Posts in Travel
Passed out on the Floor

We agree to meet for 8am breakfast the next day. I sleep in until about seven am. 

Breakfast is nice, they make a vegetarian spread for me and I load up on fruit. Cici leaves us for ten minutes to nip to the loo and we end up in a fascinating religious existential conversation with the owner. The conversation evolves into religion and the premise of one chosen race and instead of engaging we thank the staff for breakfast and leave abruptly. I probably don’t drink enough coffee that day because I can’t quite figure out which way is up. 

The whole cell network is down and our family call the hotel to say that they’ll pop by at 9am. After breakfast we nip to the room to freshen up. My mothers cousin and his wife arrive, they are lovely and he looks like a Helberg. Everyone is so happy to see one another, they talk and laugh and talk. It’s surreal. The have old family bibles containing fascinating history which they share with us. My mother is thrilled. We sip coffee and as the hours merge into lunch we order flatbreads to share. Their granddaughter calls, she’s staying with them while at a fantastic school in town. My mothers cousin leaves to pick her up. She too looks like a Helberg at just seventeen years old. She’s such a clever kid and I wish her all the best in life. 

We chat for a few hours then stand for family photographs. Chappy sends us a message and I reply that we’re free whenever he is. An hour later he arrives with his son. My teenage third cousin attends school with Chappy’s son, a fantastic photographer who we found on insta the night before. 

He’s gorgeous and also shares typical Snook features - they eyes and nose in particular. We hug a hello and try to figure out if the teenagers are related, no, but share Cici and I as a mutual connection. Their mutual relative was a champion female golfer and expert business woman. We also discover that she was the first person to instigate a multi racial golf competition many years ago. Her family invested in the golf course and clubhouse and apparently she has quite a few trophies in her name. So Dad and Chappy jump in his car and I drive the kids in mine. After a few different stops around the town to pay homage to the old garage we arrive at the course. We get out and order a round of beers. 

They are so interesting and we chat happily before heading back to their house to meet the rest of our family. We do so and sip some wine together. Chappy then advises that he’ll meet us for dinner but will come armed with wine. 

So Cici Dad and I leave for the lodge, I abandon the car on a lane around the lodge. We meet mum and Gramps at the restaurant and Chappy shortly arrives with a bottle of red and two delicious white wines - what a gent! Conversation does not stop. We are all so happy and so engaged, we talk about business opportunities and travel, and the economy and mountain biking. 

The wine flows and conversation continues. 

We bid our farewells. Cici escorts me to the lodge. 

I then start a yin yoga sequence and fall asleep fully clothed in Childs pose on the cold tiled floor. Cici listens to me snoring and switches off the lights and goes to bed leaving me unconscious on the floor. 

About an hour later I wake shivering on the cold hard floor. Cici describes my following action akin to one of those fortune telling fish that falls out of a cracker.

She asks what I’m still doing on the floor and I shout “no I’m not” I then launch myself fully clothed horizontally across the bed. I then wake to a nose bleed and realise I’m still in my jewellery and clothes ontop of the bed shivering. So I fumble around trying to utilise a combination lock on the suitcase. She photographs this degenerate behaviour and later communicates the series of events to my husband and they agree “Standard Trish.” Once in the suitcase I find my thermal leggings and change in the bathroom, my tongue is furry and so I brush it with the Phillips Ultra Sonic Diamond Clean electric device. Except, my consciousness has reduced considerably and I end up using Cici’s brush head, which she is still very sensitive about. I make a note to order an apology bouquet of Bloom and Wild upon return home. 

I crawl into bed and try to sleep with the electric blanket set to high. My jaw feels achy, I blame it on Bruxism but it’s probably got more to do with the cold floor I passed out on in Childs Pose.

A Gorgeous Blue Eyed Man

I wake after a great nights sleep. I feel so welcomed and warm and cosy, it feels like staying with friends. 

We pack up the suitcases and reluctantly head for an early breakfast. 

The food is excellent and waiter is wonderful, instead of panicking at my strange breakfast requests he confidently asks “may I offer you” and rattles off an alternative of vegetables. The coffee is fantastic, the company is fantastic, everything is so good here. The mist outside lifts to show the valley below us with horses running in the early mist. I feel so happy here, I would return in an instant. 

It’s clear that none of us want to leave. We hang around talking to the staff as long as we can. Then we load up our luggage and leave to see more family. 

I drive and grandpa directs me. The journey is longer than I thought and I worry that he may have forgotten the route because it all feels a bit off. Sure enough though we arrive at a house near the sugar cane plantations. I have met this great cousin before, I remember her visiting the old farm when we stayed. At the time of their visit though I had nicked the car keys to one of the Isuzu twin cabs and taken my cousin a few miles along the river to smoke and drink beer. 

More cousins arrive to greet us. They wear mechanic outfits and are hard workers. We laugh and chat about women drivers. I observe that one of our relatives noses has welts and I feel certain that they’ve let their health insurance lapse. So many do. Even with the NHS I have backup health and dental insurance. My toothbrush provides a daily hygienist clean and I have biannual checkups because I can’t afford to mess up my health. Sure it means sometimes going without other things to prioritise, but I really wouldn’t like to loose my teeth. My cousin tells of a botched operation at a government hospital, after a triple heart bypass they tried to remove her legs and she woke midway through. Cici and I excuse ourselves. 

We shortly leave and play various songs by Macklemore. I drive beyond the speed limit and my cousins over take me, my father enlightens me that their pickup truck’s speedometer is no longer functional and so they use a satnav for speed. Cici repeats the words “precious” over and over while I drive. 

The next stop is gramps old neighbours. He calls when only ten minutes away and the wife calls her husband who is just about to leave and tells him to stop, there are very important people about to arrive. I arrive and he looks at me, then sees gramps riding shotgun (George Esra Style) and shouts “My god, you old bugger come here” and runs around, pulls gramps out the car, hugs him so strong. They are both clearly teary eyed to see one another and both mumble something about hay fever and colds. I follow the two of them along the winding path up to a chicken farm. I feel my breakfast rising. My mother leaps out first to make sure it’s okay. There aren’t any chickens, they’ve all been cleared out and the 6 huge warehouses are currently being deep cleaned. I feel sick. Yet at the same time I start tearing up, a man has run over, it’s an old farm worker who I recognise - Zeparti, I hug him hello. Another old worker sees Gramps and runs up the hill to shake his hand. We hug him too. It’s so good to see these guys and they tear up when gramps talks to them in Zulu. 

I think about the lyrics to Macklemore’s Glorious. 

We chat over a cup of coffee then we really have to leave to arrive at the next destination. Our friends warn us about striking in the area, earlier that week tyres were burnt making the road impassible. I drive with intent up the passes. My father fidgets behind me in the back then shouts that he wants to drive “right now?” I ask in horror before putting on my hazards as we approach an informal settlement and let him drive. 

School has just finished and it’s crazy. The backs of 4x4s are loaded with fifteen kids I count on one. The calibre of driving is off too and I feel sick thinking about a crash. My father isn’t happy, he wanted a nice scenic drive but instead he’s in rush hour trying to reduce the chance of a collision. 

