BLOG: LG’s A to Z of a South African road trip

* For my nephew, Jaden. Love you, kid.


Who am I?

Ah, the age old question.

According to Stats SA’s surveys and my tatty, green bar-coded South African ID book (I haven’t got the new card yet) my name is Logan Kingsley Green from Benoni, Gauteng, South Africa.

A white English-speaking South African male born on December 9, 1989.

Let’s not talk about the dodgy ID pic of me as a 15-year-old either – it’s probably time to apply for that new card.

So, there we go.

Case closed.

Right?

Nope!

In the past few years that particular question has had me tossing and turning in my bed at night like a barrel in the ocean.

Where do I, as a 21st century-born, so-called “millennial”, fit into the greater scheme of things?

Not just as a citizen of Benoni or Gauteng or South Africa.

Hell, not even as a citizen of the world, but as a microcosm of the greater universe.

Now, before this starts sounding like just another deeply philosophical, hippy blog that you happened to stumble upon on social media, hear me out (I promise there is some decent humour coming).

There has got to be more to Logan Green than a few letters in a little book issued to me by a government department.

There has got to be more to my life than a physical and written description of a dude of European descent living in an old Witwatersrand gold mining town in a land at the southernmost tip of the African continent.

Hummmming at Victoria Bay. 

I guess “finding one’s self” is a long process, but you have got to begin from somewhere, right?

In the last seven years I have knuckled down and committed everything to my work (a man’s gotta eat).

Sure, I’ve had some short getaways and holidays here and there, but my life was starting to become a lot like Rihanna’s song Work.

“Work, work, work, work”… and I just didn’t understand the rest.

The time has come to start understanding.

With that in mind, my long-time pal Donovan Nelson-Esch and I, last year, started plotting an 11-day, whirlwind 4000km road trip across six South African provinces in an attempt to gain more insight into our country’s history (the good, the bad and the ugly), our own history, the lifestyles (chosen or forced) of our compatriots, our human connection with nature, our unique identities and where we stand in the cosmos.

Obviously, we weren’t going to tick all of the above boxes in just 11 days, but the experiences we had striven to gain in the land of our birth in that brief period would hopefully steer us closer towards reaching our respective goals.

Off we went on March 10, 2017…

My advice: Establish your route, save some rand, get your annual leave in and just do it!

Previously, I blogged “LG’s A to Z of Benoni” to give you the necessary tools to cope in funny ol’ Benoni.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you “LG’s A to Z of a South African road trip”.

Leave your Spur debates and Cabinet reshuffle arguments for Facebook and come with me on a sizzling South African adventure of fun, learning and discovery.

Here goes nothing:

A is for Afrikaans

Ja, nee.

I’m sorry, but anyone who tells you that Afrikaans is a dying language has never done a South African road trip before.

My public school a, e, i, o, u is enough to get me by in the RSA, but I do highly recommend taking along someone who can praat die taal, like my boy Don.

Oh, yes and don’t leave your ooms en tannies at home either.

Afrikaans folk really do appreciate the good manners.

Just do not “pull a LG” and call a guy not that much older than yourself oom.

He wasn’t impressed.

Anyway, it’s pretty fascinating how the dialects and accents change as you move southward.

If you are in a bit of trouble or need some local insight your language skills might just steer you in the right direction, especially in the Noord-Kaap.

Lekker tjom!

B is for buddies and babalas 

What would a road trip be without the company of good friends?

The funny thing about my the friendship between my travel companion Donovan and I is that our personalities are chalk and cheese.

A soon-to-be qualified mechanical engineer, Don possesses a technical brain and sees the science and mathematics in things while I, on the other hand, have the coordination of an earthworm and the technical know-how of a cardboard box.

It certainly made for some interesting moments throughout the 4000km journey and a few small squabbles here and there.

A commonality that we do both have is a love of nature and history.

Our personalities allowed us to view natural wonders and historical items from two unique perspectives and then to exchange notes, theories and ideas afterwards.

It was like some kind of Yin and Yang vibes and it worked out really well in the end.

Also, my boy doesn’t indulge in alcoholic beverages so I always had a sober driver (take note, folks 😉 ).

On the topic of buddies, what a pleasure it was to have former Benonians put us up at their homes in Cape Town and Sedgefield respectively.

