Our footprints show on the dew of the wet grass. We take over the last things to the car before we begin on the first real travel day in Africa. A wave of emotion overwhelms me when we leave the familiar entrance path. The main road takes us through Harding again and bends afterwards onto a gravel road. We have felt welcome here. People walk in long rows on the side of the road and welcome us with their broad smiles of white teeth, contrasting against their dark skin. We are not driving fast and we see the children run towards the fences to see us and the car a bit better. We’re driving with our windows open to be closer to these beautiful people.
“I realise that in 2011 I bought an old Landrover, with the dream to make this trip we are doing right now. It took me years to get the car ready and equipped to take us safely through Africa. Every spare hour was spent by driving down to the car, sitting and waiting in a dusty shed, and turning the ignition to hear it start, just to keep this dream-journey alive while I was preparing. Just the sound of a car who had seen so much more than I, who was waiting faithfully for adventure in a dusty shed, like a tiger on a leash.“
The white palms, full of lines and raw of working on the fields, wave at us from a distance. I don’t know if it’s fair, our background and education gives us such an advantage. It feels good to be welcomed by such a beautiful country like South Africa, but I don’t think I deserve being cheered at.
We get in line behind a long row of cars waiting in front of a women in full workman’s wear and a flag. We got the recommendation to leave enough room between cars so there is always the opportunity to get out. The inhabitants of the village nearby make the most of these stops by selling drinks and fruit. Helga and I are captivated by the smile of a short, heavy, black lady who carries a bowl with ice and cans on top of her head. We did not think that smile could get even bigger, but it certainly did after we bought two Cokes.
After this interruption we notice that the villages become less fortunate and the road gets worse. We have a hard time navigating and the heavy rain from the last few days shows in the broad muddy tracks and water filled potholes. I can see Helga’s white knuckles from holding on to the rail in front of her which is attached to the dashboard. The last time we drove through mud we got stuck big time and it took us a few hours to dig ourselves out.
People have stopped waving and children hurry towards the road, not to say hello, but to fold their hands into little bowls and shout: “ Ssssweets! Sweets!”.
F*ck the tourist who ever thought of doing this! I am shocked when I look in my side mirror and see the previously folded up hands picking up stones from the ground and throwing them towards the car. I feel angry and powerless. Absorbed in our own thoughts we drive on, and on some level I understand them, as a child I was also not the best in dealing with disappointments. And yet, I believe that giving out candy is not the solution. There is a challenge to find something that works for us, but is also beneficial to the children.
We stop when the land makes way for the sea and we find a good campsite. All the facilities are built in small wooden huts which are all connected by a boardwalk suspended a metre above the ground.