On The Road Again

We love going on road trips, whether it be for a day out, a weekend away or a holiday break, it’s great to escape the city for a bit, take the open road and breathe some fresh air, and there’s plenty of open road in this vast country. I remember our first trip to Esperance, some 800km from Perth on the south-east coast of Western Australia, when I looked at the map after we’d travelled for more than 8 hours and saw that we’d covered but a fifth of the distance that Western Australia measures from north to south, and even less of the distance from Perth to Sydney, which made us feel quite small by comparison. It’s great to see the lie of the land and get a feel for it though – something you’d never be able to experience if you travelled in a big aeroplane – and some places we’ve seen in Western Australia are remarkably similar to southern Africa.

Our kids are used to it – have been since they were babies – and modern technology such as iPods and iPads help make the journey shorter for them (when they get tired of reading).  As they get older they try and avoid the daytrips (long car journeys that start and end at home in the same day and have no objective other than looking out the window in their minds, even if there’s a nice lunch being promised at the halfway mark) and make their own plans for the day while we go out and appreciate the scenery and a day out.

As a child we used to spend some of our winter holidays in Namibia which meant about a 2-day drive from Cape Town and I still remember driving along in our yellow VW Kombi with the windows rolled (yes, manually rolled, my children) down as we headed north into the warmer weather, reading, looking out the window or sleeping, eating naartjies (mandarins) and biltong, and not getting bored (or maybe I forgot that part). My ironman husband did the road trip thing a bit differently in his youth and cycled from Pietermaritzburg to Cape Town (some 1500km) together with some mates and his dad in a backup vehicle – that’s ironman addiction tendencies showing up quite early but strangely enough this story was only regaled after we were married – but at the end of the day we both enjoy taking the open road. It’s a great feeling when you leave the city behind, head north and start reaching the warmer weather and wide open spaces and it’s almost easier to breathe the further you go and leave the stress and concerns of your normal routine behind.

If the trip involves a camping holiday it means, by default for me, a series of separate lists of things I have to buy/pack/prepare/remember as I can’t stand the thought of forgetting something I’ll need, for instance my coffee filter like that one fateful time! Before we set off on a long trip I usually run around like a road-runner bird with about a hundred last-minute things to do like pack the frozen meat into the camping fridge, check that the boys have packed everything that they’re responsible for, make a flask with coffee for the road, prepare snacks – good old (Afrikaans) “padkos” or road food, directly translated, which just doesn’t have the same ring to it – and check all my various lists!

Once we’re on the road the kids (have to) take care of their own in-car entertainment on our trips but since my husband is not a good passenger – doesn’t like sitting still at the best of times – he ends up doing most of the driving (by choice) and insists on choosing which music we’ll listen to. This in itself is not a problem but when he starts to sing or whistle along off key and tone deaf I have to beg him to stop. Some people can’t stand the sound of a fingernail being pulled along a blackboard. I can’t stand off key singing along to music. It feels as if it goes straight through my spine, so then he stops singing for a bit but after a while he gets bored and starts singing again without realising and I have to remind him again of the ban on singing. If I’m in luck there will be a football or cricket match on while we’re driving and we can listen to the commentary, which eliminates the need (and impulse) for singing should boredom set in.

As a result of my compulsive list writing habit I haven’t forgotten many things over the years but I did once forget my little make-up bag, or rather I remembered it late just as we were about to hit the freeway and we had to turn back home to get it. It’s not that I wear a lot of make-up but there are a couple of essentials I couldn’t do without for a whole week without some sense of humour failures but oh boy was I unpopular that particular time for adding 10 minutes onto a 10 hour drive! In contrast my husband never makes any lists and always packs at the last minute (like a packing superman) but usually forgets something at home and we’ve had to turn back to fetch a running-GPS charger or make a separate trip to the closest town to where we’re camping for him to buy a pair of running shorts because he left his at home and other times he’s had to buy a hat or a tourist-type singlet in Coral Bay to use as a running shirt but the most important thing that ever got left behind was the tent pegs. Yes, kind of an essential item.

The "Running Shirt" bought in Coral Bay one year

The “Running Shirt” bought in Coral Bay one year

Now I never pack the tent and its necessary paraphernalia – that’s man-land in our house – but everything we need is listed and before we leave I read everything out that the boys had to pack and it gets ticked off the list but somehow the two boys in our house managed to assume that the tent pegs were inside the tent bag without checking and the previous time it got put away it clearly wasn’t put away in its rightful place (man-job) and we got to Coral Bay (a 12-hour trip and 2 hours away from the closest town), started to set up the tent and then realised that we had no tent pegs. There was some furious (and loud) searching for a few minutes at which point I quietly sat down in the shade and decided that this problem was not mine to solve! The boys set off to the local shop and thankfully some other poor family probably had the same problem sometime in the past and the entrepreneurial shop saw it as an opportunity and they were able to buy some tent pegs. Holiday rescued!

All the planning, preparations, packing and possibly forgetting something is well worth it when we get to our destination though – which will soon be warm, sunny and laid back Coral Bay  – and we love to be on the road again…

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