He declares he needs the toilet so I interrogate google earth to find a suitable spot. I do and he jumps out. So I get in the drivers seat, put the car in gear and get ready to go. He leaps in to the back and we drive the last hour to our destination. While driving the final stretch I think about tooth loss and syphilis and really look forward to a beer upon arrival. 

We pass through a town which Dad remembers from their summer journeys between Swaziland and Port Elizabeth. 

After passing a maximum security prison we arrive at our lodge. The rooms are cabins, waterside on a small reservoir. We have views of the town below and space to run and there’s a golf driving range on site. It’s all so wonderful. 

The rooms are luxurious with balconies onto the water. Mum and gramps sit in the sun and sip coffee while Cici and I talk about oral hygiene and STDs. We find bedside literature on spiritual anti semitism and the book of David. Again she overuses the word “Precious.” Dad hits a bucket of balls on the driving range. We’re all happy and content. 

We leave for dinner at the on site restaurant, it’s quite literally a stones throw. I thumb through the menu and ask for a beer. They are dry. I choke a little. Dad stares at me as if to say “sort it out” it’s dark by this point and I’m not driving into the town to BYOB to the restaurant. So I sip a smoothie and he has tea. 

The manager pops by to chat to us and I don’t know what to say. The rooms are lovely, the location is lovely, the literature is, uh, precious, but there’s no beer. He says something about their onsite boreholes and I get excited. I share banter about water until my father says “Hey, I’m looking for family who used to own the old Garage in town” my mind spins and I think, “no we’re not.” Dad mentions the name of the old owners, apparently his line of family, who are typically from the south coast of the uk. The manager shouts “Chappy, I know him, you want to speak to him?!” so he calls him and puts him on speaker phone to dad. I listen to this conversation and sure enough it is a Chappy who he is something like third cousins to. I’m gobsmacked. Ten minutes later Chappy arrives. 

My head is spinning. In the ten minutes before finding out that I have Snook family around here I go from finding out to meeting him. Now in that ten minutes I’m panicking wondering if this man will lack teeth and have syphilis too. 

A gorgeous blue eyed man walks into the restaurant, he’s gregarious, he doesn’t stop talking and damn he looks like us, almost spitting image of my uncle. He too is concerned about the no alcohol thing - a true snook. 

We share our lives and experiences, he asks questions and we're all fascinated to hear about each others lives. He's an entrepreneur, his father and grandfather were entrepreneurs. Very few of us in the family fit a traditional mould, we actively seek to instigate our own paths in life. He asks if I'm married to a rich man, I tell him I am a rich man and get a high five for that. After two hours of non stop talking from all of us, we depart having swopped numbers and made a family WhatsApp group. Gramps walks us to our lodge cabin and tells us how proud he is, I'm glad because I worried a little whether my confidence slipped into arrogant territory. 

We return to the room and my head spins. I fall asleep after a few minutes watching CNN.

Richard the Friendly Ghost

We leave early, at six am. All a bit tired and groggy from Long Arm and Sakkie Sakkie into the night. 

Mum drives the first three hours. We stop in Ladysmith for Wimpey breakfast. They have a strange prison type entrance system into the toilets which I can’t entirely understand until a staff member helps me. Then we sit down to our Wimpy breakfast, they’ve made it vegan for me. Gramps exclaimed that he must have left his smartphone in the toilet. We run to find it but sure enough it’s gone and the sim card has been removed. 

We check the car and call it repeatedly but nothing. It’s a sunday and I’m sure there will be a very content church goer with a new phone. It’s a frustration but can be replaced and dealt with. So we get in the car and I carry on with the last leg. As we approach our destination we look at the time and Grandpa calls an old friend. We made great time and have arrived just after lunch, so we spend an hour with her, it’s been about ten years since I saw her last. Grandpas farm wasn’t that far from here and they were all great friends. She’s a wonderful sassy scotslady with a lovely restaurant and antique and craft shops. 

The afternoon marches on and we bid our farewells to check into the hotel. It’s actually called an inn. As we approach it we realise that some of my great great grandparents would have inhabited the area, in fact this inn to be specific. 

It’s lovely with sprawling buildings from the eighteen hundreds. Tired and a bit dazed from travelling we check in. The manager is an utter gem, she’s lovely to chat to and has a fascinating past. We unpack the car and they have welcome port at reception. My father and I have two servings. 

Grandpa has a suite adjacent to our double family room. The grounds of this place are spectacular, the building is beautiful and we are all unanimous in agreement that this is the best hotel so far - apart from my cousins house! We are so at home here. We say to my father that we should have stayed at least two nights, he says something profound about travel and Eckhart Tolle esq about enjoying the moment. 

So we do. 

Monkey families leap over the roofs as we unpack. Mum videos them from outside, there are loads of them. When it comes to dinner I have the most amazing vegetable curry at our table beside the fire. Gramps cannot drink but we all say we fancy white wine. So we choose a floral Boschendal - perfect! The second bottle follows quickly. 

We retreat to a drawing room to play Yahtzee. The manager pops by to ask about dinner and we gush with gratitude. We talk more about the history of the building and she tells of the resident ghost Richard. Her and gramps talk for a while about their ghost stories. He has always been very sensitive and when others can relate to the degree of his experiences is always fascinating to listen to. We find out about my great great grandfather who bought a farm in Namibia where he was wakened regularly by a ghost who would want him to visit the well outside. It was getting ridiculously annoying so he geared himself up and set about descending into the well where he found the remains of the ghost. It all feels a little “The Grudge” to me and I’m terrified. 

So, glasses of Boschendal slushing in hand we go on a ghost hunt. To the bar. 

The night ends as we swing open our hotel rooms to find lamps lit, fresh fudge on our pillows, hot water bottles and the fires prepped to simply be lit. I feel so welcomed in this place, it’s worlds apart from the previous location. I crawl into a warm bed and sip valerian tea before falling asleep and dreaming of Richard. I wonder if it was a dream or whether he did come to say hi. 

Sakkie Sakkie Boer Dance

Our mothers cousin is due to meet us for breakfast. She advised in advance that she could only meet for about an hour as she had plans. As we pass the car park I wave at a police van. As we pass the receptionist she quickly fumbles to minimise facebook and dubious dating websites. I then hear her shouting at the police. My mother enters with a beautiful lady so akin in looks. She looks lovely and so put together, this is my second cousin. I hug her hello. 

We sit at breakfast and endure the same meal as the day before. It doesn’t matter because my mothers cousin is wonderful to chat to, she’s fascinating and studying for a phd in theology. She tells us about her upcoming travels and can relate to my wonderful time at the Alhambra. The only time we stop talking is when Witness the barman walks in and I greet him then shout “Witness where did you get your T-shirt?!” Alarmed and ambushed by us he quietly says that he made it. Cici and I shout across the restaurant “Do you sell them?!” He looks mildly terrified and says quietly that he will talk to us later about it if that’s okay. It’s a black tshirt with a 1rand coin painted with silver teardrops around it. Absolutely beautiful. 

