I had spent the night at a friend’s house after dropping my ailing colleague, Richard, in Durban. Although I, too, was starting to feel the debilitating effects of the viral bronchitis he had passed on to me, I thought a good dose of healthy craft beer from the Shongweni Brewery and a fistful of flu medication before going to bed would cure me. As it turned out, I hardly made it through my first glass of Hammer of Thor ale at dinner before excusing myself and heading for bed at 07.30pm.
And, although I felt much refreshed the next day, the 600km drive was deeply enervating – the last third of the route was on the dangerously pot-holed surface of the R34 between Ventersburg and Hoopstad. But, there were highlights: The expansive Free Sate scenery (often with armadas of stony ridges sailing in haphazard formation on the impossibly distant horizons) allowed me to think, unfettered by clutter.
I also sampled a host of new roads to add to my burgeoning collection, and amused myself by rating the humorous farm signs along the route – the winner being a five-metre-high pointing cowboy somewhere between Henneman and Riebeeckstad.
Not on my list of highlights, though, was being turned away empty-handed at the local Bloemhof Pharmacy. It turned out that my doctor’s secretary had sent through a script for my life-partner’s medication instead of anti-biotics for me. Knowing that there was probably nothing I could do now, I grumbled a‘Never mind, thank you’; got out of there as quickly as possible, and headed for the Bloemhof Dam campsite.
Sniffing and snorting like a deranged wildebeest, I made my around the Conqueror Comfort trailer in the dark, trying to figure out what went where, and why. But, when a pack of jackals started to howl nearby, I thought, ‘To hell with all these other ropes and poles,’ took another dose of flu medication, and got into bed.
Looking at my rig the next morning, I smiled to myself when I noticed that the trailer was still hooked to the Toyota Hilux DC 2.8 GD-6 4×4 Raider AT.
It had been delivered to me by my colleague Toni and her accommodating husband, Willem, at sunset the previous evening. After showing me the basic workings of this weapons-grade off-road trailer, the two of them had got into my old ride, the new Toyota Fortuner with the Imagine Comfortvan behind it, and had set off on the long road back to Joburg in the dark.
Before the flu had knocked Richard out of the game on our ‘Berg and Beer’ trip to the east (Caravan & Outdoor Life, August 2016), our plan had been to travel from Bloemhof Dam to Kuruman, Augrabies Falls, Calvinia, Mokala National Park and a ‘Game Park’ near Lichtenburg, before flying home from Joburg.
One of the main reasons for going to Bloemhof Dam was to find the nearby geographic centre of the country; a geocache was reputed to be under an acacia tree on a dirt track just 18km out of town. But, with the viral bronchitis now lodged firmly in my chest, I spoke to my editor and he agreed that I should leave the search for now, get to Upington as soon as possible, lay my hands on the required drugs, spend a night recuperating in a guest house, and cut out the Kuruman and Calvinia legs. I could have kissed the man.
After a restorative night at Esperanza Guest House in Upington, I set off on the short drive to Augrabies National Park.