Sometimes in life there are those moments, where you happen to be in South Africa and you find yourself in a little jam, somewhat of a minor setback…… You know…. No big deal, a bump in the road. Well funny enough, I have been known to sometimes find myself in these moments a little to often in life – and this just happened to be one of those instances….
My wonderful travel companion Meghan and myself, were on route from Jeffrey’s Bay to Cape Town to take a course, and naturally as ladies do, we were running just a tad bit late. Not gonna lie, I did have the sneaking suspicion we were on route to missing the bus.
Long behold, when we arrived at the bus station with our whole lives in tow(of course we needed all this stuff for a one week trip, there was just no other way we would survive), we found out we missed the bus by 5 minutes.
Really?! Darn it. I knew it.
Alright, no need to cry over spilled milk, so Plan B it is! We called the bus station to see if there was another bus. No sir-ee, there sure wasn’t. So we called a taxi company to see if they could take us to the bus and we could flag it over on the highway, or possibly to the next town to meet the bus. But to no avail.
Hmmm, ok then. Plan C it is! We came to the unanimous decision to hitchhike. I mean we had to get there, and this wasn’t my first time hitchhiking in Africa. It was actually my 3rd at that point. So after our team chat and agreement, it was time to get this show on the road! And when I say show, I mean ‘Show’! And when I said we had a lot of stuff, I meant ‘we had alot of stuff!‘
Meghan had 2 large, very bright floral print suitcases, and I had my 70L backpack, and my massage table…. Yup that’s right. The first thought that popped into our heads was, ‘Who the heck is gonna pick us up with all this stuff?!’ Oops… Maybe we could have left a couple things behind. Or maybe the bus could have waited.
Either way, off we went. We took a local run down old van, that has now been turned into a bus, just past the next town to a gas station, where we got off, with all our luggage in tow. Not 5 minutes after we got there, we scoped out a guy gassing up, with a nice demeanor about him, and clearly traveling alone. PERFECT we thought. Except he has a very small car. Crap…. Oh well let’s give it a go anyway.
So pulling out the best smiles we brought with us, and leaving our luggage to the side so we could maybe, potentially, sneak that load past. We gracefully approached him, and asked for a ride.
Boom! He said yes! But he was only going as far as Knysna, it wasn’t Cape Town, but it was for sure a start. Both of us being stoked at our awesome hitchhiking success, we went to grab the U-haul containing our luggage. I mean, he already said yes, and didn’t ask what we had with us. Sooo.. you know. We saved that info for last, minor details really.
Yes, he was surprised when he seen our hitch trailer full of luggage to attach to the back of his little car, especially since we were hitchhiking….. But he happily jammed all of our stuff in.
Upon arriving in Knysna he was awesome enough to take us on some sightseeing, before dropping us off outside a gas station.
We parked ourselves across the road from the gas station and put our stuff not totally hidden to the side, but pretty much as hidden as possible, so not to ruin our chances of getting picked up. Strategic planning really! We then preceded to do what any good hitchhiker would do, and put our thumbs and arms way out. Now let’s remember, we are two light skinned girls in Africa, and I really am not one to differentiate people by skin color, but in Africa you never see Caucasian people especially being females hitchhiking like its no big deal.
Not to mention there were locals hitchhiking the next street up, and we also didn’t want them to think we were stomping on their turf and trying to take their rides.
2 hours later, we had quite a few people stop, but only to question if we were kidding, or seriously hitchhiking.
‘Oh no, no, we aren’t actually hitch hiking, we just decided to pack up all our things and stand on the road with our thumbs out for some shits and giggles’, best way to spend an afternoon.
After having not very good luck, the gas attendants from the station ran across the and presented us with a sign that they had made, saying we are going to Cape Town. They could see we were in need of some assistance. We were clearly going nowhere fast!
Now that we looked and felt more professional, we were ready to nail our long awaited ride. At least we thought so….. A few more hours later, a few more people seeing if we are joking, and having also turned away a few rides due to bad vibes, a semi-truck pulls over with 3 gentlemen inside.
Turns out they were also en-route to Cape Town. Feeling a bit hesitant, we weren’t sure if we should take the ride. The guys from the gas station came running over to say that this is the ride we should take, it’s safe. Alright, if you say so, all aboard! Meghan and I hopped in the back, the 3 guys in the front, putting the pedal to the metal and chatting up a storm. Okay, okay, we thought, this isn’t bad at all.
That is until a little while into the ride when we realized the driver was drinking, and not just sipping, chugging like we are at a college frat party.
Freaken heck, here we were stoked we found trustworthy and nice people, forgot to add in it would be nice if they were sober drivers. Middle man’s job was to be the bartender for the captain. ‘Now what?!’ we thought. Can’t really get out in the middle of nowhere when your in Africa. Have to keep some sense.
