• Joanna

Half Moon Tent Rising

Updated: Mar 21

I was up at 5AM to prepare for my big day.

This was the doozie of them all - the beginning of my 3 week Nomad tour - through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

I sussed it out my ever-ready & always reliable (provided that the Wifi is working) travelling companion, Google Maps, to judge walking distance between where I was currently staying to the main meet & greet Nomad office... and it appeared to be a mere 3 minute walk.


What it did was fail to mention that this particular 3 minute jaunt was right through an ever-increasing congregation of homeless people in the midst of a demonstration. From what I derive from my brisk morning walk & brief encountering was that they were protesting immigration. My well developed sense of observation told me that they were of questionable character and probably either suffering from mental health issues and/or drug problems... and looking for a cause to allow them to say where they were. I doubt that the lot of them could have a legitimate conversation on the pros or cons of immigration in South Africa.


I read that there is regional unrest.

Canada travel advisory:

Xenophobic attacks, primarily targeting refugees or immigrants from other African nations, related demonstration, looting and outbreaks of violence.  This type of unrest could occur in any region of the country and with little warning.


Basically... AVOID.


Whoever they were, whatever they were doing and however they envisioned the outcome, one thing was undeniably true... they were making me uncomfortable very early in the morning.


I’ll admit that I was a little skidish making my way along the street, as I knew I couldn’t be seen as anything but easy prey. Fat, stupid tourist, trudging along with a trunk strapped to her back and a purse full of money wrapped around her.  I was literally at the mercy of anyone or anything that wanted to attack.


I did what every travel advisory, book, magazine, documentary or local/ex-pat had advised me to do in any situation... be confident. So confident, I was. I stood tall, smiled profusely and looked everyone directly in the eye as I made my way down the street. Confident AF.


I made it!


Once inside the main building, I met the guides in charge, filled out some forms...  had some decent coffee, hob-nobbed with other tour participants.


Our tour guides are David and Malinga - both from Zimbabwe.


Malinga is young, single and full of life... thought not a chef, we have discovered. Definitely not a chef.


David is kind, yet quiet... and one of those people that goes in for the hug and then never lets go.


Our truck is named Keith and we are to consider Keith the most important player in our tour and treat him with the most utmost respect.


On tour has a total of 14 people;

A family of 5 from Spain - Ruth & Roberto, Marina (11) and Pablo & Albero (twins, 12).


Admittedly my heart sank slightly when I saw the children walk in.


Great... one of these trips.

But then I met them and they managed to change my mind within 1 minute. They are well mannered, smart and undeniably cute. They have agreed to help me with my Spanish, and I in turn, with their English - thought I got the distinct impression that the three of them already have our complicated language conquered. When they were very young, Ruth would only allow to watch TV if they watched it in English... an infliction that paid off.


Ruth, who could definitely be mistaken for the late Karen Carpenter, is one of those people that has to make a comment after each and every instruction or comment that comes her way.


Yep. Uh-huh. Mmmm. Si. Ah. Perfect. Ok. Yes. Yep. Um hum...

I don’t know if she’s being an example to her children to demonstrate listening skills... or showing her own willingness to comply.... or maybe even displaying her grasp of the English language. Got it! But she’s lovely... and an absolute delight... and probably already my most favourite on the tour.


One lady from Germany - Claudia.


The German lady is odd. Using the word ‘odd’ is being mean to the word ‘odd.’


She’s on her own agenda and frequently disappears. If the guides are waiting to give us instruction or let us know what is happening, we are often left waiting because Claudia is nowhere to be found. If something is to be done or set up, her bag is usually in the way, and again, she is nowhere to be found. If a meal is being served and we aren’t all at the table for the meal to be announced, it’s usually because she’s not yet joined us and... is nowhere to be found.


Today our activity was to go to a tea plantation... and she refused to go because she didn’t want to pay the activity package fee (that includes a variety of events for the next 3 weeks) and because she doesn’t like tea.


I’m a coffee girl,” she defiantly announced.

