Thursday, January 31, 2013
Take a moment to appreciate the beautiful scenery
The trouble started when we reached Wellington, and the Dear Husband (DH) handed over his iPhone to show me the supposed map of Bainskloof where our final destination lay. He’d told me we were driving to Bainskloof for almost a week. Bainskloof had already worn a rut in my brain. Instead the squiggly hand-drawn map gave directions to Du Toitskloof. (Cue a massive facepalm moment right there.)
Thank goodness Bainskloof is kind of adjacent to Du Toitskloof. All we needed to do was take the turn-off and follow the not-so-scenic route through to Paarl and back to the N1. Right. Deep breath.
Our lives were made more entertaining by the fact that this day happened to be January 1, with festive hangovers in full swing in soaring maximum temperatures on the wrong side of 35ºC.
And, of course, another small detail: we needed to buy ice. On New Year’s Day. Shortly past lunchtime. In Paarl.
According to the DH, our continued existence as we knew it depended on finding ice. For the martinis. And don’t forget the olives.
At this point, after several hours trapped in a car set at slow broil, I didn’t feel it was worth my health to argue. And the “D” in DH was rapidly standing for “Dreadful” and not “Dear”.
Especially not after considering how he had the car’s steering-wheel in a white-knuckled death grip. Ice it was. And olives. Oh, and don’t forget the eggs. And Styrofoam cups.
With each fruitless halt at assorted Paarl retail outlets, the shopping list grew longer, and the DH’s temper shorter. Believe me when I say you do not want to see what Paarl’s Shoprite looks like on New Year’s Day. An overturned ant nest is an apt description which doesn’t quite do it justice.
This is the part where it’s better for wifey to start laughing. A lot. And quietly on the inside without allowing the crazy smile to creep onto her lips. Because, really, that was the only way I could keep myself from somehow finding a way to cheerfully sedate my DH. (Throttling would have done in a pinch, but I exercised self-restraint that day.) Do you think Pick n Pay would be open? Think again. We missed the closing by a mere 10 minutes.
And thank goodness for Spar, and random corner cafés that are open on public holidays. That is all. We couldn’t leave Paarl fast enough.
As for Du Toitskloof… I forget how lovely it is. So often we drive South Africa’s big roads without sparing a thought for our beautiful country’s less obvious pleasures, such as small farms just off the beaten track. Our final destination was one such, offering no luxury lodge or tented camp, but rather a humble cabin sans electricity or cellphone signal.
Suffice to say, the DH’s disposition improved after he sipped his first ice-cold martini (shaken, not stirred), and his mates were terribly impressed, so maybe the effort to find ice and olives hadn’t gone to waste after all. For them, at least.
Maybe I could find it in my heart to call him “Dear” or “Darling” again.
I retreated to a pleasant shady spot with my mineral water and book, and dabbled my feet in the ice-cold river. The barest shiver of a breeze stirred the wild almonds and sunlight flashed off the blue gums’ leaves. Deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. The constant saw of cicadas told me exactly how hot it was beyond the shelter of shade, but that was okay. Rather focus on the sound of the rushing stream babbling over rocks.
It took me all of half an hour to forget about the shimmering heat mirage on the N1 tarmac, the sullen cashiers at the stores and the pointless, frantic scurrying after stupid olives and ice, for crying out loud.
Above us on the mountain slope, cars, trucks and motorcycles roared along, their drivers completely oblivious to the small wonder world tucked away in this hidden river valley. And I couldn’t help but wonder how many of them ever give pause to wonder what lies at the end of those little windy dirt roads they thunder past on their mad hunt after the things we only think we need.
This Shooting the Breeze column appeared in the Sunday Independent Life supplement on January 27, 2013