He was fine though. At first that is. Meghan dozed off and was laying down beside me like sleeping beauty, when the driver suddenly went from fine and dandy to smashed, and was swerving all the over the place as though we were in an obstacle course, hitting pylons, and purposely trying to hit other Semi’s that wanted to overtake.
You could say my nerves were on angst, and my fingers were gripping onto the back of the seat for dear life, almost puncturing through the material. The other guys kept trying to console me, and tell me he was totally fine to drive. What the?! That is not what I call fine!? I thought.
Finally 2 nerve wracking hours later(are we going to die, or are we not going to die) I couldn’t take it anymore, I started shaking Meghan. ‘Meghan! Meghan! You have got to wake up! We are going to die! You have to wake up now!’. Ever so calm and slowly she sat up and looked at me, ‘Really, we are going to die, and you wake me up for it?!.
Good point. However! I tried my best to hold off, to spare you, but it was taking too long, now I couldn’t do it alone anymore. Meghan loves a good roller coaster ride, so she had no problems with the crazy driving. I think she almost enjoyed it. I was still not okay with it. Not gonna lie though, just having her awake and beside me made me feel so much better.
We finally reach this truck stop that I had been to before, an hour outside of Cape Town, and no sooner as the driver pulled over and turned off the ignition, was he face planted and out cold right into the steering wheel. Literally.
The other two guys were apologizing profusely, saying they wanted to help us, but company policy was that they couldn’t drive after eleven. ‘No problem, I am soooo fine with that!’ I replied, as I thought ‘Really?? and your just fine with the driver being inebriated and face planted in the steering wheel??’ while at the same time pinching myself to see if I had actually survived that.
They then said we could sleep in one of the trailers, and they will drop us in Cape Town in the morning. Done. Just after that decision was made, and us girls were still in the back of the of the Semi cab, with the driver still out cold on the steering wheel in front of us. My phone rings. It’s my beautiful mother. ‘How’s Cape Town?’. She asked.
To which I responded, ‘Ummm, well we aren’t actually in Cape Town yet…. Funny enough mom we actually missed the bus’.
‘Oh really? So how are you getting to Cape Town then?’ she asked.
‘Well, also funny story’ I said.’We decided to hitchhike’.
‘You’re what?!’, she almost choked out, while gasping for air.
‘Yah, we are in the back of a Semi-truck’. Well obviously that didn’t go over well, I could hear the death in her voice. I tried to make it sound totally cool though – I said the guys were awesome, and I made jokes about the trip. She was laughing(kind of) till we hung up, so I thought, ‘Oh Good, she is cool with it’. I also thought I did a good job of not mentioning the drunk and comatose driver that I was staring at.
So off we went to our 5 star semi trailer hotel, to turn in for the evening. One of the guys was to stay in there with us, to make sure we were safe. That was cool, and then we all got pad locked in to our trailer full of rolled up carpets. I mean this is Africa, you don’t go leaving things unlocked. Yes a bit daunting, but it was for our own safety.
We actually had the best evening ever, joking with our new friend, and listening to his stories of his wife and kids till we all eventually went to sleep.
8 am, I am peacefully sleeping wedged between two rolls of carpet, and the truck turns on and starts moving. All is good in the hood, not in Meghan’s hood though. Suddenly I am the one being shaken awake.
‘Petrena!, Petrena! You have got to wake up right now! Something is happening, and the truck is moving!’ Calm and relaxed I roll over rubbing my eyes, ‘Oh don’t you worry, we are just going to Cape Town’. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself that the tables had turned, and I grabbed another 10 min of shut eye.
When I finally opened my eyes and looked at my phone, I seen I missed 9 calls. I had a feeling it was my mom. An hour later and we arrived in Cape Town. The now sober(and actually very pleasant driver) took us right down town in that big semi truck and dropped us on Long Street where our hostel was, and wished us the best.
Still haven’t yet spoken to my mom again, I received a frantic call from my brother, ‘What the heck is going on?!’. Yes he obviously had to do damage control for my poor mother. I forgot that the last she heard from me was that I was in the back of a Semi truck in Africa, hitchhiking. Then her not being able to get through to me on my phone perhaps was a bit worrying…. Yes, you could say that might stress a mother out. You could also say ‘Might’ is a bit of an understatement(love you mom).
Of course once I explained it to my bro, he was totally cool, and reminded me, ‘Petrena, next time your hitchhiking or doing something crazy like that, DON’T TELL MOM’. Lesson learned.
In the end, Meghan(who is one of my best travel buddies) and I went on to rock our course, and rock Cape Town too! Us with our hitch hiking story did make ourselves pretty popular. Oh, and in case your wondering, to date, after that crazy experience, that is the last time I hitch hiked.