Now, to be fair to poor, annoying Claudia, I don’t much care for tea either... but it’s the first day of a 20 day tour.  A time to bond, a time to demonstrate a compliant temperament, a time to show an enthusiastic willingness to participate in different activities and a time to embrace the team!


This is Day 1 and already her character flaws are front row and centre.


One lady from Japan - I’m having so much trouble with her name. Tamisko? Takako.

She’s lovely. If she’s confused by something.... anything... she will continuously ask you why, why, why... obviously directing her confusion towards the wrong person...  and continuously. Somewhat irritating, but perhaps she is under the misguided impression that everyone consulted with us before any permanent decisions were made.  She is also the oldest one in our crew and just turned 65.  She spent her life as a Promotional Manger and at the age of 50, decided to throw in the towel because life was too short to be so stressed out. Since her early retirement, she has been loving life and taking in every possible experience offered to her... even tea, Claudia.


Two guys from Switzerland - Sander and... can’t remember. Sandros and Pascale.


Will have to add more later because I have not yet had much opportunity to get to know these two yet. Sander does work in the events industry and I believe I heard him mention Weddings and Birthdays.

A couple from Brazil - Michelle and Eduardo.


Again, lovely... and will have to get to know them better before I describe them.


Two guys from South Korea - Park & Yu.


They originally arrived with an older couple that I presumed were on the tour with us. The man was a loud, funny Korean who announced that he was a big man in Cape Town. He told me that he knew someone from Korea that lived in Canada now... in the cold place. Of course, I probably know him. When the bus started rolling out of the city, I realized they were missing...


Turns out that they were Park & Yu's travel agents. I honestly thought they were their parents.


See? Not good to judge.


What a name to have! Yu.


So many songs written about him.


Park Yu.


Little interesting fact about Yu... he’s on a round the world tour. Jealous.

And me!


Perfect in every way and already blowing everyone out of the water wth my inredible wit and insight.


Zero smokers. Life is good on this van... for now anyway. Smokers always emerge from the corners when the alcohol comes out.


So goodbye to Cape Town, hello open road... and hello...


... strip mall...


Nothing I like better than a good strip mall to start the day.


They seem to be my lot in life.


Granted, we did have to stop there to load up on supplies and snacks. I found a little coffee joint and ended up paying more than expected for the worst sip of coffee I have ever had. You are hard pressed to find drip coffee here. It’s all fancy espressos, flat whites, lattes, cappuccinos, Americanos...


I just want a normal coffee.


Normal.

No wonder I was so confused when the guy asked me if I wanted water or milk?


”Cream, please.”


“Cream is extra money.”


”???? .... milk, I guess then. Please.”


I have to say, that my attempt to pack semi-cool clothes that I felt comfortable in was an absolute garbage attempt made by myself. I am now surrounded by such a diverse group of extranos and each of them has a definite no-style of their own. They are all comfortable in whatever garb they threw on.  Our tour won’t be winning any top fashion awards.


Myself included.


We drove about 2 hours after leaving the strip mall... and I think that everyone fell asleeep. Don’t worry though... they did pull over for a bathroom and water break at...


Wait for it...


Wait for it...

Another strip mall!

Although this time, I saw an enormous sign that read “Cheese and Wine tasting”... and like a moth to the flame... nothing could hold me back... Well, something could actually... and that was fact that no one wanted to go rogue with me. Sure, I made them all laugh with my fervent hints of suggestion.... and then off they all went to the strip mall to use the facilities.


Boring.


At one point, I needed to get back in to the truck while everyone was inside the convenience store and Milanga gave me the key. When everyone was bad and accounted for, I went to return the key... and he told me to keep it. Keep it safe. I am officially in charge of the back of Keith, as creepy as that sounds.


Do you know who I am?


Joanna McBride... key master.

Our lunch was hot dogs, sliced up tomatoes and cucumbers. A culinary masterpiece, if you ask me.


Although only day one, I have been made acutely awake that culinary creativity is not the forte of the Zimbabwe duo.


