Ballito 1 – 10th August

We arrived in Ballito on the 1st of August. Dropped off in front of a backpackers with our car 30km away in a workshop. We were not sure how long it will take to get Bertus fixed but assumed we will be on our way to St Lucia on the 5th.

Ah… that one little word. Assume. What we have learned (the hard way) is that the only thing assumption gets you, is looking like the first 3 letters of the word.

After a couple of days’ sunshine and swimming the mechanic (Avashen) from North Coast Motorspec came to pick Clayton up early in the morning on the 4th. When I haven’t heard back from him by 13:00 I got that uneasy feeling in my stomach. Remember: no news is not good news with Clayton. I phoned and heard what I’ve suspected for the last hour: Bertus is not in a good condition but they were working on it. Later that evening Clayton arrived with Bertus and even I could hear that it was idling rather odd. I was also sure it did not backfire when we dropped it off 4 days ago… 

Having only eaten breakfast and a small hamburger for the entire day Clayton was on a level of hangry that I have not seen in the 13 years that we have been together. For my own safety and those around him I slid over a beer and a lamb bunny chow, backing away slowly while he went in for the kill. I didn’t have the heart to tell him (until after he ate) that just after I paid for the bunny chow and other food at the take away, I saw a cockroach making its way over the counter and the chili-bites that we have been munching for the last 4 days. For some reason unbeknownst to me I still took the food and left the store without telling the guy behind the counter. I am not sure if it was because I was embarrassed for him or myself for not walking out without the food…

After Clayton ate he told me about Bertus and his latest issues. Avashen cleaned the fuel line and petrol tank, tuned the carburetor and some valves and fixed a leak on the intake manifold but to no avail. I will admit that it was difficult to stay positive and committed to this crazy adventure but Clayton, thankfully, still had some fight left in him. Even-though we said we will rethink the trip if this mechanic cannot fix the car, we decided that Clayton will give it one last try tomorrow. If he cannot fix it then that will be the end of Bertus…

Clayton worked on the car the whole of Saturday morning, putting in new points and a condenser and fixing some loose wires and connections. I lost interest as always in the first hour so I went next door to buy books at the SPCA charity shop – where I ended up working the whole morning. I did not feel too bad about abandoning him because he had some company. While he worked in the parking lot, random people stopped to have a chat with him. One guy had a beetle, offered some advice and took a photo. Another one saw Clayton driving it on the N2 the previous day and when he saw him now he just had to stop to take a photo of Bertus next to his Subaru. I am not sure if we will ever get used to people’s reaction when they see Bertus. They drive past us taking videos and photos, in parking lots there is always someone looking at it or taking a selfie. The funniest ones are the people who are too shy to just take a photo so they try to take one without looking to obvious. People shout and wave as they pass by us. I am sure that if we had R5 for every photo taken we would have enough money to pay for the petrol on this trip

The next morning we decided to take it for a drive to the mall which was about 2km away, knowing quite well that it was not working 100% but the nearest Uber driver was 20 minutes away and I was not up for the walk. It was the most nerve-wrecking 2kms of this entire trip (we have done more than 2800km at this stage). We started to curse the person who invented speed bumps and the guy that thought to place them just before a steep incline. What sick bastard does that?! We got there eventually, backfiring all the way and crawling up the never ending hill. After a less than successful shopping trip we got back to the Backpackers just as Avashen phoned: can we bring the car back? He has been thinking what it could be and there was a number of things he wanted to check. We had no hard feelings towards him, in fact he really went out of his way to assist us and we know that Bertus can be 100% the one moment and a lost case the next. He also seemed determined to figure out what the issue was and was not about to pull a Shane on us. We got back in the car and left for Stanger. I thought about taking padkos because heaven knows how long this 30km drive will take us! But Bertus pulled a typical Bertus move on us. Driving there, literally 5 minutes after returning from the mall, he cruised down the highway like he never had problems to begin with.

We reached Avashen without any issues, reluctant to leave Bertus there as he was now working – idling at just below a 1000rpm’s and not backfiring. We need to get in the car and drive north while we still can! He actually accelerated on an incline. However, knowing that this could change at any moment we decided that Avashen might as well have one last look. They chatted on the way back to the backpackers about everything that they have checked between the two of them – which sounded to me like it would have been a lot easier to just replace the engine. But what did I know, right?

Since Bertus would work the one day but not the next, we told Avashen that he should keep it for at least 2 days, work on it, drive it around, make sure it works when we get him back. We wanted to be out of Ballito latest Thursday (the 10th) so he said that we can get the car on Wednesday to drive it around and to make sure that we were happy.

We waited till 11:00 on Wednesday before we phoned. Avashen told us that he will bring Bertus around a bit later and that we should not worry, everything is fine. We were still a bit skeptical but as he pulled into the driveway an hour later we could here that it sounded a lot better. Clayton took Avashen back to Stanger and came back smiling like he did when we first bought Bertus. Pure joy!

The trip was going ahead as planned – St Lucia will be seeing us the next day

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