Monday, December 12, 2011

Dark Passenger

The dark stole over us all of a sudden like, as seemed to be the way in Africa. Springbok lay behind us, but Cape Town was still a long way to go. I was committed now. There was no turning back and the night made sure of that. The highway was no place for idle hitchhikers after dark, so for better or worse, I was Mango’s passenger for the night.

When dinner became a memory and eyes fought for purchase to stay open, I began to release the day. I was not the only one who fought a battle with sleep though. I tried to chat with Mango to keep us both awake, but conversation gradually ceased and we drove along in silence. Reflective tape flashed towards us in the dark. My eyelids bobbed under the mesmerizing display, dangerously close to staying shut, until Mango’s voice jarred me awake.

“I am going to stop,” he announced. "I need to sleep."

“You’re the boss,” I thought, as I nodded in agreement. The truck geared down and eased to the side of the road for a much needed break for both of us.

We were in the middle of nowhere. No lights twinkled in the distance, near or far, that I could see. While there could have been people hidden in the depths of the dark, essentially we were alone.

“Do you want to join me,” Mango half-heartedly suggested. “No charge for the ride?”

This is what I had been dreading and hoping against hope would not happen. I was instantly awake and tense.

“No,” I stated

“Sure?” he pushed, but I shook my head emphatically. He waited a second and then lay down. He flipped over with his back to me, apparently unconcerned by my rejection. I remained rigid in the passenger seat. Long after Mango slept, I listened for his even breathing, to assure me that I too was safe to snooze. Needless to say, it was not a sound sleep that night.

Before morning light, we were rolling along again. The sky outside my window was steely gray and rain broke on the windshield as we drove. My eyes were dry and gritty from having slept in my contact lenses, but Cape Town approached. After spending almost 24 hours in the truck with Mango, he geared down once again. Where the N1 and N7 intersected, I lit from the truck into the pouring rain. I thanked him for the ride, gave him the promised money and watched him drive away.

Within minutes two lovely ladies stopped to scoop me out of the downpour. Next stop: downtown Cape Town. After 9 ½ months of meandering here and there between Cape Town and Lamu, my travelling days were finally at an end.  


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