The car shakes when I start it up. We just packed up our tent and pushed everything in its original place before we head off to Port St. Johns. It rained the night before and kept us out of our sleep while litres of water found their way over our tent towards the ground.
The potholes on the sandy track are filled with water and there are spots with thick mud. We have faith and navigate ourselves out of this and back to the main road.
It feels like we’re driving into an ant farm. Streets are filled up with people, school kids, trucks and men trying to push heavy wheel barrows. We drive into Lusikisiki, mix with the local traffic and end up parking in between a rusty truck and a market stall selling bananas. Helga stays in the car while I bump my way into the supermarket. While I push my cart I try to find the right products. I seem to be the only white guy in the supermarket. Not something I feel uncomfortable with while I think back to the time I taught PE at a juvenile hall in San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles.
I look up when somebody starts talking to me in really good English: “ sir, that car outside, that must be yours? It’s from Australia, how did it come here?” I smile, he is the first one to notice since the colours of our Australia number plate are the same as the area in South Africa we’re driving in right now. While I explain how the car got here I see his expression change, his eyebrows are now raised and he says: “really?”. I try to nod as convincingly as possible and say: “really.”. Deep in his own thoughts I see him push his cart to the cash register.
I quickly find the last items on my grocery list and follow his example. When I leave the store a security guard picks me out of the stream of people also leaving. I have to hand in my receipt and all my groceries are checked against my receipt. Behind my I see all the locals leaving the supermarket without raising their heads. In the reflection of the window I can see myself and I wonder if I am giving out the wrong impression by the way I look? After carefully checking every single item they let me go. I quickly leave the store, put everything in the back of the car and get behind the wheel. Away!
A large grassy site almost like a golf course is our camping spot for the night. From our tent we have a view of the chocolate colour river and the large cliffs, or “the gates” that are the entry to Port St. Johns.