Monday, 20 April 2009

Road Trip - Part 8

Tuesday 24th March – Coffee Bay to Port St Johns

After negotiating the pothole minefield safely we just about made it to a petrol station before the embarrassment of running out. We even jumped ahead of a police car in the queue when the pump attendant waved us through, the police guys didn’t look too impressed but said nothing and didn’t mention the missing number plate, mind you the police and traffic cops are totally separate here so they probably didn’t care!

Fully fuelled and back on the highway (differentiated from other roads in that some of the potholes were filled and those that weren’t were very small in comparison to those we encountered earlier) we were heading straight for the city of Mthatha, the former capital of Transkei

This was the biggest place we had seen in a few days, noise, hustle and bustle and, wait for it, a traffic police road block! BUSTED! A rather stern faced Sisi (Xhosa for sister, also used as a respectful greeting) put her substantial arm in the air and signalled for us to pull over. We already had a plan, act surprised and deny all knowledge! Straight faced she came to the window and held out a hand for Jon’s licence (they don’t need to ask anymore, you get stopped every 5 minutes in South Africa!) and in heavily accented English asked
“Where is your front number”
“Your front number, where is it?”
“Is it not on the front of the car?”
“No! This is why I am asking”
“Oh! No! I have no idea. We just came from Coffee Bay”

Meanwhile Elaine got out of the car and went to the front

“Jon, it’s not here. Oh no what are we going to do”
(etc etc as she laid it on nice and thick)

“my dad is going to shoot me”
(perhaps pushing it a little far, but the crocodile tears were a nice touch).

By now all three of us are on the pavement, Elaine acting her heart out, Jon asking for advice about where to get a Western Cape number plate made in an Eastern Cape City (they are different, ours doesn’t have an elephant on it!) from Sisi but getting nothing back other than:

“It’s a R400 fine”
“Don’t know”

It was a stand-off. Sisi’s face never cracked. A full 10 minutes of pavement politics had passed when suddenly Sisi handed Jon his licence and told us to go! We couldn’t believe it, we had obviously presented ourselves as being too much trouble to deal with! Elaine hugged and kissed Sisi, who told us that we should get a new number plate as soon as possible, and then started hugging some of the other traffic cops who had congregated around the car! Amazing, smiles all round, even Sisi!

That was it, we were off and on the lookout for a number plate shop! The first place we found on the main Nelson Mandela Avenue only did tyres and exhausts but they gave us directions to a place called Midas (on York Road!) who would be able to help. As it turned out York Road was in the backstreets of Mthatha, well off the beaten trail and definitely ‘proper’ Africa. It was amazing, people, vibrant colours and noise everywhere, Jon loved it and even joined in with some of the local bad driving customs!

We found Midas, it was right next door to Lucky’s Guns & Ammunition! The people there were brilliant and couldn’t do enough to help, especially the men offering to help Elaine. We got plenty of strange looks but everyone smiled and made some friendly comment or other! Eventually, after some comedy moments with screws and an upside down number plate it was fitted and only cost R109 all in, much cheaper than a fine.

We headed back through the centre of town towards the main highway and our destination of Port St Johns still laughing about the experience of the last hour or so.

The rest of the journey (about 90km) was pretty boring in comparison, beautiful scenery, good roads and a friendly welcome at the Amapondo Backpackers at second beach.

Having become accustomed to sleeping in beds rather than a tent we booked into a room, dumped our gear and headed off to the beach with our crayfish and some beer! We sat on the rocks eating crayfish, drinking beer and watching the cows on the adjacent beach. Unfortunately there had been a fatal shark attack some days previously so there was no swimming or even paddling up to the knees allowed.

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