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Sport 6: Autumn 1991

Forbes Williams — The Wild Coast

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Forbes Williams

The Wild Coast

There are so many children in South Africa you sometimes wonder if they aren't in fact running the show. Dawdling home in every direction from the crowded school buses, playing twenty-five-a-side soccer with a screwed-up cigarette packet on a dusty bit of ground, swarms of preschoolers running after your car with their hands out, pleading at the top of their high voices for sweets. Always a kid ready to light you a fire or wash your car or run a quick message for a rand. And thousands more born every day.

At Mpande a heavily pregnant woman in a group of people walking past our campsite collapsed right in front of us. For a few awful seconds she lay on the ground without moving. When she came to she let out a few low moans; the group stood in a circle around her, arguing. A boy was sent running back the way they'd come. We tried to offer our van to take her to a clinic but they wouldn't hear of it; I think maybe they could see we'd have to take down the tent to drive anywhere and they didn't want to be that much of a problem. After a few minutes the woman got up anyway and they walked on. The boy who'd been sent back came by on a horse an hour or two later.

The next day the woman walked back along the path the other way with a baby. She waved, we waved back. Just like that, another one.

If anyone was running the show at Mpande it was probably Joshua. All of nine, I suppose there could have been someone else behind the scenes, someone we never met telling him what to do but somehow I don't think so. He was too good to be reading lines. Looking back on our time in the Transkei I find myself dreaming that the influence of his entrepreneurial instinct and flair might spread beyond the outskirts of Mpande, that maybe he could one day turn his cleverness to making some kind of a difference . . . of course this is the way with travel: the buildings and monuments are so grand, the scenery out of this world, the people we happen to meet destined to one day make history . . .

The Transkei is named for the Great Kei river which marks its southern page 66border. North of the Great Kei other rivers beginning on the eastern face of the Drakensberg make their way down from the mountains through the steep, bare hills of the Transkei to empty into the Indian Ocean. Mpande is at the mouth of one of these rivers.

The river at Mpande is a brown sluggish thing, edges covered with algae: a breeding ground for insects. At night the place is alive with them. Alongside the river—and a single, low, tree-clad dune away from the beach—a piece of flat ground makes do as the camping ground. There's a broken tap, a long-neglected toilet, a tumbledown office with the fees painted on the side in English and Xhosa and nobody ever in it. There must be someone who keeps the grass down.

There were three of us: Pete, Greg and me. We were travelling the coastal route from Durban to Cape Town. People had insisted we stay a few days on the Wild Coast, told us it really had to be at Mpande. Don't go to Port St Johns, they said, that's where everyone goes. Go to Mpande. Nobody goes there.

Joshua first appeared soon after we'd arrived. We were still getting the tent right; there was always this confusion with the poles. At first he loitered slyly in the background, watching us from a distance, only slowly sidling up the tree-line to the campsite before finally sitting on a log by the remains of a fire near our van, chewing on the end of a bit of grass and nodding seriously at our attempts to introduce ourselves. It took maybe five minutes before we were happy with the tent, another five after we'd sat down with him before he first spoke—English—and told us his name in a mumble: Joshua; a moment later his age: nine, ten next month. As we gained his confidence he opened up more and more: he lived just a mile away with his mother and seven sisters and brothers; he was second, the oldest boy. He went to a school nearby but wasn't there today because it was a holiday. He liked school, liked his teacher, but his family had no money to buy schoolbooks. Did we want him to organise a fire?

Apart from the four of us the place was deserted. There didn't seem to be anything more to Mpande than the camping ground. It was hot and still, humid. We had no need of a fire.

But to cook, Joshua persisted. To cook we'd need a fire.

No, one of us said. No fires.

He picked gloomily at the remnants of the previous fire with a half-burnt stick. Maybe that had been his fire too. He looked so sad . . . no money for page 67schoolbooks . . . in a vague sort of way we were his guests . . .

Okay, we said. We can have a fire.

Within seconds he produced a smaller friend to help him and both hared off into the trees. We could hear branches snapping as we argued with each other. Should we have employed them? How much should we pay? Should we just give them some money?

My opinion was if they were going to work we should pay what they'd get for the same work in New Zealand. Greg pointed out that was probably a lot more than their parents' wages. Pete thought we should work their butts off and give them fifty cents. We compromised in the end on a rand an hour, to round it up if they worked less. As it turned out it took them twenty minutes to get our fire going; at the end of this time we gave them both a rand. They thanked us politely and ran off.

