Since we booked our flight to South Africa so late, the only flights that we could buy with miles were business class. One way economy to SA from Germany is 30,000 miles but biz class is 45,000. After much deliberation, we figured why the hell not. We then would have to pay for one of one way tickets back to Germany, but hell, flying in on biz class was worth it. We left our van with Kaddi's parents in Pluderhausen and then trained it to Frankfurt via Stuttgart. The train rides were a bit epic, as we had both our crash pads and one large bag each, not to mention one small backpack each (our carry-ons). It took three different trains to get to the airport and on two of those we couldn't even sit down; the bags and bouldering pads wouldn't fit down the aisle.
Much to our chagrin, we arrived at the airport 5 hours before our flight. Not realizing that we could have checked in early, we waited for 3 hours in the airport "lounge" area with our bags. The German airports are very efficient and next time, we now know that you can check in many hours earlier and then hang out in the business class lounge right next to your flight. Stupidly, we waited and then thought that we had to go to the lounge in a completely different terminal, as that was what the airport guide said. So we rushed to the other terminal, so we could eat (the cost of the food in the airport was outrageous, so we were waiting for our free food in the lounge). We went to the lounge, stuffed our faces, each had a drink (Steve had three) and headed for our flight. It took us almost 20 minutes to get from the lounge to our flight and then upon our arrival we realized that there was even a nicer lounge right next to the gate. Why the hell doesn't the airport guide/map say that?! Well, we ended up getting more food and more drinks and then getting on our flight, which was one of the most comfortable flights we have ever taken. We had full on beds next to each other. Steve slept the entire flight. He never sleeps on planes. I am sure that the fact he was allowed to have endless Scotches prior to the flight may have helped but the fact that he was able to stretch out made the flight much more bearable for him. I am not looking forward to his attitude when we have to take Turkish airlines back in economy...
We arrived in Cape Town at around 12noon; the infamous Justin Hawkins picked us up right on time. Justin lives in Cape Town, so after heading to the shop to pick up some items like coffee, etc, we headed off to his home. We were then greeted by Lisa and Tristan. Lisa is Justin's new lady friend that he met on the set of his last job (Justin is a cameraman). They were working on the set of Strikeback in Jo'berg; a new HBO series being filmed here in SA. Tristan is Lisa's precocious 5 year old son. Lisa was frantically packing when we arrived, as we were all heading to Rocklands. They were going for ten days but we were about to start our seven week stint in bouldering heaven. Lisa is not a climber and though Justin used to be a climber, he now heads to Rocklands to party and get away from the hum drum life in the city; Rocklands is his escape from reality. The five of us were going up to the Cedarberg range in Justin's VW Golf and since we needed to bring tons of crap for camping and Rockstock (stay tuned), we also had a trailer that we attached to the Golf. After an hour or so of packing, we all piled in and headed off.
Ready to Go!!!
When Justin had first picked us up at the airport, he apologized for the condition of his car, well, not the condition really, but he warned us about the bumpy ride; it seems that the rear shocks were not really working anymore. At his point, we should have realized that dragging a trailer was probably a pretty bad idea. About an hour and a half into the ride, the rear driver side wheel started making some noise. Steve jumped out of the car and ran along side to see if there seemed to be anything wrong. He saw nothing but we decided to do some shifting with the weight and moved Steve to the front, and Lisa and Tristan to the back. We figured maybe less weight might just do the trick. Ten minutes passed without further noise but then a couple of us smelled burning. Justin quickly reassured us, all was fine and kept pushing on. Two minutes later a white car pulls up aside us, frantically beeping his horn and pointing down, we all look over and in the reflection of the car, we see fire. It seems that our rear wheel was shooting out flames. Justin immediately pulled over and yelled for water, we poured water on it and put the fire out but the disk brake proceeded to glow bright orange for a few seconds more. We all got back into the car to catch our breath. Tristan was still sleeping, on top of the wheel that had just been on fire...
We figured out exactly where we were, 24 km south of Picketberg, and Justin then proceeded to call tow trucks. He got in touch with one that was about 40km north of Picketberg and then we waited. Through all this, everyone still remained in good spirits; it was a situation that we all just accepted and dealt with. No stress, no whining (well, maybe a little bit about the cold, as our down jackets were packed away in the trailer), and laughter; it was all a bit ridiculous and an almost expected experience when you are with Justin Hawkins. While we waited for the tow truck, Justin posted our situation on Facebook, hoping that someone would take pity on us from de Pakhuys (the campground in Rocklands where we were all headed) and come and pick us up. Yet, it wasn't just us they would need to pick up but the trailer as well, so we needed someone who had room and a trailer hitch. Though there were endless comments about our situation, nobody could come and save us, so it looked like we needed to figure out another way. The tow truck arrived after an hour and fifteen minutes. He put the car on the flatbed and hooked the trailer onto the back.
We were all able to smush into the cab of the tow truck and off we went to Picketberg, the closest town where we might be able to get the car fixed. Once we reached Picketberg, we headed into the Tourist center/Spur/Truck stop. The tow truck driver wanted to make sure that he dropped us off in a safe area, as the plan was to sleep there, for we arrived in Picketberg at 9pm and there didn't seem to be any other apparent options. Justin, Lisa and Tristan were to sleep in the car and Steve and I were going to sleep in our tent next to the car, on the only grassy area to be found. Steve and I had bought one of the 2 second Quechua tents from Decathlon in Germany but we only purchased a one person tent, as it was to be our gear tent.
Luckily, we were parked right next to a restaurant, namely, the Spur, so the next step was dinner. We sat in a table close to a window so that we could keep our eyes on the trailer and the car. The Spur is a large chain here in South Africa that serves basic fare, burgers, toasties (grilled sandwiches), taquitos etc. The food is decent enough for a chain but I guess the adverts are amazing; no race is left untouched. They don't seem to care who they piss off and sometimes, their adverts have been banned from national TV.
After dinner, we decided it was time to set up camp, at least for Steve and I... We fished out the tent, sleeping bags and bouldering pads along with our down coats and proceeded to set up our tent on the only spot of grass. Luckily for us, that night was one of the coldest nights on the western cape, so no hanging out, we just crawled into the tent and attempted to sleep. Since our tent was a one person gear tent, it was pretty small, when Steve was fully stretched out, the opening of the tent hit his chest, so when I say we crawled into the tent, we literally did, one at a time and proceeded to sleep in spooned fetal position, as that was the only way that we were going to fit in. Once asleep, the night wasn't so bad, we were warm enough and pretty comfortable on the pads. Throughout the night, people passed by, made noises, yelled, screamed obscenities etc, but overall the night went well, except for the necessity to pee in the middle of the night,as getting in and out of the tent was an epic struggle.
We woke up early the next morning and headed to a small breakfast cafe also located at the truck stop. Justin then went out on a search for a mechanic; he figured that the best way to find one was to ask the locals around the stop. Ten minutes later, he was driving the car over to a local mechanic two minutes up the road. 40 minutes later, Justin was back and ready to hitch up the trailer and get on the road. According to Justin, the mechanic put the car up, grabbed pieces off another old car and switched out the disk brake and something else and said we were good to go. It cost 650 rand for the fix ( about $80), whereas it cost 1000 rand for the tow (about $130). Off we went and arrived two hours later at de Pakhuys campground in Rocklands no worse for the wear but 17 hours later than first expected along with an amazing story...