi wars in central Johannesburg. Laying flat in the back footwell with my mother’s body over mine and bullets ricocheting the car. Nice. I sip my turmeric and eat a banana and pear.

We bid farewell and get in the car. I drive the first leg, swerve and brake for a baboon in the road. We all sing happy birthday to my Grandfather. We wind our way for the next three hours up and down passes. I fumble with the car sound system and find traffic alerts. One comes up about a huge crash on our road. I later check the WhatsApp reports forwarded to us and while there’s many terror reports about incidents 2,000km away, there’s nothing about this big crash.

We pull into a service station and chug a coffee each. On an outdoor table the sun is warm and my grandfather lights up a cigarette and we can see the car from where we sit. The car is huge and high spec, and I see an Afrikaner man approach it and circle it and look through the tinted windows. He is impressed and I’m half tempted to take my 5ft frame over there and get into the drivers side. I make the assumption that he fits the stereotype of being Alpha and a little sexist. I just drink my coffee instead. I find a children’s playground where I use the pull-up bars, do lunges and forward folds.

Mum drives the next leg. I sit in the back and she and my grandfather talk nonstop for the next two hours. I’ve never seen anything like it. Two hours. Two solid hours. As we pass trucks and overtake into oncoming traffic I check my watch and my heart rate sits between 94-105 for the duration of the leg. My father tries to distract me with anecdotes and stories about Abattobad and Iran.

We stop at a service station called Toms Place which is beside a dam reservoir. I take 2 litres of water to down we buy a sharing bag of crisps. We sit outside looking into the reservoir and order lunch. Everyone has salads and grilled cheese sandwiches, I have a plate of sloppy fries and a Greek salad where I pick the feta off and nibble mainly on limp lettuce. Grandpa makes a joke about lettuce and I crack up. Gineafowl  invade the compound and I settle the bill with a wad of cash dad trusted with me. I’m reminded of a different memory, this time involving the Channel Islands.

I drive the last leg. Swerve for a meerkat on the road, the poor thing froze and ducked low as I approached then scurried off. We pass the accident reported on traffic and travel, a truckload if beer lies in a ditch with armed police presence. The two hours take the longest time. Everyone in the back falls asleep intermittently. We approach a roadblock and traffic police pull me off the road - the second time in two days. My mind races, we have a taser in door. I fumble for my international license trying to play it cool despite the mild terror. A cheerful lady chats to gramps in a local dialect and tells us we can move on.

We arrive at the destination after a winding dirt road approach. We have three long days like this one through the next three weeks and I’m glad to have arrived safe.