I am a married man, but I did not have a big wedding and my friends are just like me at least most of them. They all had small family and friends wedding, but last weekend I attended a big wedding of my last friend standing Mawethu. The last one in our group of four (Me Tlou, LBK and Webster). We left on a Saturday morning in a hired car. It took us six months from the day I received a call from webster telling me that he was getting married. I remember the call one Sunday afternoon when Webster called me, initially I thought he was going to send me to some music store in Johannesburg to buy him old school and jazz music as he usually does. To my surprise he told me in a very soft voice “ndiyatshata nge 26 ka November” I’m getting married in November and I just kept quiet because this came as a shock.
I told my other two friends of what I have just heard they were still shocked. As a merried man I had to speak to my wife about this and we had to agree that even though she knows Webster she won’t go. We immediately started working on logistics like hotels, means of transport, routes to take if we drive.Initially we wanted to use our cars as we realised that flying to Umtata was a hustle. Using East London was going to be problematic if the “African time “(starting late) comes to effect we would have a problem. So we decided to hire a car. I used my credit card and my friends had to top it up in Pretoria, which is where I live. Tempest was the company of choice as it still offers unlimited mileage. Avis was our first choice because we always use them, but s they no longer offer unlimited km’s. I drove down to Johannesburg to pick up my friends. But then we were already running late as we expected to leave at 9h00, but now it was about 10h30 already. LBK suggested that we use Bloemfontein route. I had never travelled to Umtata using this rout before. I was excited that I was going to use a different route.
Lbk drove from JHB to a small town with the name starting with venter…something. I took over from there to Umtata/ Mthata these days. We had to fill up in Bloem Lbk told me about the closest garage ,but I missed the off ramp to the garage. And they scolded me for that but there was an Engen garage which for some strange reason Lbk and Tlou did not like. Even more surprising was that Tlou has never been to Bloem, Lbk has never used this garage before. They just did not like it for no reason or maybe is because I missed their beloved Shell ultra city. We refilled both the car and our stomachs. We bought refreshments and moved on. We were so careful not to get traffic fines that I was encouraged to drive at 100 Km/H in a 120 speed zone. We turned into N6 to Aliwal north the route did not seem to be busy there was a Quantum taxi with EC registration number which was going at a freighting speed. I assumed that there were no speed traps and started to increase the speed but within the confines of 120.
Before we got into Aliwalnorth there was a stop and go of 20-30 minutes and Lbk informed us that there are four more stop and go’s ahead of us.
AliwalNorth has a feel of the old Matatiele(a small town south of Kwazulu Natal where the three of us as friends originate from) about it, but first we crossed the huge bridge over the Orange River. The bridge is long and old, but tough the river is so scary I wish I could see it when it when it is full. It must be one of the scariest rivers in the world, but it looked so spectacular now that is was empty.
I did not know there was a town called Jamestown in South Africa, it is so small we had passed it in four minutes driving at 60. It was around 17h30 and people there look like they are from Southern cape (mostly coloured/colored what ever) The small town was clean though.
We arrived in Queenstown around 18h50. There were a lot of road works in the main road, but we had no choice, as we did not know other alternative routes. There was less or no signage at all to help us through. I protested that I was tired, but Lbk insisted that we were almost 30 minutes away from Umtata so I continued. As we drove out towards Ezibeleni (an old Queenstown township) Tlou told me in confidence that it cannot be 30 minutes to Umtata he had driven on that route before. Bad signage problem continued as we saw a road sign board that indicated that we would have to turn right if we go to Cofimvaba and Umtata and we immediately had to turn. I had a problem stopping I past it a little but fortunately it was not a one way so I turned around and went to join R67 to Umtata. The route goes over the rout we were using as to why they did not just build an off ramp to the left I have no idea. To me it looks cheaper and less time-consuming, but who am I to question the eastern cape engineers. Tlu also mentioned that we were going to turn left into Transkei road, which was confusing when I saw that we should turn to the right. By now it was becoming darker and the roads were becoming iffy by a kilometre as we drove. Cars were becoming more and more old on the road. Now even the road signs that warn against stray animals were plenty.
We arrived in Umtata at around 21h00 thanks to dodgy roads, dodgy cars and even rain. I missed another turn but this time my friends were more forgiving.
“No we will use the Fort gale entrance it is okay,” said Lbk. By that time I had given my phone to Tlou to look for the number of the B&B we were going to use. He could not find it; we stopped at Myezo Sasol Garage so that I can check it myself. I could not find it, “aketsebe ke e seyivile ka mang number ena” I said. We asked at the garage if they know a place called Hlalanathi Myezo lodge. The petrol attended did not look self assured, but told us to use the back rout as there are several B&B along that street.
We went up the street and down without any luck. We saw three girls and a guy leaving another house we stopped to ask they told us to go up again. By now I was the bigest joke in the car, but guys were tired I understood. Lbk called a friend who gave us better directions we went further up and and we saw the B&B. behind us there was an Audi car following us. As we approach the lodge I indicated my intention to enter, the car behind did the same. We stopped at this huge gate pressing buttons but no response. Occupants of the other car came out two women and 2 guys. I said to my friend “these guys came prepared”, he just looked at me he was tired very tired I am not sure who was supposed to be more tired the one who was driving (me ) or my passengers.
The occupants of Audi said they had the mobile number of someone inside but they don’t have airtime. I gave them my phone and eventually someone came out. We enterd this huge mansion turned into a B&B. Every one from all the occupants of the Audi and the lady who easy opening the gate for us was drunk. We were sharing 2 the rooms with my friends and it was one of those few moments where we could talk about our issues with LBK. It is amazing how our life styles stifles open conversation amongst friends, I mean the staff that you can to BBM or Wattsapp or even over a telephone conversation. We slept very late that night.
We were having a breakfast when one of our hostess came to have a conversation with us. Later she asked if we were going to pay by credit card of cash. “Cash why” I asked. “ you can save some money if you play along” she said. She later explained to me that she does not earn much but today they are alone as hostesses they want to share at least money for a room. I did not like the sound of it but I was assured that I won’t be part of it. We shared to room, this lady wrote that we shared one room between the three of us. It was a cold morning with drizzle we drove to Ncise a village just outside of Umtata.
I was not expecting to see the Groom who is my friend. I don’t know much about these big weddings, but there he was waiting for us at the gate very happy that we drove all the way from Jozi. He led us into a dinning room and told his sister to take care of us and he disappeared into one of the rooms. The first thing his sister who introduced herself as Sibabalwe did was to introduced us to the MC for the day from East London. Before we knew it there was a heap of home made bread, meat and drinks in front of us.
Later we were put on a nicely prepared table in the main Tent with some Mawethu’s colleagues. It was a good day until I was called by Sibabalwe to lead a toast. I have never done it I don’t really do these sort of things ,but this was for my friend I agreed. I called my wife who does a lot of these to give me some tips. By the time I went to the stage I was armed. Then we had to leave later, but first we were put in his bed room so that we can change those suit and into comfortable clothes for us to drive long distance. But not before Sibabalwe staffed take away boxes with meat and more drinks. We left for Johannesburg leaving festivities continuing. Now it was raining so we made sure that we don’t leave late the the roads would be very tricky for us. We wished them well and left.