Purple Flower Power

While planning this trip I had been nervous and unsure about going back. South Africa has a high violent crime rate, and the state of the crime has not improved since the ANC took over back in ’94. Everyone I contacted for opinions – who happen to be ex pats – only had negative things to say – racism, farm murders, crime, terrible road conditions – you name it. I was even advised to ”go on holiday somewhere else you wasting your money there” which I was really angry about, as I wasn’t going just for the sake of a holiday. G and I discussed the pro’s and con’s , and felt that provided we were sensible with our routes and security conscious that we would be okay. Its ironic that the only car I ever had stolen was in the UK, the only place we were ever almost pick pocketed was in the Metro in Paris. Potholes in the UK had also been particularity prevalent that year, and there were even stories in the news of people planting flowers in them it was so bad. So I went ahead and booked our flights, and G booked us a hire car that was staunch enough to take a long trip over bad roads in comfort.

I had a very large purple flowered suitcase. I bought this from a market a few years previously for a trip to Australia. It was cheap – it displayed its cheapness boldly and with pride. I didn’t mind too much, it was big enough to cram full of gifts and things to take with for the grandchildren in Oz, and I could spot it a mile away. Poor G had to suffer the moving around of the purple flower power suitcase, and I could see him visibly cringe when I decided to use it again. After all, when I did spot it coming around on the baggage carousel, he was the one who had to step forward to claim it, try and get it off the turning conveyor belt smoothly, and then try to get it on a trolley – all without doing himself any damage. Strangely enough, this suitcase did go missing for a short time in Sydney, but that is a story for another day. I was surprised it lasted a return trip from down under in the first place, but had decided to use it again – to cram full of gifts and things for the grandchildren and family in Africa.

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I was a bit worried that you didn’t need much effort to get into the suitcase, especially travelling to Oliver Tambo International in Johannesburg, given the rumours and bad reviews of thefts out of bags. But, I packed it full of gifts and enough cloths in good faith, and kept all valuables in my hand luggage. By the time we had it packed, after me having to sit on it to get it zipped closed, and a small padlock to lock it, the purple flower-power weighted within a gram of our 30 kg baggage allowance. Fortunately we breezed through customs, and again my poor G did battle with the purple flower-power at the baggage carousel.

We collected our X-trail, and once our bags were in the boot we felt like we were on a proper adventure. Our first night stay over was a short drive from the airport to stay over with family whom I had not seen for many years, and as G had never met any of my friends or family in South Africa, this was a special time for all of us. A big part of this journey was very emotional – seeing my son for the first time in many years and meeting his beautiful family, seeing my uncle and aunt again– and the the hardest part ever was the saying goodbye. Going to see my parents home where we lived in Tzaneen and to be on the beach where I often swam with my dad was particularly hard, as my parents are sadly no longer with me.

Our first night my Ousus had made an Oxtail stew, and as we went inside for dinner we were surprised by a perfect African sunset, which felt as if it has been specially delivered just for us. Besides one solitary mosquito which whined around us and had G up with lights on, we managed to get some sleep, and were looking forward to setting off on our adventure the following day.  It felt good to be home.

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A Journey Home – We have landed

I‘ve sat since dawn staring out of the planes window, looking at the parched earth below, the stark nothingness and dry river beds. As we travel further south things improve , I can see settlements, towns and roads. Farms, pock marked by circular irrigation systems, some familiar sights. I just love watching the surface of the earth from a plane, no matter the time of day. It makes me think of geography class in school, studying aerial maps with a stereoscope and being so blown away with the 3D views and technology.

I hear the announcement to buckle up as we get ready to descend. The sky outside is mostly clear, a few clouds hang suspended in mid air like floating white candy floss, and I can almost smell the earth, and feel the heat of the sun on my skin. As the plane heads in to land, from nowhere the tears well up, my throat constricts with emotion, I don’t trust myself to speak. I try to keep staring out of the window so that G doesn’t see my tears, but its not long before my nose is streaming, and a river of tears run down my face. He takes my hand and just holds it gently while I find a tissue. The emotion is overwhelming, after 16 years I have arrived, I am home. South Africa, this is where I was born. Although I have lived in England these past years, I have never felt truly homesick. I told myself I was to busy building a new life, to busy trying to survive . But now ,at this moment, this is all I want, and where I need to be – in Africa. Is it 16 years already? why did I wait so long?

From the moment I met G, I wanted to bring him to Africa , to show him where I come from, where I went to school, so after saving and planning here we are. I have planned an epic road trip for us, starting in Johannesburg, then north to Polokwane, over the mountains to Tzaneen , through to Phalaborwa, into the Kruger National Park for a few days, and then a long trek south through the Lowveld, and down from the escarpment to Durban. Besides our road trip, I’m visiting close family and friends whom I haven’t seen in years. Just the thought makes for fresh tears.

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