WITH airlines tumbling and better trains still only a sniff of a future promise, South Africans like me hang on to the comfort and joy from a good old-fashioned road trip, even if it takes the last drop of pricey oil we import to carry on doing so.
The stories of our lives unfold, dotted from the small towns that connect to the high rises, and the mountain ranges. It is as if our skies were designed for it too, offering dramatic landscapes to fill the journey with live and constantly changing onboard entertainment.
This was what I thought of partially into the family journey that took me through the sketch-worthy Karoo, heading to the gold pots of the hardworking folk that live on historic mine dumps on the highveld.
Scenic distractions aside, I was on extra guard as I contemplated that this year’s outbound journey claimed over a thousand lives. It left me wondering if South Africans regard our roads, cars and machinery that drive us towards one another in the same light as we see ourselves.
The pride of owning freedom but not rolling up our sleeves to protect it; the price of world class roads but not driving in a way that honours those we share it with. I wonder how these are related.
A few lessons I learnt for a good and solid road trip came in handy to make things easier for all involved. It all started a few days before we even filled the costly tank. Padkos is a favourite place to start, followed by music selection and choosing stopovers to break up the journey.
Careful planning is just one of the lessons from the corporate world I applied to lighten the over 2 000 kilometers we committed to, in less than a week.
Much like any project, the time comes when the fun is hardly worth the effort.
Padkos wilts, the music is not to everyone’s taste, and the stopover is still hours away. It is also around this time when attitudes towards other road users can become competitive at best and aggressive at worst.
This is where the creative team member rises above the average. An unscheduled stop, a sing-a-long tune or a fresh round of coffee can cheer up the troops.
My dog #Ben kept us honest, insisting on a stop every two hours, sniffing every pole in every town with eyes that beg us to call this home, and start a braai to celebrate.
As good project managers know, the small celebrations should not distract you from the bigger goal, and we had to trek forth. Family waited for a wholesome time, gifts to be unwrapped were rattling in the back and padkos was developing a rhythm of its own.
We persisted, #Ben obliged, we returned to the task at hand.
When it was not my turn to drive or change the music, I kept awake by following the conversations on social media.
One interesting conversation was called #Wishes4SA – and I contributed a wish for a double lane highway that stretches from Cape Town to Musina.
On reflection, I am not sure it is fair. Our road network has improved, we drive better cars, we have plenty of pit stops to choose from.
I would like to reconstruct my wish (which would only mean more e-tolls anyway) and ask for citizens that drive the way they want to live in a country they are proud to be part of.
Adriaan drives only when it’s too far for a bicycle to reach and too costly for an air ticket. He balances his options on Twitter as @aiBester. Opinions expressed are his own.
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