Race back to Cape Town

In all the fun, we had left ourselves only two days to get back to Cape Town, in order to arrive in time to meet Tom’s dad who was visiting on holiday.

After an early breakfast with the elephants, we hopped into the car – destination South Africa.

All was going well for about half an hour, when Tom’s infamous bad shoulder decided to call time on his driving. Arm numb and limp at his side, I took over the driving, both of us with a rising sense of dread – would I have to drive the thousands of kilometres back to Cape Town alone?

The answer for day one was yes – Tom couldn’t take back over, and I drove 12 hours straight. Through the length of Botswana, a quick border crossing, then down through northern South Africa.

South Africa’s Limpopo province, as a side-note, is like nothing else we’d seen in the country. For the first time, we felt like there was a corner of the country where it really is Africa.  Much of the country feels like a displaced Europe.

We made it as far as Pretoria, catatonically tired.

The next morning it was early to rise for another equally long day of driving. Tom decided to try driving, and we started off by pulling into a service station to have Beast filled up and checked over – oil, water and tyre pressure please.  The attendant got to work while we drank a coffee.

Back on the road, we were off down the motorway when a loud bang was followed by the car jerking madly, and bits of tyre were flying madly all around us. Tom managed to pull us over into safety, and we got out to find our front tyre had burst and blown to smithereens.

Now, Beast is no small car, and Tom wasn’t going to be able to help with the tyre. I opted to call roadside assistance. Only, it was a Sunday, and none of the eight numbers provided would answer the phone.

There was nothing else for it, I would have to change the monster truck’s tyre on my own.

I got to work, Tom casually watching and smoking from the roadside.

I had the screws off and the car jacked up when suddenly an even bigger monster truck stopped alongside. Out jumped a veritable rambo, and wandered over.

“I was driving up the other side of the road and saw you. South Africa’s dangerous. This is a dangerous spot. Do you mind if I help you?”


Tucking his gun into his wasteband, our new friend got to work, and five minutes later our new tyre was back on; and we were waving goodbye to our gun-toting friend.

Pulling in at the next service station, it turned out the previous guy had put completely the wrong pressure in all four tyres. Thanks for that, Shell employee.

Thereafter the day of driving was uneventful, and we ploughed through hours and hours of gold and diamond mining land, followed by sparse empty bush stretching forever.

By nightfall we were pulling into Beaufort West, a small town already in the Western Cape.

We had booked a room at an 17th century inn but were arriving late, and we ran in begging the staff to take pity and let us have some dinner – any dinner.

The restaurant was closed, but the lovely people improvised – bringing a bench and table outside our room, and before long we were indulging in an al fresco meal of cold beers, a slice of home-made chicken pie (delectable!) and chips.  Happy Valentines Day!

For the morning we only had five hours of driving left. We checked into our new, very quirky and blue apartment (more on that another time), and by evening were with Tom’s dad.

And with that it was over. A month’s worth of travelling covering 10,380 kilometres. A lifetime’s worth of memories.


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