“Ugh, this is early,” Jonas says as we’re loading everything into the trunk of Dad’s Land Rover. Dad’s letting us use it for the drive to Cape Town and back. It’s December 27th and it’s time to head south.
“I know, I’m actually not sure if 3 am is very late or very early,” I say with a yawn. “I think that’s all.”
“Looks good to me,” Jonas says.
“Are you ready to head out?” Dad asks, he has just come out on the front steps with Mom. They’re both wearing pajamas.
“Yeah, we are,” I say. I’m standing next to Jonas with a hand resting on his t-shirt clad shoulder. Mom and Dad walk over to us and hug us both and remind me to drive safely.
“Don’t worry, Mom,” I say. “It’s not the first time I do this drive.”
“I know, Sigrid,” Mom says. “It’s just that it’s a long drive and I always worry when you do it. There’s no denying you’re not a very experienced driver.”
I reassure Mom that I won’t speed and that we’ll be careful. I watch as Jonas transfers into the front passenger seat. I can see it’s a bit of extra effort for him to make the transfer into the four-wheel drive Land Rover with higher suspension, but he makes it looks easy. Jonas closes his door as I disassemble his wheelchair and place it in the back seat behind him and then I walk around the car and climb into the drivers seat and start the ignition. Jonas immediately rolls down his window so he can talk to my parents that are standing next to the car on his side.
“Thanks for a great Christmas. See you in about a week,” he says to Mom and Dad with a smile.
“Looking forward to it,” Dad says with a smile. He and Jonas have really hit it off and I’m thrilled about that.
“Me too,” Jonas says as he buckles his seatbelt.
We wave as we drive out of the gate and onto the street.
“Jonas, wake up!” I say, nudging his shoulder gently. We’ve been on the road for a couple of hours and the sun is about to rise.
“What?” he groans, he’s been dozing off pretty much since I pulled onto the main road in Pretoria. I’m sort of annoyed that he doesn’t stay awake and keep me companied.
“The sun is rising and I thought you wanted to see that.”
“Right…” he says, shifting his weight in his seat and then rubbing his eyes. Then he looks out the window. The sun is just beginning to appear on the horizon and the sky is several deep shades of orange. South African sunrises are something special and it doesn’t take long for Jonas to realize it and wake up. “Wow…”
“Pretty spectacular, huh? I didn’t want you to miss it.”
“Thanks, babe. I definitely don’t wanna miss this,” he says as he reaches for the bag with his DSLR camera that’s resting on the back seat next to the parts of his wheelchair. He switches the lens and adds a filter; then he starts snapping photos. After a few minutes he asks me if I can stop on the side of the road so he can get a few good shots.
Around seven in the morning we arrive at a gas station with a café attached to it just north of Bloemfontein. Jonas asks me to get his wheelchair for him so he can use the restrooms while I grab coffees for us.
When he’s settled into the wheelchair he gets his wallet out of the pouch behind his legs and hands me a 200 Rand bill.
“Is this enough for coffee and some snacks?”
“That’s enough for coffee and snacks at least twice,” I say. “You keep forgetting how low the prices here are compared to Norway.”
“Yeah, I haven’t fully wrapped my head around that yet,” he admits. He shifts his weight and then adjusts his glasses so they’re straight instead of slightly crooked. He’s dressed in a pair of black lightweight sweatpants and a gray V-necked t-shirt and he has Tom’s on his feet. He has started to develop a nice deep tan and still I think he is the most handsome man on the planet.
“What?” he says, catching me looking at him.
“Just admiring my man,” I say. “I can’t get over how lucky I am to be with you.”
“That feeling is very mutual, babe,” he says, tugging my hand lightly and pulling me down to his lap. We kiss quickly and then I stand back up. “Now, go get us some coffee and I’ll try to be as quick as I can.”
“We’re not in a hurry, Jonas. I need to use the bathroom too, and then I’ll head over to the coffee shop,” I say. I place a quick kiss on his forehead and then we head over to the restrooms together.
Half an hour later we’re on the road again; my plan is to drive for another couple of hours and then stop for breakfast. The coffee and muffins we just had will tie us over for a little while longer.
“I feel bad about you having to do all the driving,” Jonas says. Since Dad’s car has a manual transmission and no hand controls he can’t drive it.
“Don’t worry about it,” I say. “I actually like to drive and since I don’t have a car in Oslo I’ve actually missed driving. And I need the practice.”
“You’re a pretty good driver for a rookie,” he comments. I got my license about a year before I moved to Norway and haven’t had that much practice behind the wheel.
“Thanks,” I say. “Driving out here on the highway is pretty straightforward, but I’ll admit I’m not particularly looking forward to driving in Cape Town.”
“This car is equipped with a GPS, right?”
“Yeah, it is. And I know where I’m going. At least I think I do.”
“Then you’ll be fine. And if the GPS fails and we get lost I’m actually pretty good at reading maps. I was a navigator in the Navy when I did my one year mandatory military service.”
“That’s good to know,” I reply with a smile. We spend most of the next couple of hours listening to the audio book we’ve bought for the trip; “Inferno” by Dan Brown.
We stop Wimpy, which is South Africa’s equivalent to McDonald’s, in Colesburg for a late breakfast just after ten. Jonas orders a massive portion of eggs, bacon and hashbrowns with toast on the side and fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee. I order an omelet and fresh squeezed orange juice too.
