2012 had been a sad, dark year. Dad’s death in early January had hit me hard. In the seven years since Mum’s death we had become so, so close and shared many adventures together. After a fall in 2011 he was weakened and his health was failing. In the next 12 months he kept focused on being independent and a loving grandfather. How much joy he gave all of us in his large family. He was generous in so much more than money. It was a delight to visit my daughter at university and see a recent letter from Dad pinned to her noticeboard. His headed notepaper, flowing handwriting and joyful observations of life, travel tales, one or two quotations to make her think and a recipe for spaghetti passed down from the Italian housekeeper during his time at university. Wonderful and each letter treasured by my daughter and my son. I could see Katherine’s housemates were a little jealous too, in the mail they just received bills. Then shortly after a Christmas when he’d been surrounded by family the expected unexpectedly happened. How I cried and cried – his loss was like a hammer blow, it still is but it’s just now familiar.
As 2012 past I knew a visit to South Africa would help me mend. I was a little hesitant to mention my hope and wish to my wife – we’d had a wonderful trip together in 2011 but there wasn’t much money in our house in 2012. I needn’t have worried. She recognised my yearning and when I suggested it she just replied ‘Go’. Suddenly there was a silver lining in my sky. Thank-you lovely!
Planning a trip like this is such a joy. Oh, what fun I had, maps, books and helpful suggestions from forumites. The trip became longer and longer, an extra day or two added and with more squeezed into every day, hour and minute. The final plan was a couple of days in Johannesburg staying with friends, then off to Soshanguve township for Achiever’s day at Khensani Primary School – a day of celebration filled with song, dance, prize giving and finished off with a feast for all. I’ve visited Khensani many times since 2005 and seen it grow from 250 learners to over 1200 today. A buzzing, fizzing place – all schools should be like this. I’ve contributed a little over the years using my ability to attract resources to good causes and my IT skills to help build a small computer suite. It would be great to go back. I would be staying with the school principal, my dear friend Fannie.
Then on the Monday after I’d have an excited early start leaving Soshanguve and driving east to Kruger. I planned a week in Kruger starting in Pretoriouskop, then Skukuza, back to P’kop for the Napi trail midweek. After Napi off to Lower Sabie and then one final night back in P’kop. It would end with the lonesome ache of leaving Kruger and flying out of a country I have become so very fond of. It’s hard to write ‘flying home’ because though the UK, and Stockport in particular, is home South Africa is a very special place for me – almost a second home. Through all the planning at the back of my mind I was wondering how late I could leave Kruger and still get back to Jo’burg in time for the flight to Paris. Before leaving the UK I was already planning on cutting it fine and fearing I’d miss the return flight!
In the end I was happy, it was a good plan with time in the company of friends, in Sosh and Kruger and with moments to muse, chat to Dad, wonder, enjoy nature and cry. Healing too – I knew I’d return feeling better and stronger.
This TR will very, very briefly cover all of my visit to SA – I hope you don’t mind but writing just about Kruger would be giving like giving you just the last chapters of the book. Fear not though it won’t be like a visit to a distant Aunt to show you thousands of holiday snaps – at least I hope not!