Bread makes up for about 90% of our meals... and... eternally attempting to be Keto...


I will not eat bread.

I will not eat bread. I will not eat bread.

If I continue in this gluttony of gluten, this ridiculous chitter chatter of fitting all my clothes in to my pack will be null and void, as I’ll be coming home in a colourful, full body moo moo and nothing else.


Once we reached our first camping location for the evening, we were all schooled in the correct ways to put up our tents... and also the dangers of scorpions and/or snakes getting in. Zipping up is important. Checking your sleeping bag is important. Checking underneath your tent before rolling it away is important.


Always safety. Always scorpions.


David told me that at least ONE of us will have an encounter with a scorpion.


I know it’s going to be me.


I have made it this far without being raped, kidnapped, mugged, stabbed, hi jacked, shot, murdered... and so far I have not had the pleasure of enjoying the last few moments of pure agony while the infection of rabies runs rampant in my blood stream.


I am even taking my dreadful malaria pills ... religiously!


So I just know that I have a scorpion sting in my near future.


Our tents are all Safari beige and military green. I asked if they got them bulk for a cheap price after WWII ended.


... or MASH.


Each of our tents has something unique about it - either a name written on it or a number. That’s about as unique as they get, unfortunately. The plastic side of my carrier bag is ripped and it looks like a half moon. David told me to “remember it”... and that’s how I will. Mine.


Our campsite was located right smack in the middle of a lemon tree and mandarin tree farm. There was a pool too, but it was a little too cold for our liking... plus we never arrived back to enjoy the powerful effects of the sun due to being at the tea plantation, drinking awful tea.


Speaking of the tea plantation, it took forever to get there because apparently it was a new location and Malinga had to ask directions from 3 separate people. The tea was crap... but I am bias. An utterly unenthrallingly elementary slide show and extremely poorly put together and the girl narrating the entire seminar was ill informed and uninteresting to listen to. I think I was more confused at the end of it than I was at the beginning.


They didn’t have any Long Island Iced Tea.


I asked...

There was a winery too though... so points for that.


They also had the creepiest Santa at the front entrance, and photos were mandatory for me. Creepy drunk / dead Santa is what we christened him... touching on Christmas Eve.


I pulled out my Santa hat and David fell in love with it, so I gave it to him - although I am going to have to take some obligatory Christmas photos for the special day... and the reason I hauled it all the way over here.


Dinner was in the main lodge area.


Herbed chicken, which was actually moist and delicious.


I decided to forgo the fresh-out-of-the-oven bread because I had just loaded my plate wth mashed potatoes. First bite though, I pushed them off to the side of the plate and went back up to the buffet to grab some bread.


The potatoes were the consistency of baby food, obviously made by and for someone with no teeth and a difficult digestive system. They were so over puréed that they actually no longer had any substance.


Maybe it was instant? ....


Probably instant.


And of course, mixed with my favourite spread, fucking margarine. If I live to be 500, I will never understand how people can ingest this shit.


Even the container says “Fat Spread”....


They had a cash bar.


I approached the bartender/ owner of the plantation and asked for a glass of red wine. He showed me the list of what they served by the glass. Extensive list of about 4 wines... only 2 served by the glass.


One of them, whatever the name, had the description beside it written as ‘Carb/Sauvignon’.  I immediately made the comment, “won’t be getting that one” as I pointed to the spelling mistake with one hand and rubbed my belly with the other. “I’m on Keto!”


I thought I was hilarious... but I could tell by the blank looks surrounding me, that they didn’t get it.


By the time he realized that he’d made a spelling mistake, the joke was lost...


My back hurts from carrying around this sense of humour all day long...


David made an announcement after dinner that all the men really had to step up and help the ladies get their tents to & from the truck every day... because we are TOO weak to be expected to carry them the entire way.


Excuse me?


Perhaps all the other women in the group didn’t much appreciate me taking an immediate stand and announcing that I’m sure we would be fine... and if we needed help, we would ask for it.


#metoo

PS - this may bite me in the ass further down the road...

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