Meruschka at the Oriental Plaza

For Meruschka (a.k.a. MzansiGirl)

Dear Meruschka,

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.

Meruschka at the Oriental Plaza
You at the Oriental Plaza in December 2016.

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.

Meruschka, Heather and Rachel in a mountain of wool
That’s me on the left and you in the middle.

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.

Heather and Meruschka rafting
Paddling down the river. You taught me how to keep the boat moving straight.
That’s you on the far left and me next to you. We swam to Namibia, yay.
On top of the world in 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.

The pair of us in Cappadocia.

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.

On a rainbow stairway in Cihangir, Istanbul.
Meruschka in the Hagia Sophia
In the Hagia Sophia.
Random Istanbul tile wall.
Lounging on top of an ancient castle in Cappadocia.

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.

Modeling samoosas at the Oriental Plaza.
Meruschka eating a sly vat vat
Eating a sandwich called a “sly vat vat” on a culinary tour of Alexandra Township.
Shopping for cheap CDs on Eloff Street.
Meruschka in abandoned Tarantino's building
You brought me to this seemingly abandoned building near the M2 highway, which turned out to have one of Joburg’s coolest secret coffee shops in it.
Meruschka and Heather #WalkMyCity
We made a good team.

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.

Heather and Meruschka at Bridge Books
Two girls and a book. Our last picture together.

“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 jumping in Cappadocia
Keep jumping, girl.

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.

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53 Comments

  • Reply violetonlineisonline January 16, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    Heather, this is the saddest news.
    I am so sorry.
    I didn’t know Meruschka although I felt like I knew her, through you and through her love of Johannesburg.
    RIP and love to her family, her friends and to you.

    • Reply 2summers January 16, 2019 at 6:58 pm

      She had an influence on sooooo many people, even those who never knew her. It’s just the saddest.

  • Reply Gail Scott Wilson January 16, 2019 at 6:54 pm

    A beautiful tribute to an awesome person.

    • Reply 2summers January 16, 2019 at 6:57 pm

      Thanks Gail. x

  • Reply autumnashbough January 16, 2019 at 6:56 pm

    So sorry for your loss. Meruschka sounds like someone who really lived.

    She should have lived much longer.

    • Reply 2summers January 16, 2019 at 6:57 pm

      Yes, much much longer. But if anyone lived their life to the fullest it was her.

  • Reply Sophie Van den Bosch January 16, 2019 at 6:58 pm

    Goosebumps. Cancer is … I follow you both and all your Jozi adventures. The best South African town, where I lived for a while and keep returning too. You ladies are both an inspiration to me. My condeleances for losing your friend & travel buddy. x

    • Reply 2summers January 16, 2019 at 6:58 pm

      Thanks Sophie 🙂

  • Reply foxtrotindigo January 16, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Beautiful tribute. I met Meruschka through the AfrikaBurn community. She thrummed with vibrancy and life. I’m so sorry for your loss Heather xx

  • Reply David James Hammond January 16, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    So sad. Cancer is such a terrible desease taking so many people in the primef life.

  • Reply Peggy Laws January 16, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    Just devastating! I met Meruschka about 3 times and she just lit everything up. I remember her last at your Book Launch looking gorgeous and had no idea she was so ill. That lovely laugh. So very very sad.

    • Reply 2summers January 16, 2019 at 7:25 pm

      Thanks Peggy. I’m glad you were there that night.

  • Reply Timmee January 16, 2019 at 7:31 pm

    thank you for writing this. a wonderful tribute.

    • Reply 2summers January 16, 2019 at 7:32 pm

      Thanks Timmee 💜❤️💜❤️

    • Reply 2summers January 16, 2019 at 7:32 pm

      🍌

  • Reply Adeline January 16, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    Beautiful celebration of her life. RIP MzanziGirl. Sorry for your loss Heather.

    • Reply 2summers January 16, 2019 at 7:43 pm

      Thanks Adeline 🙂

  • Reply catherine January 16, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    Thank you for writing such a beautiful tribute, please accept my condolences.

    • Reply 2summers January 16, 2019 at 7:59 pm

      Thanks 🙂

  • Reply Derek Smith January 16, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    Yes, fuck you cancer – The Bloody Butcher – Such a great loss. Gone too soon.

    • Reply 2summers January 16, 2019 at 8:37 pm

      Indeed.

  • Reply Brenda Reiss January 16, 2019 at 8:54 pm

    What a vibrant presence! Your pictures and story are a remarkable tribute to someone who sounds beyond remarkable. Thanks!

  • Reply Ellen January 16, 2019 at 9:08 pm

    This is so sad. She was obviously a great person and wonderful friend. I’m so sorry.

    • Reply 2summers January 16, 2019 at 9:20 pm

      Thanks Ellen 💜

  • Reply Elizabeth January 16, 2019 at 9:10 pm

    You wrote a beautiful tribute to your friend. Meruschka looked radiant on your last photo together. Sincerest condolences to you.

    • Reply 2summers January 16, 2019 at 9:20 pm

      Thank you.

