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South African Shenanigans - extract from an expedition diary.

We are currently winding our way around South Africa and with Cape Town only three weeks away we are trying to cram in as much climbing as possible.

We have already been to the Cedarburg range (Home of the famous ‘Energy Crisis’ climb) and the Rockland area (World Class bouldering). We are currently east of Pretoria in an area called the Restaurant at the end of the universe. It is a sport climber’s paradise with lush vegetation and spectacular waterfalls. We have been here for 4 days and will spend another 3 before we travel south to Lesotho. There we have been invited to develop a crag in exchange for free accommodation. This will balance well with all the climbing we have been doing on established climbs. As we have been traveling into more developed countries and travel has become more ‘normal’ my e-mails are becoming less exciting. So when events happen at the time it is not always good but once it has all settled down you are thankful for the new adventure you can write home about. Here is a couple for you:

1: The phone rang. ‘Dave, DAAVEE’ Mel was shouting for me and I knew that things

weren’t quite right. I picked up the phone. ‘Hi Dave, it’s Rich here, Caroline has fallen and cut her head badly, we are at the hospital, can you come up.’ I managed to hitch a lift and went up to the hospital armed with insurance details and money. I walked into the room and Caroline was laid down with a bad cut in her head, shown clearly as her hair had been shaved ready for stitches. Her head was laid in a pool of blood and her body was shaking from shock. Rich, her boyfriend was there with her, looking almost as shocked. The doctor released the pressure and a jet of blood streamed out and joined the other pool on the floor. The Doctor began to sew the cut. I went out, warned the insurance company and then borrowed a car from the owner of the house we were staying in. I felt sorry for his cream leather interior as Caroline, complete with a drip, lay on the front seat and Fi drove us off towards a better hospital 100km away. Before we left the doctor gave me instructions on how to change the drip. The Merc sped off complete with passengers and a patient.

20 minutes later there was a crunching sound from under the wheels. ‘What the fuck was that!’, Fi exclaimed, ‘there was nothing on the road’. We pulled over and there, 35km from the hospital on the edge of the motorway the fan had decided to fragment and slice into the radiator spilling its contents on the tarmac. ‘Fuck’. I went up to the edge of the road and began waving at passing cars. A minibus stopped and I explained the situation. Returning back to the car I helped Caroline walk over to the bus, while Fi and I talked how we would get the car rescued. Rich and Fi stayed behind and we sped off towards the hospital. The drip was running low and I opened up the second liter bag and stuck it onto the cannula.

We arrived. 30 mins later X rays and examinations were completed and luckily there was no damage to her that we couldn’t see. She stayed overnight just so that a trained eye could be kept on her. Meanwhile. I had phoned the owner of the ill-fated Merc and he said he would send some friends out to them. They arrived and now Fi and Rich had a vehicle upgrade to a BMW. The owners of which swore blind that it was Gods doing that had kept their evening free that night, hmmmmm. Luckily with this story and all other great stories things ended well.

2: The signs ahead read D867 and D285, the C17 sign was nowhere to be seen. We took

the risk and turned left. As we did so, 10m down the right hand turn was the sign for the C17. BOLLOCKS, we had taken the wrong turn and had to stop.

Normally this would not be a problem but today we had no clutch. I looked around and all there was that could possibly be called ‘help’ was an out of service garage complete with a creaky sign and an overweight man in a string vest and a cowboy hat who sat watching us. This man contained to sit there and made no movement at all. He continued to stare as Fi and I with our combined weight managed to engage the clutch and move off into forth. It was clear now what we had to do; the remaining 220km to the closest half-decent town would have to be done with no clutch! So in other words, stopping would mean breakdown.

I threw some hand basins into the back and told everyone at the back of the truck that we would not be stopping and they would need to piss in the basins. 10mins into the drive about 3km down the road a white van was parked across the road.

‘It WILL move’ Fi said confidently. The van did not move. ‘Come on, move.’ I whined through gritted teeth. The van did not move. ‘For fuck’s sake, move!’ Both Fi and I were now screaming. Of course the driver of the van could not hear us, but as we were about to begin breaking the van began to move. When we passed it the van just pulled in parallel to the truck. We both drew a sigh of relief.

This scenario was all too similar to the film ‘Speed’; if we dropped below a certain speed things would go wrong. 100km had passed and we had established what speed and revs were needed to get into the different gears. Fi would shout across ‘I’m 35kmph, what gear?’ ’32kmph for 7th’. ‘Bollocks, missed it, next’. ’20 for 6th’ The gear would slip in and we would pick up speed and start again until we were in 10th. Then there it was.

Ahead of us was a closed gate. A few obscenities were yelled at it but unsurprisingly the gate remained shut. I unwound the window and climbed out onto the side of the cab. ‘Slower, slower, OK!’ I jumped, landed on my feet and began sprinting off, made easier as I was already going at 20kmph. I could hear the truck behind me struggling down through the gears. I got to the gate opened it and seconds later the truck sailed through. Having closed the gate I started sprinting again to catch the truck. I jumped onto the cab and slipped back through the window into my seat.

This happened once more before darkness fell and we had to strain our eyes to check the road ahead. We figured we could deal with most problems including cattle in the road. Occasionally out of the wing mirrors you could see the others throwing buckets of piss out onto the road.

Bethanine’s (the town we were heading for) lights loomed up out of the darkness. Now we had to find a place to stay the night. In the town we moved down into forth and I leaped from the cab and ran towards a local hotel/bar. The response I was given was very similar to that shown at the slaughtered lamb in ‘The American werewolf in London’ film. I can’t blame them, the town has a population of 100, I had no shoes on, a very dirty t-shirt hung from my shoulders, and my shorts had a massive split. To wrap it all off my hair had been cut into the shape of a gecko and was died pink and blue. My toenails still had the remains of purple varnish from a fancy dress party we had for my birthday.

‘Can I help you?’ ‘Hi. I have a group of 27 in a Scania truck, we are looking for a place to stay. If we stop the truck, it will not start again as the clutch has gone. Can you help?’ The bar owner noticing the urgency rushed off to find the landlady. I poked my head outside and expected the truck to be outside stationary having stalled. But no it was pulling a very tight figure of 8 courses up and down the main street. ‘Follow me’. The bar owner was running next to me as we went around the side to a camp ground at the back of the bar. The truck pulled in, stopped and stalled. We’d done it. Drinking in the bar that night we found a mechanic who was playing pool, by noon the next day the truck was fit again and we were driving off to find more great climbing.


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