Beyond The Beaten Track

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.’ –Susan Sontag

Rule #1: One can never embark on too many road trips. Which is exactly why I’m writing this road trip post directly after my last road trip post (this also might be somewhat related to the fact that I have had no time to write one in between). This road trip, like every one of them, has a unique and different story to tell, so get your cup of coffee, a comfy couch and come and immerse yourself in my latest adventure.

It all started on November 29th where my soon to be new little family consisting of myself, my other half Ben, my old friend SP & crazy lovable Dan left our trusty little hometown of Cape Town and headed in the extremely general direction of North towards a popular music festival called Synergy. After jamming to a live session of Bombay Bicycle Club of which I am ashamed to admit that I knew very few songs to sing my lungs out to, as well as jamming to Jeremy Loops, who in my opinion is one of South Africa’s very finest and most talented musicians (click here to hear one of my favourite songs by him), we retired to our rooftop tent on top of our trusty old lady, Pumba the Landy, and eagerly awaited what daylight offered.IMG_7216[1]

Our plan was…well you see, we didn’t really have a plan. Plan-less. Nada. Nothing. Nut-ting. The furthest that our plans spanned was to drive up to Johannesburg and from there cross the Lebombo border into Mozambique, a country I had never quite made it around to exploring yet, despite a large portion of my dad’s childhood being based there. The stories that he occasionally lures us into about his childhood & adolescent days in Mozambique, usually after one too many beers and a little bit of peer pressure, created a magical & mystical appeal about the place, the vibrant sea life and stories of being marooned on atolls out at sea, the tropical home-grown plantations and huge organic fresh papaya and mango’s that were picked on the daily, the fresh coconut milk and the hand caught fish that he would live off. I almost forgot to mention about that one time when he got thrown into the local jail for salvaging rum off of a shipwreck that sunk offshore, as you do! Finally I was about to explore this far away yet extremely close country, however I knew that many things had changed since my dad was a boy/prisoner, such as the increase in crime, the political unease & the influx of Joburg boytjies in wife-beaters that barely cover their nipples & who clearly missed leg day in the gym. Bru. In case you can’t tell, that whole ‘vibe’ really gets quite deep under my epidermis. I am also aware that I just made a huge generalisation about all Johannesburg boys looking & behaving like that, that was very wrong of me and I apologise, only about 80% of them fit that stereotype.

IMG_7109[1]
Mozambique Market. [Image: Ben Brown]
 Anyway, enough of the banter, we have a whole road trip to discuss! So if any of you have done any big, long road trips with friends, I am sure that you are familiar with the experience of well, firstly, having to come to terms with the large distance that lies directly between you and your exotic destination and your dreams of golden tans and tropical smelling tanning oil whilst you all sit in the car barely able to put your seat belt on because you’re so excited and the conversation goes a little like this, ‘So guys, where are we driving to again?’ ‘I don’t know, let’s just drive’ ‘Yeah, let’s just push through and drive the whole night, we can easily do that’. We have all been there, am I right? And then you are six hours into the journey and you’re not even halfway and the mood levels start dipping, the hunger levels increase, the sun starts sinking, the hangover from the night before is kicking in and your backs start giving you indications of what it will be like when you become an old duck. This was us. After a quick nap in the back and downing a Monster Energy Drink, I was buzzing which led me to drive from 2:00am to 7:00am non-stop feeling great the entire time. In hindsight, this is pretty worrying! We made it though, and that’s what counts.