It was only in our last half hour at Mpande that we finally found out what labour was supposed to be worth, when Greg met an old woman who could speak English at the tap. Ten cents for a full eight-hour day, she said, that was what we should have paid them. They were cheeky for asking any more than that.

Pete, Greg and I were medical students on a three-month elective working in a hospital at Edendale, in KwaZulu, another homeland to the north. We'd been there about six weeks and now we were taking some time for this holiday to the Cape. We planned to stay with friends of people at Edendale; many of the doctors there had trained in Cape Town. We were travelling in a late 60s pop-top Commer campervan we'd bought for r1500 in Johannesburg; it came complete with the tent which went up along one side as an awning. So far it had proven ideal.

There was a joke among those at Edendale who'd been to Mpande that whites would only ever go there for one of two reasons: to buy cheap bulk undersized lobster or to buy cheap bulk marijuana—dagga, everyone seemed to call it—in either case to smuggle back to South Africa where there is a ready market for both, the dagga ending up on the streets as so-called Durban poison. We weren't planning to smuggle anything, it was just that all these people had said it was a great place to hideaway for a few days, put our feet up, catch up on our budgets a bit, see the real South Africa. Of course if someone were to offer us cheap Durban poison we weren't going to ignore that . . . but we didn't want to end up rotting in jail, not in the Transkei or in South Africa.

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An hour or so after Joshua and his friend had left we were approached again, this time a young man in his mid to late teens, good-looking, with a sparse half-beard and a wide smile. Despite the warmth he had on a bulky jersey and an old bomber jacket, a woollen hat pulled down over his ears and fingerless woollen gloves; black men in South Africa often dress as if it is cold and wet, you see guys wearing balaclavas on hot sunny days. He didn't speak English and we nodded and smiled to each other for a minute or two before he joined us on a log beside the fire.

In South Africa the secret symbol for dagga amongst users and sellers is the thumb rubbed back and forth across the forefingers—doctors call it pill-rolling—and when Pete finally made this movement the young man laughed and repeated it back. We all laughed and smiled, all made the pill-rolling movement, and a few seconds after this he pulled from his jacket a rucksack and tossed it over to Pete. Stuffed inside it was a football-sized plastic bag packed full with dagga. Pete ran his hand through it, scooped some out to show Greg and me. It was one hundred per cent heads, all sparkling with resin, over a pound of it. We couldn't believe our eyes. The commonest unit of sale in South Africa is the bullet, a few joints' worth, a few grams at the most. Here in front of us was maybe five or six hundred grams, the smallest amount we could buy.

Although without English the young man did know his numbers. Fif, he said.

Fifty rand? Pete asked. He nodded.

R50 was an absurd price. It would have bought maybe ten bullets max on the streets of Johannesburg. We looked at each other wide-eyed; Pete stifled a laugh.

Twenty, he said, winking at me. The young man frowned and shook his head.




In the end we didn't get him down so much: R30 plus a carton of Chesterfields we'd picked up duty-free which we'd bought—along with a bottle of Jack Daniels—with exactly this kind of situation in mind. No one was going to offer us three quarters of a kilo of dagga again, not for any price; it was worth the cigarettes just to be able to write home and brag about it, and we still had the whiskey for emergencies.

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Having reached the agreement Pete realised he'd need some cigarettes for himself and despite protests from Greg and me opened the carton and took two packets out; after some less friendly renegotiation the deal became R32 plus eight packets of Chesterfields. I could see why the guy was unhappy. A carton of Chesterfields is worth more than the sum of its parts.

Still, once he had the money and the cigarettes in hand he cheered up and pulled out from his jacket another plastic bag, this time stuffed with several lobsters.

No, we didn't want any, Greg tried to explain, the dagga would do fine. The young man didn't seem to want to accept this answer at first but with all of us shaking our heads and saying no and pushing the lobster away he finally acknowledged he understood and we smiled and waved our goodbyes. As soon as he was around the corner all three of us burst into laughter. We'd never in our lives done such a deal.

While I was still rolling the first joint, Joshua and his friend returned, drinking Coca Cola and smoking Peter Stuyvesants. From several people I'd heard the story that Coca Cola have themselves paid to wire electricity to some of the most obscure parts of the country, just so outlying stores can have a Coca Cola freezer. The freezer is supplied free of charge on the condition that only Coca Cola products can be stored in it. You come across these places out in the wops with a few cans and bottles in a largely empty freezer while perishable goods stacked alongside slowly wither away in the heat.

