Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Goodbye Arnie

Pietersburg was a town. It had the same amenities you would find in most small-towns in North American; bank, grocery store, gas station. Nothing special. No terribly interesting tourist sites to explore. No handy game parks to scour for ferocious animals. No real reason to go there except for our present one; to sell the van.
We had hit our last stop with Arnie. We crossed the border back into South Africa and travelled to the closest spot to part ways with our last travelling companion. Pietersburg wasn’t far from the border and was big enough to support the potential sale of our van. It wasn't beautiful, but we hoped  it would fill our needs.
 We found a campground on the edge of town and set up camp for the last time. We picked up a few supplies, but were loathe to buy too much, as we would be carrying everything on our backs from here on out. Brett and I packaged and shipped off any souvenirs or other valuables that we wanted to keep, but did not want to schlep around. We needed our camping gear until the van was sold, but it too would go. My sleeping bag would stay with me, but our tent was a luxury that neither of us wanted to carry. It all had to go.
With our possessions thrown out of the van, we drove Arnie to a little carpark that we had heard about. A South African family that was camping across from us had suggested it as a good place to sell the van. Arnie was too old to try to sell to a dealership. Parking the van at the side of the highway with a sign in the window was presented as our best option. It had good potential to be bought and used to transport hordes of people as a local taxi. It seemed a sad fate, after all the love we had pumped into our dear van, but it was time to part ways. We needed the money and that was what Arnie represented now. He would fetch a better penny now too, as the South African family re-wired the ignition system. It would seem that it was not the starter motor at all that caused us to have to push Arnie for the last two months, rather faulty wiring. Within five minutes, they had fixed our ignition woes and installed a new set of spark plugs. No more push starts! Miraculous! It was like being in a brand new van!

Nevermind,” we told ourselves with sheepish grins. We would now get more money to line our pockets with and memories we could laugh about forever.
A big Thank you! was offered to our new friends. They were a warm hearted lot that you could tell would offer the shirts off their backs. That was, only as long as you were the right colour. We were definitely back in South Africa and the racial tensions were glaringly apparent once again. It was difficult to justify the strong beliefs that were everywhere, but I tried to  just be thankful for the kindnesses of the moment. I could not paint all the people I met with evil brush strokes just because I did not believe in their thought patterns, so I let it go as best I could.

We washed and polished Arnie better than he had ever looked and dropped him off near the highway for his Show and Shine. A box of wine was our reward and final celebration to a remarkable journey. It was also our Easter celebration and we dined like kings on instant noodle soup and tomatoes. The wine and conversation flowed until the thread was lost. At some point, my bladder roused me from a sleep I don’t remember falling into. Crawling out of the tent, I could see the sky beginning to lighten and I knew that it was going to be a long day. I was pretty sure it was not going to be a good one either.
The bright side is that the hangovers that punished us that day served to give us something to do with the idle hours of waiting. Laughter was scant and a painful ordeal, but I didn’t have much mirth as I crawled from shade patch to shade patch with groans or occasionally made the longer trek across the campsite for water. Food might have saved me, but the box of wine that still sloshed a little, offered its accusations by its shockingly empty state. There was plenty good reason for my sour and heaving stomach. No amount of swearing off booze would save that day, but blissfully the sun eventually sank back into the horizon again. I would survive. My prayers and dreams for that night centered on a speedy sale of the van, so that we could leave Pietersburg and its rowdy memories behind.

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