Conversation returns to finding out more about our wonderful family member. Then it continues and we find out that our cousin, who didn’t know us, used a plan b encase she had to bail if we were particularly weird. Clever lady, I’d have done exactly the same! Immediately I feel a connection with her. She is wonderful and fascinating and has such a history about her. After years of remote talking her and mum get on beautifully. My aunt and cousin arrive and my father hijacks my uncle for a long walk to waterfalls. My aunt, mother and cousins walk into the village to amble around the shops and craft centres. I fetch the car and load my grandfather and Cici up. We take a very slow drive around the village. After the day before, his blood pressure is out of whack and he’s a bit shaking on foot. We meet up with the ladies in an antique shop. It’s less antique more junkyard. I catch my grandfather thumbing through old vinyls. 

He really struggles with his blood pressure so I run down the hill to pick the car up and collect him from outside the shop. Saturday crowds are building so I pull up beside him, wind down the passenger window and shout out “Hey Handsome, get in” he chuckles as does a group of ladies nearby. I take our time driving around and then we haul up in a sunny spot outside a cafe for a few hours. We sip coffee and Grandpa smokes in the sunshine. The ladies join us and I order another round. As I listen to really tough life stories I feel something land in my hair. My aunt shoots spitballs into my hair, the hair that is managed by a Scandinavian man called Martin who spends much resource on it’s condition. My sister excuses herself and gramps to move tables. Lucky bitch. 

My father and uncle arrive after a walk through a waterfall. Quite literally. They are saturated. I go to the toilet of the cafe and find a rolltop bath and washing machine in the room. A part of me wonders if I’ve just invaded someones home. I don’t really care either way, I’m just counting down the hours before I leave this place. 

Instead of joining my aunt shopping my father excuses himself to walk a few kilometres around the escarpment with my uncle and cousin. We leave the cafe and there’s a couple outside with a vintage refurbished Soviet motorbike and side car. My grandfather and Cici immediately stop to chat. I get in the car to charge my phone and sit swearing to myself and reading through messages from my business partners. They have been hard at work carrying me while away.  

We drive back to the hotel and try to order a coffee, they advise that they don’t do coffee outside in the seating area. The receptionist is really testing my patience. So we walk back down the street with my mother and her cousin, and Cici and Gramps to an outdoor table in the hot midday sunshine. We order drinks and a kitten sits on the table. It then tries to paw milk out of the milk jug. While they are cute and all, they are little disease ridden things. I remember back to the time an Ethiopian cat infected me with an intestinal parasite for a month and my weight dropped to just over 40kg. Damn disease carriers. 

We eat, we chat, it’s so nice. She’s so nice. I’m truly having a great day. 

It’s early afternoon and it really is time now for her to leave as it’s an hours drive back to her house and we don’t want her driving the mountain pass on her own in the dark. We walk her to the car and she provides a box of gifts for us. I cry with happiness. It’s so thoughtful and wonderful. There’s a handwritten note and beautiful needlework as gifts. Just like her brother a few days ago she is such a special human and I couldn’t be more proud to call her family. 

My cousin, father and uncle arrive looking exhausted. We don’t tell them that we’ve already eaten lunch. Instead we head back to the hotel rooms and share water and treats before leaving in a full van to head down the mountain to my aunts house. She has made delicious waffles and bought me a huge fruit salad. I hug her in gratitude, it’s so amazingly thoughtful and I truly appreciate it. I sit outside while my grandfather smokes, my uncle joins us, he’s lovely to chat to. Then my father storms out the house with enthusiastic energy after over consumption of ice cream. He tells me to come, we’re heading down the street to where Bobba’s Daughters Daughter lives. Quite literally five houses down the road. My cousin shows us the way. Cici lags behind but catches up mumbling something about coke. 

We knock on the door. She opens it, alarmed to see five people. We hug her, I can’t recall meeting her but am advised that I never had the opportunity. She’s gorgeous and has a wonderful family. We chat with her for about half an hour, I want longer because she’s just so lovely. She promises to head up to my aunts house to see her Uncle, my grandfather. 

I walk beside my father back to the house, chatting to him about my surprise at how close we were to family. Sure enough just a few minutes later she returns. My grandfather is so happy to see her after so long. They chat non stop, and when they do stop, I chat to her non stop. 

Somehow the afternoon disappears before us and it’s time to leave before a very long journey the next day. We say goodbye to all. Tipsy after a few ciders I sit in the back of the car singing. 

We arrive back to a Boer wedding at the hotel. The hotel bar is closed but there are two other bars as part of the complex. One is for women only and the other is male only. My father takes us to the male only and we see Witness. He knows our order already and looks great in his black t-shirt. I pay for the drinks and ask him for the t-shirt cost. I count out the money for the shirt off his own back. The Afrikaners at the bar stare at me in snobby disbelief. I then unfold a dollar note, a few Euro coins, pound coins and a five pound note out of my pocket for him. Doubling the cost of the garment. He kisses the notes and I tell him to times the five by eighteen. Witness undresses and I put the shirt straight on. 

A man at the other end of the bar, who turns out to be father of the bride, shouts “oh don’t rub it in” about the exchange rate. The three pub going Snooks approach him to talk to him, he’s lathered and red in the face with wine and beer and whatever anyone is buying. We congratulate him and he is merry with love. He calls over his nephew, a game ranger from Botswana wearing khaki shorts, desert boots and a safari top. He’s perfect Boer breeding stock. 

We quickly excuse ourselves around the corner and decompress about the day. 

Wedding guests stagger past us. One has a mullet. Then the father of the bride approaches my sister and invites to her “sakkie sakkie Boer dance” with his family. I stand ready to start a bar fight. Completely unaware of this wholly inappropriate invite. He asks me if I’d like to long arm with him. That’s it. I’m ready to start. My father advises him “you best check with your wife first” realisation passes over the father of the brides face and he agrees and hurries off. Apparently it’s a Boer style of dancing. Almost cultural. I quickly instigate a bail and we leave for our rooms. 

We bid goodnight and lock ourselves from the Boers. I use the bathroom and smell someone smoking in the dark bushes behind our room. I lock the door to the bathroom when I’m done and we place a chair infant of the main door. It’s only late the next day after arriving in our new destination that we find out that the police who visited that morning were there because of an inside burglary which had occurred in one of the family cottages during the night. The hotel guests lay sleeping while the room was cleared of passports, money and electronics. Had the family woken, chances are they would have been killed. It’s reported on the news and I’m infuriated with the dumb receptionist who chose not to inform us. I also wonder about the smoker outside the bathroom window. 

The Sakkie Sakkie dancing continues until an immediate midnight curfew. It’s not until the next morning that we realise very few guests stayed the night at the hotel because the car park is near empty. 

Borders and cheese less pizzas

The next morning is cold, the rooms aren’t built for this weather, they are drafty and without central heating. South African winters are warm in the day but temperatures drop to sub figures during the night, and despite centuries, the buildings are still not designed or equipped for the cold.

I warm up in the shower, it’s so hot it’s almost scolding. We pack laundry bags for housekeeping and fill out the little paper cards to accompany them. The plans for the day ahead are hazy so I pack my backpack with water and granola bars and dried mango. I also holster a bulky 130k ZAR in cash in my trousers. Clothes choice is noir, noir high waist jeans, noir organic cottontshirt under a skiing baselayer and a noir quilted baseball cap. Oh and the leopard print Toms trainers.

