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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Let Them Know it's Christmas Time

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

”Do they know it’s Christmas Time at all?”

Turns out they do.

I asked a few people and they’re privy to the birth of Christ and all the nonsensical theatricals that go along with it in this day and age.

I’m of firm belief though that the words “Feed the World” should be changed to “Stop Feeding Joanna”... just till I’m down a few pounds and then we can get back to our regular programming.

Merry Christmas everyone!

It definitely doesn’t feel like Christmas...

I keep scouring the campsite trying to suss out where everyone has hidden my presents, but I haven’t found them yet.

Now I don’t necessarily want to advocate for holiday overindulgence, nor do I want to install jealousy in to everyone on this festive occasion... but my Christmas breakfast consisted of;

  • A bowl of hard boiled eggs

  • Burnt toast 

  • Mango jam

  • Crunchy Peanut Butter

  • Margarine.

  • Maple. Syrup.

  • Porriage.

  • Instant coffee.

Go time

Just pile the plate up and keep comin’ back for more! Let the good eatin’ begin.

I did inquire as to when the Smoked Salmon & Florentine Eggs Benny were gong to be ready, but I was only met with puzzled looks.

I’ll just take my allotted one egg and go.

Actually I made myself a peanut butter & mango jam burnt toasted sandwich.

I can literally hear the moo moo calling me.

It was quite a funny start to the day. I was one of the first ones up - around 5am, the usual.  I had a shower, organized my belonging, dismantled my tent and was sitting on the step, both admiring the view and doing a little bit of writing before everyone was up. Takako was in the shower and came out in to the campground and was heading towards her tent.

Trouble was that it wasn’t her tent.

It was Claudia’s.

She unzipped the flap, stepped in and immediately started squealing. 

Takako was so horrified and humiliated at the mistake she had made.

Claudia was not impressed... but that’s not surprising.

Christmas Day was made even more complete by the 5 hours of driving we did to reach our next campsite destination. The landscape was almost the same the entire way - flat, dry fields of rocks and sand with dry spurts of prickly, stick-like vegetation popping up at random locations. Then it would turn to rolling hills of boulders. I felt like we were in a cross between the moon and Fred Flinstone’s Bedrock City. I envisioned Jawas coming around the corner at an moment. So barren.

Occasionally there were be a random dirt road following the highway, and even more random would be the occasional person strolling along. 

Where are they coming from?

Or more importantly.. where are they going?

Completely random.

I think that you’re inevitably faced with a certain amount of self and life reflection when you’re given 5 hours of bus window boulders to admire.

I really thought a lot about where I’ve been, where I am and where I want to be.

I would never complain about an adventure holiday Christmas is South Africa, but they say that sometimes the worst place you can be is in your own head.

I can’t say that I came up with anything concrete, but many thoughts passed through my mind.

Five hours of thoughts.

Malinga and David pulled over at a MALL at one point for us to load up on snacks and any other necessities we felt that we would need because we are apparently heading in to the unknown for the next three days.

Ok... that sounds valid.

There was, unfortunately, a catch... two, actually..

  1. The supermarket was closing in 10 minutes due to it being Christmas.

  2. The liquor store was closed.

Thanks Nomad... brilliant planning for a bunch of alcoholics.

We all ran in to that Supermarket and started just grabbing things, much like we were on a ten minute shopping spree show. I had to stop myself at one point when I realized that I’d grabbed 2 boxes of crackers, a large jar of nuts, 5 diet cokes, 7 granola bars and 10 fruit roll ups. We were getting snacks.... not substance for the entire week.

I put most of it back and went with the minimal. If I have it,  I’ll eat it. I know me.

The next issue was, of course, liquor. 

David and Malinga tried 4 different places in town before we finally succommed to a skinny & sketchy local with gold teeth that kept pointing up in to the hills to a place called “Kathy’s.”  We bit.

He jumped in the front with the guides and off we went.

It was a dingy little ‘pub’ tucked away at the end of a dirt road. I’d call it a pub, because there was, to be fair, one fold out card table in the middle of the dark room and 3 locals sitting there guzzling back a few beer. The room was decorated with 4 very dated slot machines, a cigarette machine, some dented metal beer signs and not much more of anything else to lend it much character.  The back wall had the decoration and allure of prison visiting quarters meets downtown sketchy money exchange. Steel bars from ceiling to counter with a small window opening, big enough to slip in your money and large enough to hand you your bottle of choice through.

We all lined up, single file and ensured that we knew what we were purchasing prior to making our way to the start of the line.  Alcohol selection was not vast. The specialized mostly in hard liquor but I did spot some Smirnoff lemonade and Strongbow in the back fridge. When inquired about wine, the lady pointed towards the corners, where at least 8 4L boxes were all piled on top of each other.

I hesitated briefly (very briefly)... 

....almost bit... 

....and then changed my mind.

Two ciders, please.” 

I did NOT need 4L of wine on a trip where I was in bed by 9am each night.

That would be rather pushy of me.

Standing in the pub was slightly unnerving as we were surrounded by locals that rarely see tourists come in to this area. The sketchy guy stood right directly beside me and I turned to him and said, “Thank you so much for bringing us here! I am going to buy you a beer.”

In broken English, he let me know that he didn’t want beer.

So I handed him $5 US just as we were getting on the bus.

I thought we would be appreciative? Happy?

He was not. 

After we were all in the bus and the door was closed, he was banging on the window for me to change it. At first, I felt this twinge of guilt for giving him American, but seriously... was I the only one that tipped him? 

Did he zoom in on me for a reason?

Anxiety... were we going to start a brawl with the locals all over $5 American Currency?

