capsule roadtrip (mafikeng)

There’s something about a 300km stretch of tar.

Something about the road that pulls at you to start pulling together.

And that’s what happens on the N14 from Krugersdorp, all the way through to Ventersdorp and the R503 pass Coligny and Lichtenburg on the route to Mafikeng.

You pull together.

Just me, Duritz and De La Rocha (who screams in an oracle of irony “Fuck the police” just as I drive pass a hoot of speed cops on the roadside.)

Just me and a long way ahead

The Aveo chews kilometres at a rate she never dreamt when her rubber smacked the streets of the city. But out here, her voice breaks, and she croons like a lounge singer to her audience of enquiring sunflowers who could not tear their faces away.

And while Aveo is seduced by the way she’s been allowed to stretch out on this country route, the mind of a lone driver charts its own course, looking forward, back and where I’m at.

And on that road to Mafikeng, one realises that there’s lots to pull together.

So between the RATM and Counting Crows, old risks are weighed up against each other, their consequences lined up like dominoes arranged to form the face of Elvis.
A finger nudge, tik tik tik tik.
I count the number of times on one hand. I will nudge again.

The edges of some parts of the road looked like they’d been masticated by a tar-monster on a bulimic binge. It was only suddenly, when static washed out Duritz telling me that Richard Manuel is dead, and the rooibos-bred voice on the traffic station floods out my speakers, that I wonder if I entered an alternate dimension when I passed that roadside stall selling “Tamaties!!!”
I drive on with my fingers melted securely to the steering wheel, generating reservations about the innocence of the seed bars I ate earlier. The traffic voice stops its loop about the backup on the N1 and the trouble with the traffic lights near Booysens. Duritz displaces the weird energy left behind by the strange intrusion, “And what brings me down now is love, Cause I can never get enough”. Sing on man. I pull together.

Priced to go…

I park at a garage rest stop where the signs proclaim the toilets to be clean. I order a cup of coffee at the take-away. “Percolated?” they ask which confirm my suspicions that I’d entered into the bizzarro space-time continuum at the padstaal* with the histrionic tomatoes.
“Yah, that’s fine,” I say, hearing the crackly jingle, “Ricoffy, fresh percolated taste” ricochet in my head disturbingly. I wonder when they’ll start calling it filter coffee in these parts.
What I receive tastes like ditchwater that’s been strained through two layers of dirty dishcloths and nuked for good measure.
So much for percolated I think as I empty the blasphemous abomination out onto the lawn. It’s so vile, I forget about any ants encountering the liquid and mutating.

And I’m on the road again, carding my thoughts, making neat piles of things as I pass a small dam, its water reflecting scatters of the sun, so pretty and sparkly.

The drive is longer still and I start thinking about the people in my life especially the one whose eyes crinkle up at the corners when they smile and the thought of whom leaves me with a warmth and tenderness I can not title.

I pull together until the sign ahead reads Mafikeng.
The woman at the guest house offers to take me to the halaal steers. Those questionable seed bars ingested earlier were about as substantial as eating clouds.
She can see I’m hungry enough to devour anything in an unladylike manner.

Every sentence out of her fastens to a close with a ribbon of “mm” or “aah”. The next day I find this to be a general idiosyncrasy of towns inhabitants. It’s such a distinctive “mm” conveying agreement and consideration in just that one sound, Mmabatho*.

In the afternoon I pensivate my route back to the city.

There’s just something about a 300km stretch of tar.
It pulls at you to pull together.

*roadside stall
*an area part of Mafikeng.

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I am a writer and photographer (look up my work on based in Johannesburg, South Africa. I have an MA in Creative Writing from the university currently known as Rhodes. My writing accolades include winning the 2014 Writivism Short Story Prize and the 2020 Ingrid Jonker Poetry Prize for my debut collection, Zikr.

16 thoughts on “capsule roadtrip (mafikeng)”

  1. I eagerly snack and ride on ur worded Capsule Travels because theyre alWays a fabulous rollercoaster of words and imagery! wow!

    This is why im addicted to electric spaghetti! so much for doing low-carb, but the jalepino’s always rock! 😛

  2. Tar is a luxury.. I used to drive that distance on dirt road, going deep into the gamadulas. But the key to it is simple.. good vehicle, lots of sour worms, a pack or two of marlboro (i gave up smoking), good chow and YOUR OWN COFFEE 🙂 invest in a good vacuum flask for that purpose. But maybe luxury would kill the buzz of the true experience. Hope you had fun.

    Ps – Pleasing to note Aveo is back on the road.

  3. i didnt think mafikeng will ever sound like a fun place to visit:P

    & you should have advertised the vacant seats here before you left- car would have been packed:P

  4. potent! unlike the coffee!
    My parents are in Zeerust, but you went the other way around. I have siblings there as well. Two, the last time I checked. But that is one seriously boring road. AT least you let me pretend it is someting more…

  5. Mafikeng’s one of the VERY few places I’ve actually felt hot in, not temperate or normal or slightly non-chilly.


    I should move there. Didn’t need to dig for a jacket, ever.

  6. Summed up: I went to the plaas, it was boring, the coffee was crap and the plaasjaapies are what plaasjaapies are. 😛

    But kudos to the lady that can make it sound so freaking wonderful and actually write a relevantly long passage about it!

  7. i enjoyed this piece. it reminded me why i’m an academic, and not a writer –

    Mj bows and proclaims – ‘i am not worthy’

  8. erm…”pensivate”?? that’s not a real word is it? you made it up, huh?

    you should get like an award or something for this post – not many people can verbalise what i like to call Driver’s Boredomofdeath Syndrome in such a compelling way…almost makes me want to drive to Mafikeng. well, no. not to mafikeng – you aren’t THAT good 🙂

  9. Mmabatho is the capital of the North West. I almost ended up working there many moons ago. Well I hope you had fun. Hope you had a good time to think. I usually just nod off. Just like that.

    And where have you been, you been off the radar

  10. Sounds like a good experience. Well not for me im a city boy, i mean do mafikeng have television? or are they still watching macguyver or murder she wrote? And terrible coffee bleh.

  11. Interesting. I spent a year in Jozi, and had a girlfriend while there who hailed from Mafikeng, but studied in Jozi. Crazy Chick that was. Now I know why, having had to do that road-trip on a regular basis could not been easy, what with bad coffee, and everything else including Mafikeng itself.

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