Soon after I heard the news last night, I started making a list of all the adventures we’ve had over the years. The list was longer than I realized.
I can’t remember for sure the first time we traveled together. It might have been Port Elizabeth in 2013, when we jumped into a mountain of wool.
On another trip we spent 10 days traveling the length and breadth of South Africa. You had a terrible cold the whole time. But still I could hardly keep up with you. We slept in tents and grungy youth hostels and fancy hotels. We flew over the Magaliesberg in a hot-air balloon and paddled down the Orange River in a two-person canoe. (You were a far better paddler than me.) We ate hot Durban curry and drank lots of wine. We swam from South Africa to Namibia and back again, then walked back to camp without shoes. The soles of your feet were riddled with thorns.
You laughed and winced but never complained. Later we watched the sun set over the Richtersveld.
A couple of years later we traveled around Turkey for two weeks. It was the trip of a lifetime for me. I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect travel partner.
I spent a couple of hours going through my Turkey photos and found so many beautiful shots of you. Damn girl, you knew how to look good in pictures. You were so fucking beautiful.
And then of course there were all of our adventures in Joburg — walking, eating, drinking, and dancing our way through Melville, Soweto, Alex, and the Joburg CBD.
No one loved this city like we did.
Barely more than a month ago you co-hosted my book launch. I went to visit you the day before and I could see how tired and weak you felt.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked. “You can change your mind any time, even an hour before.”
The next day, you showed up at the bookstore looking more fabulous than I’d ever seen you. You charmed the crowd and kept the discussion on topic. You were poised and articulate and brilliant. You made me look good and I was so glad you were there.
You went out for drinks afterward. I was too tired and went straight home.
“You’re amazing,” I told you that night. “I couldn’t have done this without you.”
How can I keep doing this without you? How can the country keep loving itself without you?
What will Africa do without you?
I honestly don’t know and neither does anyone else. We’re bereft.
Thank you, MzansiGirl, for being the most passionate traveler I’ve ever known.
Meruschka Govender was a travel blogger and social media influencer who went by the name MzansiGirl. (“Mzansi” is slang for “South Africa”.) She died on 15 January 2019, at age 38, after a battle with cancer. (Fuck you, cancer.) Meruschka’s impact on the African travel community was — and is — too big to explain in words.
Read another tribute to Meruschka by my good friend Kate Els. I’m sure there will be more.