Joshua and his friend sat on the log and stared into the fire, sipping their Cokes and smoking. What about the schoolbooks? I said, but he just laughed. The initial shyness had gone, they were both quite happy now to sit with us. You could see it in Joshua's eyes, they were narrower, smoker's eyes. He was a man now, one of us.

I lit up the first joint. It was strong, hard to hold in, and I felt it straight away in my face, a kind of pleasant stretching or pulling, as if my head was slowly growing behind it. I looked out across the river to the trees on the other side. For the first time I noticed the birds, the vague hum of distant insects; somewhere, further away, the shrill laughter of children.

The Transkei is not so old itself. First established as a Bantustan by the Nationalist Government in the 1950s, in 1959 it became one of the eight original homelands created under the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government page 70Act and in the early 60s began to move towards self-control. On October 26 1976 it celebrated its independence. Now if you want to cross the border you need a visa—you can get one at a border post no problem—and South African national statistics no longer include the Transkei. It has its own government and its own police, even its own defence force.

The rest of the world sees things differently, however, continuing to consider the Transkei a part of South Africa and not a separate country at all. It is only in South Africa (and the Transkei) that the Transkei is actually a country; beyond the South African borders it disappears from the map, leaving it in a kind of limbo, a half-country, a country you cannot be certain even really exists. Perhaps this explains why only some of the roads in and out actually do have border posts, why it is possible—at least in an official sense—to enter and then never leave, or go to leave only to discover you never in fact entered.

Of course there is a lot more history to the place than the last fourteen years. People have been around in various stages of evolution for over two million. Being at the very south of the continent changes have come slowly, until, that is, the arrival of white explorers and settlers from Cape Colony. From there history gathers momentum and the last two hundred years have seen a confusing array of policies and wars, treaties and broken treaties, immigration and emigration, resistance and decline.

Probably the most famous incident in the Transkei's last two hundred years is the Great Cattle Killing. In 1854 the Governor of Cape Colony, George Gray, decided he would once and for all civilise the Xhosa and other neighbouring Transkei and Ciskei tribes. He dreamed of establishing a country where the primary divisions were of class, not race, and his policy involved creating a chequerboard of small white farms and black reserves. Eventually, Gray believed, the blacks would follow suit and divide their reserves into individually-owned small-holdings in the manner of the whites.

Instead the blacks became fearful they would lose their identity and their land. In October 1856 Xhosa prophet Nongquase told of a vision that a great wind would sweep the whites into the sea if everyone slaughtered their cattle. Twenty thousand cattle were killed; many went further and did not plant out crops when the summer rains came.

The great wind never arrived. Instead, by early 1857 there was a catastrophic famine and ultimately the weakened black population was left page 71powerless to deal with Gray's chequerboard policy. It is not recorded what became of Nongquase.

By the beginning of the twentieth century all of the Transkei was firmly under the control of a united South Africa. Legislation expelling blacks from Orange Free State and Cape Colony saw a large wave of immigrants arrive and overpopulation forced excessive use of limited land space. As it lost its nutrients and the plants to hold it there the soil on the Transkei's steep hills was washed away. The productive capacity of the once fertile land was now more limited than it had ever been and many left to find work in the Transvaal gold mines. The increasingly repressive pass laws of the 1950s forced more and more back however, for some to a place which had not been their tribal land in the first place. Today the Transkei is like a country at war: large numbers of the men—like Joshua's father—away to work in South Africa as immigrant labour for all but the few weeks of the year they can return to their homeland to celebrate a brief reunion, get to know their families again, meet last year's baby, hurriedly conceive the next.

As well as its own government, police and defence, the Transkei also has its own casino. This is just inside the northern border, the northernmost part of the Wild Coast, just down the road from the South Coast of Natal, where the wealthy of Durban have their holiday houses. There is no border post. Our first trip to the Transkei, late one night a few weeks earlier, had been to visit this casino.

Gambling is illegal in South Africa but there are casinos in all three independent homelands, the most famous being Bophuthatswana's Sun City where overseas performers not playing South Africa can play South Africa. These casinos are the brainchild of Sol Kirtzner, South Africa's richest man and something of a folk hero for his rise from ordinary beginnings as well as his marriage to former Miss South Africa and Miss World Anneline Kriel, now star of several Afrikaaner soaps. Sol and Anneline had been South Africa's best shot at royalty and when we were there everyone had an opinion on their on-the-rocks marriage. Generally people would point out how Sol was much shorter than her, considerably older, and ugly. But as they would wistfully point out, that just went to show how much money the guy had.

