“Wait!” Nikki called out as I started walking towards False Bay train station.
My outline was to take the train into Cape Town and then hop onto another train that’ll take me to Van Der Stel station and then walk down to the N2 Highway and begin my hitch hiking from there.
No easy feat with a 90L backpack, a day pack and a guitar.
I gotta cut down on my gear, I mentally noted.
I stopped and turned back to Nikki who, besides being an awesome human being, runs the pre-school on the first floor of the house where Stacey (another awesome human) hosted me for a week of epic live blues music, mingling with the best blues musos Cape Town had to offer, braai’s and playing with Snowrose, her kitten-turning-to-cat mini lioness that attacked anything that wasn’t attached to the floor.
“My brother can take you to the N2 outside of Somerset West,” she said.
“Sweet,” I grinned. That’ll save me three hours of hopping trains.
Darren showed up an hour and a half later in his blue Buckey (what the South Africans call a ‘Ute’). He took me to the overpass of the N2.
“About two kilometers down there,” he pointed down the highway, “there’s a service station and truck stop. You’ll be sure to get a ride from there.”
I thanked him and his worker, Justin, and trekked off with all my gear to the service station, holding out my sign that read, ‘Mossel Bay’, hoping someone would stop and save me the walk.
At the truck stop I only had to wait 10 minutes before a double trailer pulled over. There’s nothing more cumbersome than trying to run up to a truck that needs a hundred meters to stop, even if it’s only going 20 K’s an hour, with all your worldly possessions.
“Where ya headed?” I looked up at the barefooted driver that had opened the passenger door.
“Caledon,” he smiled.
“About a hundred K’s.”
“Perfect,” I grinned, passing up my gear and then clambering aboard.
I offered my hand, “Pieter,” he said after I introduced myself.
He was a farmer who had lived in Ireland for a few years driving lorries. “I’m just driving this truck for a friend,” he said. “I’m trying to get some thing out of herding sheep and cattle on my farm.”
The truck was empty but in general it would take oats. We chatted about how screwed up the human species is, defining a person by colour, faith, creed. Coming out of the Apartheid, the people of South Africa were getting along – on the surface. Under the surface, with the upcoming elections and a corrupt government in power, tensions were on the rise.
May 7th will be D-Day.
I was excited to pass through the mountains on the Sir Lowry Drive, a beautiful, green scenic drive. Although the day had turned grey, the low-lying clouds only added to the scenery as they covered the peaks of the mountains.
Fuckin’ Africa, I kept thinking to myself. I’m in fuckin’ Africa.
On the highway outside of Caledon, I hopped off, thanked Pieter and trekked past the intersection. I noticed local people standing by the road waving Rands (South African currency) to try and entice drivers to stop. I grinned and smiled at them as I set up on the shoulder of the highway and held out my sign.
The time on the clock tower of the shopping mall across the highway read 11:30. By 12:30 I was getting hungry and thinking of biting into the chicken, ham and cheese pie that Stacey had not only baked fresh but also packed for my journey.
Nah. It’ll serve as reward for getting to Mossel Bay, still three hours away. It’s a smallish town on the coast, lying exactly halfway between Cape Town to it’s west and Port Elizabeth to its east, some 400 km in either direction. It’s also on the border of the Western and Eastern Cape.
I had decided a new rule for myself now that I’d be land-based, hitch hiking my way to the Middle East. I had to stay in each country I visited for the duration of the visa I was offered. South Africa provided 3 months visa for free as does Namibia and Botswana, my two next destinations. Zambia would cost me about $30 USD also for 3 months and Tanzania provided a 3-month visa for about $40.
Plenty of time to trek Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak.
To pass the time in each country I was hoping to be able to volunteer in different wildlife\marine conservation places but the problem is that conservation groups rely heavily on public funding. Funding that comes from it’s volunteers who pay thousands of dollars to work and help protect endangered species.
Which kind of loses the whole point of volunteering. But I’m a pretty persistent kinda guy and will keep shooting off emails as though I were shooting for the biggest stuffed animal at an amusement park in one of those rigged shooting games (which is how I rescued Animal, my travel buddy).
By 13:00 I was starting to think what would I do if it got too dark when a local sitting on the corner of the intersection called out to me, pointing behind me.
I turned around and saw that a white Mitsubishi Outlander had pulled over.
Way down the road.
I grabbed my gear and ran as graceful as a newborn giraffe towards the car that was now reversing.
“Get in,” said the driver.
He appeared to be in his mid-fifties and the car, I noticed, was packed with household items.
Must be moving somewhere.
“Where ya headed?” I grinned.
“Get in,” he repeated, opening the boot for me to pack in my large backpack. “I’m heading to East London. I’m passing Mossel Bay.”
“Perfect!” I almost yelped as I gently placed my guitar in the back beside my pack. Fuckin’ perfect.
That’s what I love about being on the road. You don’t know who you’ll meet and how far they’ll take you but I always believe you meet the people you meet for a reason. Destined to cross your path.
Gary was in a hurry though. He had 12 hours of driving ahead of him and he was pushing the Outlander to its limits. A divorce lawyer by trade he told me about a new small business he started with a friend where they help people quit smoking with some sort of electrical acupuncture technique.
“Works after one session,” he said.
“Are you moving house?” I asked.
“My daughter finished her studies at the Stellenbosch University,” he said. “She’s in the other car with my wife, somewhere up ahead.”
We chatted mostly about surfing as Gary used to be the President of South Africa’s Surfing Association. We stopped at a service station in Heidleberg to fill up and have a bite to eat. I met his wife and daughter as we chowed down on a burger at Wimpy’s, a fast food chain similar to Wendy’s (except they do burgers instead of hot dogs).
I was about to pay for my burger when Gary dismissed my money.
“Thank you so much,” I said appreciatively.
We continued on, his wife calling from ahead to warn of speed traps set up by the police.
“So what are you going to do in Mossel Bay?” Gary asked at one point.
“I found work at the Mossel Bay Backpackers. In exchange for a bed I have to socialise with the guests, jam a bit on the guitar around the fire and sell activities in the adventure center. Basically, just be myself.”
I figured with Gary being in a hurry (otherwise, why else would he be flying us at 140 K’s an hour at low altitude?) he would drop me off on the turnoff to Mossel Bay.
“Find the backpackers on your GPS,” he said. “I’ll take you in.”
I couldn’t thank him enough as he pulled us up to the entrance of the backpackers. He even waited to see that I was sorted out with a room and that everything was actually happening.
“If you’re ever in East London, drop us a line,” he said, handing me his card as I handed him mine.
It was now adventure time at the adventure center.