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Road Tripping for Dummies

Having only just returned from a most eventful road tripping experience (Durban to Cape Town via the garden route), I consider myself somewhat mildly qualified to write this piece. It must, however, be said that this trip was undertaken as novices and by two young girls with only a vague idea of what they were getting themselves into. What follows is a list of lessons learned, the hardest possible way.

1. Hire a vehicle

This may seem like an obvious assumption. Needless to say, we did not. The Opel Corsa Sport that we made (most of) the trip in did not take kindly to this decision and proceeded to call it a day somewhere in Knysna. Comically (only in retrospect), the car literally blew a gasket. The head gasket to be exact. I should add that this is a grave diagnosis, one sure to put the spanner in the works of a road trip. My limited (read: pathetic) knowledge regarding cars did not extend to gaskets and their existence let alone their function. My newly acquired knowledge regarding gaskets does not extend much further either. (See Wikipedia for elaborate confusion.)

I might add at this point for the benefit of those who are familiar with gaskets and their “blowing” potential that the car did not overheat at any point and that regular oil and water checks were done.

2. Do not take on the potholes

I don’t think it necessary to mention the province we were driving in when we encountered the potholes, 90-odd kilometres in pot-hole ridden country later, we found ourselves with a flat, nay a burst, tyre. Not surprisingly, attempts to avoid potholes by swerving are largely unsuccessful where the potholes outsize the actual road. Thumbs up, however, to the excellent signage: “Potholes! 10 km.” followed by an identical sign nearly 20km later. The sad thing though is that while amazing tourist opportunities exist beyond these roads, I don’t doubt that they are often missed because the roads to them are paved with well, that’s just it, they’re not really well-paved. Lesson: do not take on the potholes, you will not win.

3. Learn how to change a tyre

Perhaps it is no surprise that many of the lessons learned by two girls on a road trip have a constant theme relating to cars. I admit, though, that we have no excuse for this one. We should know how to change a tyre. No doubt that such skills are handy when one is roadside in the Eastern Cape with nothing around but cows and grass. The damsel in distress bit doesn’t work too well when nobody is around to see it.

4. Get a credit card

Sounds largely inappropriate in this list, I know, but trust me when I say that possibilities for its use (not abuse) do exist while on holiday. Those sadistic head gaskets and their distasteful timing may leave you without a vehicle, rendering car hire more of a necessity than a preference. Enter credit card.

5. Get a GPS navigator/accurate map

I haven’t called this Road Tripping for Dummies without reason. We did not have a navigator. We did, in all fairness, have a road map. As a saving grace, I should really neglect to mention the fact that it was probably printed in the 1970s, sepia-ed, torn and quite frankly wrong at times.

6. Count your lucky stars

Perhaps the most important lesson learned is that however much things go wrong, they could be worse. Oddly enough the kindest people we met were at times of (usually motor) mayhem. People are nicer than we give them credit for.

And there you have it, Road Tripping for Dummies. See you on the roads, I’ll be the one in the hired car with the GPS.