The Transkei's casino was much the same as any other: bright, noisy, crass. Blackjack, roulette, a couple of bars, hundreds and hundreds of bandits. Special rooms for bigtime gamblers and on display a Lotus Esprit page 72which you'd win with five aces on a machine nearby. Seemingly thousands of people, some there for a simple night out, others to change their lives, staring without smiling into the machine displays, pulling half-angrily, half-despairingly on the levers. A place of hope.

We weren't out to make or lose fortunes, although Greg tried for some time for the Lotus. One Scottish medical student we were with won two hundred rand with his second fifty cent piece—he didn't even buy us a drink—but that was about it. They say the odds are in favour of the punters at blackjack, but only if everyone plays the same strategy. Several of us had rehearsed a strategy and slowly filled up a table but this one stooge wouldn't give up the final seat and kept undermining our good work.

There was not only a casino but also a luxury hotel, a golf course, theatres showing blue movies around the clock. We caught a four star offering—five was the possible maximum— Flesh Dance, loosely based on the storyline of Flash Dance. The central character was a pure-as-the-driven Irene Cara look-alike who wanted to make it as a dancer. A man who happened to be the friend of a nightclub owner who was going under fell in love with her when he saw her cycling past and after a lot of people had a lot of sex—if it hadn't been for the sex it would have been a very short film—he finally got her career under way: fantasy dancing at the nightclub, reviving its fortunes when all hope had seemed lost, and of course finally sleeping with him in the climactic final scene.

As with gambling, pornography is difficult to come by in South Africa; magazines we get used to seeing in the dairy or newsagents are banned there, though not unknown. Soon before we went over the reigning Miss America, Vanessa Williams, had appeared in a Playboy centrefold. Several of the young Edendale doctors and a few other young guys we met besides asked us to send them a copy of that particular issue when we got back. I don't know whether they knew or not that Vanessa Williams was black.

The two whole days we spent at Mpande passed in a kind of dream. Some young hitchers we'd picked up a couple of days earlier on the motorway south of Durban had warned us about this, Pondo Fever they called it, a debilitating paralytic affliction peculiar to the Transkei where the sufferer would become so poisoned with relentless overuse of dagga that they'd end up totally unable to move, not even the feeblest of small flickers, so that the most basic self-care became impossible. It was essential you had someone to look after you. A woman among the group we'd picked up claimed to have page 73once spent six straight months in this condition.

Of course it wasn't our plan to come down with the Fever. We had bought nearly a kilo of dagga but that was just for the record books; we would ditch it when we left. We were only staying for a couple of days and none of us fancied the thought of looking after each other's most basic self-care.

Nonetheless, when I come to relate the events from our two whole days in Mpande very little comes back. The pregnant woman walked by and collapsed; the next day she walked back with her baby. Pete and I tried to play backgammon and chess. We smoked dagga, joint after joint after joint—although it made little impression on the kilo. We stopped eating, stopped talking, finally stopped thinking. Time slowed to a crawl, insects sat on our faces undisturbed. By our third night we still hadn't been to the beach, not ten metres from the tent. It might not have been Pondo Fever; it was definitely a case of the flu.

I can remember more clearly the way things went with Joshua. He woke me up what seemed like first thing in the morning—though after our first night with the dagga for all I really know it could have been afternoon—to see what work we had for him. This time he had three others with him, including one of his brothers. He and his brother were smoking. I told him we didn't need anything done and collapsed back into my sleeping bag.

When we did get up they already had a fire going, a bigger one than the day before, and they were sitting around it taking turns to fire stones into the river with a slingshot. Joshua told us the fire would be four rand.

We tried to explain that we didn't want any more work done but Joshua wouldn't accept this, kept dreaming up tasks for himself and his friends; at one point we had to physically restrain him from killing a bird sitting in a tree nearby with his slingshot which he'd decided would make us a nice breakfast. He brought up the schoolbooks again; when we reminded him what had happened with yesterday's schoolbooks he looked like he might cry. The argument stretched on and on: they could wash our van, they could tidy our tent, they could make us up some sandwiches. All we wanted was to be left in peace and finally in desperation we offered to pay them to not work, a rand each just to go away. Joshua thought this over for a moment before accepting.

