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the long drive south

January 9, 2009

Lying on my bed, listening to the radio, surfing the net it’s hard to remember the stress of the beginning of this week. I feel fortunate to be at home.

After arriving in Joburg and spending the first night with Adri’s auntie we drove south to Bloemfontein. I met Adri’s mother, her husband, some of her relatives, and an assortment of animals – including a parrot who drank fanta and beer, ate human food, and could unwrap a chocolate. I spent a short night in a thatched roof bedroom before Adri woke me up at 4:45 to drive south. The time difference really hits you when you realize that people back home are still awake from the previous day and you’re getting up for the next one.

We drove hours and hours through fairly arid terrain. Sometimes there were mountains. Sometimes there were sheep, cows, and ostriches. I saw plants that made me think Dr. Seuss had visited Africa and been inspired by them. We had breakfast at Wimpy – a South African breakfast favorite. I realized how American I am when I got annoyed by the people whose children ran around in public without shoes on. It’s not that they can’t afford them – they just don’t see the need.

We made a little detour on the way to a place called the Valley of Desolation. We passed villages where the houses made my bedroom look large and you could tell who was doing better by whether they had an outhouse. By then it was very hot so we stopped for cornish pies and grapetizer. I nearly got hit by a car because I forgot the pedestrian never has the right of way. I also forgot about the guys who hang out in parking lots and “help” you park and watch your cars and expect you to pay them for their services.

In order to get to the Valley of Desolation you had to drive up a very narrow and winding road that didn’t have guard rails. There was a lot of scrub, but other than that it was pretty dry and, you guessed it, desolate. It was a clear day and the view from the top was impressive. There were a lot of light brown mountains with odd angles. It made me wonder what was going on inside the earth to make them come up that way. I saw an English guy climb up on a few boulders piled high at the edge of a cliff and pose for a great photo. I wanted a similar picture, but I think it took me 20 minutes to work up the courage to stand up there. I was really far from the edge, but evidently I’m far more scared of heights than I realized. My heart was pounding, but hopefully Adri was far enough away where my gritted teeth look like a smile.

After nearly running out of gas in the middle of nowhere (due to a lack of gas stations) we finally made it to Port Elizabeth around 2:30pm. The long drive has worn me out so I’ll tell the rest from there later.

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