REEDS Roadtrip – Durban (The Car) & Near Death Experiences

Our drive from Port Elizabeth to Durban was challenging in every way imaginable. Firstly, i need to say that i am an excellent driver. Not an excellent driver “for a girl”, but an excellent driver for anyone. My dad started teaching me to drive the minute that i was tall enough to see over the steering wheel while sitting on his lap, i couldn’t reach the pedals but i could hold onto the wheel. By the time it came to me getting my drivers license at 18 i had already been able to drive solo for years. I’ve always been relatively fearless behind the wheel of a car as i’m confident that i know what i’m doing and would be able to get myself out of most bad situations, usually caused by people that don’t know what they’re doing.

We left Port Elizabeth in terrible weather; it was cold, wet and dreary and we were all too happy to leave the depressed looking village behind us. The drive to East London went pretty well and we arrived just before midday. Somewhere along the line i had gotten driving times confused and thought that the drive from EL to Durban was about 3 or 4 hours, not the 10 hours my GPS was busy telling me that it was going to take. A couple of calls to locals and parents were made and this is when we realized our mistake. At this point we didn’t realize how much that mistake was going to shake our entire trip up.

We filled the car in East London and hit the road again now knowing that the journey to Durban was probably going to take at least 7 – 10 hours depending on traffic and weather, etc. I had listened to numerous warnings from friends and family about driving through the former Transkei, but as usual i figured that everyone was exaggerating. They were not. I’d also like you to remember that throughout this entire drive from EL to Durbs, the weather was shocking. It was either storming or misty or both and as the day wore on and the sun started to set… it only got worse.

It started with the potholes, they are less like potholes and more like gullies, i swear that i will never ever complain about our little potholes in the Western Cape ever again. So you’re driving at a good 120km/h when you manage to spot a dark hole in the road just in time to slow down, the problem is that you never know how deep the hole is. Every now and again i over compensated and slowed down for a shallow hole, but most of the time it felt like the entire car fell into the hole and we re-emerged on the other end. The constant slowing down and speeding up didn’t help with the fuel consumption or the time it was going to take us to get to Durban.

Usually i am not a fan of generalizations, but this happened too much on the road for it not to be true… What is it with people driving on the wrong side of the road?!?!?!?!?!┬áThe last time i checked, the lines in the road were a RULE not a guideline. I’d be driving in my (single) lane and all of a sudden an Audi would pop out from behind a truck heading towards me and then just drive in my lane (the oncoming traffic) and force me off the side of the road. The yellow line at most points also didn’t have much space to spare and this happened too many times to mention. At least once every 30min and with varying degrees of danger.

If you have ever thought of driving through the Transkei, then i can bet that at least 3 people warned you about stray animals and livestock running across the road. I had at least 13 people warn me about the animals. As i mentioned before, i thought that they were exaggerating… they really weren’t. Except for the fact that the animals don’t really run across the road, they walk/stroll/amble/meander across the road. Often pausing in the middle of the road to give the cars speeding past a good glare. We had cows, sheep, dogs, goats, you name it cross our car. I was alert and we didn’t have any close calls but that is because i was over cautious when it came to approaching animals on the side of the road – they are so unpredictable and can change their minds on a whim.

Unfortunately my caution wasn’t shared by all the motorists on the road and we drove past our fair share of knocked over animals – a terrible thing to see so much of for anyone that has half a heart. I was also unlucky enough to see a dog get mowed down by a Venture right in front of me. The Venture, upon impact, lost control and went off the side of the road. Later that night when we had eventually arrived at the hotel, i was busy describing the days events and broke down in tears while trying to describe the scene. It was something i wish i had never seen.

Before the sun set we drove through a town that looked like it was seconds away from a riot – complete with closed roads, armed police and an angry mob. At one point there were also 2 cars that were driving very suspiciously, one in front of us and the other behind. They sped up and slowed down together and forced us to do the same. When both cars slowed to around 38km/h i realized that something wasn’t right, both cars were fully occupied and every single one of the occupants either had a balaklava or a beanie or a hoodie on. I decided to drop a couple of gears and speed away and eventually managed to lose them. Not before they chased for a little while too. It semi confirms my theory that they were trying to get us to stop because why would they have been driving so slowly and then as soon as i let the Turbo do its job, they sped up too and tried to catch up again.

By this time i was shaken and just wanted to get the journey over and done with. I overtook a massive truck on a solid line, but there was no one else on the road and i could see for quite a way ahead. A traffic officer saw and pulled me over, dodgy as all hell. He wanted me to get out of my car and come and sit with him in his patrol vehicle. Uhm… NO THANKS! At this point i was starting to question whether it was such a great idea to have 2 Cape Town city girls driving through this area alone. We were kept on the side of the road for about 30minutes.

By this time, the sun was already starting to set and the weather was starting to worsen. Words can’t even describe how bad it ended up getting. Put simply, i couldn’t see anything. I’m really not exaggerating, i couldn’t see anything out of the windshield. At all. The windscreen wipers were going at full speed and the lights weren’t penetrating the heavy fog and heavy rain. At one point, we were driving around 32km/h because we couldn’t even see which lane we were in, let alone where the road curved. I cannot even begin to try and describe the sheer terror of having your foot on the accelerator pedal and moving a car forward into nothingness… i might as well have been driving blindfolded. The only way i could guesstimate where the road was leading us, was by watching the GPS screen.

Hours later we arrived safely in Durban. Very shaken up, but in one piece. There is no way that i could write down absolutely every detail of the day that made up my worst driving experience of all time, but trust me when i say that my words don’t even come close to describing it. Mixi and i are lucky to be here.