Can a heart be broken twice?
When we left Zimbabwe ten days ago, we thought coming to South Africa for our road trip would be a good ‘buffer’ between cosy Australia and all that we had seen in Zimbabwe. Sorry for calling Australia ‘cosy’, but……!!
Well, our eyes have been opened again in South Africa! Once we left upbeat Capetown with its stark contrast between the affluent and the shanty towns we headed North stopping at different places, as mentioned in previous blogs. A couple of days ago we made the long trek up through the Transkei, which was a political hotbed not so many years ago. We heeded the warnings of our friends and family and stuck to main roads and only travelled in the daytime. Often our eyes were almost glued to the windows as we took in the tin-shack villages and grinding poverty that was so evident. There were desperate hitch-hikers on every stretch of road and every time we stopped someone was trying to sell something.
In one town we found a brochure advertising the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthata, which was coming up in a few towns. We decided that would be a great place to stop! Well, as we came into the town and were busy scouring the roadsigns that would lead us to the museum, we saw two groups of men fighting on the side of the road. Suddenly, as we watched, there was the flash of a knifeblade and the two groups broke apart and sprinted away. One man was left clutching his arm, presumably stabbed, as he ran into a nearby building. We couldn’t quite believe our eyes. Nonetheless, we didn’t stop in Mthata.
After this we were caught in a massive roadworks queue at the wrong end of the stoplight. These drivers have none of the courtesy we loved about the Capetowners! While we were in this line all these cars were pushing in shamelessly! It took us a good hour to get through about five km of road.
We finally made it to the home of Andrew’s cousins, Brett and Juanita and their three beautiful girls, and we’ve also caught up with Brett’s brother Roy and wife Sharon and their daughter, Tara. We have been eating meals with them and staying next door with Juanita’s sister, Leticia and husband Peter. It’s been amazing to meet these people that I have only heard about and seen photos of. Both families are very involved in the community in different ways. I really didn’t expect that there would be so much poverty and hardship here, especially among the indigenous African folk. Just as in Zimbabwe HIV abounds and along with that comes parentless families – a grandma raising twelve children on a pension. Our hearts have been broken afresh at the stories we’ve heard and the faces we’ve seen. But, just like in Zimbabwe, there are these incredible people, like Leticia and Juanita and their families, who pour out their lives to love everyone who hurts.
Gee, this is another pull-the-heartstrings one, isn’t it?
Well, I haven’t told you yet how our boys and the Bowden girls have gotten on so well, playing in the Bowden’s ‘adventure playground’ backyard, which even has a flying-fox running through it (in South Africa it’s called a ‘foufie slide’!). We have laughed so much together at our differing English – I have learned to say “Lekker!” and “ya” quite well!
Tomorrow we will say Goodbye to people who were strangers to me before but now are people I’ve shared so much with and are very firmly my friends. We will drive to Durban to see Andrew’s Aunty Rosemary and then onto Newcastle for our last night in Africa. I can’t quite believe this whole adventure is so quickly drawing to a close, and yet I’m starting to dream of sleeping in my own bed…..