Me, Lindsey, two dogs, two oceans, a wedding and kilometers of empty roads, driving through a beatiful country.
I was never a great driver within the city limits, but once on the road I always loved the monotony of the engine and the change of scenery.
I still remember one of my favourite trips, in 2004 in America, from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back. Yes, they look quite close on the map but once you drive through the desert, the distance seemed to be multiplied by 10.
I remember driving with the hired Cadillac with Jonny, Guy, Robert and the crazy Spanish guy David, all five of us extremely excited to go and visit the capital of sin. Then, on the way back, the excitement was replaced by the silence of the hangover, with Jonny sleeping in the back and me and David literally sitting on him.
Another great road trip was in France, in 2005, with my good Irish friend Rob, following the story that Alain Fournier left behind in the Grand Moulniere.
They all seemed such a long time ago.
So, when the occasion was right (Lindsey and I got married 1 year ago, and our two dogs were old enough to travel), and the excuse was perfect (Kirsten's wedding), I couldn't say no to Lindsey's idea to a long road trip through the central and western parts of South Africa.
After all her little sister was getting married and the last I've been to Cape Town was in 2005, on my first trip to South Africa.
Weeks before the departure, most of the people I know said that it was madness. Drive to Cape Town? And then to the Wilderness? With two dogs who have never travelled more than 30 minutes? With luggage? On a small Toyota Yaris?
But hey, I'm the kind of guy who likes to do crazy things just to brag about it or just to have a nice story to tell in years to come. So, after a consult with the dog trainer (yes, we spent the first 3 months of the year going to dog's obedience school. Bruce failed, Cucciola passed) we realized that wasn't an impossible task.
Packing the car in the evening, with the plan of leave town in the early morning, to avoid traffic, was like playing Tetris with luggage.
If the car was a game console, I would have scored many points.
The first problem happened the same night: one of the tyres was flat, and I've never checked the spare tyre since one of the many small accidents I had with the car.
So, departure was postponed by many hours. This was good, none of us was really happy to wake up at 3am and jump into a car and drive.
8 hours later and with the sun already high in the sky, Lindsey, Bruce, Cucciola, a lot luggage and I were on the way to Kimberley. The plan was to drive there, spend the night at Shari's house, and then drive then next day to Cape Town. The dogs thought that they were going to a park, and when, after an hour, they were still sitting in the car, none of them seemed too happy.
Cucciola, the female, suffers from car sickness, and spent most of the trip with her head under the passenger's seat, just like an ostrich. Bruce, instead, loves to drive as long as you stop somewhere for a walk or a run. None of them was impressed when we stopped for our first dog break somewhere outside Johannesburg, in a tiny park by a shopping mall.
After a long day of drive and too many road words, we reached Kimberley around 8pm. Shari and her two dogs greeted us in her new place, somewhere in Kimberley, and we crashed for the night.
Some hours later, in the morning, it was time to leave Kimberley and drive to Cape Town, for the longest stage of our tour. Shari joined us in the car (she was invited as well), and we somehow managed to squeeze inside the car.
With the iPod blasting songs to keep everyone up, memories of my trip to Vegas, driving through a similar desert (with plenty more cars, drinks and casinos on the road) flashed into my mind. I'm a nostalgic man, I like to remember the good old times, and I accumulated plenty of them in my first 30 years.
After deploying Shari to her cousin's house, we drove to Hout Bay, where the whole Thomson Family was setting the HQ to get ready to prepare the wedding.
The whole clan was there: Stella, the grandma, David and Jenny, my father and mother in law, Jill with Curtis and obviously Kirsten and Andy.
We decided to spend the first evening, after a great fish braai made by David, taking Cucciola and Bruce to the Atlantic Ocean and the beach to let them experience for the first time in their life that strange experience that is the ocean.
You see, I've always lived far, far away from any sea. In Milan it was 200km. In London technically I wasn't too far but you wouldn't go to a beach by the Thames, would you?
Even in Poland, in Poznan, I was hour away from that cold piece of sea that is the Baltic.
So the excitement wasn't just with the dogs. I was quite happy too. Bruce and Cucciola ran into the water and only moments later they realized that it was moving, it was cold and it was too salty to drink. The look on their faces was one of those priceless moments. Lindsey and I tried to go knee high in the water, but the Atlantic was truly freezing. Still, the surroundings around us (the little towns, the bay, and the mountains) were breathtaking, for someone not used to it like me.