We hit the road just after eight, the weather was beautiful. It was as if mother nature had conspired to stick its tongue out at us as a deprecating attempt at humor.
We stopped to fill up at the Engine garage. The cashier’s name was Emma. I asked her if it was short for something. She said, “no, it’s just Emma.” I knew there was a story there. Because Xhosa people with an Anglophone name in the Eastern Cape are like hen’s teeth. But I couldn’t ask because the queue was long. The petrol attendant’s name tag read Tinashe, I kid you not. So I called him Nengomashe. His mask was on but his eyes smiled with love and peace. His Xhosa was impeccable, I promise you if you spoke to him on the phone you would never say he was a cross-border cousin.
So I asked how long he has been with us, he said “since 2015.” I will leave it there.
We stopped for breakfast in Cradock. Yup, they have a Wimpy in Cradock.
We were met and greeted by Lucia at the door. She took our temperature, and our order, and ran the till. I asked if she also cooked. She laughed. She didn’t deny it, though. I remember thinking what a disaster it would be if she didn’t show up for work one day.
Anyway, when we got to Colesburg we stopped for a body break at the one-stop. And noticed that the owner grew a vine as shade instead of shade nets in the parking lot. I had to take a picture or else you would never believe me.
We arrived in Bloemfontein at about 15h30. We met Louwkie, our host at the Waverly Manor, where we had booked. If I say he was visibly jaundiced by our ancestral linage it would be an understatement. Much of the overtures were made up by him just giving us reasons why we should not stay. So we decided not to offend him with our money, and make alternative arrangements. The Aha hotel confirmed our online booking within minutes, with a much better deal at that. The fact that Louwkie has to live in a world where he thinks his prejudice is normal, and the lengths he went to just to mask it made me feel sorry for him. I just can not imagine what life like that must be like.
At the hotel, they have this massive A0 charcoal portrait of a man’s face. I asked Thabang at reception “what’s the story with the portrait.” He explained that the owner of the hotel had a Gardner whom he wanted to honor. So he made a portrait. I asked Thabang for the Gardner’s name. He had no idea what it was. I remember thinking “so what’s the point?” Anyway, for a bite, we went to a place called The Loft, about a block away from the hotel. Their Menu is meat, meat, and more meat. And if you ask for anything else they offer you a platter of meats. The service was good though. Khotso took care of us for the night. I think he is a student because he pronounced his name like it was written. As in with a “Kh” and not “Kg” like a Free State native would. But the music was nice. I expected it to be in-bred like PE. But it veeeeery eclectic.
A pleasant surprise I must say. I shezamed what I could find just to give you an idea. You should know most of it. I’ll tell you one thing though, the place was a jump.