We meet for breakfast, I hug Grandpa. Mum and Dad explore the haunted house enroute.

Breakfast for me is a selection of vegetables fried with toast and two coffees.  Cici and Grandpa leave and I finish coffee with my parents. Last year while diving down waterfalls and plunge pools in the Lake District I chipped a bone in my hip which required a significant chunk of private healthcare and rehabilitation. Now that investment had been shot out of the water with yesterday’s blow and I ached. I needed to run through my exercises and try to ease the pain - which I do later with whatever’s in my bag with me on the road, migraine tablets. I tell my father that I don’t want to join them if they’re out all day, although I really want to see my late Granny’s sister and my Bobbas daughter. I’m torn and play it over in my head. I also say I don’t want to spend too long driving because the day before was long.

My fathers choice of words are horribly undiplomatic and I explode in tears at the restaurant breakfast table. My mother consoles me in the toilets and we wander back to the room. I figure that because I can’t physically retaliate against the aggression my body is releasing the stress in whatever way it can. Goddam. The thing is though that if I see red I know what kind of person I become and featuring on banged up abroad isn’t on the holiday schedule. So I cry.

We’re now quite limited for time. So quickly grab bags and jackets and lock up the room and leave. It’s Misty. We see their car pull up and follow down the mountain to the nearby town where my great aunt lives.

I’m sure many reputations proceed me, and often many have preconceived ideas. In truth I don’t care too much about proving myself. Often I find myself enjoying silence and observing, finding out about others and their lives.

We follow our family into the city where we park the car outside a crematorium. My grandmothers sister lives in the crematorium compound, it’s damn safe if anything. She calls out to my father who runs up to see her, I fiddle with the car to ensure that it is safely locked up.

For the first time since I was five weeks old I meet my Bobbas daughter. I’m so happy, she’s beautiful and looks so akin to my Grandmother and my Bobba. Eight of us invade her house, hugging her, I feel a light with us, perhaps it’s euphoria, but I wonder if it could be Bobba in some way. I don’t look out the window, I know there’s an eagle in the big trees outside.

She has a trunk full of old family photographs and big frames of old collaged photographs. She points to one and I see it, it’s a picture of my Bobba and I, I must be about three years old and her and I are looking stubbornly into each other’s eyes. It’s like a mirror image with eighty years separating us. My heart melts, I shout to Cici “this is my Bobba.”

We gently work through a stack of photographs, chatting away with my great aunt. The men are outside, I’m sat at her side, I want to find out everything and chat to her, she’s fascinating. A load of other peripheral bullshit happens which I just have to ignore. I want to be in this moment and not lament on the past, I want to find out everything about my Bobbas daughter.

She gifts us little hearts that she’s crocheted and I hug her, we both cry a little. This is something that I’ll hold dear.

Then my aunt instigates us to leave, we need to go shopping, this time I’m not infuriated, I’m disappointed. I am the last to leave Bobbas Daughters house. I chat to her for a further five minutes. Everyone is at the car waiting, we’re not going anywhere special or have a time frame.

So we pull up in a shopping centre where dad and I wait in the car for half an hour. It would be distasteful to share the past actions of someone on these pages.

My father decides he wants to go to Barberton, a town on the South African side of the Swaziland border where he went to boarding school.

We drive to Barberton and I’m grateful for the silence in the car with Cici, Gramps and Dad. The journey takes an hour. As we approach Barberton he sees a shop and starts shouting “That’s Patel’s!!!!” It’s a bakery where they would visit as kids. Instead of Patel’s Bakery it’s now Patel’s Hardware. As we drive through the town he sees his old boarding school and parks in the road and leaps out with Cici to take a photograph. He does this a lot. I leap into the drivers seat, adjust it and put my hazards on. The school security guard approaches them, Cici diplomatically says that he went to school here as a boy. We’ve lost our family in the car in front. I offer to stay longer as Dad leaps into the car. He says “no no no” and I continue driving along the road.

We meet up further down the road and say that we’ll ascend the pass towards the border.

I motion to my little cousin to join us. She jumps in and we start the switchback ascent up into the Swazi mountains. A few hundred meters of climbing later, my father spots of viewpoint coming up on the bend. I indicate to the mini convoy behind me to pull off. The car is parked ready for a quick escape if need be.

We all jump around rocks, pose for Insta and take some family shots together. My father tells of his boyhood stories making this journey back to his family. His father, my grandfather was a fantastic creative, he was so incredibly privileged and chose to work only when he wanted. He left the rural english coastline for Swaziland with the British government in the fifties with his beautiful wife and two boys. As most men of their time he had to many other things to do - socialise at Embassy events, spend days on the golf course, hunker down with his old typewriter and finish his many books. What he didn’t have a lot of time for was the two hour drive across into South Africa to pick his children up from boarding school. So, they became hardy self sufficient men with a whole lot of stories to share of their experiences.

So, while we leap back into the van Dad tells of times when they walked the fifteen hour journey into the dead of night and made shelter in the forest. I continue winding up above the clouds.

There’s another view point. We stop again, look at some interesting rocks. Dad is in his element visiting his childhood home. He runs lengths with his Canon 5DS and 24-70mm L series lens. He takes HDR images and an assortment of JPEGs and RAWs. I wander with my little cousin. Understandably she is still reserved, I want to share all the great experiences and memories of her father with her. He lived with us for years and was one of the best people, so much fun to grow up with. In the car I talk incessantly trying to find a topic which raises mutual interest. Rocks seem good, and yoga poses.

We stop a further three times. The one time is just after over taking a prison van on the move. The mist is getting thicker and we’re pretty much on our own on the road. Luckily while in conversation with Bobbas Daughter earlier, my aunt interrupted with a photograph of her new glock hand gun. Nevertheless I remain in the car in gear and engine running. Perhaps I’m being overly dramatic, but I refuse to be complacent. We collect an assortment of interesting rocks. I pick up a chunk of red tigers eye and put it in the door compartment beside me. Worse case if the hand gun fails I have a backup in the event of an ambush. I touch the cash concealed in my leg, it’s an annual salary for many in this rural part.

Again, we forget lunch and it’s early evening. My uncle calls ahead to a restaurant for pizzas, he explains my diet and they promise to accommodate. We leave the Swazi border and stop in at a Dam and reservoir en route. It’s passcode access for employees of the paper mill. We run around stretching the legs. My cousin has relaxed a little and we chat happily. While only a young teenager she’s lovely to chat to. We pose for a few photographs around the reservoir.

Then we return back to my aunts house, drop the family and head to the clubhouse to pick up pizza. They’re running late with it, but like spending most of the day alone in the car, we enjoy taking the time to catchup around the bar together with my cousin and uncle. My cousin is so cute, just like her father. While the men run into the restaurant to check the order, with a smile she ventriloquists to me that the man at the bar won’t stop staring at her. I look at him and with a slack jaw frown of disgusts nod to him to fuck off. The longer I’m in this country the more I despise the Boers. I tell her that in no way is his behaviour appropriate and that you have to be clear that you are both uninterested and uncomfortable. I think back to an interview on SABC radio which played in the car the week before, it was about rape and how to protect yourself as a woman. There’s another dimension to the argument, and that’s to equip our brothers, fathers, uncles, business partners, all the men in our lives, to simply not rape.