Former Benonians taking care of current Benonians outside of Benoni – me likey dem apples.

We also made some new friends on our travels who treated us incredibly well and welcomed us with open arms (like Bob – the coolest Indian guy in Kimberley – who was solely responsible for one ginormous babalas following a Friday night of jolling in Kimberley).

South Africans are legends!

Donny (left), Stevie Loubser (a former Benonian turned Capetonian) and LG.

Don having a jol with Bob (left) in Kimberley.

is for car

You cannot do a road trip without a car – obviously.

Unlike the Voortrekkers you can now see South Africa in the space of a few days due to modern technology and roads.

An amazing road trip requires an amazing set of wheels and Don and I were spoiled with the vehicle which we arranged – an Iveco Discoverer mobile home.

Our noble steed munched up the kms (at a steady speed, of course) and was a safe refuge when needed.

It also saved us big bucks on accommodation.

Obviously, not everyone has one of these babies, but, if you have the opportunity to rent or borrow one for a road trip, do it.

She certainly visited some extremely weird and wonderful places in South Africa:

is for diamonds on the soles our shoes

Like any road trip you need a song that defines your adventure.

Who would have thought that Paul Simon’s “Diamonds On The Soles of Her Shoes”,  featuring guest vocals from South African male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, would become our road trip track?

Not only is it vibey as hell, but “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” was written when Simon came to South Africa in 1985.

While he was here, he gathered various music from locals and risked possible imprisonment due to the racist apartheid regime.

It is an awesome South African story, methinks.

Anyway, the diamonds mentioned could perhaps relate to the Kimberley diggings that saw folks from all over flocking to South Africa in the 19th Century (well, that’s my interpretation at least).

is for Empire, War and Cricket in South Africa

Following a talk by Dean Allen (lecturer, historian, speaker and author of the book “Empire, War and Cricket in South Africa”) at the Benoni Country Club, last year I found some inspiration.

Read my blog “Allen’s talk hit me for six”, about the book which inspired me to organise this road trip almost exactly a year later.

After reading the book I became obsessed with the idea of visiting the old Victorian village of Matjiesfontein and made it my mission to see the little Karoo town for myself.

Dean Allen, author of the book which prompted me into action.

It did not disappoint.

It appealed to my deep interest in colonial history as well as my love of sport history, and cricket in particular (sport journo tendencies).

The book introduced me to a new controversial historical figure, James Douglas Logan (nice surname), who was one of the first tenderpreneurs in South Africa.

Logan used that most British of sports, cricket, to push his own financial and social agenda.

Matjiesfontein was his base.

Highlights for me were seeing the historic cricket field at Matjiesfontein, Olive Schreiner’s Cottage (the author, anti-war campaigner and intellectual) and cricket Hall of Famer George Lohman’s gravesite.

According to that ol’ reliable Wiki site:

George Alfred Lohmann (2 June 1865 – 1 December 1901) was an English cricketer, regarded as one of the greatest bowlers of all time.[1] Statistically, he holds the lowest lifetime Test bowling average among bowlers with more than fifteen wickets and he has the second highest peak rating for a bowler in the ICC ratings. He also holds the record for the lowest strike rate (balls bowled between each wicket taken) in all Test history.

George Lohmann.

At the historic cricket pitch in Matjies where early cricket in South Africa was played.

Matjiesfontein is definitely recommended!

is for funny place names

Ever heard of Skilderykrans or Daggaboersnek?

Neither had I until I saw their names on road signs on the journey.

South Africa has some weirdly named towns all over the show.

New road trip destinations for me now include places like Tietiesbaai (hehe), Pofadder and Tweebuffelsmeteenskootmorsdoodgeskietfontein (not even joking).

is for girls, girls, girls

It would be remiss of me to talk about South Africa without mentioning the beautiful women.

Don and I would be driving around some tiny town like Touws River or Victoria East and the next thing you know… BOOOOOM… a stunner will emerge from out of nowhere!

South African girls, you rock my world.

is for heavens

Heavens to Betsy!

The skies, sunrises and sunsets around the country will leave you absolutely gobsmacked.

In the desolate Great Karoo I saw changing skies that I had only read about in travel blogs or books.

