After dinner and drinks and a long chat upstairs while Ava used Andy's jogging pants as a body sock (again, see picures) it was time to go. Kelzie was awoken from puppy-draped slumber and Desmond told several times that no, he could not drive, and definitely not if he got in the wrong seat. Oh, dear. We arrived back at the Chillage very late indeed, and found Cecil still awake. He promised us he would wake us early, as we had left the mobiles with Jackie in the cottage - she had given out both our numbers to a friend. We had to leave at eight to be with Klaus for one o'clock for the car service.
I awoke at ten past nine. Cecil had disappeared. Kelzie was unimpressed, as he had promised her a 'cultural tour' that morning. I was unimpressed, as we were now quite astoundingly late. I roused Desmond (geddit?) and thrashed about the house fetching all the gumph one needs for a trip to the Big City, all the while cursing Cecil for not waking us and myself for not sneaking into the cottage to retrieve my phone. Eventually, Kelzie gave up hope of Cecil returning and asked for a ride to Johannesburg. I told her she had one minute. Prepare yourself, dear reader, for a shock. She was ready and by the door, in less than that amount of time. Quite what is wrong with her, I don't know, but she sure ain't your average woman.
We packed a whole load of crap into the Golf and zipped into town. First of all, we had to collect E5,000 from the bank, to buy the spare parts. Kelzie ran to the supermarket for padkos (road snacks) and Desmond joined the queue in Nedbank. After about ten minutes, he lost his patience, but thankfully, after another twenty seconds, he remembered something. We dodged out the door and walked round the back to the trade entrance where (how odd is this?) there are two extra counters.. with no queue whatsoever. What is doubly odd is that the front door is one of those South African airlock things, which only lets one person in, or one person out, at any one time.. yet the trade entrance is simply open to the world. Extraordinary. Anyway, this gave us a head start, and I went to get the car while the poor teller counted out E5,000 in South African 100's and 50's. Here's another amusement; you can't drive past the bank (except on the dual carriageway) without going through the car park. Luckily, under 30 minutes is free, but it's an odd detour to take, indoors, round the back, round the front, etc.. extraordinary. We picked up Kelzie and hit the road.
For once, I made it to the border without suddenly remembering something I'd left behind, and we sailed straight through the Swazi side (remember that, it comes up later) and stopped on the South African. We got our passports out and smiled sweetly for the border guard, who asked to see Kelzie's tongue piercing, and asked her how she eats with it.
'I open my mouth,' she said, mysteriously. 'And I put food in it.'
The guard was not convinced. Anyway, after we'd all had a good laugh at the shaggy hair on my passport photograph (very funny guys) we went back to the car, only to be pulled over by an official with a clipboard. Now, please note that although Oshoek is the strictest of all the Swazi borders, the most they have ever done by way of security is open my boot and look at my bags - I guessed they were checking for illegal immigrants (in the boot of a Golf??). On this occasion, they first asked me to open the bonnet and radioed through the chassis number and registration to HQ, to check they matched. Then the clipboard guy's colleague went through all of our bags in minute detail. He thought he'd hit the jackpot when he opened Kelzie's bag to find a 6'x8'x4' block of plastic-wrapped white stuff.. until it turned out to be cotton wool. Then he got bored. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure what looked so dodgy. I mean, sure, we were all wearing sunglasses, and Desmond was dangling his dreadlocks out of the window, but .. ah, well, what can you do? Smile and wave, smile and wave.. and then we were through.
The journey was fantastically nondescript, except for the leg after Middelburg, during which Kelzie fed us two entire packets of biltong from the back seat. It was amazing; rather like those bottomless cokes you get in the States; every time my mouth was about to be empty, a stick of meat was pressed into my palm. Rock on!
We zoomed down the R24 into Bruma (with only a brief detour when I took one too many turnings towards the airport and ended up in International Departures) and popped over the hill into Orange Grove. The time was 2:05 and Klaus was so surprised I'd made it at all that he even forgave me for being an hour late. We wandered down to Louis Botha for a spot of lunch, which we found at the somewhat suspicious-sounding 'Radium Beer Hall.' Anne knew exactly where we were, even knew the place, and came to join us after we'd dispensed with exceptionally over-sauced burgers and some delicious cold lager. Fantastic.
There appeared to be some screw-up over the Landy parts, and although I phoned around I couldn't find anybody willing to supply four pistons for R4,000; the cheapest started off, 'well, you have to buy the heads, shafts and rings separately, you know, and heads are R2,750 each..' At this point, I hung up.
