Fast Forward

Of course summer in Spain was wonderful. It was one long celebration, through all the birthdays in July and (as insurance for Big Reg continued to be impossible to source) my folks’ Golden Wedding Anniversary in August.

Though the coast of Spain is somewhat busier than we’re used to on the west coast of Africa…

Torre del Mar has its peaceful places…

and we had a wonderful time celebrating my Dad’s birthday…

Ruby’s birthday…

and my Mom’s birthday, all together at last.

On Mom and Dad’s Golden Wedding Anniversary…

we celebrated in true Spanish style…

thanks to the phenomenal flamenco dancer Ángela Márquez, accompanied by classical guitarist Sevillita…

Her shawl dance was exquisite but her solo finale, with jazz percussion footwork, was a masterpiece.

A wonderful night shared with my brother and our Spanish sisters Kathy and Linda

The main reason for our happiness was that Ruby was in heaven: Mom and Dad had managed to find a parking spot for Big Reg next to a stable of 15 horses, 10 of which were stallions. (It was also next to the nudist beach, but that’s another blog.) For six weeks, Ruby was up before any of us and over to the stables to water all the horses and muck out. After school, she’d go back to help tacking up for lessons and maybe get a ride herself. When we moved to the carpark next door, she biked over there twice a day. I’ve never seen her so fit, or so happy.

Teenager suddenly able to leap out of bed at dawn?

Must be horses involved… Ruby glowing.

Thanks to Señor Lumi, Big Reg was able to park off outside Club Hipico, Almayate

a magnificent stable of stallions

that Ruby learned to groom and gallop as well as adore

An unforgettable time in her life

Check the 15th birthday riding boots from Decathlon – thanks Nana!

Eternal thanks to Señor Lumi

seen here on his stallion Magnifico

for all that he taught her

and also to his assistant Onl, from the Dominican Republic

Ruby’s friend and our patient translator

for giving her this life-changing opportunity

to learn that hard work isn’t hard if you love it

Many thanks to Angela Taylor from Buy A Home Spain who first put Mom and Dad in touch with Señor Lumi, and to Chiringuito Playa Fenicia for generously providing us with water.

Thanks also to the irrepressible Joy Smith…

and her son Marcel

our kind neighbours Miguel and Antonio…

and our carpark friends, Pedro and Anna

Javier, Eloy and Ibai

Pura Vida indeed.

On Sat 23rd July, the third anniversary of Joy’s passing, we sat at the table in the truck and had a Family Chat. There remained six weeks of warm before I would have to vacate Europe to avoid relapse, so we had to decide now if we were re-equipping the truck to carry on down the East Coast. I had been doing some intensive internet research on schools from Spain to South Africa, and laid out the options. A long discussion ensued. Opinions were so varied, it was clear no-one was going to get 100% what they wanted, so we gave everyone a few days to think about it.

No one in Spain hits the beach till 12, so it’s always empty at sunrise

In the first week of August we took a vote on what we most wanted to do next: go back to SA, go live in UK, go back to Senegal, or carry on homeschooling down the East Coast? Everyone had to give each option marks out of ten, and then we added up the results. As I’d given ‘go live in UK’ 2 out of 10 and Ruby had given ‘carry on homeschooling’ 2 out of 10, Dakar won out over Cape Town by a combined 29.5 votes to 23.

Sampson and I were pleased: continuing our trek down the East Coast wasn’t possible without leaving Ruby (not feasible or desirable) and the prospect of going back to our old lives in Cape Town was making us both feel queasy. So returning to Senegal for the kids to do the Baccalaureate seemed a good compromise between doing our duty as responsible parents and not feeling like we were relinquishing the adventure. We were looking forward to joining the community of Mamadou and Nicole, Nathan and Mina and conjuring up some comedy/carnival work in collaboration with the Petits Pierres artistic extended family. Sampson was also relishing the idea of driving Big Reg back through Morocco with Zola and catching all those winter waves he’d plotted on the Garmin…

That ship has sailed…

But on 1st September, confirmation came from the W.A.C.A. bilingual school in Dakar that there was no space for Ruby in their Grade 10. Suddenly, we had to switch to plan B: within three working days we booked flights, found somewhere to store the truck and a home for the cats 😦 (thanks to Joy and Marcel). On 6th Sept 2016, we flew back to South Africa.

Gulp.

Around the same time we received an email from a Dutch insurer – “our application had gone into her junk folder and she’d been on holiday so sorry for the delay but yes, she could cover the truck for travel across Europe”. Ah…. Maybe it was all meant to be.

So, let’s fast forward a year:

Back in Cape Town, I spent most of September applying to boarding schools, and from October to December Ruby and Zola went back to Fish Hoek High and Primary Schools respectively. In January 2017 Ruby started at Wynberg Girls High School. She was delighted to be given her own room in the hostel – other boarders may find them small, but she was thrilled that she had a 2m squared space all to herself! We planned to stay a term to ensure she was happily settled in, but ended up postponing our return flights as she had to have some emergency dental surgery during the Easter holidays.

