Mel Thunderbolt |
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Adventurer Mel Thunderbolt shares another one of her adventures, this one, a 5 month, 10 000 km road trip around South Africa alone with her two dogs, Harley and Harriet.

Part One

Let’s Go! Let’s Go See

The scenery changed dramatically as I drove west and left Johannesburg behind in my review mirror.

Traffic congestion on the four-lane highway and city smog were replaced with single lane roads and views of open horizons, rich red soil, windmills and the occasional passing bakkie or a Padstal (Farm shop).
The surrounding scenery reminded me of the Western cowboy movies.
Time slowed down. Life slowed down.
All that really mattered to me was living in the present, by watching my fuel gauge, knowing how far to the nearest petrol station and what song I would play next.

It was the second day of my road trip around South Africa. Alone with my two dogs Harley and Harriet, with no real-time frame or itinerary. We had driven from Johannesburg to Kimberley the day before and we were headed towards a little farming town called Keimoes, just passed Upington on the Orange River.

The Orange River is the longest river in South Africa which starts in Lesotho and flows all the way through Namibia and Botswana, eventually flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. The surroundings of the Orange River in the Northern Cape on the border of Namibia are of an incredible lush green oasis literally surrounded by desert, the area famous for its raisins and sweet wine produce and I wanted to check it out.

After driving back and forth, slightly lost, I managed to find the accommodation which was on a gravel road amongst rows and rows of vines – I almost missed it. Leaving my two dogs in the car (with the windows slightly open), I went to the office to check in. It was locked and there was nobody in sight. After a few minutes of shouting a “hello”, an elderly man walked out from the rows of vines. He looked like a typical South African farmer and introduced himself as Oom Piet.

Oom Piet was wearing a cowboy hat, Khaki shirt, very short boxer shorts, long socks up to the knees and Veldskoens, he definitely blended in to the bush scenery. He was very friendly but only spoke Afrikaans. My Afrikaans is very limited but somehow, we managed to understand each other and I was booked into my bungalow for two nights.

My dogs, Harley and Harriet were in their element and so was I. Sitting in my enclosed garden amongst the vines on the banks of the river, I took a deep breath of fresh air and looked around and only then did it hit me, only then did it sink in that I was driving around the country on my own. The sense of the unknown and the smell of freedom gave me the biggest, purest smile and happiest heart, I was utterly content.

I was on high spirits that afternoon and I decided I wanted to have a braai (BBQ) that night and I needed to go into town to get some meat. I left the dogs safely in the enclosed garden and headed out on the gravel road to Keimoes town.

It was a Friday afternoon and like any town, the small village of Keimoes was bustling with locals, shopping for their groceries and cashing their weekly wage cheques.
Keimoes had no traffic lights, only one stop street in the centre of town followed by a church, a grocery store, bottle store, bank and butcher.

I parked my car half way between the shops and decided to walk to the top end and make my way down ending at the butcher.

As I got out the car, I noticed quite a few of the locals had stopped what they were doing and were staring at me. They were staring at my car and they were staring at my outfit. I had not thought anything of it until then but there I was in a one-horse-town in the middle of the desert, a place that probably mostly sees trucks and 4×4’s, driving my Nissan Juke – which looks somewhat of a bug-shape with its rounded headlights and I had climbed out of the strange looking car wearing a bright floral top, knee high Hunter (Wellington) boots and a pom-pom beanie. Yes, and pants.
I certainly didn’t blend in with scenery or locals.

After my grocery shopping and beer buying, my last stop was the local butcher.

I opened the squeaky screen door and walk into the smell of raw meat, the sound of a loud meat slicer machine and the sight of dozens of skinned, full carcasses hanging along the wall.

I stood bewildered as the que of farmers ahead of me seemed to each be buying at least half or a full animal in bulk.

It was finally my turn to place my order. By then I had realized that nobody in the Butcher spoke English and for the past ten minutes I had been practicing my Afrikaans words while waiting in the que.

I attempted to start to speak in Afrikaans but the butcher looked at me strangely so I reverted back to English. Everyone behind me in the butcher was listening.
“Can I have one braai pack please” I asked.
He continued to look at me strangely.
“A braai pack. You know a few different types of meat to braai for one person.”
He then called his colleague.
I explained again.
By then I had five people standing around me while I described,
“I would like one small piece of boerewors, one lamb chop and one piece of fillet steak”
They had never heard of a braai pack before.
Where I came from, you bought braai packs at most grocery shops.
And I guess wearing my pom-pom beanie, high boots and floral shirt didn’t help.

They managed to put together my braai pack after much confusion and I can just imagine what the butcher and que of people said when I finally left the butcher to hop into my strange looking car.

I got back to my bungalow and was excited to light the fire.
I was a novice fire starter and it took a while to get it started.

Sitting watching the fire beside the Orange River, looking up at a sky full of stars, I was in my element.
I was on an adventure and nothing was going to stop me.

Mel Thunderbolt