A few days ago I witnessed the joy of a schoolgirl who had just passed her driver’s licence test. She was ecstatic and told everyone she met about her success. Wherever she walked she was surrounded by squeals of delight and given hugs of hearty congratulation. She was still smiling broadly the next day.

What personal freedom is wrapped up in that licence to drive! Wherever one goes in our town – at whatever time of the day – one will come across learner drivers earnestly looking in all directions at every stop street, again and again regardless of the build-up of vehicles behind them, before proceeding at a snail’s pace.

Some drive painfully slowly up the steep hills. Others tend to hog the middle of the road as if using the white line as a guide to straight steering. They are difficult to pass and we all have to exercise patience, knowing that we too have been through that process.

Such freedom! Learning to drive is one of the rites of passage we go through that lead towards our independence and being able to take charge of our lives in a way we never could before. As an aside, it is interesting to note how quickly the willingness to walk from one end of town to another fails when a new driver has ready access to a vehicle. The sooner one obtains that important licence to drive, the sooner one can take off.

The open road awaits with adventures during and at the end of every journey, no matter what the reason is to travel.

Over the years we have driven through Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. We have criss-crossed South Africa over steep mountain passes, crawled around torturous corners, dodged potholes, churned through sand and mud, and shuddered over corrugations.

By following the arteries of roads we have experienced the pulse of this country in places as different as the Kalahari Desert, the Garden Route, and the diversity of the Lowveld; explored the Western Cape, marvelled at the scenery in the Free State and enjoyed the mellowness of parts of KwaZulu Natal.

We have driven through days so hot that the tar has melted in places and mirages have tricked our eyes with hallucinatory floating mountains or pools of water where none can possibly exist. We have found ourselves driving through snow that transforms familiar landscapes into the unfamiliar. At times we have had to travel past fiery sunsets into the darkness of the nights that swallow up landmarks and reduce the world to what the headlights show.

I too embraced the girl who had just obtained her driver’s licence and wished her well. She feels the world is her oyster. Having a licence to drive will help her to explore it in time.

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