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|Back To the Roots|
|Written by Cindy-Lou Dale|
|Wednesday, 02 April 2008 13:18|
I’m leaving on another Automotive Traveler assignment in a few days – this time I’ll be in South Africa, doing a road trip through the Cape Wine Route and the Garden Route, with a few private game reserves thrown in for good measure, a three day hike in the Amatola Mountains and a sport of shark-cage diving. I’ll be driving a Toyota Hybrid, and a 4x4, and whilst in Cape Town I’ll be swaning around in an Aston Martin DB9. Tough job, I know.
Ultimately this trip will culminate in the closing chapter in my autobiography by showing me a side to the country television documentaries don’t. I’ll be experiencing South Africa by living in it, which is very different from just driving through it. I expect to meet the permanently disillusioned; hear endless white noise of promises that can’t be kept and statistics that mean nothing. I am fearful of finding a place where optimism had been abandoned and hope now considered a dirty word; a semi-dark desert of forsaken dreams, where the downtrodden, cheated, beaten and enslaved are always the majority. I’m sure to meet many liberals wobbling on the political fence, ready to fly off in whatever direction the wind blows. I expect to look into the eyes of people that seem displaced by their own homes, like refugees who are trying to flee their shelters; where everyone looks like migrant workers; sweat-stained, malarial, hung over, tragic, recently assaulted, scarred from the accidents of life.
But of course, the optimist in me is hoping to find something completely different. I don’t want to go back to the past to see if it still hurts, as I feel the need to visit just this one last time, to see the land that grew me; a land I recall of almost breathless beauty and of savage poverty; of screaming ghosts and sun-flung possibilities; of inviting warmth and desperate drought. Essentially though, it’s the smells I need to see again. The smell of Africans’ – soil on the skin, wood smoke, the tinny smell of fresh sweat, home brewed beer, burned chicken feathers and kicked-up dust.
Maybe I should take this opportunity also to look up my High School guidance teacher. You see, the last time I saw him he handed out career forms which asked that I tick one of the following options: solicitor, accountant, estate agent, or ‘other’. I recall ticking ‘other’ and, when asked to give details, displayed the wit that has stood me in such good stead over the years by writing: ‘I want to be the world’s first lesbian astronaut.’ After I came out detention, I explained to my guidance teacher that I didn’t care much what I did, just as long as it didn’t involve wearing a skirt suit or high heels.
This memory returned to me earlier this week whilst trapped in a lift filled with British suits. It’s said that true silence can only be found these days in a desert, but that is simply not true. If you want to experience absolute peace and quiet, just step into a crowded British lift, even when, after the doors closed, it failed to move.