Saturday, April 01, 2006

Thank you, mountaintop and coming home.

1. Anne and Wayne are wandering round the hotel with a pile of incoherent postcards. Apparently ‘someone’ posted them under their door of their room at half past midnight. The cards are mostly along the lines of ‘We love you’, although there are some confessions from Rob (‘I’m American so I can do what I like’), a collection of Bond autographs, a picture of Bob’s leg ulcers and a note allegedly from George the truck. We had been sitting in a cafe next to a rack of free postcards, and you know how it is... We must have run out, because my arms are covered with scrawl, too.

Anyway, what I meant to say in mine was: ‘Thank you so much for being the best leaders ever in the whole world -- lending Rosey bikini bottoms, taking me to the medical centre to get my face mended at 2am and bringing Rosey back to visit at 7am, contributing to Three Beautiful Things and occasionally being Beautiful Things yourselves, finding our leopard, taking us on our first game drive, untangling the mysteries of life, conjuring up surprise wine and nibbles at Fish River, doling out praise when the group did well and passing on the kind comments of campsite owners and hotel receptionists, getting out to batten down the sides of the truck when it rained and then to unbatten them ten minutes later when it stopped, booking tables for group dinners, adding up bills when we were too confused to do ourselves, finding border crossing money changers with honest faces, keeping on trucking (and knowing the time to stop) when you were ill, filming our adventures, finding Francis, knowing exchange rates, getting us to Lake Kariba in time for sunset, stopping for the sex powder man, waking us up to see a lively market, finding unusual meat for us to try and cheetahs for us to stroke, playing Uno with us, going over the map, making scones and dampers and providing marshmallows, sneaking scraps to hungry little dogs, lighting fires, identifying antelopes, earning us the love of stranded travellers by trying to pull their coach out of the mud, digging up missing tent pegs, recommending books, sympathising with badly itched insect bites and belly aches, driving us down the Skeleton Coast and a load of other things that are hard to explain in words.

2. Table Mountain is a strange sort of place when the city below is a little hazy. The valley floor on the other side was entirely covered in cloud -- there could have been nothing there for all we knew. But it was clear on the plateau, and the sun warmed my hungover bones as we followed the paths through the fynbos. We shared the cable car down with some schoolgirls. The operator encouraged persuaded them to sing for us.

3. It was sad to leave, but I fully admit that my nose has been turning towards home -- I am looking forward to seeing my friends and family again and to catching up with all the gossip. I’m looking forward to spending some time really-o truly-o alone. But all the same, I manage some tears when I say my goodbyes because I’m genuinely sorry to be leaving the group. These guys have been like a family and on this journey I have travelled more than just kilometers.