Unfortunately we failed to specify clearly the length of time we weren't employing them for and late in the afternoon Joshua was back, this time page 74with five friends, a couple bigger than him. We weren't yet paralysed by Pondo Fever—we could still, for instance, roll up the dagga and light it—but we were hopelessly bewildered, lost in a moronic haze that left us unable to see what was really going on, certainly not able to argue about it. It seemed easier to pay the six rand, although it was a task and a half getting the money out of my wallet.

The next day Joshua had maybe eight friends in the morning, a good ten or eleven soon after lunch. Each time there were bigger boys among the group than the time before. During the afternoon we agreed it would have to stop—if things kept up at this rate we'd run out of cash in another day. Either we told him no money or we left Mpande, but the conversation must have drifted away without us sorting it out any further than that; when Joshua came again at tea with something like fifteen boys I couldn't remember what we'd decided and looking out into a crowd of hopeful boys faces I meekly paid. Finally, after this, we struggled to a definite decision: we would leave in the morning. We would get up early and not smoke any dagga until we'd left.

In the morning there was already a bonfire blazing and too many children to count, for the first time even a few girls. There were certainly too many to pay, and when Joshua came up to the tent for the money we refused to give him any.

He stood facing us at the tent-opening, as always with a cigarette. In his other hand he held a packet of Chesterfields. A small crowd of children gathered round behind him, a couple of them even our height. There were more playing soccer with a can by the river and a few others with the slingshot. It seemed everyone was on the payroll. We told him we didn't have the money, that we were leaving anyway, and to damp the fire down a bit before the overhanging trees caught alight. He argued for a while—it was our own arrangement we were breaking—but when he realised we weren't going to give in he turned and walked very slowly out of the camping ground with his head bowed, a few boys still crowding around him. They didn't damp down the fire.

Two minutes later the place was empty.

Pornography, gambling, sweets, cigarettes, cash, soft-drink, dagga, lobster . . . who needs Esperanto when there is trade? Whiskey. Cars. In any language you can enjoy a car.

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Driving south from Umtata a couple of days earlier—Umtata is the capital of the Transkei—we'd stopped to ask a group of policemen parked by the side of the road directions to the Mpande turnoff. We'd already taken one wrong turning trying to follow the map and we didn't want to end up lost.

There were three of them, each with a yellow landcruiser. They leant back on their bonnets, chatting and laughing; obviously it was a quiet day. They looked us over a bit at first—couldn't we see they were busy—but eased off after a minute or two and we managed with their smattering of English to find out which road to take.

Several miles down the road one of the landcruisers sped up behind us, lights flashing and siren blaring. Greg and I looked at each other in horror as Pete leant forward to stub out the joint we'd only just lit up. With the help of our hitchers we'd managed to score a few bullets of dagga in Umtata the night before, not much, but enough to get us into trouble if the police felt so inclined. Maybe we'd been set up. Those hitchers had stolen Pete's walkman . . . On top of this our van wasn't registered. As Pete pulled up we argued about what to say.

The policeman took his time getting out of the landcruiser, sauntered up slowly, kicking our rear tyre as he walked past it. He took off his sunglasses, pulled a biro and a small spiral-bound notebook from his shirt pocket, flashed a smile full of white teeth at Pete through the driver's window.

The van, he said. How much you sell?

Then, of course, there's the whiskey. So many people I know seem to have a story from their travels concerning whiskey. One friend of mine got an amazing brass lampstand from a Syrian dig site by bribing one of the workers with a bottle of whiskey; another took a bottle round the US and had a nip in all fifty states.

As for us, our packing up was slow and confused. We'd all lost things, everything was a mess, there was no order to our stumbling around. I'd find myself standing there, staring out across the river, or gazing at the ground, waking suddenly to the realisation that we were meant to be getting ready to leave. The fire had virtually died; it was maybe an hour after Joshua had left and we were still floundering around trying to get ourselves organised when a man rode up on a horse. The tent flaps were open and the kilo spread out on a newspaper right in full view; luckily I saw the man early and dragged it out of sight.

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He was old-looking, sixty perhaps, with the familiar gloves and hat, and a plastic raincoat with only the top button done up. Several of his teeth were missing. Joshua and a few others were with him, which was just as well, because he wanted to talk to us and he only spoke Xhosa.

In Xhosa most of the consonants seem to be clicks, which to the untrained ear can all sound virtually identical. It's as if everyone's wearing ill-fitting dentures, or calling hens all the time. Whereas English is an only child, Xhosa has brothers and sisters. Zulu, Sotho, Xhosa; the speaker of one can without having to learn a single extra word already half-understand the others. The word Xhosa itself probably comes from another language, Khoi, where 'kosa' means 'angry men'.