We take our pizzas and leave.

My aunt and mother have prepared salad leaves and avocado slices to accompany our pizzas. Sure enough mine is entirely vegan. I hug my uncle with gratitude, incredibly appreciative that he explained it perfectly. I chow down on almost all of the 20” pizza. Cici does exactly the same but feels incredibly unwell and evacuates her system in the toilet. She looks grey and unwell.

I don’t drink, apart from my beer at the clubhouse a few hours earlier. So I drive us back up the mountain in the dark to the ailing mountain top hotel. The road is thick with mist. Thick. Visibility drops to about a meter in front of me. Like skiing in a whiteout, I hug the white line on the road. My lights are on, fog lights, but I worry about trucks so put my hazards on. We drive at a snails pace and about forty minutes later arrive at the hotel.

We unpack the trunkload of photographs and occupy the Deluxe Queen Suite which Grandpa occupies. It has a sofa and chaise lounge which we sit at and thumb through the photographs and letters. Cici utilises our parents bath as our twin room is less ostentatious. I drink a few mugs of valerian tea and pass out with utter contentment.

Mines, Potholes and an Assult

I wake to the sound of a mine shift worker blowing his nose on the path past the little huts. The air in the room is cool but not cold. Still though, I stay in bed as long as I can. Via the slow 3G speeds I download Macklemore’s American and We Danced and play the songs on repeat about half a dozen times before it just becomes annoying.

A quick change and I’m ready to join everyone for breakfast. At breakfast we lament about the previous night, grandpa had a great time chatting to his sister and Cici and I have new buddies. There was a moment during our nights conversations where I declined the offer to go out Partying and said “mate next time we’re here we’ll meet up for drinks and first round is on me” which was received with confusion. Apparently girls don’t buy drinks around here. A huge anthropological conversation ensued, I recall this series of events to my father who knows my income.

I devour as much of the vegan breakfast as possible - it’s tofu, shiitake mushrooms, rye toast, tomatoes and a giant slice of avocado. I also drink two large coffees and both mine and grandpas orange juices. We chat and laugh over breakfast and I don’t want the day to begin. I don’t want to leave.

We take a walk with Gramps to stretch the legs before loading up the car.

On the road we’ve learnt of “hot spots” of activity, mainly EFF activity and with Trumps tweets overnight about White South Africans we proceed with extra caution and avoid these areas via a different route.

We pass from one mountain range to another which opens up below us on descent. I’m enjoying the road and the driving. We play a classic acoustic playlist with songs that Grandpa once loved, sometimes it’s surreal with Tracey Chapman playing as drivers dart past us only to see oncoming trucks and force their way in. It’s dangerous and we pass warning sign after warning sign advising “high accident area.” In the distance is smog and heavy looking industry, then looking out to the mountains we see mine after mine. Signs point to platinum mines. The roads change, become slower with heavy traffic and extremely dangerous drivers. My peripheral vision watches cattle on the road, taxi ranks with mini buses swerving across lanes. We turn the radio off and everyone watches the road. For over a hundred kilometre we pass endless informal settlements and within an instant I feel distain for mining and make a mental note to review my portfolio of holdings and offload anything associated with mining in Africa. I don’t want to contribute to this industry either as a consumer or investor. Eventually after two hours we find a petrol station and toilet. We go in two sets to the toilet so as to stay with the vehicle at all times. Half a tank is left in the van but we take the opportunity to refuel.

Finally we snake up a pass on hairpins out of the mining area. As I ascend the one pass I see something scattered across the road in the distance, grandpa watches too and says “oh boy, you need to give these guys distance.” I put my hand on the horn, beeping and flashing my lights. A cluster of tremendously sized baboons sit in the road and as I pass slowly lurch for the vehicle. I’ve survived the mines already today, I’m not getting hijacked by these twats. We dip into orange farmland, with groves extending over long distances. Four hours later we reach the halfway point. We follow the satnav and almost immediately encounter pot holes. These are huge potholes, at least a foot deep. I alternate between veering around them, leaving the road entirely to off pieste through the dirt and grass and slowly rocking the car through the deeper crevasses. We drive at an average speed of about 40km/hr for the next two hours.

My grandfathers daughter calls us and he can’t hear too well so passes the phone to my father. We’re about an hour away from our destination. After seven hours of hard driving and a thirty second rest I’m looking forward to a long hot shower and a rest before we see them. I’m tired, my jaw hurts from clenching it and I can feel a migraine starting in my neck. Also we haven’t yet eaten lunch. Not only that, Grandpa, a lifelong smoker has gone almost eight hours and while he says he’s fine he’s looking fidgety.

We wind our way up a mountain to our destination. Signs warn of wild horses, not in a Rolling Stones but instead in a feral kinda way. We snake up a winding pass in the same area surrounded by forests where Katie Price was hijacked and held at gunpoint in a fleet of vehicles. I see cars occasionally hidden in forest tracks and groups of people watching the road. I am happy that we’ve arranged the next few days so that we’re not driving this pass in the dark. It’s incredibly dangerous.

The hotel is at the far end of a gypsy craft village. I pull into the car park where my aunt and cousin wait. I park, remove the dash cam and conceal our equipment then get out the car to hug them both. Grandpa says hi and almost runs to the loo. My mother also runs and starts the check in process. In the car park I grab the valuables and make small talk - my head is spinning from the drive and I can’t wait to rest. My Aunt then proceeds to kick me, twice, in the car park. I’ve been warned to be civil and gracious and I look at her in disgust. My godmother has just physically assaulted me in a car park.

I walk to reception, I cannot retaliate, personal defence training would result in an injury to her and when I see red there’s no stopping the beating. I remember back to a bathroom fight with a girl who started on me and shudder at the thought of the injuries our little scuffle would have left her with.

Cici tells our parents about the assault and my mother tries to diffuse any escalation. I’m disgusted and incredibly disappointed that no one held the perpetrator to account for her actions.

We ask the hotel about dinner and my aunt chimes in that she’s just spent a small fortune on food to have at their house and that we should go now. I haven’t yet taken a piss and I look to the adults of the room to decline the offer. Travelling with parents and grandparents as an adult is sociologically intriguing.

I head to the room and stand in the bathroom swearing to myself.

We visit their home and over and over I think to myself how perverse it is that we have accepted a dinner invitation from a relative who has just, I repeat, physically assaulted me. Soon her husband and a great man arrives home from work at the Paper Mill. I am genuinely happy to see him. Like almost every uncle and aunt of mine my favourites are always the ones related via marriage. He is wonderful and offers a dog walk through the workers compound. I jump at the opportunity to increase my step count.

We chat as we walk and it’s great to see him again. He’s lovely and easy going. Our cousin joins us and we try to chat but she’s reserved, I take a guess that perhaps her view of us has been tainted by external forces.