Don is a keen astronomer, so a visit to the South African Astronomical Observatory and the South African Large Telescope (SALT) in Sutherland was always on the cards.

It was truly epic!

If the aliens make contact with us, it will probably be right here in South Africa.

CLICK HERE to read more about the South African Astronomical Observatory.

In the Tsitsikamma National Forest the stars above beamed brightly and sprightly, again reminding me how small we actually are in the universe.

Oh, and if you are in Cape Town you must go watch the sunset at Camps Bay.

The sun set in Camps Bay to end a glorious day. Tomorrow we drive. #roadtrip #campsbay #capetown #benoniboys

A post shared by Logan Green (@logankgreen) on

is for information overload

There really is so much to learn out there in the RSA.

My brain is actually hurting as a type this as I try to remember everything that I experienced out on the road.

is for Jakhalsdans

Just watch this, some of you might have seen the film, all will be explained at the letter K:

is for Karoo

On a late Sunday afternoon, while travelling from the quaint little Karoo town of Loxton (the setting of the above movie) on a 200km dirt road (the R356) towards Sutherland, our van came to an abrupt stop and broke down in the Great Karoo.

With sunlight fading, and to cut a long story short, we ended up spending the night in the van in the middle of nowhere.

Not a single vehicle came past all night.

Not until about 6.30am the next morning, while plotting how we would get the engine going again, we heard a vehicle approaching.

We flagged down said vehicle, a Ford Ranger, and, lo and behold, the most beautiful woman saved us from vrotting in this arid wilderness.

She was, like the female lead in the Jakhalsdans movie above, a teacher, coming from the direction of Loxton to save the day.

She took us to a mechanic in Sutherland and eventually we got moving again.

In the movie, a teacher moves to Loxton and saves the local primary school from closing down due to financial problems by organising a music concert.

Can you believe it?

This was our Loxton teacher!

Our heroine!

is for lifestyles

Oh my soul, there are some rich peeps in South Africa!

I saw a place on an estate agency’s window in Camps Bay for over R40-million.

Yes, R40-million Madibas!

It is still mind-boggling to me how someone can drop that kind of cash on a place when there is literally a gent across the very same road trying to sell some bobble head bird to me and others smoking some funny stuff.

Ah, the joys of capitalism!

Funny where our priorities lie as humans.

Although, I guess I wouldn’t even be in this beautiful country if it wasn’t for the pursuit of money (diamond and gold rushes and all that jazz).

is for multiculturalism 

Get used to it, South Africans!

There’s more variety in this land than a buffet at the House of Ribs.

We, the new school generation, and those who follow us, need to continually advocate for and popularise the beauty of our multicultural society.

We need to promote it, encourage it and, most importantly, embrace it!

With a youngster in the random Karoo town of Fraserburg. The new generation will change the game.

is for not from Joburg!

How many times do I need to tell people in this country that I am not from Johannesburg?

Me?

I’m from Benoni, pappi!

Joburg is dodgy!

Okay…

So is Benoni.

Alright, I guess I’m from Joburg then.

is for Oros

“O, O, O, O, Oros!”

How good is Oros?

Especially with icy water when it’s hot.

The original orange squash is as South African as it gets and an absolute necessity on any road trip.

is for permaculture 

Speaking of lifestyle choices, what about permaculture?

Some friends of ours, former Benonians who swapped their big city routines and jobs for a new lifestyle.

They and are now at the beginning stages of doing their permaculture thing in the woods of Sedgefield, building their own house and eventually growing their own food.

We visited them for a night and spent some time with them the next day exploring this incredible change in living habits.

According to the dictionary, “permaculture is a system of cultivation intended to maintain permanent agriculture or horticulture by relying on renewable resources and a self-sustaining ecosystem.”

See?

As the quote goes: “You are just one decision away from a completely new life.”

Oh, and they have a pet turkey!

So frikken cool! (Mind the beer bottles).

is for questions

Questions?

Yes, the lifeblood of our trip and the reason for our exploration.

We had a long, never ending list of questions before we left and the list has grown even longer since we got back home.

Like I asked right at the beginning of this blog: Who am I?

Let me add to that: Why am I here? How did I get here? What is my purpose?

I do not know the answers to those yet, but I am learning more and more the deeper I delve.

