David Moseley

The lure of the road

2014-04-22 12:07

Just recently we’ve had a time of chocolate eggs, religious gatherings, road trips and death. The South African road user is a big fan of dying over the Easter weekend (and on “normal” weekends), which is a huge pity because our roads take us to some truly remarkable places.
I’m lucky enough to have driven, and survived to tell the tale, to a few magical places in South Africa. Every Christmas I look forward to my drive to the Eastern Cape. Last year I drove from Grahamstown to KwaZulu-Natal through places like Mount Fletcher and Matatiele and it was truly spectacular. Of course, it hasn’t always been a love affair with the road. There was a time when getting into the back seat of a car terrified me.
My earliest memory of a road trip was a trek from Cape Town to Johannesburg with my parents and brother. My dad plonked Steven and I into the back of the car and slammed in the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, turning it off 1600km and 765 replays later. I can still sing every song from the movie without skipping a lyric.
More eventful road trips took place with my grandparents. At some stage in their lives they decided that caravanning would be a good way to spend time with their grandchildren – me, Steven, and our two cousins, Kirsten and Lynsey.
I recall the first weekend away taking place in Tulbagh. Other than losing my Skeletor figure to an angry goose, nothing too dramatic occurred. It was only when my granddad decided to take the caravan to a place called Goudini, near Worcester, that things got interesting.
This was in the days before the Huguenot Tunnel, which I always imagined, as a child, we’d be trapped in for days on one of our trips, had been built.
To get to the Worcester side of the Western Cape back then you had to travel over the Du Toitskloof Pass, a soaring, winding road that insisted traffic only crawl its way up.
I’d actually forgotten about the Pass until late last year, when in a fit of nostalgia while driving back from Swellendam I took my Eastern Cape Economic Refugee wife over the top. The memories, and the terror, came flooding back.
My granddad’s driving was less than exemplary at the best of times. When my brother and I saw his car lurch around the corner after school we both groaned at the prospect of the short drive, yet always action-packed, drive home. Hooters would be honked, fists would be waved and irate words would be muttered, and that was just as he pulled into the parking lot.
Adding a caravan to his car was only asking for trouble. Adding a narrow, twisting mountain pass to his caravan and car was a stunt that not even the most capable in Hollywood would condone.
I now realise that when my aunt, uncle, mom and dad insisted the kids travel with granny and granddad, it wasn’t because they were encouraging bonding-time, it was because they were too scared to get into the car with my granddad at the wheel. (My dad loves to tell a story where my granddad nearly reversed into Cape Town harbour).
As his enormous Opel sedan lumbered up the pass my brother and I would hold each other tightly in the back seat, clambering away from the side of the car that was nearest the sheer drop into the valley below. Up front my gran would be obliviously humming along to a Tom Jones cassette.
Every now and then my brother and I would dare look behind us, only to see the caravan weaving madly from side to side, as if it too was trying to break free from the car. Slowly we made our way up the pass, daring only to breathe once we could see the whitewashed stones that said “Goudini”, and signifying the end of the trip, on the side of the mountain.
Then the caravan needed to be parked. But that’s another story for another time.

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