I eat a vegan dinner - a fantastic salad and bread, and my aunt pours us slushies - frozen cocktails. Normally I never drink sugar like that and I double over in pain as my pancreas aches. Gramps excuses himself for a cigarette, I offer to light it for him, just as I did as a child on the farm while he drove the car. I inhale deeply. He offers me my own but I decline. Instead I run through a flow of downward facing dog and sun salutations. Thunder cracks overhead. My watch vibrates with weather hazard warning for severe rainfall and thunder and lightning. I still feel sick and my pancreas screams at me in agony. I double over again.

Around the table I tell my parents about the thunder and that I really am not well. It takes a further ten minutes to leave and when we do I sit hunched in the car next to the window.

Fresh air and the fear of getting hijacked and raped and murdered in the forest releases adrenaline which numbs the pain. We parkup besides a tin church in front of a derelict haunted building with lightning clapping in the sky above. I head straight to the bar with my father and sister.

There they spend the next hour counselling me. First mainly by explaining my flaws, almost all of them. Then I just give in. All I want is a little love so I hold my father and then embrace Cici. All I want is their love, so I just take it. Inbetween we unpick rationale and though process and psychology, of course through utterly no tact I receive a few insults. The barman sketches the three of us and shows us the scene. He has managed to perfectly capture my aggressive posture, thanks mate.

We leave the bar at closing time - 9pm. Outside rain is pouring, thunder crashing and lightning illuminating the church and haunted house. We are nestled in tin roofed garden rooms between both buildings. I walk into my grandfathers room where I hold both he and my mother. I just need love.

In the hotel room eventually the biblical storm above seems to slowly cease. We message Andrew, Cici asks him to talk me down off the ledge and also advises that I had been assaulted. His reply is that if someone hits you, you smack them back, hard, rouge contractor style. I thank him for his support, but the counselling has helped and now in a Marianne Williamson way I mentally thank her. Then in a Deepak Chopra kinda way I think about the shadow. I know when I leave this continent next month that I’m going to need some professional time to lay some of the past to rest. 

Between the tin roof and ceiling I listen to scurrying of mice, or rats. I try to fall asleep to this strange situation. I wake to my sister mumbling just after midnight, then she shouts “Jesus” I wonder if the church or the haunted house have got to her.

I don’t really sleep. The rain taps on the roof and Cici mumbles.

Rocks and non vegan meat juice

I wake and hope that the previous afternoon was just a bad dream. It’s not and there has been no enlightenment during the night to instigate a change of plans to something safer. I think about it, and if I were on holiday acting in this way my parents would have flipped. We go to breakfast and I’m ravenous. I sip coffee. 

Grandpa looks great in his blue shirt and Barbour gillet. The boers check him out. The property is on a sprawling nature reserve and Cici and I take a walk. Birds chirp from the treetops, we can see buck in the distance. My father catches up with us, he’s been sent by my mother to dissipate my frustration. He’s equally as pigheaded. That’s where I get my intolerance from. He likens me to my uncle with a flip knife and tells me I’m stupid. I tell him he’s just as ignorant like his father. He tells me I have no appreciation for Afrikaaner hospitality and I tell him I don’t care. I tell him that he can’t call me dumb when he’s the dumb one who stays with an antigovernment prepper. Cici tries to change the subject to the weather. She can barely breathe, she has a cold which is flaring up. I lie that I have the same symptoms and get called out. 

The buck stand and start running loops around us, we step near to the fencing as they pass meters from us. 

Then we continue a tennis game of personal insults until we arrive back at the lodge. This is what we do, argue until the hostage cards are played. At least it puts me on the defensive ready for the next leg of the journey. 

For the first time in a few weeks we have a few spare hours to relax. I spend my time working with limited wifi. Cici sits sniffing and coughing, alternating between a Tshirt and Arctic Rab. I’m so jealous of her and her sickness. Lucky Bitch. I am still in two minds about joining the rabble for dinner and dangerous driving. An earlier jab from my father was that I have the choice of a family meal or staying at the lodge with Anglo Mine workers working shifts. I told him that male contractors are a known quantity for me and reiterate that I have a successful business with a million pound turnover. After that I check myself, I have worked with therapists and life coaches to address these exact behaviours and turn them to my advantage. I don’t want to loose that small fortune to prove a point.

My mother asks if we should pop into town to a supermarket to pick up a few bits for lunch. Her, Cici and I drive the dirt track out of the reserve and into the northern town. It’s on a trunk route into Zimbabwe and the roads are heavy. We pick up cold and flu remedies, a selection of fruit and a packet of organic salad leaves. Then we nip to the bottle store next door where we buy an armful of craft beer, cider, white wine and castle lager. The latter is a nod to our ancestors who landed in Cape Town in the seventeenth century and were the first licensed brewers. 

Then on the road back to the reserve we see a huge shop that boasts gifts and curios. We pull in, it’s in a compound with locked gates. We enter the store. It includes everything from chintzy curios to curated artwork. We recognise ceramic artwork from a friends shop in Graaf Reniet. At the back of the store is a geological section. Like a homing beacon the rocks lure me. I see an a5 sized chunk of Blue Lace Agate, it weighs around 4kg and the minute I touch it I feel a connection. It’s from a local area. When my late Paternal Grandfather lived in the region with the British Government, he collected rocks, one of which is a beautiful Blue Lace Agate geode which I hold dear. 

My mother buys me some rocks and I return to the reserve happy and hug my father and instigate an apology. I then crack open a beer but have to pour it in a mug because the sign at the entrance to the lodge clearly states no privately purchased alcohol. I pretend it’s a cup of tea as the staff pass us, shouting “What lovely tea you have” probably a bit much and kinda weird. We chomp through an alfresco lunch in the sunshine. I eat leaves out of a plastic bag and play with my rock. 

We leave at around three to head over to the families house. They have a tremendous estate where their business sits adjacent. We hug our family a hello and I meet my mothers cousin. The dogs who I’ve met thus far have all been tiny sausage dogs which are sweet and all, my not my kinda pup. A tall black great dane crosses the lawn majestically to greet us, my heart melts. 

They lead us out to the poolhouse, a Gojo as we would have called it in Ethiopia. It’s a grass roofed hut with a wall of windows which open up to face the pool and braai area. It’s lovely. I crack open a beer. Our cousins partner shows us around the property, she is utterly lovely and it’s fascinating finding out about her life. Over the past few days I think about the uplifting and inspiring women we’ve met so far on this trip. 

We head back to where one of her sons is managing the braai and chatting to gramps. The chap introduces himself and advises that his English isn’t great, I tell him that I can understand but not converse in Afrikaans. Then his brother arrives shortly after and for the next three hours the four of us chat incessantly. They ask questions about living in the uk and opportunities, they are clever and affable and lovely chaps. More of our family arrive, we are all of a similar age, actually I’m probably the oldest but since lunchtime I’ve had the most to drink and when they advise that the EFF party leader is a neighbour I get rowdy and ask if we can pop by. How fascinating would it be to have a conversation. My thoughts on land reform are quite conflicted. I harbour so much guilt for the actions of my ancestors and through upbringing really fail to see colour in people. I see you for you, not exterior. 

 

Dinner is fantastic, I’ve managed the whole “vegan thing” by chatting with the guys around the grilled meat with beer then plating up a lot of salad and hiding in a corner to eat. I don’t mention that I don’t eat animals but instead load up on absolutely delicious salads prepared by our hosts. I’m so full and so happy. 

