Back in the Saddle

Well, our luck has definitely changed. As soon as we crossed the border into Namibia, we felt the force was with us!

The dramatic change was first seen in the landscape. As we approached Noordoewer, only half an hour after being surrounded by a ravishing display of Northern Cape blooms, it was like we had stumbled onto the set of a 70’s Clint Eastwood movie, all sandy expanse and tumbleweed. No green at all. Has anyone ever made a west coast Western? I reckon ‘Namakwa Cowboys’ could be a huge hit.

From this

From this

to this

to this

The second major change was the temperature. When we left Springbok at lunchtime I was wearing winter boots and a jersey. When we crossed the border at 5pm, I had to change into slops and a Tshirt. We are back in the land of No Socks and I love it.

As we drove over the bridge marking the border, this blue crane, South Africa’s national bird, was sat on a stone in the middle of the Orange River looking wistfully back towards Mzansi. It was so still, I suspect it might be an installation.

Spot the blue crane

Spot the blue crane

in the middle of the Orange river as we crossed over

in the middle of the Orange river as we crossed over

The next morning was balmy warm, very different from frosty Springbok, so we were able to do yoga on top of the truck. A wonderful start to the day both for us and the passing longdistance lorry drivers who couldn’t believe their dawn-bleary eyes.

Yoga on the roof at sunrise

Yoga on the roof at sunrise

Friday we drove steadily through the flat lands of southern Namibia, along a ruler-straight road surrounded by unrelenting low scrub. We managed to do a school day. The kids are proving very adept at wobbly writing: we stick to maths when we’re moving and leave cursive practice to when the driver’s having a snack break.

We reached Keetmanshoop in late afternoon and had a little wander in the local Pick’n’Pay. For the south peninsulans out there, Keetmanshoop looks like Ocean View got together with municipal Fish Hoek, but without the saving grace of the sea. Rands and Namibian dollars are interchangeable and prices are fairly similar except imported fruit and veg, which are far more expensive here. A beautiful high-cheekboned, dark-skinned lady on the till asked Zola if he was Owambo like her, and laughed when I told her he was Xhosa (with a proper click).

Saturday morning we got going early, hoping to reach Windhoek by the evening, but only about half an hour down the road into a strong headwind a shadow passed suddenly over the window and there was an almighty SMACK on the side of the truck. Sampson was pale when he came down from checking the roof “We’ve lost a solar panel”. Quickly, we doubled back and caught sight of the 1.5m x 75cm glass and aluminium panel, upside down on the side of the road. Thank God it hadn’t hit another vehicle.

A clip had broken and the panel had flipped off the top and slammed down the side of the truck hard enough to scrape deep gouges in the steel before hitting the ground. Luckily there was no hard shoulder, just a sandy edge, and it landed face down spreading the impact. I snapped Sampson’s face just as he picked it up:

Sampson in shock

Sampson in shock

Yep, by some miracle it was NOT broken – we could hardly believe it! An hour later, Mark had rebolted and rewired it back on the roof and got the solar power working again, no harm done. Big up to SunPower panels supplied by Treetops Renewable Energy Systems – South African made, built to withstand all sorts of unexpected trials!

We are putting this extraordinary stroke of luck down to the powerful aura of ‘Kingsley’s testicle’. This is the fond name given by Sampson to a special pebble that African adventurer Kingsley Holgate gave us when we went to hear him speak at a Cape Union Mart event in February. Kingsley tells a wonderful story about why he started travelling, which involved laying seven stones on a bar counter, representing our ‘three score years and ten’. He swept five off and challenged his companion “What are you going to do with your last two?”

In his late 60’s now, he always carries one to remind him of his life’s priorities. I was very moved when he gave his latest, a beautiful pebble from his journey to the Ngoro-ngoro crater, to Mark to wish us well. It’s smooth and black and fits snugly into the palm of your hand like an executive worry bead. Sampson immediately christened it ‘Kingsley’s testicle’ as a testament to the enormous cojones of the man, and I’m ashamed to say the name stuck.

We only got round to hanging it from the rearview mirror on the final day of our extended stay in Springbok. It’s twisted in a recycled orange bag, along with our other good luck talismans, such as a wooden Buddha blessed by the Dalai Lama given to us by our friends Siobhan and Anton, and a Japanese healing box from my Dad. It might be random reasoning, but I’m not arguing with Kingsley’s testicle. Mark cupped it gratefully as he got back into the driving seat.

I did my first stint back at the wheel today. I passed my Code 10 test 18 months ago in preparation for this trip, and have done several hundred kilometres around SA, but felt a particular pang of pride and joy this afternoon, driving my dozing family along that empty road to the wide blue horizon.

Protected by Kingsley's testicle and other totems

Protected by Kingsley’s testicle and other totems


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4 Responses to Back in the Saddle

  1. says:

    Hi Guys so nice to read your news! glad the panel was sorted.Happy trails xx

  2. Roger says:

    Congrats on crossing the first border! (Think the crane is a heron) Very impressed that the solar panels are tougher than they look. Think I would have been just as surprised. Glad it you could repair it. Enjoy Namibia.

    • Ah! Thanks for pointing that out – I don’t have my twitcher Mom here to check in with like I usually do! Are herons more statuesque than cranes?

      • Roger says:

        Cranes are found more in grasslands and wetlands. Herons stand more vertically and are often seen at water waiting patiently for prey.

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