Random insert: While we were driving, David noticed a small turtle crossing the road and pulled over to allow us the opportunity to see it. How he managed to spot it, I will never know.

Takako noticed a horse along the way and felt the need to burst in to a series of Ooooooh’s and Ahhhhhh’s, all the while pointing at it and repeating, “Rida du horse!”

... just a horse...

The destination made the journey worthwhile. We are staying right on the Oranje River, just a stone throw away from Namibia. The road leading in to the lush river bed area was lined with mango trees and it took me back to my fruit picking days in Australia. One of my many farm jobs was picking mangos. We were each assigned a partner and a row of trees. I had my friend Emma, from England. As we were in a bit of a hurry to finish one of our trees before lunch, Emma missed a mango drop and it ended up breaking her nose. That’s all I see now when I see a mango. As delicious as they are.

Takako wanted to go for a walk to try and pick one to eat.

No luck.

I think that she tries to make up for her lack of perfect English by interring a lot of long winded expressions like Ohhhhhhh and Ahhhhhhh. She also takes everything for value. example: if I say, “I think that might be a bathroom” and it ends up being a picnic shelter, she will immediately jump to the “You say it is bathroom.”

Never been on this tour before, Takako.

Never been to South Africa before.

Never been to this picnic shelter before.

As shocked as you are.

Although the Oranje river is beautiful, clean and warm to swim in - and I know this because we all jumped in - the bar stole my heart. That sounds strange, choosing the bar over nature... but hear me out. It overlooks the river and is decorated with every piece of garbage and junk I think that this guy ever found over the years. It could definitely use some dusting (bad cob webs and dust)... but other than that, it is charismatic and unique and you could spend hours taking in all the decoration.

Skulls, paddles, old photos, license plates, flags, hubcaps, bottle caps, gas cans, tools, irons, lanterns, ropes, steering wheels, bottles, stuffed animals, shoes... the list goes on and on and on...

The owner is quite cute...

Very attractive...

...Or should I say that I thought he was until I found out his nickname is Shit Stain. 

Immediate turn off.

Not cute at all.

So this happened...

Once all of our tents were up, we all began to get ready for the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the Oranje River The entire area was beckoning to all of us to explore. 

I poked my head in to Takako’s tent to inquire whether she was planning on putting on her bathing suit on and joining me down by the river. She was.

Then Claudia appeared.

“Are you going swimming?” She inquired - directly her question at me.

“I think so...! If it’s not too cold, I will probably go swimming... or else I might have a glass of wine in the pub.”

I think that is a perfectly valid answer to a simple question.

Not only did I answer, but I elaborated.

Her response?

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

“You should not swim if you are going to be drunk.”

Thanks Claudia.

Ok... it’s official. I don’t like Claudia.  Claudia can beat it.

Might I add that her finger was wagging and she had a stern facial expression.

I reminded her that I’m an adult, it’s Christmas, I can do whatever I like and nowhere in my answer did I once mention that I was planning on swimming down the Oranje River three sheets to the wind... or should I say, three sheets to the river?

Later on she told me that she has very British humour because she lived in Britain for 3 years... and I apparently don’t understand British humour.

I told her that I understand British humour just fine, thank you... and then I reminded her that what she said was NOT British humour and that in the future, I don’t appreciate being spoken to in such a condescending manner..

British humour.

Right-o, Rowan Atkinson.

The river was warmer than I will ever be towards Claudia... that is for sure.

There was a bit of a current which would have been nice if we all had floatation devices and a destination somewhere down the river. When I first jumped in, the rope in the water that was tied to the dock touched my foot and almost sent me in to hysterics. 

Snake #1 of my trip.

I think it was twelve year old Pablo that laughed at me and said, “Joanna! It’s only rope. Don’t be silly.”

Yes... agreed. Nothing silly about a rope.


Like Christmas trees.I calmed down... just in time to start enjoying myself submerged in the refreshing water, when my eye caught a small duck with a long neck poke out of the water to have a look around. It was directly facing me, so I was unable to see the back body behind it. In my defence, it was undoubtably snake #2.

I was prepared to haul it back to the dock as fast as possible before everyone assured me that the little duck wouldn’t hurt me.

After our swim, a bunch of us did venture up to get a drink from the pub and enjoy the view. I asked for a glass of wine, and the slowest bartender in the word informed me that they didn’t have any glasses. I was about to order a cider when he informed me that he could give me a box of wine.

Once again, I didn’t think a 4L box of wine was in my best interest and i was about to politely refuse when he plopped a tiny little juice box style wine in front of me. Adorable!

Needless to say, none of us perished today by the powers of intoxication in the river.

I don’t think we need to worry about scorpions tonight either. 

Scavenger dogs maybe... 

Scorpions no.

Christmas dinner was delicious.

Butternut squash, beets, chicken, rice with vegetables and a vegetable broth gravy. 

There was also chocolate cake... and it was conveniently situated right beside the chicken and the gravy. I asked Malinga if it was bread. He replied, “Yes.”

I figured it’s was an African specialty dark rye or something similar.


... not bread.

Let’s just say that chocolate cake dipped in a vegetable broth gravy isn’t going to be hitting the recipe book charts any time soon.

Highly not recommended.

A few quick Christmas phone calls back home with family - during which should have been our group debrief - much to Milanga’s dismay. He had to be open to the distractions though, as it was a bit of a special day... and Canada was just waking up.

There were a glass of wine or two, some laughs and a bit of idle conversation after clean up. Ruth told me that she was a big fan of Bryan Adams and Michael Bubble. 

Some of the guys stayed up a bit longer having drinks but I was in bed by 9:30. The bar and its intricate design was calling, but I was exhausted.

Plus tomorrow, I want to get go and shittered and head out for an early swim with Claudia.

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