Unsurprisingly we don’t visit the leader of a party who’s chant is “Kill the Boers” or “Kiss the Boers” as it’s been low keyed into. 

Mum drives us through the dark along dirt tracks back to the lodge. I have a stack of leftovers on my lap for the road the next day and proclaim “The meat juice is leaking in my lap” to deaf ears. My father opens my car door and retaliates in disgust asking me if I’ve vommited down myself, I tell him it’s the leaking food and he is horrified. 

I wash the clothes in the sink and hang them in front of a radiator. I drink a litre of water and valerian tea and fall asleep, so glad that mum bought me a rock and I joined the party.

Johannesburg and Green Smoothies

Sleep evades me at around 5am so I send off a few emails for work and head to the hotel gym. I cycle 20km and complete a weights workout and yoga flow. The sweat helps dissipate any whiskey haze from the previous eve. I return an hour later to the family suite to my family sharing videos of my escapades. My mother is not happy with my behaviour so I sleuth off to shower and prepare for the day.

At 7am Cici and I are ready for breakfast. I chug lemon water and devour a bowl of fruit. The rest of the family arrives, grandpa says he slept so well and enjoyed a long hot shower. Again he looks great in his shirt and merino. Cici and I excuse ourselves to return to WiFi in the room and run through the route. We are visiting the cemetery where a few family members rest and then we’re heading out of town to stay with cousins for a few days.

We pack up the car and check out. On the way to the cemetery taxis try to dart between cars but are antagonised into having to drive really slow. I hang back and as per the security briefing crack the windows half an inch to deflect a break in the event of an attack.

At the cemetery we find my late grandmother and late uncle. I remain in the vehicle with the engine running. We then head across the very last cemetery to see my Bobba, my great grandmother. She died when I was a toddler and as she breathed her last breath in the hospital the staff took me to a room next to hers to chat to elderly ladies while my mother sat with Bobba. Whether it is just her memory, or something we cannot explain, I felt her with me and I get that a lot. Strangely I think of her as a bird of prey and when I’m feeling her vibes often I will see an eagle, red kite or buzzard soar and make eye contact. There are many explanations for this coincidence. I look around in the sky as I idle beside her grave, sure enough there’s a high soaring silhouette. “Hey Bobba” I smile.

We leave West Park Cemetery, pass a food hall where we pick up some goodies for our hosts and a litre of green smoothie. We all excited, on tender hooks to see them.

To enter their estate I arrive at high security bollards, present them with a passcode received earlier that morning. They scan my registration, licence, the tag of the hire vehicle and in we enter. The location is unbelievable, there is a restaurant and sports facilities on site, speed restrictions and open play areas for children. The houses are all mansions and sprawling with fantastic cars parked outside. There are few gates or walls around the properties and the perimeter fencing is akin to that of a maximum security outfit.

We pull into my cousins drive and leap out to hug this tall handsome man. I am so thrilled! We meet his husband, another tall gorgeous human and I throw my arms around them all, so happy to see them. They have two beautiful fur babies, or kids as we all call them, a Schnauzer called Bos and a Scottish terrier called Katie. Their home is curated, it’s thought out, everything is intentional and brings value to life. I am so inspired and can’t wait to get the construction completed on my house and start this process. Their choice of art is inspirational, I find myself wandering the rooms drinking in the paintings and etchings. In each piece there is something that challenges your thoughts, it’s far from conventional, it’s a nod to suffering. There’s a consistent thread between many of the pieces, growth out of pain. It doesn’t feel like a fairytale message, more the message of life, it’s imperfect. I wonder who out of the pair primarily picks the pieces and would love to find out more.

Soon my cousins sister and her wife arrive, again they are beautiful beings and confident and wonderful to talk to. I could spend all night talking to them, finding out about their lives, I am fascinated and feel such love for everyone.

Then my youngest cousin arrives with my aunt, both of whom will be a huge part of our family forever. I can’t believe this little guy, he’s as tall as all the men, around 6”3 and he is stunning. We cover our mouths in gasps as he stands beside another cousin a generation up. They could be brothers, it’s uncanny. My grandfathers cousin arrives and it’s always great to see him, a biker and rocker who now spends half his time in the U.K. and a gorgeous coastal spot in Durban. My mother’s cousin arrives, after so long it’s great to finally meet her and her three utterly beautiful children. With jabbering enthusiasm we all chat to one another.

The long table is set beautifully in the covered outdoor veranda. I’m in awe looking around, wine and cocktails and beers in hand, food cooking, delicious salads laid out. We plate up and take seats, there are about twenty of us in total. In that moment it feels like a snapshot from an Italian scene, all together around a table in the sunshine sharing delicious food and anecdotes. I catch my grandfather at the end of the table watching, he’s smiling. A moment of realisation flows over me, together we will be connected by this memory. Like the thread through the artwork, a thread which connects us all.

I chat to my cousin Christian and his wonderful Partner. They are relocating to Germany in the next few months. I feel for them, many of our family have plans to return to Europe, like our Ancestors fleeing religious prosecution and finding a home here. Yet a part of me is elated to be so close to them, weekends in Germany and European jaunts, just in the few hours it feels as though we share so many values. Our outlooks on life. Later that night I meditate on my feelings about nurture versus nature.

After endless laughter and chatting the group dissipates and it’s time for many to return home.

Johan our host invites us to join him for a dog walk. The footpaths around the estate are winding and we pass stunning properties. I feel safe in the city. He is a gorgeous being, and fascinating to talk to. We arrive back at the house, bid goodnight to our hosts, they are staying around the corner at their sisters house and have freed this beautiful home for the five of us. I’m teary eyed grateful and so proud to call them family.

The room is beautiful and after a mug of valerian tea I curl up in bed with Katie and Bos. Sleep comes easy, and Katie stays curled up beside me all night, Bos ditches me for a spot next to my father in the other side of the house.

The Second Leg and Cats in the Room

As usual I wake around 5am and write a load of work emails. I catch up on a conversation with my fellow buddies and directors about rolling out company mobile phone policies. They are android users and I am iOS and the divide couldn’t be greater.

I shower under perfect pressure and temperature and couldn’t be happier. Then I open our boudoir door to the pre sunrise darkness to check on “my car” a tank of a 2.4l diesel Toyota Fortuner. I check myself and wonder if I’m becoming one of those men who really, really, like their cars. As I look to my car a grey chubby flirtatious cat invites itself into our room. My sister is allergic to cats and stands on the bed and takes an antihistamine while I rub it’s belly.

I then ask my sister to take a photograph of the car and I. She posts it on the family group chat with the caption ”the car is almost as big as her ego” which I chuckle at, mainly because it’s true.

We knock on my grandfathers door and he opens it, looking great in his blue shirt, jeans and loafers. He’s finishing up a coffee so we pop into his room. He says he watched the news for a few hours last night. I brush it off not realising how big a deal that statement is until later when the penny drops. In his house they don’t have TVs, for a multitude of reasons including that the mainstream media can be a tool for mass control and my uncle is very protective when it comes to propaganda exposure. With enthusiasm Grandpa talks about the Genoa bridge collapse and the driver attacking pedestrians outside Parliament and the weather.

