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Adventures on South Africa’s backpacker trail


The Baz Bus journey to Hermanus began fine. I wasn’t hung over surprisingly and actually enjoyed the winding ride through beautiful countryside and past ragged, dusty townships.

The colourful inhabitants of these down trodden places were certainly an interesting bunch to behold. I now know where old clothes go just before they cease to exist; to the small rural towns of Southern Africa for one last shot at adornment.

The locals all sported a funky mix of the forgotten trends of the west. From shell suits to tweed blazers, and old school uniforms to outdated military wear, everybody had a colourful cocktail of styles and sizes which I couldn’t help but emit a sardonic chuckle at.

I appreciate it would be unfair to expect some of the poorest people in the world to be well and truly in vogue, but a little bit of coordination wouldn’t go amiss surely?

High heels, for example, should at least be the same colour when worn with a pair of half mast army issue cargo pants. Just as purple shell suit tops designed for thirty stone Americans are not a child’s full length shiny dress. It should also be common knowledge that rugby socks are for the feet and not to be worn on a persons head as a big, dangly hat.

If only these poverty stricken communities had a mentor. A skinny, gay, bespectacled little Asian fashion guru perhaps, then all would be well. Programmes such as how to look good with AIDS, or what not to wear while living under the international poverty line would most definitely be a winner.

One gentleman, who looked a lot like Seal, tickled me in particular . Not a clapping, ball balancing seal, but the musical artist Seal. Not only did this guy look like a celebrity with an oceanic name, but he was also dressed all sea like and oceanic too.

His attire was exactly like that of Captain Birdseye.

The fact that it was a red hot day and we were nowhere near the coastline didn’t put off this nautical loving gent mind. His confident swagger outside a TV repair shop was most definitely like that of a man who had just returned from daring voyage across the seven seas. Or, was that of someone that just likes fish fingers. A lot.

As we pulled into the small town of George for our lunch break I couldn’t help but snigger at another band of unfortunates. I must really stop all this laughing at people who are worse off than myself. It is most unbecoming.

This particular group of sombre looking souls were stood outside a hospital smoking. Not a wise act considering your probably not a very healthy person, but equally not very entertaining either. What got me though was that each one had a different limb bandaged up. One left arm was in a cast, as was another guys right. A broken left leg for one man was matched by that of a broken right on somebody else. Another gents noggin was wrapped up, as was one woman’s neck in a brace. And the last poor sod kept himself upright by holding onto a portable drip.

They looked so remarkably like cartoon characters from a Beano based hospital sketch it was impossible not to chortle at their plight. ‘Chortle’ is a very Beano word isn’t it, so quite apt that I emitted one under the circumstances.

They were a lot better off than the next dude I saw though. He was lying face down, spread eagled in the middle of a grassy park. If this one had raised a laugh then I would seriously begin to worry about my sense of humour. It never though thankfully. God only knows if he was dead or drunk, but he certainly didn’t appear overly alive to me. It must have been a regular occurrence in George though as nobody batted an eye.

The Baz Bus soon pulled into a Mc Donalds car park. We all disembarked and sated our hunger with the most agreeable hangover food before hopping back onto the bus.

I had pigged out in Mc Donalds and instantly regretted it.

Karma, that good old (vindictive) friend of the Hindus and Buddhists came swooping down from the heavens and delivered me a good, solid and possibly very deserved knee to the stomach. ‘That will teach you to find amusement in the deprived you massive streak of piss’ it would have said had it been audible, before catching its trans Atlantic flight back to torment Earl Hickey.

I had turned green. The Mc Donalds, although absolutely delicious, did not agree with me on this rare occasion and set my stomach bouncing like a bucking bronco. The inevitable hot flushes came. Then the cold sweats and nausea. And within ten minutes of setting off again I gained that terrible knowledge that I was a speed bump away from filling my underpants with a Mc Slurry.

Thankfully, we had arrived in the nearby coastal town of Mossel Bay to pick up a group of other backpackers from a beachside hostel. As soon as we stopped I jumped out and sprinted off to do my business in the lavatory of a rather swanky restaurant.

Returning to the bus again we then set off to another hostel in town before returning back to my original place of defecation to pick up passengers who were late. In this short trip across town I realised there was no way I could continue the journey without severe embarrassment and asked the driver to find my bag.

“You alright Jord?” asked Danny.

“No mate. I’m fucked. My guts are going bananas.”

“Are you gonna stay here then?”

“Yeah. I cant make it to Hermanus. I’ll end up shitting myself on the bus.”

“We’ll all stop then,” replied Danny, “It would be best if we all stick together.”

“You’re alright mate honestly. You lot go on and do that whale kayaking thing. I don’t fancy that so I’ll catch you up tomorrow if I’m better.”

“You sure?”

“Yes mate. Cheers though. I should be sound by tomorrow. I’ll see you at Hermanus Backpackers.”

And with that I entered reception of the nearby hostel and prayed they had a spare dorm bed.

As it happened they had twelve free as the dorm was empty. In fact, it wasn’t actually a dorm at all. It was a train carriage with creaking bunk beds lining the sides where seats once lived. The entire hotel/hostel was a stationary train where customers either slept in pokey little berths or in the manky dorm at its rear end.

After checking in, safe in the knowledge that I had no more travelling to do that day I suddenly felt fantastic. The belly ache had gone, and the feeling that I could shit through the eye of a needle was nothing but a distant, stinking memory.

Realising that Mossel Bay was a relatively pretty but rather boring place to be, I made haste to get myself out of there as soon as possible.

While in reception waiting to use the phone I listened in to the conversation of a rather erratic young Belgian girl moaning about how her and her friend had been deserted by the Baz Bus. The driver had in fact gone out of his way to collect these girls twice, hence my own personal alighting on his second trip to pick them up, but they had failed to show on either occasion so he had quite rightly buggered off without them. When she had finished on the phone I smiled and said hello.

“All ok?” I asked knowing all was not ok.

“No,” she replied rather predictably, “the fucking Baz Bus has gone without us again.”

“Again?”

“This happened yesterday.”

“And again today? Weren’t you here on time for it?”

“Yes we were here on time,” she barked back, “but they didn’t wait for us.”

“The bastards.” I said hypocritically.

“Yes. Bastards. I have complained about the driver. It was the same guy twice who didn’t wait.”

“That’s not very nice of him,” I replied, giving Karma another excuse to pay me a visit. The driver had been very kind to me when I told him how rotten I felt and this is how I repay him. By turning on him and siding with two people who had no concept of being punctual. The things you say when you are talking to the owners of vaginas. What an utterly shit person I am.

The girls, one a Belgian and the other more reserved one a German (who clearly hasn’t been informed of her nations stereotypical timekeeping) checked back into the dorm and then disappeared for the evening.

I on the other hand tried to rebook my Baz Bus seat for the following day. I was told that my ticket had expired today and would have to stump up £35 for another. Gutted I was. This made my early stomach wrenching experiences all the more harder to bare. Not only had it been one of the most painful, potentially embarrassing episodes in a long while, it had also now become the most expensive dump I had ever undertaken.

My one night in Mossel bay was rubbish. I sat in an expensive beach side restaurant alone and ordered a chicken sandwich which only became edible once I had to scrape the filling out.

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