BLACKOUTS

BLACKOUTS

South Africa is beset with rolling blackouts, thanks to ESKOM’s inability to provide a steady supply of electricity to serve the whole country’s needs at the same time. This is not the forum in which to rant and rave or to dwell on the whys and wherefores of the situation. Suffice it to say that having no electricity at odd times of the day is something we have had to become used to and make the best of.

On the lighter side, the lack of power has naturally made ESKOM the butt of many jokes. A lovely video clip has done the rounds depicting everything from hair dryers to photocopy machines running on gas – a sense of humour is essential here. Circulated via e-mail too is the cover of a recipe book purporting to be from ESKOM. Tongue-in-cheek, it depicts in some versions a fire, braai grid, meat and tongs – no electricity required!

Braaing runs in the blood of many South Africans. A good place to witness this is in the Kruger National Park, where every campsite and chalet has braai facilities. The major picnic areas have gas braais for hire – they are well used too for cooking anything from early morning breakfasts to lunches in the middle of the afternoon. An aroma I always associate with these places is the sizzling of boerewors, sosaties and steaks.

There is a memorably distinctive sweet smell emanating from the local hardwoods used for real braai fires in the rest camps – still the preferred method for cooking meat (and a surprising array of other dishes) outdoors.

As darkness descends across the veld and the first of a myriad of stars begin to twinkle overhead, pinpricks of light appear all over the camping area. Flames flicker at first, then long fiery tongues take hold of the wood. Conversations brighten along with the flames. At last the coals are ready … the feasting begins.

And at home? Braais continue to be popular. Kitchen makeovers have increasingly included gas hobs at least, and even non-campers have taken to owning a portable gas cooker of one kind or another. Candles are evident in every home. At times camping and outdoor shops have run out of supplies of lamps – the demand for them is so great. Torches are kept handy.

This morning our ‘load-shedding’ was between 9 and 11:30, which was not too bad for breakfast was over by then. As wielding an iron, washing machine, vacuum cleaner or computer was temporarily out of the question, I used the opportunity to soak up the mild sunshine in the garden while enjoying watching birds with a clear conscience.
The garden is lit up by a swathe of yellow canary creepers, bright orange Cape honeysuckles, orangey-red aloes, pink hibiscus, and pale blue Plumbago blossoms.

What a delight. Of course this is very different when ESKOM switches off our power at night!

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LICENCE TO DRIVE

LICENCE TO DRIVE

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.