 

We go to breakfast and the restaurant is beautifully set. The manager chats with us, she is delightful, and asks what cooked breakfast we fancy. I’m the last to order and say “I can’t eat meat or dairy at the moment, could I have a few tomatoes and any veg you have - anything vegetable?”

 

We sit at the table and sip our coffees. She brings out a plate that breaks my heart. I want to cry. It’s beautiful. It has grilled tomatoes and bubble and squeak type veg and it’s massive and it’s delicious and I am so grateful. I thank her about a dozen times, it was delicious and I was so appreciative.

We plan the route for the day ahead. We’re driving into Johannesburg and after the safety briefing a few days prior I’m bricking it. My uncle advised the weakest parts of different vehicles and in a taxi attack I am to position the nose of the car just in front of the back wheel of a taxi and accelerate this flipping their vehicle. We also have a taser in the passenger door. As I layer jewellery I place one of my company pens in my neckline, we went through close combat attacks too during the safety briefing and the pen is to stab into the neck of an attacker.

My father passes the room keys to me to drop into reception. I walk into reception to find the room cat sitting on the desk with a buddy with has perfect moustache akin to that of hitlers, I say “oh hello hitler” drop the keys and we hit the road. It’s just under two hours to our family’s home in South Johannesburg. We’re ahead of schedule so stop at a service station. We park in a dubious part of the car park and I ask an attendant his name, call him buddy, and ask him to look after car, all the time with a Jacquard weave noir baseball cap and my hand on my branded pen. We tip him and I say “god bless” I never say that. I wonder what the hell is wrong with me.

Driving through Johannesburg my sister and father provide clear directions. I have put myself in the headspace to run vehicles off the road if the situation turns. As we approach red traffic lights, or Robots as they are called here, I “stalk the traffic” as per the safety briefing, never fully stopping and always rolling with room between ours and the car in from to pull out if “it goes down”. As we pass under bridges I notice myself ducking my head, ready for an attack.

We arrive at our family’s gated complex and hang around outside while we call them. One hand is on the hand break and the foot in on the accelerator.

We arrive, park up, and big family to say hello. My mother is so so so happy. I photograph photo albums and documents and we eat a delicious meal - I get the veggie options and I’m so so happy. Everything is wonderful. I am conscious of time and we leave with our cousins, they live near to the hotel where we’re staying and offer to take us there. We follow in convoy and I get pulled over by the police for the third day running. I have Cape Town plates and they check whether I’m a drugs runner with my eighty year old gramps as a wingman. As we drive away from the police I ask my grandfather if he fancies going into business with me, we are the perfect cover. He laughs it off and I run up a business plan in my mind and work out the maths.

We are dropped at the hotel and pass through two security blocks. Yessss. We’re in a bubble and damn there are good looking people of all nationalities here and I am so happy.

Two rooms are booked, one huge deluxe queen with balcony for grandpa, one family room for the rest of us. Drop the bags and my father and sister and I head out for a walk and to wait for my fathers best man to meet us for drinks. He meets us, I drink. I leave to find my mother, I can’t find her, and return to conversations about things so dubious I couldn’t possibly repeat. I’m on half pints of lager and have another. My grandfathers sister daughter and child arrive, the bar is narrow and the staff kindly take us into a wine cellar room to use for a family event, I thank them profusely then later over tip them. My fathers best man has a pedigree champion GSP in the car. We take her for a walk around the golf course and I couldn’t be happier.

We arrive back and I have another half pint, I’m up to 5 now and feeling peckish, it’s getting late and our friend and I finish with a single malt. I chat to the bar staff and chug down a litre of coke to rehydrate - idiot mistake.

The night fizzles our and we say our goodbyes. I’m tired and lay in bed burping profusely. Then pensively I undress and declare that I’m going to go swimming - what better way to sort yourself out in a cold outdoor pool. My mother stops me and says no way and sends me back to bed. I belch, quite literally pass out and wake in the night to two buckets beside me and a towel on the floor. None of which are required by the way.

The Second Hotel

There’s a phenomenon called Paris syndrome and as we exit the car my sister and I make reference to it. We check in and first check out Grandpas room, it’s lovely, in a detached little thatched hut, the heating is excellent and linens fantastic. Our parents is beautiful - tones of white and pink, practically a Burleigh plate. They all pop the kettle on and congregate on the porch in the afternoon sun. Cici and I enter ours. It’s like a boudoir, black walls, gold furniture, a black and fuchsia Rococo inspired love seat. It’s a dream for many I’m sure, but quite literally the opposites my taste.

We walk the grounds, there’s a lot of cherub statues and someone clearly partook in a concrete statue course. It’s fascinating.

My father tells me that the WiFi is best in the bar. So we search for WiFi but it’s mainly beer and cider. The barman is perfect Boer breeding stock and reluctantly speaks to us in English rather than Afrikaans. He is blonde, and we interrupted him devouring a bag of biltong. I’m fascinated, and keep saying “this is all so fascinating.” Mainly out of the fact that I don’t have a clue what other words to muster. I order a local 2.2% beer from the tap and as per the Bottle store incident the day before, I do so in a strange cockney hybrid accent and throw in an Aussie “mate.” I’m hungry and taking it by antagonising the Boers who typically dislike the British as much as they do the government.

The restaurant is formal, the opposite of what we wanted after a long day. But the food and staff are excellent. We are the first in, I choose to sit with my back to the restaurant but it soon gets busy. The waiter initially speaks to me in Afrikaans which I can understand but I keep that card close to the chest. I make self deprecating jokes and we all chuckle, my grandfather briefly converses in a local dialect with another waiter and before we know it the atmosphere lifts. The restaurant fills with well dressed couples and families, most speak in Afrikaans to each other, all are white. I feel uncomfortable and want to run. We engage in laughter and jokes together at the table which clearly mark us out with non local accents. Perhaps it’s paranoia but the stares and looks of distain are there.

I order the only vegan options on the 6 page menu - a side of vegetables, a side of onion rings and a side of Greek salad.

The staff wish grandpa all the best for his birthday. And we retire to our huts. I am so grateful of our collective general attitude to people - there’s no ranking system or snobbery towards service staff, we are all the same people.

I read messages from my husband from the boudoir room. He sends photographs of the partially demolished kitchen and there’s a toilet ready to be Plummed into our bedroom.

Then I bath and drop about 20 lavender drops into the water, I take two sleep aid Valarian tablets, follow a yin yoga sequence, and pass out.

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.

 

Around Dulverton

Dulverton is a particularly beautiful little town within the Exmoor National Park. It is nestled alongside the river at the foothills of the rolling moors above. We stayed just a five minutes drive outside of the town and regularly popped in for fresh cakes local beers and delicious fudge - and also a wonder around the beautiful quaint shops. 

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R&R

After a few intense days in Cape Town, I have slapped on my favourite Christian Breton face mask after an indulgent ESPA cleanse and while the face mask works its magic I'm rehydrating on a large glass of Good Guru Superfood Power! Travelling with lots of nutrition supplements is definitely needed after lots of Stellenbosch indulgences... 

... I'm also gua sha - ing and jade rolling all the toxins (wine) from my body. 

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