Day 34 – 41

Well, we’re on the road again. This time it took us all of three days to do the 1280km back to the Berg, where we left off when tick bite fever got me down. We still marvel at the strength Suzann received to just keep driving those 1280km home when I was ill. It’s no wonder she went down as well. But now we all better and ready for anything … Little did we know how we’d be tried again so soon into the journey.

First overnight stop at the Gariep Dam was pleasant enough and left us with far fewer kilometres to do the next day to Golden Gate National Park’s Glen Reenen Campsite. But oh what a tragic night it turned out to be in the park. Just as we were turning in for the night a group of campers arrived under the cover of dark and proceeded to take over the entire campsite. It was screaming and shouting and laughing and all talking at the same time, imitating animal noises … jackals, hyenas, you name it … and it just got worse the more the bottles clinked as they were dropped in the dustbins. When the lot finally quietened down after two in the morning one guy started to have a massive row with his girlfriend over the phone. It went something like ‘… baby just listen … yes, but … my angel, I know … I don’t understand … what do you want from me … how can you say that … nooo … come on baby … just let me speak … bla-bla-bla’ Suffice it to say, we were up early and packed like fiends in order to just get away as soon as possible … they were up again at sparrows and now the music had started as well.

Mahai Campsite in the Royal Natal National Park was not far however, and we arrived early enough to shack up and get a bit of a snooze in the avie. Thank goodness for the peace and quiet of the Berg … we were camping in the shadow of the majestic amphitheatre.

So relaxed we’d become that things got a bit less organised than usual and when you don’t put things in their place, losses happen. Once all zipped into the tent, ready for bed, my mother asked the dreaded question, ‘where are my glasses?’ Now it was routing about between the clothes and sleeping bags, looking in every bag for the elusive specs, but to no avail. Finally we discovered them under my mother’s bottom. She’d proceeded to sit on them, collapsing on the bed in a stupor of fatigue. Fishing them out from under a butt cheek, she put them on her face and declared them ‘fine’. That was before we had a closer look … Laughing hysterically we had to break the news to her that one of the lenses were no longer in the frame. Now we were all laughing and scratching about in the folds of the sleeping bag to find the lost lens. Finally we ran thing to earth. It was still intact and I tried to reinsert it into the frame but to no avail. The frame had bent slightly and there was no way I was going to get the lens back in. Now she’d just have to read with the one eye only. Thank goodness it was just a pair of reading glasses.

After the spectacular spectacles incident of the previous evening we were supposed to pack up and leave for Bergville, from where Suzann and I were going to start cycling again to meet up with our original route from the Berg toward Dundee. That was the plan but it was obviously not meant to be, since I woke up with the certainty of a nasty head cold and the facial pain of sinusitis. I had been feeling a bit bunged up the day before but chalked it up to allergies. Obviously it was not just allergies. I was feeling rotten and in no fit state to drive, let alone cycle. In fact, I must’ve looked so bad that a worried mom and Suzann took a walk to the reception offices to enquire about a chalet for the night so that I could have a real bed to lie in. The lady at reception was very helpful and assured us that she’d arrange with reception at Tendele, the formal accommodation in the park (around the hill from the campsite), for an early check-in. With that they returned to find a down-and-out me, flat on my back, on a half blown-down air mattress in the hotbox of a canvas tent in the full morning sun. I was grateful for the chalet and tried to help them pack-up camp but just proceeded to get more in the way than anything else.

Arriving around the hill at the organised time of 12pm, Suzann went to check-in. Now suddenly the reception didn’t know of any arrangements made for us. The chalet we were allocated was not yet ready. The sink was full of dirty dishes floating in scummy water … but at least the beds were made. Upon enquiry Suzann was horrified by the rude reaction of the man at reception. He went ahead and got all defensive and argumentative, demanding how she can expect them to prep all the chalets before 12 when check-in is only after 2pm! Trying to remain calm and explain nicely that she was demanding nothing and that this all was supposed to have been arranged by the lady at Mahai reception (on her offering … we hadn’t even asked for special treatment), Suzann finally gave up and left this awful man who just refused to listen or even try to understand. He made it seem to be all our fault and proceeded to take all his frustrations out on poor old Suzann. Upset and disillusioned, we were left at the half prepped chalet. Luckily one of the cleaning staff arrived to fill up the tea and coffee, and she was kind enough to arrange for me to lie down in the chalet next door while they finished our one. This courtesy was not however extended to my mom and Suzann, who were left to stand outside in the hot sun until 2pm, official check-in.

