I’m driving the 7 hours back to East London to fly home tonight. The road is long with many a winding turn, and quite a few cows. Two of them charge in front of me on the N2 when I’m travelling at around 120km / hour and that wakes me up more than the Steers coffee at the last petrol station.
The car is full of memories. The smell of some herbs I collected on the Mehloding Trail yesterday. Sea shells from Bulungula. A keyring carved with the words Judah Square. A necklace of beads and seeds from Cintsa. And a lot of sea sand.
I think back over the past 3 and a half weeks and images flash before my mind’s eye.
Heat, waves, stars, tears, laughter, silence.
Sharing and solitude.
Meeting new friends: saying hello in English and goodbye in Xhosa.
Driving along empty roads alone through tangled forests, then through bustling towns where chickens and donkeys are as much at home as shouting stall holders and laughing shoppers.
Swimming near dolphins at sunset; eating pancakes on a sand dune at sunrise.
Playing with babies in townships; sharing fruit salad with a Rastafarian boy.
Being offered (for a price) a large dead monitor lizard by two young kids on a deserted road.
Stopping to ask directions and ending up with a car load of locals wanting lifts.
Watching a mother cheetah and her five cubs stroll through golden dust at sunset on Amakhala.
Walking through an art centre that was once an Apartheid era torture facility in Grahamstown.
Sleeping in a mud hut with the door open to let the starlight in.
Trying to execute a 24 point turn on a dirt road partially washed away by recent storms.
Rounding a corner to be met with by a new world of amazing sights – a young boy cantering towards me on a horse. A view so enchanting I have to pull over and climb out the car and simply stare. Cows on a beach. Candy coloured mud huts scattered across green rolling hills.
I’ve held a frog smaller than a clock’s ticktock. Sipped sorghum beer out of a rusty pot on a hillside with a Headman. Met the grandchildren of a sangoma. Cursed a donkey that brayed constantly outside my room one sleepless, heat soaked night. Fallen asleep to music, to shouting, to dog barks and djembe drums and ceiling fans and laughter and mosquitos whining and thunder crashing. Woken to drumbeats and chanting in a next door temple, and to the swish of the sea so close I can taste it in the air.
This month, give or take, of travel has given me a lifetime of stories. No, I’m not going to leave my job and go live in a mud hut just yet. But it’s been good for me. Going alone was particularly a big factor. My self confidence in making decisions by myself, for myself, and in reaching outside of my bubble to connect to people, or being ok to sit alone in silence, all those things made this a very special personal journey, a 100% positive experience.
As I board the plane and we take off, the lights of East London far below quickly giving way to the night black sea, I know one thing for sure: I can’t wait to start planning my next adventure!