My Holiday – Part I

A week ago I received an invitation to address the climate change conference that starts in Durban tomorrow. “Don’t be ridiculous,” said Brenda. “That would be like inviting Jackson Mthembu to be patron of the Temperance Societay.

Truth is, I never actually opened the envelope so I suppose there is an outside chance that it wasn’t from the organisers of COP17. But it was postmarked Durban, it looked official and it wasn’t from a law firm. That narrowed it down considerably.

Brenda, assuming that she was coming along, asked if I had booked the flights. My outrage at her brazen assumption was surpassed only by my outrage at her lack of sensitivity for the planet. “Are you completely mad?” I shouted, beer spurting from my nostrils. “Every time a person flies, five trees die and a polar bear melts.” If there is one thing I know, it is my facts on global warming. Given the right circumstances, I could reduce Al Gore to a quivering mess. Well, if he weren’t one already.

We’re driving to Durban,” I said. Brenda’s face fell. I made her pick it up. “We can camp. It will be fun.” We both knew I was lying but there was nothing anyone could do about it. The most we could hope for was that nobody would end up with permanent brain damage or a spinal injury.

I worked out that if we left early we could make it to Durban in a week. Brenda asked if we were going on horseback. Worse, I said. We’re going in the Land Rover. This substantially lowered our odds of survival, but it was a small price to pay if it meant an isolated tribe of cannibals in the Amazon could continue their ridiculously outdated way of life.

Brenda said that since we were driving, the dogs could come along because they also needed a holiday. What, they need a break from eating and sleeping? It’s not as if they’re working dogs, like pit bulls and police dogs and those other ones who drag blind people into the traffic.

The township runs deep in the blood of my dogs. And with it comes a madness that is rarely seen in the pure-breds that romp and preen on the manicured lawns of white suburbia.

Julius Seizure has spectacular epileptic fits where he sprays urine and faeces in nine directions at once. The other is a brak with yellow eyes and an unnaturally cheerful manner. However, she growls whenever a darkie hoves into view, which is increasingly often these days. She has clearly forgotten her loxion roots and acquired airs well above her station. I will have to talk to her when we’re alone.

Skipping past the horror of bickering and packing and Julius’ morning fit and the yellow dog’s lip-curling assault on the passing trade, to the mechanic who was our first port of call seven minutes after leaving home.

Didn’t you have the car serviced?” barked Brenda. I tried explaining that Land Rovers don’t care if they have been serviced. They will take you deep into the bush and then stop for no reason whatsoever. “This one won’t even take you out of Fish Hoek,” she said with the look of a woman who does not care to understand the psyche of a Land Rover or even that of a man.

Because the car suffered some sort of mental breakdown, quite likely brought on by the amount of luggage Brenda was loading into it, we left several hours later than intended.

This threw the entire schedule into disarray. On the first night we ended up staying at a skanky backpackers where a white boy with dreadlocks who didn’t look like he could spell Jah, let alone understand His philosophy, called me either bro, bru or bra every time I bellied up to his bamboo bar. I suppose it’s better than “sir” or, god forbid, “oom”.

I’m writing this at midnight, a few hours before deadline, in a rainstorm at a deserted campsite on the Wild Coast. On the way here, two cops jumped out of the bushes and waved me down. I swerved around them and kept going. Brenda was appalled. “That was the police. Why didn’t you stop?” Being environmentally aware, I know that stopping and starting your car burns up fuel and it’s best to avoid it unless you want to wake up one day and find a family of sweating penguins living at the bottom of your garden.

I thought they’d jump into their patrol car (the cops, not the penguins) and chase after me, but they didn’t and I fell instantly in love with the Eastern Cape.

We camped behind a building because it broke the wind (as if the dogs weren’t breaking wind enough for everyone) and on one of my lurching forays for firewood, I realised we had pitched the tent behind the sewage pump station. A sign warned that if an alarm went off, one should call the Morgan Bay Hotel “to initiate remedial action”.

Yes, I can see how that would work in the Transkei at 3am. “Hello? I’m covered in a mountain of sh*t. Please initiate urgent remedial action!”

Sorry. Room service closed.”

The lamp I’m writing by is guttering alarmingly and it will be a miracle if I finish this column without being killed by shrapnel from a cheap Italian-made contraption ironically called “Safegas”.

I also have ten minutes of battery life left. If I want to keep writing, I will have to go and sit in the men’s toilets because it’s the only place with AC power. A fisherman from Ventersdorp is going to walk in and find me sitting on the lavatory with a laptop on my knees and a dozen beers at my feet.

To round things off, the Land Rover’s front wheels sound as if they are about to fall off. If I don’t make it to the climate change talks, please tell the organisers to go ahead without me. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for the disappearance of the Maldives.





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