After a weekend of moping around Chintsa, faking happiness and the “holiday feeling”, trying out new recipes with soya mince and smash, we were ready to get Bertus on Monday from the local mechanic. I needed to get to Lesotho for some RW&B (red wine and bitching) with my friend. Monday morning came and went, we phoned Shane, the mechanic, and he informed us that it didn’t look good but he is working on it. Phone again later.
We walked around like 2 nervous parents outside an operating theater – giving each other encouraging smiles but both feeling powerless and useless. We phoned again and were told that he has a good feeling that it will be fixed by tomorrow. No time give – that did not go unnoticed. Discouraged, depressed and slightly pissed off with the situation we went to the sun-room to read while gale force winds threatened to destroy that little bit of joy as well.
Before you start, we know what you are thinking. Yes, we knew that taking an old car will be a risk. Yes, we knew it will give us shit. But NOW? Already?!
Our only bit of happiness in this shitty situation was that the Americans, who joined us in the camp, did not yet know about the sun-room hide-out so we were safe from that american-drawl, fake sympathetic looks for our situation that turned very judgemental when we talked Afrikaans.
To add insult to injury, the monkeys stole our bread so after a lunch of peanut butter maggie (which tasted a lot better when I was still at varsity) we faced a dinner with whatever I can find in the food crates mixed with soya powder- that taste like powdery paste no matter what you do with it. We haven’t had meat in three days. THREE! I was ready for a drink and thank goodness it was close to 16:00 when they give everyone free wine to participate in some outdoor activity – today’s activity was just drinking because of the wind so I thankfully did not have to fake interest in beach volleyball. Finally the wind pays off! It didn’t matter that the wine was white or came out of a box that even I judged. It it was free and it made losing the 10th consecutive time in a row in the card game that Clayton and I we were playing, just a little bit easier.
That night after the less than delightful dinner, I got into the hot, open-air shower, looked up and saw the milky way above me. I realized that we were, or I was, behaving like a petulant child. We are blessed in more ways than we can possibly know and we were bitching about a little car trouble.
When I got back to our campground hang-out, two guys have pitched their tent and were ready to make food – with meat. Great, just what I need: small-talk with the smell of meat floating int the background. I approached the platform annoyed, my little lightbulb moment of counting my blessing already forgotten. We just got rid of the Americans and now we have more company? Luckily they were awesome. They hailed from Mauritius, lived in Cape Town, both studied at UCT with the one working there now. The one guy even studied the same thing I did. Between the two of them they lifted our depressed mood with their funny stories and mannerisms and we went to bed that night not thinking about car trouble, planning our next stop close to the Lesotho border.
Tuesday morning, the 25th – I woke up without that reassuring sms from FNB telling me that my salary has been paid. Despite that, we were up at 07:00, on the beach, heading for the nearby shop to buy bread. It is inhumane to not have meat and we were depriving ourselves from bread for no reason whatsoever other than limiting our spending. As an added bonus they also had cucumber. Life was good.
We got back to camp and made the best breakfast money can buy with eggs, semi-fresh white bread and cucumber. At 09:00 Clayton phoned Shane. We needed Bertus back! We want to go to Lesotho and had a lot of kilometers to burn. Terrence, our camp-neighbour told us that when he went passed there last night after 20:00, they were still working on the beetle. Somehow I did not find that too reassuring.
Shane told us we can only get the car at 14:00. While they worked on Bertus till well after 21:00 the previous night, the accelerator cable broke. He was going to East London to get a new one and install it. Clayton put the phone down, told me and we both had the same thought: was it ever going to end? Praying that the mechanics repair bill will not cost us a month in Africa, we went to the beach to swim. What else could we do?
I spent the morning looking for pretty sea-shells and not finding any – which in hindsight fits the overall mood of the Chintsa experience pretty well. Clayton was swimming – if he stayed in the water 2 minutes longer how would have shared the waves with passing dolphins. Instead, we laid in the sun and watched a whale playing in the horizon.
At 13:30 Shane phoned with the best news ever: Bertus is ready! We went to Terrence and begged for a lift, barely able to keep our excitement in check, just to be told that he can take Clayton there at 15:30. They left just before 16:00. Patience… we were learning the meaning of it on a whole new level.
At 17:00 Clayton was not back yet, a message from FNB has not come through of the repair charges and he has not phoned. It is not even a 10 minute drive there. What could keep them?
17:15 I phoned – he was just down the road. He did not sound confident when I asked about Bertus.
17:25 I heard the familiar purring and whistling of the engine and decided for myself that Clayton was oversensitive. Bertus sounded great-ish. If we can do Sani pass and Lesotho in a heatwave with an overheating, temperamental Land Rover then we can do this trip in a Beetle.
That night, while we feasted on vegetable stir fry and couscous (surprisingly enough, it was the best dinner we have had here at Chintsa), I reflected on what we have learned.
- The Fish Eagle’s call is beautiful but a working beetle engine is better.
- You can make soya mince taste different but it will have the same powdery paste texture.
- Given the choice between a rare steak or freshly baked ciabatta: we will both take the ciabatta (we were also surprised by this).
- Never trust a monkey.
- After you turn 30 you can no longer drink cheap white wine from a box.
- You still get mechanics who won’t take you for everything you have. They only charged for 1 hours’ labour.
In addition to these world changing revelations, I managed to proof to Clayton that I did in fact need all the pairs of shoes I packed for this trip.