  • Reply catji January 16, 2019 at 9:18 pm

    oh damn. i guessed right what happened while i was reading. :-/ damn. had it myself and i think it’s starting up again.

    • Reply 2summers January 16, 2019 at 9:20 pm

      😥😥😥

  • Reply Mapitso January 16, 2019 at 10:00 pm

    The last time I saw her was sometime in April after she had persistent on meeting me! I was so happy because I had looked up to her for such a long time before starting my blog. We instantly clicked and I felt so privileged to be one of those people in the blogging space she admired. I am broken. I feel your pain and can’t stop crying. She taught how to live fully and I will do that. I was looking forward to a Campaign with her this year, but honestly I don’t know how to honour her and her life in a way that’s fitting for her character. There’ll never be anothe Mzansi girl who lived the South African spirit in and out. Love Meru and miss you.

    • Reply 2summers January 16, 2019 at 10:07 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment Mapitso. I’m glad you got to meet her 🙂

  • Reply Ray January 16, 2019 at 10:38 pm

    So extremely heartbreaking, she had the biggest smile and the most energy, the first person I felt comfortable with at the Sandton places book launch way back when. I saw her two months ago looking absolutely amazing it still doesn’t seem real. Lovely post. Truly the saddest I have felt in yonks. Rip M </3

    • Reply 2summers January 17, 2019 at 8:11 am

      I know what you mean. Thanks.

  • Reply Louise Whitworth January 16, 2019 at 11:48 pm

    I love looking at these photos, she lived such a life and we were in it too! Still can’t quite believe it even now. I have such a list stored up in my head of things she recommended that I would love – festivals, musicians, countries, cities – that I still didn’t do yet, need to start doing them

  • Reply Eva Melusine Thieme January 17, 2019 at 1:32 am

    OMG I had no idea. I also only new Meruschka as Mzanzi Girl though your blog. I hadn’t even seen a picture of her, and yet I am so saddened by this news. How unfair the world is. Thank you for this wonderful tribute.

    • Reply 2summers January 17, 2019 at 8:12 am

      Thanks Sine. It’s a real tragedy for South Africa.

  • Reply Claire Sneed January 17, 2019 at 5:03 am

    This is one of my favorite of all your posts, Heath. Such a beautiful tribute to a remarkable, full-of-life person. I wish I could have met her, and you are fortunate to have had so many incredible adventures together! Very sad and sorry for your loss, dear friend.

    • Reply 2summers January 17, 2019 at 8:12 am

      Thanks friend. I can’t wait to see you soon ❤️

  • Reply Colleen January 17, 2019 at 7:00 am

    So sorry for your loss. Beautiful tribute. She truly lived her life fully and we can all learn from that lesson. Big hug x

    • Reply 2summers January 17, 2019 at 8:12 am

      Thanks 🙂

  • Reply Wεทchy ¸.¸. ҉¨ January 17, 2019 at 7:24 am

    #fuckcancer 😪

    • Reply 2summers January 17, 2019 at 8:13 am

      Yes yes yes

  • Reply Sunita January 17, 2019 at 7:40 am

    Oh man,this is the saddest news. What a vibrant soul. RIP my darling.

    • Reply 2summers January 17, 2019 at 8:13 am

      Thank you.

  • Reply Sandy D January 17, 2019 at 7:43 am

    Such a lovely tribute, I remember meeting you both at the Oriental Plaza. I was always inspired by your adventures.

    • Reply 2summers January 17, 2019 at 8:13 am

      That was a fun day 🙂

  • Reply Roaming with The Meerkats January 17, 2019 at 8:54 am

    Such a beautiful tribute! Sorry for your loss, Heather. She was a beautiful adventurous soul from what I know about her. I will miss following her insta travels and adventures. RIP Meruschka ❤️ Thank you to for inspiring us to travel, thanks Heather!

  • Reply Life Is Sudden. Make It Count. | Going Somewhere Slowly January 17, 2019 at 9:46 am

    […] these beautiful tributes by Heather, 2summers, and Kate, […]

  • Reply Lani January 17, 2019 at 9:53 am

    I’m very sorry Heather. You put together a beautiful tribute. Hugs from Thailand.

  • Reply Aisha January 17, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    This is a good read . I followed her pages more than any other South African .
    Go well @Mzansigirl .

    And to you Heather ,Greetings from Kampala ,Uganda .

  • Reply A Tribute to Sawubona Columnist @MzanziGirl, Meruschka Govender - Sawubona Magazine January 18, 2019 at 8:58 am

    […] Read Heather’s Blog Post: For Meruschka […]

  • Reply Mohmeena January 26, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    I heard about her as a dynamic young person with a passion for life. She resonated with most of us.I even asked one of the hotels, Angsana Balaclava in Mauritius, to contact her in December as I thought of her while doing water cycling among the corals

  • Reply Cindy Naidoo January 28, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    This is such a beautiful tribute to our beautiful Meru. I still can’t stop crying.

    • Reply 2summers January 28, 2019 at 8:19 pm

      ❤️❤️❤️

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