Ma­neu­vers at St. Lu­cia

It’s not al­ways nice to have a boat, says Christie Ger­ber.

Go! Camp & Drive - - 136 -

Fri­day morn­ing eight o’clock they leave. Ben and co drive in front with his Ford 4x4 and boat, In­tombazana, on the tow bar. “In­tombazana” is the Zulu word for “girl”, and this name is painted in neat black letters on the side of the boat. Ben’s col­league and friend Johnie drives be­hind the boat in his Mazda 4x4 with his Jur­gens on the tow bar. The Jur­gens also has a name: “Barto”. It’s painted above the car­a­van’s num­ber plate. Johnie reck­ons he’s a di­rect de­scen­dent of the Por­tuguese sea­farer Bar­tolomeu Dias who landed in Mos­sel Bay in 1488. Ben and Johnie and their group planned this long week­end break­away right be­fore Christ­mas for a long time. Every­thing that had to go, went. The 130 km from Eshowe to St. Lu­cia is an easy jour­ney. Every­thing runs smoothly to St. Lu­cia in the iSi­man­gal­iso Wet­land Park. The lake, with its hip­pos, croc­o­diles, and ap­prox­i­mately 500 bird and 14 fish species, is one of the world’s

largest. With the 280 km coast­line on the In­dian Ocean, the Mkuze wet­land, Sod­wana Bay, Kosi Bay and its great camp­sites, this is Utopia.


In­tombazana gets tied to the jetty. Tents are pitched be­cause the Jur­gens doesn’t have space for ev­ery­one. The camp is ready, the af­ter­noon is over, and now it’s a big trek to the show­ers. From early even­ing al­ready the adults are re­lax­ing next to the fire. The kids are busy some­where in the camp­site. To the side of the fire, above a heap of coals, Johnie’s care­fully crafted mus­sel potjie is sim­mer­ing slowly. There is peace on Earth. Around this fire we start to un­der­stand what the self-ac­tu­al­i­sa­tion at the top of Maslow’s hi­er­ar­chy of needs re­ally means. But then sud­denly the peace is dis­turbed: Mar­cus, Ben’s young­ster, comes run­ning and shouts: “Dad, Dad! Come check the grunter that the guy next to us caught.” In his ex­cite­ment he kicks and top­ples the mus­sel pot. Four adults rush for­ward to save what can be saved. At the speed of light­ning mus­sels, sand, sauce, water, cel­ery and every­thing and more goes back in the pot. Ben burns his hand in the res­cue op­er­a­tion. He’s so mad at young Markus and an­gry be­cause Johnie’s spe­cial potjie isn’t go­ing to be so spe­cial any­more. But Ben’s wife, Meisie, says sooth­ingly: “Ac­ci­dents hap­pen...” She looks into the pot and grins ner­vously: “Be­sides, all is not lost. There’s still enough for ev­ery­one.” Over din­ner there’s an al­most deaf­en­ing si­lence. Johnie qui­etly told ev­ery­one not to up­set Ben any fur­ther. As they munch and crunch on sea sand, mus­sels and other seafood, no one pulls a face. Markus sits out­side the camp­fire cir­cle, some dis­tance from his dad – just in case Ben’s anger flares up again.


the potjie de­ba­cle has been for­got­ten. It’s an ex­cited group cruis­ing on the lake in In­tombazana in search of a few big ones. A while later the boat is tied up again, and the group – sun­burnt, tired and very thirsty – heads back to the camp­site. The cold beer is re­fresh­ing af­ter a long, hot day on the water. Ben sips his sec­ond beer. This time Markus doesn’t come run­ning, but comes chas­ing over in the Ford. He makes a wide turn and shouts: “Dad! The boat is loose and it’s float­ing away!” Ben rushes over: “Drive! Now! I’ll stand on the bumper and hold on to the canopy.” Ben is a big guy, but very nim­bly jumps onto the Ford’s rear bumper and holds on to the canopy. Markus pulls away quickly. It is, af­ter all, an emer­gency. “Slowly, slowly!” Ben roars from the back, but then the Fords hits the first of the speed bumps in the camp­site. Ben shoots into the air, but lands dex­ter­ously with his feet on the bumper and grips firmly onto the canopy. “Markus, slow down... Slow down!” he shouts from the back. “Slow down!” Just then the Ford hits the sec­ond speed bump. Ben again shoots into the air, but this time the Ford isn’t there as he comes down. It’s al­ready dis­ap­peared around the cor­ner, and Ben’s 120 kg hits the ground with a thump and a bounce. Ben lies still, bruised and blood­ied. Campers come rush­ing over from all di­rec­tions, un­sure if he sur­vived the fall. It was a re­ally big fall and he’s ly­ing aw­fully quiet... “Water, give him some water,” says some­one. “No, I think he needs some­thing stronger,” says some­one else. Then, with a loud groan and a lot of ef­fort, Ben sits up. It’s clear that he’s hurt­ing. He leans against his friend Johnie. Johnie gives Ben neat whisky, “for the shock”. Ben takes a swig, ut­ters a few choice words, and takes an­other sip. “When I get my hands on that lit­tle...” And with his big hands he makes a stran­gling mo­tion. While ev­ery­one is re­cov­er­ing from the shock, the Ford comes roar­ing round the cor­ner. Markus jumps out: “Dad, Dad, why did you get off while the car was mov­ing? You can re­ally hurt your­self. I had such a fright when I saw you were gone. What did you do... Look at you!” Luck­ily for Markus there are a lot of by­standers and Ben keeps him­self in check. “Where is my boat?” he asks calmly with enor­mous self-con­trol. “A friendly guy had al­ready tied it up when I got there. That’s why I could re­turn so quickly to see what hap­pened to you. Your shenani­gans will give a per­son a heart at­tack.” Si­lence, o si­lence. Ben doesn’t have the words, and it’s prob­a­bly bet­ter that way. Like the preacher right­fully says: “Calm­ness pre­vents great of­fenses...”


doc­tor­ing Ben’s wounds and bruises, and gives him a lec­ture on “stupid men who stand on the back of mov­ing bakkies”. Ben ac­cepts the ser­mon qui­etly and starts look­ing a bit more like him­self. From a lit­tle dis­tance away, Johnie pipes up: “My brother has this small red book: Life’s Lit­tle In­struc­tions”. “Why are you telling me this?” Ben en­quires. “The one bit of ad­vice in the book made me think of you to­day.” “Yes?” “It says: ‘Re­sist the temp­ta­tion to buy a boat.’ It’s just not worth the trou­ble.” “So what are you say­ing?” “The so­lu­tion is very sim­ple.” And what is it? “Rather be­friend some­one who al­ready has a boat.”

Drive now! Now! I’ll stand on the bumper and hold on to the canopy.

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