What hap­pened when Tyson Jop­son took his mom along for the ride

The best way to get to know some­one is to take them on a road trip. Even if it’s some­one you al­ready know...

Getaway (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

If you had to make a Top 10 List of South Africa’s most mem­o­rable driv­ing roads, the N3 from Gil­looly’s In­ter­change in Joburg to the En­gen in Har­ri­smith prob­a­bly wouldn’t be on it. The thought of round­ing the puff­ing in­dus­tria of Ger­mis­ton and then crawl­ing to­wards the fea­ture­less hori­zon of the coun­try’s least-ex­cit­ing plateau some­how just never cap­tured the col­lec­tive road-trip­pers’ imag­i­na­tion. But that 300-odd kilo­me­tre tribu­la­tion of na­tional tar ranks at the top of mine. For me, it was where road trips be­gan. And they al­ways be­gan at 4am. Mar­gate was usu­ally the des­ti­na­tion: a place so myth­i­cal and sub­lime that my fa­ther feared it would dis­ap­pear if you ar­rived af­ter noon. At least that’s what I sus­pected. It’s the only fath­omable rea­son for hav­ing to leave so early. He was in charge of the timetable. And pack­ing. And driv­ing, of course; it was the 80s. My mother was the pad­kos man­ager, a Tup­per­ware of tin­foil-wrapped sand­wiches and fudge nes­tled at her feet. I don’t re­mem­ber all that much about the ac­tual hol­i­days, ex­cept that the ocean made my hair frizzy. Those dark hours on the road stand out more. Cat’s eyes whizzed to­wards us like shoot­ing stars and the tyres rum­bled softly on the as­phalt and no­body said a word un­til the sun crept over the hori­zon and the neon light of the Har­ri­smith En­gen came into view. In a strange twist of fate, I re­cently found my­self on that very same high­way with my mom. I was plot­ting a road trip for this is­sue (see page 50) and she had a week­end free and it sounded like a good idea. We rounded Ger­mis­ton at the very rea­son­able hour of 11am. At about 11.15am I re­alised it could well be the long­est we’d be spend­ing to­gether in a car since those hol­i­days more than 20 years ago. You see, if you’re lucky, fam­ily road trips turn into grand fam­ily hol­i­days at sea­side cot­tages burst­ing with cousins and un­cles and sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers and their sig­nif­i­cantly newer ba­bies. But some­times they don’t. Some­times your fam­ily shrinks, or it grows in an­other di­rec­tion, or peo­ple move and things change and you get to­gether when you can but it’s al­ways too brief and there’s never enough time to get to know the peo­ple you al­ready know. And there’s no bet­ter place to rem­edy that than the in­escapable con­fines of a car. Cripes. What if we run out of things to talk about? What if we don’t agree on the vol­ume? What if we get into an ar­gu­ment? There’s nowhere to go. We should have taken a plane. At least you can get up and walk to the bath­room. Now there’s just the road, an end­less hori­zon, and sheep. ‘Do you re­mem­ber when we used to go on those early-morn­ing road trips with Dad?’ Mom says. ‘Yeah, you know for the life of me I still don’t know why we used to have to leave so early. The coast is only five hours away.’ ‘Me nei­ther. It’s like he thought Mar­gate was go­ing to dis­ap­pear.’ And we both laugh. And then we talk. And then we crest South Africa’s least-ex­cit­ing plateau, still talk­ing. We talk about the past, the fu­ture, and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. And then some­where near Clarens, with the sun low in the sky, we stop talk­ing and both just stare out at the road ahead and lis­ten to the tyres rum­ble softly on the as­phalt. And then the golden-red Malo­tis rise up in the dis­tance and bare their sand­stone chests and I re­alise that sit­ting in si­lence in a car with my mother feels like the most nat­u­ral thing in the world. And why wouldn’t it? I used to do it all the time.

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