Cock-up in Kokstad

SA photo

us in baz bus sam in bus

I write this through broken reading glasses. You will soon find out why.

We have three bus trips today to get to Sani Lodge in the Drakensburg Mountains. Between the first and second buses we run into Ed and Lana again. We are sitting on the orange and purple vinyl of a booth in the Shell Ultra City roadside centre. They spy me as I am teaching Sam his first science lesson for the trip. Sam’s school back in Sydney started the new term today. I figure the best way for me to have the discipline to keep up Sam’s schooling is to follow exactly the timetable of classmates back home.

Today is science, religion, English, maths and geography. I have some resources available on my computer from the school, some subjects better covered than others, but if there are gaps in resources (I couldn’t put all his textbooks on my laptop) I’ll just have to improvise.  Sam kicks up a bit of a stink about going to school when he is not going to school, but soon accepts it after I let him practice writing a narrative using Harry Potter characters. Yes, improvise. I figure that about half an hour one-on-one with me would easily be equivalent to an hour lesson at his school.

The second bus leg sees us watching a spectacular sunset over the increasingly mountainous landscape. Seven shades of blue steel grey, with increasingly pale tones as they approach the horizon, define the ridge lines. We reach our next transfer at Kokstad after dark, and can sense the chill in the higher atmosphere. Our next transport should have been there on our arrival. It isn’t.click tab to read further

The Baz Bus driver rings to check. There has been a mix up. He tells me the hostel is arranging a driver and he should be here in ten minutes. We say goodbye to Ed and Lana for the second time, after grabbing a sausage roll for Sam and three lukewarm and unappetising samosas for myself for dinner. As the bus pulls away I feel suddenly apprehensive. Alone with Sam standing outside a Whippy restaurant in a slightly dodgy looking roadside cafe complex at night, I strategically position Sam, our bags and myself so our backs are to a wall, Sam and the bags behind me.

Sure enough, a questionable character appears. Emaciated, wearing ragged clothes, hands in pockets with a stooped posture, he shuffles towards us slowly, looking out the side of his eyes with an occasional glance in our direction. He reminds me of a human version of the skinny dogs you see sniffing garbage in townships. When he gets within a metre or two of us he starts to mumble.‘Hey, how you doin’ ?’

I take a step towards him and chop the crisp air with my hand. ‘No!’

He slinks away, but continues to circle the complex looking at us occasionally. I watch him carefully.

After twenty minutes and no car I start to worry. I try to get my phone out to look up Sani Lodge on Google and drop my glasses on the road. One of the arms of the frame breaks. Frr, frr, grr! Trying to use the phone with double vision from my broken glasses I am stressing out.

Sam isn’t helping.When he sees my break my glasses he does his impersonation of Nelson out of The Simpsons.‘HA-ha!’

‘Sam, that’s not helping!’

The car finally turns up. Relief!

A rattling relic, she has a top speed of 80kph. The driver has little English but I am reasonably confident we are going to the right place. Well, I hope we are going to the right place. He is playing a heavy rap song. I soon realise he has this song on loop, and he goes on to play it over twenty times in a row as we rattle up the ascending dark road through the mist.

Half-way through the two hour trip and without warning we change cars in the middle of nowhere, into a new hire car with a new driver. I can only assume this is so the cars and drivers remain in their local area. At least the music changes. Sam leans on me heavily in the backseat, as he tends to do when he is tired, due to his low muscle tone. The car is faster but there was still no backseat seat belts. I am starting to see why South Africa’s road toll is so high. As we near Sani Lodge the road becomes steeper and windier but that doesn’t stop the driver using his mobile phone constantly.

Finally we arrive at 9pm, an hour after the restaurant has closed. The hostel worker – despite Sam suggesting she is a man because she has short hair (she most definitely does not look like a man) – kindly rustles up a loaf of bread from the restaurant, to supplement Sam’s sausage roll dinner.

Sam then realises he had left his Nintendo DS in the car. Fortunately I have the driver’s number as I had arranged for him to drive us back to Kokstad in three days. I ring, he has it, and he will bring it back tomorrow. Relief!

A game of cards in this much quieter and laid back hostel with a German, Dane, American and Chilean soothes my rattled nerves. We are at 1500 metres altitude, so the room is well fitted out with thick blankets and hot water bottles. Tomorrow is another day.