Never stop asking questions!

Never stop seeking answers!

is for roads and Rhodes

If your name is Jeremy Clarkson you would go absolutely mental in the latest super car on some of the roads in this country.

Man, they are as picturesque as it gets.

Oh, and as for Rhodes?

This guy, Cecil John Rhodes, keeps popping up in my historical journeys.

In Cape Town, I returned to the Rhodes Memorial for a second time to observe it again from a different perspective.

Many new questions around empire, colonialism, wealth and social division came to mind.

I guess I will save that for another blog.

A symbol of an empire long gone. The Rhodes Memorial still generates numerous questions inside my head.

is for sheep

Us South Africans love giving the Australians and Kiwis trouble about sheep.

But, guess what?

There are flocks and flocks and flocks and flocks and flocks of the animals in our country.

Just look at these cute little guys!

Aaaah, sweet.

Baaaaaa, some sheep in the Karoo.

They also taste really good.

Mmm… Karoo lamb.

Sorry vegans!

is for technology

The technological landscape of the country today was built on those early controversial days.

Steam engineering helped build huge industries.

Good or bad thing?

I’ll let you decide.

One thing is for certain, the steam locomotives back in the day were some mightily impressive man-made monsters.

If you would like to get involved with and help contribute to the preservation of these trains speak to the good people at www.reefsteamers.com, based in Knights, Germiston.

SA’s steam history is awesome. Learn more about these tremendous trains with Reefsteamers.

is for ubuntu

I will let the Arch explain this one:

Word!

is for Vicky

This gleeful looking sod is Vicky, she ruled England Land from June 20, 1837 until her death in January 22, 1901.

Lots of people did some bad things in her name.

As you can see Vicky was a real treat to be around.

Maybe she was so happy because she married and had nine kids with her first cousin?

 

An absolutely delighted Queen Victoria.

is for water wars

Although I would hate to see it happen World War III could well be fought over this precious liquid.

Forget diamonds or gold, H2O will be the resource that causes new boxing matches in future.

Driving through the Western Cape it was clear that the crisis is very real with dams and rivers drier than Queen Vicky’s facial expressions.

Eish…

Let it rain!

is for Xhosa history

If there is one side of the South African story that I am still getting more familiar it is the history of the Xhosa people.

The trip motivated me to burrow deeper into the tales of all South Africa’s people.

Did you know that the Xhosa Wars were a series of nine wars (from 1779 to 1879) fought between the Xhosa tribes and European settlers in the Eastern Cape?

Apparently, these events were the longest running military action in African colonialism.

At the Big Hole Museum in Kimberley I also learnt the story of Nongqawuse, the Xhosa “Prophetess of Doom”.

From Wiki again:

In April or May 1856 the teenaged Nongqawuse and her friend Nombanda went to fetch water from a pool near the mouth of the Gxarha River. When she returned, Nongqawuse told her uncle and guardian Mhlakaza, a Xhosa spiritualist, that she had met the spirits of three of her ancestors. She claimed that the spirits had told her that the Xhosa people should destroy their crops and kill their cattle, the source of their wealth as well as food. In return the spirits would sweep the British settlers into the sea.

Needless to say, that did not work out too well for Nongqawuse.

It didn’t work out too well for the cows either.

Nongqawuse (right) with fellow prophetess, Nonkos

Man, I wish we had more time to drive slowly through the Transkei all the way up to Zululand.

Next time!

is for Zulu

I am fortunate that I have been to KwaZulu-Natal on numerous occasions.

The province was not on the list this time, but I am excited to be heading back to the Kingdom of the Zulu to witness this year’s Comrades Marathon.

I cannot wait for the experiences that await me there and the next blog, of course.

Read last year’s blog on Comrades “Things I learned in the Kingdom of the Zulu and at Comrades (by a guy who didn’t run the Comrades)” to see what I mean.

Thank you, South Africa for all the lessons and experiences.

Peace be da journey!

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.

LG

* Please note that this is an opinion piece and that the views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Benoni City Times or Caxton Newspapers.

Check out some other blogs from this writer:

I’ve got the runs

Things I learned in the Fair Cape

Go, on be a sport

Follow him on Twitter or Instagram


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  AUTHOR
Logan Green
Sports Reporter

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