Anne took us back to Klaus, who had not only finished the service, but also steam-cleaned the engine and hosed down the paintwork, removing all the incriminating dust blotches from the previous night's sojourn at the farm. He did, however, take the liberty of telling Anne about the clod of earth he'd found under the front wing. Tooled up with transport, we all set off for the house, and almost immediately, I got lost. Not seriously, as Johannesburg is somewhere between NY and London, being mostly gridded but also not so in unexpected places, but enough to make me realise I no longer know it better than most other towns. We arrived in Rosebank and immediately decided to go and take in a stupid movie (Mbabane must be the only capital in the world without a cinema). Men in Black II fitted the bill perfectly, as did dinner at the infamous Crank's immediately afterwards, courtesy of a certain Aunt of mine. Everybody was duly impressed, and for once I was spared having to share my mussels with anybody as Kelzie is none too fond of shellfish and Desmond actively allergic to them. I'm pretty sure Anne snaffled a few while I wasn't watching, though.
Crank's is insane. The walls are modelled on recycled dayglo sarongs, with bizarre and suggestive surrealist paintings hung on them. Copulating Barbie dolls swing from the ceiling on invisible thread, and waitresses in Vietnamese costumes and crepe paper hats ply you with food, beer and, again, suggestively named cocktails. At one point, I was even called a 'wimp' for declining to get smashed before driving home. Bizarre.
After dinner, it had been decided, we were to go and take in the Ali G movie, which had just opened in SA. This was something I missed in Brighton, and to tell you the truth, I think I enjoyed it much more for (a) not having been in the UK for a month or so and (b) having two crazy black geezers laughing themselves stupid either side of me. Needless to say, this film is totally stupid; however, I think my favourite moment was the punchline to the entire plot:
'Well done, Ali, you've saved Staines from having Terminal Five built on top of it. We're going to build it on Slough, instead.'
I think I was the only person in the cinema to hoot with laughter at that one.
Bizarrely enough, Desmond has been on this planet nearly forty years without ever touching a bowling ball. This we had to rectify - the sorry results are amply illustrated in the photo album. We also decided to smack some balls round a pool table for a while, by which point I don't think anybody else was quite seeing straight. We asked around the mall for a good place to go dancing, but everywhere seemed about to close (it's amazing how time flies when closing time never comes) as it was already 1:30. Eventually, we got a tip-off about a party near Wits uni, in town. We lost no time in zooming over there and parking on the pavement. I love the lawless end of town! Our excitement, however, was somewhat checked by the adamant door staff who wouldn't let us in as non-members. They pointed to the 'rules and regulations.'
I squinted through the smoke and the dim lights and read, 'dress code.. membership.. ROAR.. straight clients only admitted with a gay couple..' Oh, dear. I come 5,000 miles and end up back in a gay club. Sadly, we wandered outside. Then Kelzie, with an excited squeal, pointed at the wall. 'Look!' she said. 'There's another one next door!'
By Jove, the girl had something! We stormed in past the security and, pausing only briefly to hand over some cash, stormed into the bar. I don't know if you've ever had tonic water under strong UV light, but it looks fantastic, and neither Desmond nor I was about to pass up the opportunity of looking like an alien. The club appeared to be one enormous marquee, with a few concrete rooms dotted around, and a roof garden; fantastic. At one point, Des and I were snapped by a guy with a digital camera, who handed us each a card saying 'You're on THUNDA.com - er, or will be soon..' or something like that, but I checked yesterday and there's still nothing on there from Jo'burg on the night in question (July 26th). If anybody finds a pic of us, please email it to me; I'll give you a mention.
At half past four, it was time to go home. We woke Anne up crashing around looking for blankets, until she informed us that all the beds were made up and we were perfectly entitled to go away and sleep in them, please. 'Nuff said. We passed out with visions of Desmond on my shoulders and shots of apple sours in our heads..
In the morning, Kelzie got up first and wandered off to Rosebank to do some final-day shopping, and I received a phone call from Pimane, whose lift had broken down on Barry Hertzog the night before - which was the only explanation he had for waking up in a beetle. I grabbed the keys to Anne's yellow peril and, knees round my ears (the seat is jammed in position for my diminutive grandmother), took off to help them out. When I got there, nobody was in evidence, so, feeling a little short on sleep, I pootled round to my cousin (sort of) Carla's - I had been tipped off there was rugby and a fry-up to be had. After a bonzer shower (Anne's water had been cut off), I munched on toast and eggs while Carla fried up more food and Paul and John shouted at the Springboks, who were getting crushed by the Ozzies. At one point, there was a top-quality punch-up, but frankly the match was not enough to hold my attention as vice-like as it did for the others, and I left to go home. Gerry turned up, picked up the money for the pistons (somewhat restored from the cash machine, after taking a battering the night before - ho hum) and left us to pack up our stuff. Kelzie had to fly to the US, we had to go and see Richard the legenday party animal, in Fourways.
