when I studied at UCT I used to hitch hike all over South Africa in my vacs. I remember one July hitch-hiking down from JHB after spending time with Jane in Umtali. I had stood for hours in potty places like Parys and outside Bloemfontein. Eventually late that evening I was picked up a 16 wheeler going down to Queenstown. The two black guys were friendly enough without being memorable. They dropped me off at the intersection in Colesberg where they went straight on to the Eastern Cape and I aimed down the Southerly Road. A T junction.
It was one o clock in the morning and bitterly cold. There was little chance of a lift then and I was dog tired, so I hopped over a fence and walked a little way into a field where I put down my gaper-pad and crawled into my sleeping bag with all my clothes on, resting my head on my sac. I remember a brilliant sky of stars before dropping off.
I woke a few hours later, from the cold and found I had ice in my moustache and beard.
When the eastern sky lightened I propped myself on my elbow and made a cup of hot-chocolate in my trangier stove. I remember everything I ate used to taste slightly of Methylated Spirits, or at least the bitter whatever they put in it to stop people from drinking it. And my hot drinks used to taste of hand-cream because the only way I could find to carry condensed milk was to wash out a plastic hand-cream bottle.
Anyway, the sun was not quite up when I got up and stood at the road.
After a while a Volkswagen Beetle came down the road from Bloem and turned South. The passenger looked at me as they drove by. too bad. I never used to show frustration when that happened. The beetle cruised down a long hill about 2kms long and slowly crawled up the gradient on the other side of valley. Then, just before the rise where they would dissapear they pulled over and did a U turn and came back. They passed me again and turned in the T Junction. When they drew next to me I saw there were two girls, probably students. They squeezed me in and off we went. They said they did not have the heart to drive off with me standing like that in the cold.
I remember we stopped in Richmond for something to eat before driving all the way down to Cape Town. I drove through the Hex River mountains at Worcester and one of the girls said I looked tense.
And that was that. I don’t remember getting out or if I ever saw them again.
But I have never forgotten the night in the field.
Once after that I picked up hitchhikers in the same place who begged me for a lift because they had been there for three days and were starving. I remember they ate all my snacks and drank a litre of Cream Soda I had bought at the filling station in Colesberg. That was late in the afternoon and later that night I pulled over outside Laingsburg and lay down to sleep in a lay-by. The three of them hitched into the night and I never saw them again.
how about that. I remember pulling over often on these road trips to sleep next to the road. I am not sure if I would do that now.