Category: Travel

Feathers

Nieu Bethesda is a small dusty village in the heart of the Great Karoo. It’s one of my favorite places with its wide open spaces, clear night skies and mostly, silence.

It’s also home to many artists and sculptors who’ve left the city and chosen a smaller, less stressed out lifestyle.

It was forty degrees when I arrived, hot, sweaty and in need of gin. There is just one bar in the village and I headed straight to it.

Ben, the barman, poured my drink then yelled at me to come and fetch it.

‘It’s a bar,’ I yelled back. ‘And I’m the customer. Can’t you bring it to me?’

I had already joined the large communal table.

‘Nope,’ he replied. ‘I’m in the middle of a chess game.’

I picked up my drink then headed back to the table.

‘Idiot,’ I muttered.

Ken and Marie, who’d already introduced themselves to me, agreed.

‘Difficult man,’ they said. ‘But then, he doesn’t really like city people.’

Ken was a builder, originally from Joburg. Marie, from Germany, had arrived in Nieu Bethesda twenty years ago and never left.

Interesting, fascinating people. I loved learning about small town life.

Until Ken said:-

‘It’s perfect here in Nieu Bethesda. Quiet, no politics, no racial tension. We have our bar and they have theirs.’

Marie nodded in agreement.

My stomach turned. I went to Ben and ordered another gin. This time, I waited for it.

I knew what Ken had meant. That this bar was where the whites of the town hung out and that the township people, the black people, had their own drinking hole.

I was shocked to the core. I know some of these South African towns still hold on to old racism, but this place? This lovely arty special retreat. Could it be?

It could.

I left Ken and Marie.  They’d seemed so nice They weren’t.

The next morning I was back on the road. It was a stunning day, the sun beating down and, astonishingly there were feathers floating, floating, everywhere.

Magic, I thought, my faith restored in humanity. The feathers were like a metaphor; everything would be okay.

Until I got up closer to the truck ahead of me and discovered it was a truck filled with ostrich. They were jam packed in, on the way to the abattoir.

And in that moment, I realised that nothing is what it seems. Nieu Bethesda had lost a whole lot of its charm.   Ken was a racist. Marie was actually the town drunk. And the ostriches were about to become steaks.

And it was only Ben, the idiot, who turned out to be a really cool guy. When he finished his chess game he’d invited me to play. He’d won, easily, but he was kind and gentle and lovely and also warned me who to stay away from.

I still love the town.

But it isn’t perfect, in any way.

And neither is ostrich steak.

It may be time to turn vegetarian.

pub

Road trippers

This weekend I’m road tripping with girlfriends

We’re not taking a GPS

Or our laptops

We’re going to cook fresh fish and eat delicious vegetables

We’ll talk about clothes, shoes, men and sex

Maybe even sort out world peace

We’re going to hike, swim, sleep, read

And laugh, a lot

We’ll sing wildly with Tom Waits

Dance madly to the Proclaimers

Drink champagne

Give each other massages

And flirt with everyone we meet

The only thing we’re not going to do this weekend

Is listen to the news

Worry about a single bloody thing

Or work!

Have a groovy weekend you guys.

A very expensive blind date.

I can be impulsive. So a while back when a guy from Canada that I was quite attracted to online said ‘Let’s meet in France’, it took me all of three minutes to say ‘Oui.’   He had loads of money and was delighted to pay. I was delighted to accept.  
I’m a hopeless romantic and always open to new experiences, love, adventure, and possibility.

Online he was perfect.  Witty. Charming.  Mysterious. Bilingual. And of course, sexy. Offline – who knew?  But I was willing to take the chance.  He could be the right guy for me.

And so just a few weeks later I found myself bound for Paris, sipping champagne in business class, popping caviar in my mouth, and being a terrible flyer, waiting for the plane to crash. I probably deserved to die, leaving my children behind and going off on a wild adventure.
 But we didn’t crash, the plane landed safely, and I checked in to the magnificent hotel, the two bedroomed suite that he’d arranged.

I was a little nervous.

 A lot nervous.  We met in the hotel bar. I’d arrived first, and was perched on a bar stool, in my sexy but not too sexy dress, a few scotches under my suspenders to calm my nerves.

He walked in. Oh my. 

Every bit as good looking as his profile pic. Better. Suave. And very ,very stylish.

This was going to be good. We kissed hello, a little awkwardly, and he sat down next to me.

You know – you know immediately if you’re attracted to someone. It’s this thing where your heart beats fast, your inner thighs tingle, you have this euphoric feeling, this ‘oh my god this is amazing feeling’, this ‘I just have to reach over right now and touch him feeling.’

I did not have this feeling.

 Because he was incredibly anxious.  His hands were shaking, his bottom lip trembled, and droplets of perspiration lined his upper lip.

 He ordered a coke. In English.  And drank it in one go.

 And then a cheese burger.  

A cheese burger. In Paris. In the most beautiful bar, filled with olives and oysters and escargot. I went with it, not wanting to question his choices. Or to rush to judgement too quickly.

 But here’s the thing. 
He had not been honest.

All his online stuff about living on the edge, loving to travel, speaking French, being an intrepid explorer. It was a lie. 

Turned out he  was a Canadian who had never left Canada, and the adventure for him was merely leaving Canada and being able to say to his friends – ‘Hey, I’m meeting a strange chick in Paris…’

And I was the strange chick who said yes. The week was a disaster. 

He developed a cough, Heisenberg  status. I knew it was an anxiety cough, but he spent his time in Paris meeting different doctors and instead of sampling French delicacies, he sampled French antibiotics. 

I saw Paris on my own. I didn’t mind too much. I love Paris – smoking Gauloises on a pavement café, and sipping wine, window shopping, popping into galleries and museums. But I felt cheated. Not because there was no romance, but because he hadn’t been honest.

He wasn’t a serial killer. He wasn’t dangerous. I never once felt threatened. He just was not who he portrayed himself to be. We called it a ‘misadventure’. I never confronted him, because he had a fragility about him that I did not want to take on. And I wondered too if perhaps in a way I had misrepresented myself as well.  Perhaps he was enormously disappointed too.

The most difficult thing was coming home. I mean, I loved coming home, because it’s home  and because it’s real, but he kept mailing me as if everything had been totally normal and that we were still  good online friends.

 And I tried to explain that we couldn’t be online friends because we hadn’t managed to be offline friends.
 And he never got it. He still doesn’t get it. ‘Didn’t we have a great time?’ he says, and I guess in a way, we did have an adventure together.  Even if it hadn’t worked out.

I have learned this. 

I am never meeting a stranger in a strange city again. Don’t even think of asking me. It’s too stressful. And things are never quite what they seem. Unless – 

Italy, you say? 

Florence. Cobblestone streets. The statue of David? Maybe!  paris