Our dear friends Candi and Sidney run an international volunteer project Projekt Ubuntu

and very kindly let us stay in their beautiful double garage…

a.k.a. the Palace Flophouse…

At Xmas time, when volunteer numbers swelled…

to more than 40 in the big house…

we moved into the ‘LoveShack’ in the garden…

no hardship in summer – four times as big as the truck…

and with access to a washing machine – luxury!

Not to mention the stupendous views…

of the valley I love most in the world…

from the hillside behind the house.

How can I not have a pic of them together?? Here’s Sid with Oncle Pierrot…

and here’s Candi looking like Alice in Wonderland with our Justin

A thousand thanks to the Yogashala angels, without whom we’d never have been able to afford Ruby’s school fees

Thanks also to Uncle Paul Sampson and Auntie Fran, whose heroic efforts to get Joy’s house ready for rental ensured enough extra to cover Ruby’s hostel fees this year. Bless you both xxxx

So in one year, the kids have gone from this…

through this…

to this. She is wearing heels but still… I’m now officially the smallest in the family.

O mi goodness, it was hard to say goodbye…

So grateful she’s getting such a great education in the company of this lot in the meantime – Wynberg girls with visiting eMzantsi boys at Out The Box diversity discussion group

The six week delay into the Cape autumn, combined with having to move 4 times in 9 months and overcommitting myself generally, resulted in an M.E. relapse that has taken me three months to recover from.

The bad news avalanche that had started with Brexit and got rolling with Trump threatened to crush me as President Zuma started to go full Mugabe on us. The ripples from the ‘State of Capture‘ report (exposing the nefarious influence of the Gupta family) published by Thuli Madonsela, the first and last Public Protector with integrity, in October continue to rock the headlines. When our President sacked the Minister of Finance for standing up to corruption (the second time in 2 years) in March, our currency nosedived, with terrible financial consequences for the whole country. The governing party’s focus on looting rather than upholding the law ahead of the 2019 elections is making desperate communities feel even more forsaken. We miss your principled leadership, Uncle Kathy.

The onset of Trump had catastrophic implications for climate change. More than ever I felt glad that I’ve been preparing my kids for a very challenging environmental future for a few years now. As Cape Town’s worst drought in a century took hold, and water restrictions were tightened to 100L per person per day, I was comforted that they know how to cope on 100L a fortnight.

Sampson, Zola and I finally made it back to the truck in Torre del Mar at the end of May. Thanks to Maria of Assurantiekantoor Alessie we got truck insurance paid up for three months and were on the road out of Spain in June, trogging up the coast through Valencia and Barcelona just ahead of the terrorist attacks there.

After improvising a couple of minor truck repairs…

and a spot of sewing, we set off…

Valencia was stunningly space-agey…

we had an amazing day in the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias

Barcelona was fun, we managed to get parking near the Sagrada Família…

but gave up on getting to the Picasso Museum on the third attempt, after Big Reg had to pull unexpectedly across a pedestrian square past gobsmacked Sunday café patrons…

Big Reg wasn’t running so well. Graciès to the gracious Catalunyans who helped us limp through Mataro:

Snr. José Tuxans and his genius son Marc who fixed the fuel pump leak for no charge…

and these lovely ladies who want to remain nameless but gave us a discount price on two new batteries…

to replace these about-to-explode ones

We made it to Marseille in France just in time to pick up a brand new set of tyres. Continental S.A. had sponsored the ones we left South Africa with and promised a set of replacements, but in the interim had ceased to manufacture this size. Thanks to a partnership with our longterm supporter Tractafric, Michelin stepped in with an eleventh hour save.

You know what a state our tyres were in, after 23000km across Africa…

and especially the last 3000km across the Sahara, hardly any tread left at all

These brand new babies cost €1000 each and Michelin and Tractafric have given us FIVE!!!!!

Thanks to Mme Pala of Bureau Transit Marseille for getting them from Michelin Italy to France…

Thanks to M. Pascal Larue ‘the tyre whisperer’ for his expert knowledge and advice…

Thanks to manager Rémi Baptiste (far left) and the whole Euromaster team for doing the installation and alignment…

Most of all, thanks to MICHELIN –

we seriously couldn’t be doing this without you, merci mille fois

We are eternally grateful; I still wake up in the middle of the night and marvel at the wonder of it. Without Michelin and Tractafric, we wouldn’t have a hope of making it back home.

The tyres were installed the Friday before the weekend Ruby flew in to Marseille for her winter school holiday. We had to stick around the Côte Bleue to take her back to the airport three weeks later, so thanks to the municipal police of Sausset-les-Pins, Sainte-Croix and Carry-le-Rouet for being so patient with us.

Sampson family at Sainte-Croix July 2017, thanks to photographer E. Ryland

The plan was to spend the rest of the brief northern hemisphere summer meandering across southern Europe through France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and down the Adriatic coast to Greece before putting Big Reg on a ship across to Egypt in early September.

But ‘the gods of travel’, as Kingsley Holgate says, had other plans for us…

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3 Responses to Fast Forward

  1. P.J.Wallis Peter John Wallis says:

    I await your continuance with ‘bated breath, thanks so much for sharing, it’s like being there with you!

  2. johnno and jillox says:

    I can understand your gratitude to Michelin!

  3. Roger Ford says:

    Great to hear from you guys again! Waiting eagerly for the next installment.

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