Kelzie, a 'rough guide' - type journalist just back from covering Namibia, had been great fun, and there were tears.. and cheers, as she realised she was finally shot of us. As she said, she was in Swaziland just over 24 hours, but spent at least half of those drunk, and nine of the remaining half asleep. I am hoping, one day, to have a similar average performance.
Desmond and I drove over to Fourways, stopping only to buy a gift in Rosebank (and have a beer on the terrace when we realised the shops were all shut), and arrived at Richard's quite late. When we knocked, we heard a muffled, 'Go away, I'm sober.' Our reputation precedes us once again.
It was bizarre to meet one of the greatest party animals I've ever met, hanging around in a spotless flat with his wife and child. But there you go. We bundled into our cars and drove round the corner to a Welsh themed pub, Taffy's. Well, I say, 'Welsh Themed,' but frankly, the only Welsh theme about it was the fact that they had beer on tap, strangely alluring yet strangely under-age women behind the bar, and a karaoke bloke with a DA that any of the boys from Grease would've loved, setting up speakers that could've been quite reasonable foundations for Caernarfon castle.
Needless to say, we left fairly promptly, in search of less karaoke and more food. We found it round the corner - and not only did they serve Guinness, but the house speciality was a 400g steak on a stick. I joke not - check the pictures. They also had a promotion on, linking Stella with Ferrari test drives, with the slogan, 'Drink a classic, drive a legend.' I suggested the suffix, 'become a criminal.' Seriously, though, can you imagine any other country where you could happily encourage people to get smashed and drive sports cars? Surreal.
Anyway, after I had persuaded Desmond that two consecutive nights of clubbing were bad for you, we drove to y old haunt, Melville, for a quiet bedtime drink. There, we practised our, 'Westside' routine, and teased the bar staff, who joined in.. great fun. Then, it really was time to turn in and we trundled over to the Zoo Lodge which, amazingly enough for a Saturday night, was fully booked! Can you believe it? I can't. From there it was a short detour (ha ha) back to Bruma, to Brown Sugar. Knocked up by a playboy millionnaire in Johannesburg's heyday, the place is like some sort of stately home, with huge rooms, a rooftop braai (barbeque) area, Jacuzzi, swimming pool, titanic bar, and more private rooms than they can fill. As a house it must have been amazing; as a backpackers, it's absolutely incredible.
In the morning we took full advantage of the unwritten law that backpacker-owners don't charge each other (brilliant!), drove round the corner and bought an enormous bean bag for the Chillage. At less than 12 quid, it was an absolute bargain. Three cheers for the exchange rate! Then, after wrestling it into the boot (I couldn't even see my blind spots with it on the back seats), we put foot for Swaziland.
I wish I had something interesting to say about these 350km burns through the veld, but there really isn't - and one feels lucky that it is so. I once encountered a pair of horses on the road in the middle of the night when returning from Cape Town, and it could've been the kind of story one can do without. Anyway, it's a three hour drive and usually includes a stop at the Middelburg Ultra City (a very grand way of describing a petrol station with a burger joint) but never includes anything thrilling. Sorry about that. Crumbs, look, I've written an entire paragraph about how I've got nothing to write.. I should write text books.
When we arrived, there was brief moment of horror as I couldn't find my passport, but then I found it in my pocket and breathed easy again. There was no trouble at the border, except for them confiscating my passport, in order to 'adjust' my visa - apparently the extension is invalid if you leave the country. Eventually, we got through and arrived in Mbabane two tired but happy little boys.
The passport thing has got a bit weird, actually. I've spent all week at Home Affairs, waiting for the relevant woman to be around ( the first time we met, the passport was still on its way from the border) and when I finally caught her today she sent me off to get a form, which I now discover requires two photos and a letter of recommendation from my host in Swaziland. Quite why they didn't tell me this straight off, is a mystery. So I've become very well acquainted with slumping in cool corridors and waiting interminable ages for nothing to happen, then driving home (or to work.. hem-hem) without having achieved anything but a sore bum.
Yes, I am cycling when I can, but if I have to go with somebody, I drive. Shut it.
Other than that, this week has been uneventful, except for discovering a rather nice Chinese down in the valley, at the Pick'n'Pay shopping centre, and watching Leslie Nielsen in 2001: A Space Travesty which, through my drunken haze, I failed to understand at all, but was quite funny.
Anyway, I'm sure you're utterly bored by all of that, and I've probably got a whole load of work to do anyway, so I'll leave you to it. Don't forget to email, and check if I'm on AIM during the day. I'm thinking of including a 'contributions' area, with stupid stuff people have been sending me to keep me amused.. watch this space!
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