I’m Home.

I’ve been on five trips, to five South African provinces, over the last four weeks.

On the road in KwaZulu-Natal.

I’ve driven solo for hundreds of kilometers along barren country roads, blasting my iPod and singing at the top of my lungs. I’ve slept in airports and stayed in more quirky B&Bs (“quirky” is often a kind synonym for “dumpy”) than I can count. I’ve camped in the bush and eaten lots of junk food.

I had many remarkable experiences on my travels. I visited remote communities that few outsiders get to see. I was greeted in Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, and Afrikaans. I shivered and sweated and coughed up dust. I witnessed joy and suffering and hope and despair. I saw breathtaking beauty juxtaposed with mind-numbing poverty.

I took thousands — and I mean THOU-sands — of photos. So many that my camera threatened mutiny this week, giving me a mysterious error message that only went away when I changed the battery. You’ve seen some of my pictures already, and you’ll probably see more in the future. But here are just a few.

Village elders, Eastern Cape province.

Aloe flowers, KZN.

Happy children in the chilly Free State.

A view over OppiKoppi, Limpopo province.

Farm animals in the desert-like flatlands of Northwest province.

Walking to school, KZN.

Kids playing, Northwest province.

I didn’t eat much exciting food on my trips. But I did enjoy this curry mince vetkoek sandwich from the Vetkoek Palace and Curry House in Parys, Free State. Vetkoek, which is essentially deep-fried dough, has become my favorite Afrikaans food. 

I’ve endured some wildly emotional highs and lows over the past month. There is so much going on in my life right now and my brain feels ready to explode. All this traveling provided me with way too much time inside my own head, pondering challenges over which I have no control and wrestling with questions that can’t be answered.

Two days ago, as I studied my map book and tried to trace the route back to Joburg from Mafikeng, my eyes started to blur and I almost thought I wouldn’t make it home. But wouldn’t you know it, I did. I stumbled into the Lucky 5 Star and found flowers waiting on the counter. (Lucky always picks flowers from the garden when I come home from a trip.) I dropped my bags and nearly cried with happiness.

This journey was an incredible opportunity for me. I’m so grateful to have taken it. (I can’t tell you what it’s all about yet, but hopefully soon.) I’ve learned many important things about myself and what I’m capable of. But I think the most important thing I’ve learned is where home is.

In my “previous life” back in the States, I rarely looked forward to coming home from a trip. Traveling was exciting and home seemed dull. When I was home, I felt restless. I was always dreaming of the next adventure.

Here in South Africa, I feel differently. I still enjoy traveling, but while I’m away I dream of home. I can’t wait to be back in my own house in Jozi, sleeping in my own bed, hanging with the Melville Cat.

Smokey was confused and angered by my comings and goings. At one point he crawled under the car that I was about to ride off in, seemingly trying to prevent me from leaving. He finally settled in though, and learned to stay with with Ms. M while I was away. Ms. M’s house has become Smokey’s extended-stay hotel.

Finally, finally, I’m home. Hopefully I can stay a while.

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28 Comments

  • Reply jackie hulme August 19, 2012 at 10:32 am

    i wonder how long he will sulk …..

    • Reply 2summers August 19, 2012 at 10:36 am

      I didn’t see him for 36 hours after I came home. But he showed up at my window this morning and all seems to be forgiven. He’s sleeping next to me as we speak.

  • Reply Gail Wilson August 19, 2012 at 10:35 am

    I think you are experiencing and seeing more than most of us South Africans ever do, you certainly make me feel like taking the high road to nowhere!

  • Reply Jeroen August 19, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Vetkoek Paleis! I added that place to the Rough Guide (together with Parys which has been ignored till now). Greasy, gross, delicious.

    • Reply 2summers August 19, 2012 at 10:48 am

      Ha! Funny. I chose it at random — I stopped there on the snow day last week and it was too cold to really explore.

  • Reply Slowvelder August 19, 2012 at 10:51 am

    hmmm vetkoek and bobotie are my favorites. I just love road trips in SA.

    • Reply 2summers August 19, 2012 at 10:52 am

      Oh yes, bobotie is good too. I also had sosatie at OppiKoppi last weekend and really enjoyed it.

  • Reply Charles Visser (Chuckv) August 19, 2012 at 11:01 am

    I always find that driving long distances clears my mind. Lovely post.

    • Reply 2summers August 19, 2012 at 11:08 am

      Yes, actually the driving cleared my mind too. But sitting alone in guesthouses seemed to muddy it up again.

  • Reply Debra Kolkka August 19, 2012 at 11:18 am

    I look forward to hearing more about your trip. My little cat, Tallulah used to hate it when I went away and often greeted me with a pitiful cry on my return before ignoring me for days before returning to normal. She died a couple of years ago and as much as I want another cat I travel too much to make it practical.

  • Reply rashida & hady August 19, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Welcome come. Amazing trip and photos and looking forward to seeing more. Driving clears the mind – I have done that but had not done many quirky B&B :). Glad your camera recovered with battery change. I got the dreaded Error 99 on my Canon when we were in Istanbul and it ended up in Canon Hospital. Very special for me to travel in my home country thru you. Hello to Melville Cat too.

    • Reply 2summers August 19, 2012 at 11:23 am

      Thanks Rashida! Quirky South African B&Bs are fun at first but they get old quickly. Iiterally could not WAIT to get home after this last stint in NW. Geez, I would have been screwed if that error message had persisted. I need a second camera body, for reals.

  • Reply rashida & hady August 19, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Agree. I did not realise how important a second body is (or a good backup compact) especially if you are doing important work. We were on holiday but I was gutted as I only had one lens with me. Had a G12 on hand but I don’t like it’s limitations. Turned out the problem was with the lens so another body alone would not have helped me then. Ah! The perils of digital equipment.

  • Reply Tertia August 19, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Wonderful photos and blog South Africa is indeed such an paradoxical amazing and exciting place, and definately stretches the heart, mind soul and spirit in ways one just cannot imagine. I can also relate to the “feline homecoming welcome” , really classic! Our grey, who looks very much like yours, does exactly the same thing.

    • Reply 2summers August 19, 2012 at 9:14 pm

      Yeah, it’s hard being owned by a cat 🙂

  • Reply Emily August 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Beautiful pictures! I especially love the aloe flowers.

  • Reply Owls August 19, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Like.

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough August 20, 2012 at 2:03 am

    Good to know you’ve made it home, Heather. The photos you’ve shared here are stunning. Can’t wait to see more! Hope you upcoming week at home is peaceful!
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    • Reply 2summers August 20, 2012 at 7:21 am

      Thanks Kathy. I hope you’re doing well too.

  • Reply eremophila August 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Welcome home ♥

  • Reply Tenney August 20, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    What an amazing adventure. That took a lot of courage and perseverance. Congratulations.

    • Reply 2summers August 20, 2012 at 11:26 pm

      Thanks Dad. It was actually really fun.

  • Reply Tania August 22, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    You are such an inspiration!

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