DCIM100GOPRO

We finally made it to the colourful border of Lebombo, Mozambique. If you can imagine the most stereotypical image of Africa in your head right now, this is probably a very accurate depiction of our situation at the border. If you were picturing lions and elephants roaming freely around the border post, stop it, you’re wrong! After having our passports stamped by the most unfriendly officials in the history of unfriendly officials, we headed upward and onward through the first border check point to the next however what proceeded to greet our eyes was a noisy, intimidating and very colourful spectacle. There were heaps of people rushing around with an air of quiet chaos, ushering our vehicle in multiple directions and shouting things at us that we couldn’t understand through our windows. There were trucks and lorries packed full to the brim, the heavy load making the poor vehicles completely lopsided with luggage of all shapes and sizes packed high on the top of the roof. After being swiftly ushered out of the car by two what seemed official men, they proceeded to take all of our car papers and passports inside and told us skip the queue of about twenty other people, already a sketchy sign. It just didn’t seem right, but once you get yourself in a tricky situation it’s harder to get yourself out without upsetting anyone. We were asked to pay custom fee’s to cover the laptops and camera’s in our vehicle however with much skepticism, SP and I took matters into our own hands and asked a more official looking official about the standard protocol at the border of which he informed us that no costs had to be paid, just a stamp on our car papers and passports and we were golden to go. This was a big lesson learnt: Always handle things yourself when travelling Africa and always state that you have been to that country before and know how things work, even if this is a lie. Alternatively, learn the language.IMG_7214[1]

From there we headed onto a nice looking toll road for a whole 2 kilometers until our GPS hurriedly directed us off road into some of the biggest pot holes that I’m sure Pumba had ever seen as well as some off-road night sand driving. After driving through most of the night…again, we arrived at the little haven of Ponta Do Oura at a place called Gamboozini Lodge, a place that I’m afraid would not be in my ‘To Stay’ book due to facilities not working and a ridiculously unfriendly manager who managed to throw death stares that are capable of cutting you so deep, you might just need stitches particularly after one too many glasses of their local drink, RnR (Tipo Tinto Rhum & Raspberry).With very few days spent in the very South of Mozambique, it is hard to give an accurate description of the place as I am positive that the true beauty and magic that my dad has described, lies much further North. This leaves another chapter unwritten in my book and an excuse for another adventure sometime soonProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 preset.

After leaving Mozambique due to a number of reasons such as car problems, a lack of swell and bad weather, we decided to head down to the beautiful Coffee Bay in the Transkei, a true depiction of rural South Africa rich with scenic coastlines, rolling hills and traditional Xhosa huts that dot the hills for as far the eye can see, often having to slam on brakes due to unexpected road traffic scattered across the dirt roads such as donkeys, sunbathing goats and rather large cows whose fastest pace seemed similar to that of my great gran…she’s dead now (RIP, you were a great woman and exemplary lady), as well as children running out from every bush with their hand cupped open shouting ‘SWEEEEEEEETS’.

After staying a couple of nights in a place called Sugar Loaf in Coffee Bay,  where the smell of marijuana permeates from almost every household and eight year olds run alongside your vehicle selling you the ‘best’ kind of mushrooms, you know the kind that makes colours seem a little brighter and life a little, er, different…yeah, those ones. Although this may be a weird thing to say, it is these exact experiences that make visiting the Transkei very different to anywhere else on Earth, a place where the iPhone is still a foreign device worth little to no value, a place where children’s innocence is so sincere that it makes me want to isolate from the outside world for as long as possible and a place where life is so simple, happy and sustainable with many a stories to be told around the campfire at night. After a couple of nights here we pushed on further South to a place called Bulungula Lodge, a definite highlight in my trip as the backpackers is situated in a local village, with no cell phone reception, traditional food and a place where the locals run the lodge. We were also lucky enough to get a quick visit from a couple of friends, Nick, Louis & Jack , but unfortunately, time went too quickly and before we knew it, it was time for SP and I to leave the dirt roads behind and head back into normality in Cape Town in order to attend our graduation ceremonies.

IMG_7267[1]
Overlooking Hole in The Wall – Transkei. [Image: Matt Miszczak]
As I write these words that you are currently reading, SP & I are sitting on a bus with a long 15 hour journey back to Cape Town ahead of us. It is trips like these that our little road trip family will tell our children about one day around the campfire, the stories of how Dan sliced his foot open and got stitches in an awesome rural hospital in the Transkei whilst attempting to get the perfect shot. This guy taught me a lot, namely how to not take life so seriously as well as showing me what real passion looks like when doing something that you love. SP, he’s just a great & dedicated human who makes sure that when he is tasked with something, it is completed to the best of his ability. And then there’s Ben, the person who makes me strive to be a better human and to help me see the value in myself. Together we made a good team, each bringing something unique to the table.

Thanks to everyone for following our epic trip, I am sure that there will be plenty more in the near future, this is just where things are beginning!