Sunday, 9 September 2012

the family holiday

With a new baby around the corner and the stress of added financial pressure, we decided to throw caution to the wind, leave our home, farm, animals and business for others to tend to and hit the long African roads - once more this year.
As usual we would camp - my husband does not believe a holiday with basic comforts is a holiday at all - he believes you have to be close to the ground and battle a bit in order for relaxation to take its course. But after our recent camping trip to Mozambique I felt unfased by the organised safari campsites available in the Kruger National Park, where we were headed- they even provide hot water on tap!
It takes me a full uninterrupted day to prepare for these trips, maybe I'm too organised but I can't seem to do it any other way than methodically ticking off items which I have broken down into various categories. Low and behold I forget the jam, rusks, binoculars or bird book - these are the simple and vital needs of my husband, who has little to do with packing and planning. All he needs to know is the time of our depature - which is never before 12 noon. Then he races around organising last minute business details which may include felling a 6m Eucalyptus tree, paddling a group of 20 kayakers to Robberg peninsula and back plus an urgent landscaping meeting. About an hour before departure I start to phone him in 15 minute intervals, keeping him focused on the main objective: to leave on holiday. He arrives home about 20 minutes late, changes his clothes and leaps into the driver's seat. We usually stop about three times in our driveway to run back into the house for a forgotten item before we actually pull out onto the main road. By then the already traumatised dog is utterly bewildered, are we coming or going? And the farm staff pretend not to notice. Ofcourse we also have to stop once or three times more to drop off or pick up something else - work related. Finally we leave town and I offer him a sandwhich, which he eats unconsciously while ticking off items on his mental list.
After about an hour of driving and last minute phone calls, Charles begins to unwind and allow the fact that we are going on holiday to filter into his consciousness. That's when we all breathe a sigh of relief, turn on the music and open some snacks. The twins are pro's at long drives these days and enthusiastically point out every sheep, cow and goat that we pass along the way.
South Africa is huge and driving three days to get North of the country is mandatory, unless one wants to fly, but I find driving part of the adventure and love to be reminded of what is out there and how diverse our country really is. I'm always equally shocked by both the stark beauty and the poverty and trash one sees around the outskirts of each town. A classic symbol of the third-world: garbage.

Stealing a swim in one of the many farm reservoirs along the hot and endless Karoo road reminded me of road trips in the past when being a responsible parent was a remote and distant possibility. It thrilled the girls and reminded me to feel free. However the reality of parental compromises was not far off  when we found ourselves eating take aways in the dark because we were overnighting in an open plan room and the girls refused to sleep with the lights on! I can't recall my own father agreeing to eat his cold supper with a warm Appletizer in the dark, while my brother and I snored away happily.
Finally we arrived at our destination and were greeted into the Kruger Park by a leopard sighting! Charles miraculously sighted the spotty cat dash through the long grass and come to a halt under a tree. We held our breaths and watched as he seemed active enough to be on the hunt, but sadly we were joined by five more vehicles and soon lost our visual. We decided after that that we would pretend to look the other way next time we spotted something so rare and elusive.
Before reaching our campsite we had already had a close encounter with a female elephant and her calf and seen zebra, impala and giraffe. The girls were delighted by each sighting throughout our stay in the park, no matter if it were a couple of banded mongoose at the campsite or a pride of lions crossing the road. Each animal was exclaimed upon in true and fascinated delight - making the sweat of getting to the bushveld so much more worth it for us as parents.

As the sun dipped Charles and I, in true Laurel and Hardy style, tried to put up our tent, which we had never used before. Eventually our neighbour took pity on our desperate attempts to get two hungry and tired four-year-olds to help us hold poles and stepped in to assist. Thank goodness for this and two-minute noodles - the girls were fed and asleep minutes after our homestead was erected. 
After that there wasn't much else to do but go on game drives, escape the midday heat at the pool and braai at night - what more can one ask for? The only thing lacking when one travels with small people is "time-out" from the continuous juvenile chatter, and a good afternoon nap - but we survived with only a few snarlings at one another.
Back home. Are we well rested? Physically, no. Mentally, yes, refreshed and ready to begin baby preparation in earnest...if I could just remember that I am pregnant every now and then inbetween mothering the existing two!