Joshua told us the man was the ranger. He wanted to know why we'd taken wood from the native trees when this whole area was a protected reserve.

Tell him we didn't, said Greg. Joshua spoke to the ranger in Xhosa. We looked at each other, nervous. It was the first we'd heard anything about a protected reserve.

He says you're lying, said Joshua. He knows you used wood from the trees. He says trees have been damaged. He can call the police and get you put into jail.

Listen, Joshua, said Pete. You know what happened. You tell him the truth. And tell him we're leaving today. Joshua spoke to the ranger again. This time there was a longer conversation. The ranger was becoming angry. He pointed into the tent.

He wants to know what you were hiding when he first came, said Joshua. I felt my heart start to race.

Nothing, I said. Tell him nothing.

He says where is your dagga? said Joshua. Where is your lobster?

No, said Greg. Tell him we have neither. No dagga. No lobster. And then to the ranger himself, louder, waving his hands. No! Nothing! He turned and went into the tent. The ranger dismounted, left the reigns to one of the boys, limped over to the remains of the bonfire and kicked at it. He turned for the tent. I felt sick. This was it.

Look! said Greg, stepping out, pointing down at his feet. And there it was, straight and tall, standing alone between us and a sticky end, complete with fishnet cover. The one thing we had so far failed to share with Mpande. Jack. Jack Daniels. Pleased to meet you.

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The ranger stopped. He looked at each of us in turn, then pointed to himself questioningly.

For you, said Pete, picking it up and offering it to him. He looked at each of us again, allowed himself a smile. He nodded, took it from Pete, held it at arm's length and squinted, as if he could read the label if it were far enough away, then pulled it close to his body. He laughed, said something to Joshua.

He says thank you, said Joshua. He says you're too generous.

Greg found him a plastic bag. As he wrapped it up the ranger limped round to the front of our van, leant back to admire it, spoke to Joshua again.

He says he likes your van. We smiled and nodded together as he limped back to his horse. Finally he shook our hands, hauled himself up into the saddle and rode slowly off, cradling our whiskey with one arm.

When he had gone Joshua lit a cigarette and put it to us that it was he who had saved our necks. The ranger had been going to get the police, but Joshua told us he'd sworn on his honour that we had no dagga or lobster, and he'd taken the rap himself for damaging the trees. Of course it was impossible to know whether this was what he'd said or not and we had good reason to doubt his word, but we were relieved to have got away at all and there were five of them there so we gave Joshua five rand.

Someone told me that Umtata is the South Africa of the future, the way the whole country will one day be. Wide dusty potholed streets, simple square houses spread in regular repeating patterns for as far as you can see. In the centre of town a large concrete-floored supermarket, a few small basic hardware and trinket shops—closed—hundreds of mostly barefoot people, all walking. Maybe a bus of children. And no whites.

The rest of our story seems almost an afterthought. We got away from Mpande after another hour of pissing about, hardly spoke to each other as we wound our way back to the main highway. We went back to Umtata briefly to buy gas with what cash we had left, then headed south for the border post. Greg was driving. Pete and I rolled joints from the kilo, smoked them for a puff or two, then threw them out the window. As it had been for the last two days everything once again became slow and dreamy, half-forgotten even as it happened. We crawled along between the tall hills. There was no one else on the road. It felt like we'd been driving for days.

The plan was we'd throw the dagga out as soon as we were near the border. It was probably stupid to bring it at all but we wanted it till the last page 78minute; as Greg was always saying, you only live once. It was only with the gradual return of the familiar hopeless mix of Afrikaans and English road signs as we came towards the outskirts of Stutterheim that we finally realised we were already over the border.

There was no use arguing, we were all too out of it anyway. As we drove through Stutterheim we tried to work out what to do. There was the problem of our passports but it would take hours to go back the same way and come back out via a border post—and who was to say we wouldn't balls it up again?—and of course there was the kilo. Why go to all that trouble now that we had smuggled it over the border, however inadvertently? It would certainly enhance the rest of our trip. I don't think we really came to a decision. Greg just kept driving.

Just before we'd left Mpande I'd finally made it to the beach. It was wide, almost white, not a soul to be seen. The waves were small and frequent, the water warm. It wasn't so wild. There was the slightest of off-shore breezes, barely that, certainly no great wind likely to sweep us into the sea—besides, we were leaving anyway. Way out in the distance there was a ship. I left my clothes in a pile on the sand and swam for maybe five minutes.