Tumisang, 21, is in heaven. “It’s my first time to see the inside of a hotel. This is the life! Like on TV!” Libuseng, 27, has never seen one either, but she’s older and hides her dazzlement behind a shy smile and big eyes. M’e Mpho takes it in stride and worries about the car being stolen from the hotel parking lot. I was willing to pay almost any price to get a shower and a bed.
The LAN line for Avis is down. It was necessary to acquire the personal cell phone number of a man who works for Avis in order to reserve a car. The arrangement I made is that we would pick the car up at the airport and return it in Maseru. When we got to the airport, the car had been taken to Maseru and we had to wait an hour for it to be returned to the airport so we could begin the journey. We sat in the airport, excited and yet a little nervous, uncertain if a car would really show up. Clocks ticking. Nothing much happening.
On the way down, we drove through drought-ravaged South Africa. When we stopped at a Wimpy’s in Bethlehem for lunch, despite the rather shocking high prices for mediocre food, what troubled us most is that we couldn’t wash our hands or use the toilet.
The roads are just about all under construction. This means we drive for a while, come to a stop, and wait twenty minutes or so for the traffic from the other side to pass. Then we drive like bats out of hell for fifteen or twenty minutes on the one-lane highway, only to get to the next spot where we wait again. What should take three hours takes six. What should take half a day takes a whole day.
But the biggest news of all is that the drought broke last night as we slept in this large, clean, comfortable hotel. It’s pouring rain. This will make driving more treacherous as the dusty roads turn to mud-slicks perfect for hydroplaning, but the whole southern African world is dancing for joy. Rain, sweet rain. The forecast is that it will keep raining the whole time we’re at the beach, but we are all so happy for the land and the people. Of course we are now in KwaZulu-Natal, where it rains more anyway, but according to the flat-screen TVs mounted on the walls of our rooms, there was “heavy rain” in Lesotho last night. This is mixed news. A drizzle would be ideal. Heavy rain means erosion, mudslides, loss of topsoil (and seeds just planted). But even heavy rain means water in the taps, the dams, and the rivers. Water to drink and to wash with. Yes!
I’m in an internet place in Ladysmith and must return to the hotel for checkout and continue our trip to Durban and the home of Kesavan and Bryan, who are so generously receiving us tonight. We’ve come half the way, and it took us seven hours of driving after the three hours it took to get out of Lesotho. No time to reply to comments or check email, but a big hug of thanks to you who are following, occasionally commenting, and sharing the suspense, the wonder, the suffering, and the surprises with me on the way.