Finally in our unit, I went to shower while mom and Suzann collapsed on the chairs in the lounge. Just as they were getting comfy who other than Mr. Baboon would come in for an inspection. Jumping up and screaming didn’t deter this raider who calmly went up on his hind legs to see onto the dining room table. Finding nothing to eat there, he nonchalantly turned around and walked out the back door, leaving two badly shaken human beings in his wake. But this was not the last we’d see of this baboon. Later the afternoon when Suzann and mom went to bring in the food he appeared again. There was just enough time to close the back of the bakkie before he was on them, grabbing the other end of the grocery box my mom had in her hand. Suzann started shouting, ‘just leave it …’ mortally afraid that he’d attack my mother if she hung on to the food, but the old lady wouldn’t let go and hung on the other end of the box for dear life, despite the baboon baring his teeth and hissing at her. Quick thinking saw her toss the bread bag with a few slices in at him. This distracted him, causing him to let go and grab the bread instead. Now mom took her gap and ran for the chalet with the box of groceries, Suzann on her heels. Once inside, I heard the story of the tug-of-war with the baboon and my blood ran cold. Reprimanding my mother more from shock than anger, she just giggled hysterically and said, ‘… he has big teeth, hey?’ We all got the nervous giggles and then Suzann still commented, ‘… and his breath stinks!’ But something was not smelling too good inside either. Turned out that the stinky baboon breath was actually stinky baboon poo that Suzann, and my mother, had stepped in in their haste to get away. Now each one was hobbling around, one shoe off, one shoe on. Luckily they’d stepped in the doodoo with the opposite feet so that they could each wear one of my boots on the afflicted foot to finish the unpacking. In fact, they had to wear one of my boots and the other their own for the rest of the afternoon as it took some scrubbing with the toilet brush (the only thing we had at hand) to get the sticky excrement off their shoes. The poo may’ve been scrubbed off but the smell clung to the soles … not even a spritz of toilet spray would chase the reek away. It took scrubbing them with pure Dettol to get that ‘vrot’ off.

The following morning saw me, sick as I was, standing guard at the back door so that Suzann and my mom could pack up again, fetching and carrying between the bakkie and the chalet. Mr. Bob and his mates didn’t show up though … thank goodness.

Moving on was necessary if we wanted to keep to a semblance of our original itinerary. All the time we’d gained with rerouting to the N2 through the Eastern Cape and not continuing on the awful gravel roads of the Wild Coast, had been lost to the down time with tick bite fever … and then some. We’d also have to cut out the dog-leg through KZN and simply continue north on the N11. Now it was more like riding with bicycles than riding on them. I was still not feeling well so Suzann was forced to drive us to the next camp, Kwa-Rie, in Dundee.

I wasn’t going to let my feeling crappy spoil one more day of cycling though, so I dragged myself up the next morning and slipped in behind the wheel so Suzann could start the cycling in the direction of Ermelo … all along the N11.

Yet, it was not meant to be again. I was steadily beginning to fade in the vehicle as Suzann was fading out there in front on the relentless hills. Coming off two weeks of tick bite fever had done nothing for her fitness and the hills got the better of her. Taking a funny turn, we stopped to feed her jelly sweets and coke to try to raise her blood glucose. And here I was again stuffed with cold and flu meds. Just as she recovered, she called the day and took over the driving so I could have a lie down on a pile of pillows on the back seat. Me, head lolling around like a bladder on a stick, dossed while Suzann put foot to Loskop Dam. We’d decided to cut our losses and just drive to the point we were supposed to be at by this time … and that was Loskop. I could rest and recover fully before we started out again.

Loskop brought rest for me but not for long. As I stepped out of the tent from my afternoon lie-down for a cup of coffee, my big toe nail caught on the mesh screen of the tent door, ripping the nail partially out of its bed. The pain was excruciating and grabbing at the foot blood began to well up and drip on the floor of the tent. My hands were full of blood, the red fluid dripped down into the dust making little balls in the ground as Suzann raced to get me a chair. Dropping into the seat, I was huffing and puffing, panting against the slowly blossoming pain that just seemed to get worse and worse. There was so much blood. It ran red as I gingerly dipped the toe into the bath of Dettol water that my mother had produced with miraculous speed. Trying to clean the mess with a bit of gauze, I began to feel a bit odd myself, and before long the world was spinning and I was clutching the chair for dear life. The only thing that made the world stand still was to focus on a fixed point. So there I was, sitting and staring at a notch in the tree … panting … with a jar of pickled onions under the one arm and a bottle of apricot jam under the other … The fastest way to cool down is a cold item in the armpit. Slowly Suzann fed me sips of Coke between spoonfuls of peanut butter with extra salt. One of the remedies should work … raise the blood glucose, blood pressure and cool me down … Slowly I began to feel better but I still could not look at the toe … anyway, my mother wouldn’t let me (she held a towel up like a surgical screen in front of my face as Suzann globbed Bactroban ointment onto my toe and closed it up with gauze and Micropore tape, creating a cap).

After this episode, the cold coffee had to be tossed. What a day … At least my cold was getting better and the antibiotic I’d started taking for my sinusitis had started to work. I was getting better, but my toe was still a bit of a mess. Oh well, no cycling for me … for a while anyway … Suzann will have to take up the slack … at least I’ll still be able to drive back-up though … I hope …

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