It’s the Tuesday after we drove our car out of the container and we’re on our way to the Howling Moon factory. We drive through sluggish Durban traffic and ask ourselves:” Who drives their car in the middle of rush hour when they don’t have to?” that is the question I ask myself as I pull up behind a smoking Toyota Corolla and try to gain enough speed to shift from first to second gear. Let’s ask another question: “Durban, a South African city with the busiest port and over 3 million people, you’ve had your car for one day…Is it wise to drive it during rush hour”? answer: “No.” Question: “Is it fun?” answer: “Kind of!” We both lock our doors when we drive through one of the more shady neighbourhoods and we both wonder as to who locked the back door, something we’ll have to get used to. It’s Africa.
Howling Moon is a South African producer of camping equipment with its head office in Durban. I’ll try to describe one of the things they make that is so important to us.
You climb on the roof of the car, unzip a sturdy canvas cover and throw over the back of the car. You slide the ladder to its full length, climb off the roof and pull the ladder downwards while stepping backwards. Like a harmonica the rooftop tent unfolds made from a wood/aluminium floor, aluminium poles to make the frame and a thick canvas.
Helga and I walk into the factory where mainly women are working on tables set up into long rows and where they get kilometres of thick green cloth through their hands and their Singers (sewing machine). We get some curious looks when we walk through the factory and when walking the stairs to the office. I wonder about the steady noise the sewing machines keep making while they follow us with their eyes. I would probably have sewn my own shirt into some canvas when doing to same.
Camping, it’s not for everyone: it’s being creative with what you have, dealing with inconveniences and constantly looking for new and easier ways to do things. If you add a fit, energetic and colourful person to this mix you get Dave, the progenitor of Howling Moon. We come into his office and introduce ourselves, we tell him about our travel plans, experiences and adventures. One of the first questions we get back is: “how do you think we can improve the rooftop tent? After this we are summoned to get our tent out of the car as soon as possible so they can do a service of the tent and add some improvements that have been made over the years.
Dave has them to clear a space in the factory so we can start to unpack and re-pack the car, since nothing was where it should be after the shipping.
While we are working on this, every once in a while an employee will come and have a look as they are curious about who we are and what we do. They have no experience with camping like this, but they are interested in our stories. Dave will often invite overlanders to visit the factory so his employees get an idea of how their products are used and they can “travel along” through the stories they tell.
We are captivated by the friendliness and the enthralling smiles we get from behind the sewing machines. We feel as at home here as we do in our home for the past 11 months: our Howling Moon Tourer rooftop tent.