“I guess you’re hungry,” I say as the waitress walks away and promise to be right back with our drinks.
“What gave me away?” Jonas asks cheekily, leaning back in his chair.
“I dunno, the fact that you just ordered a mountain of food.”
“I might have gone a bit overboard when I ordered, but I am starving. And you’ve been talking about Wimpy breakfasts for months.”
“I might have mentioned it once or twice,” I chuckle. I pause briefly when the waitress brings our drinks over, then I carry on. “I miss going out for breakfast. And lunch for that matter. What is it with Norwegians and packed lunches? And bread? I just don’t get it.”
“I don’t know. In Sweden and Denmark it’s much more common to go out for at lunch and because of that it’s more affordable. Most cafés and restaurants have daily specials at a low price. With the prices most restaurants charge in Norway the average person can’t afford to go out to eat lunch on a daily basis.”
“I guess that’s a point,” I say. “A good one. I know I can’t afford to buy lunch every day, not even in the cafeteria at school.”
“That place is pretty overpriced,” Jonas says. “Especially considering the rather low quality of the food they serve. It’s generally disappointing.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Before I can say anything else our food arrives. Jonas eyes grows wide as the waitress puts down a plate filled to the brim with food in front of him and he grins broadly as he thanks her.
“This looks so good!” He states as he grabs his knife and fork.
“It tastes just as good as it looks,” I promise as I grab my own silverware and dig into my food.
It’s around four in afternoon when time we arrive at the gate at Karoo National Park. We show our passports and I fill out some paperwork and Jonas pays the admission fee. As we drive toward the main camp he keeps looking out of the windows.
“It’s pretty spectacular,” he comments. “The landscape I mean. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
“I know,” I say. The Karoo is one of my favorite places in South Africa and I’m thrilled about sharing it with Jonas.
I pull into the parking lot at the main camp a few minutes later and ask Jonas to wait in the car as I run in and check in. It doesn’t take long and I return to the car with the key to our cabin in hand about ten minutes later.
“This is nice,” Jonas says as he wheels through the front door of our accommodation for the night; a family sized, accessible cabin. The main room has a kitchen on the back wall and is furnished with a dining table with six chairs around it and two three-seater sofas. All the furniture is made of dark stained wood, the sofas have wood frames and brown leather cushions. The ceilings are vaulted with exposed dark wood beams and thatch roofs.
“I know,” I say as I head into one of the bedrooms. Jonas follows me.
“Oh, we have air conditioning,” he says, pointing to the unit on the wall next to the window.
“Yep. And a very comfortable bed,” I say as I flop down on the foot of the large double bed. I’m exhausted. I’ve been behind the wheel for about 10 hours and we didn’t get much sleep last night. “I don’t know about you, but I think I need a nap.”
“A nap in an air conditioned room sounds like a great idea. I just need to use the restroom first,” Jonas says, dropping his backpack on the floor by the foot of the bed. He wheels into the bathroom and closes the door behind him. I go out to the car and fetch my own backpack and the cooler with the food we’ve brought for tonight. After I’ve put the food away I make a quick trip to the bathroom in the second bedroom and when I come back into our bedroom Jonas is already in bed. It doesn’t take me long to get my jeans off and join him.
The next morning we get up at 5:30 am and head out into the park for a game drive. Jonas gets to add several animals to his photo collection during the drive; red hartebeest, two breeds of zebra, oryx and kudu all makes an appearance as I drive trough the game reserve.
“I just can’t get over how stunning the landscape here is,” Jonas say as we’re heading back to the main camp and our cabin. “And the wildlife is amazing.”
“It is something special,” I say. “This is one of my favorite places and on a clear night the sky here is amazing, so many bright stars. It’s a spectacular sight.”
When we get back to the main camp around 8 am we head straight to the restaurant where we enjoy a hearty breakfast before we go back to our cabin to pack and clear out the fridge. We’re back on the main road around 9:30. If all goes to plan we’ll be in Cape Town around five in the afternoon, but I know from experience that it’s unlikely and don’t get my hopes up.
“How long will it take us to get to Cape Town?” Jonas asks, reading my mind.
“If there’s no delays we’ll get there around five in the afternoon, but I wouldn’t bet much on it. There are bound to be road work or something else that will end up delaying us.”
My predictions are right; road works cause numerous smaller delays and it’s almost seven o’clock when the familiar silhouette of Table Mountain appears on the horizon. Jonas grabs his camera and by the time I pull into the parking garage below the apartment building where my parents’ apartment is located fifteen minutes later he has taken countless pictures.
“I’m glad we’re finally here,” I say as I unbuckle my seatbelt.
“Me too,” Jonas says. “I’m excited about the coming week.”
“I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry. Wanna go grab a bite to eat before we deal with hauling everything upstairs? There are several good restaurants in the area.”
“I’m hungry too, but I need to use the bathroom and I kinda think we should just get everything upstairs now. That way we can enjoy the evening and not worry about getting back here to deal with our luggage.”
I sigh. What Jonas says makes sense (as always). “You’re right.”
“It won’t take us that long, babe,” he says. “And I think we’ll regret it if we leave it for when we get back. We’re already tired.”
We manage to get everything upstairs in just two trips, so it’s not too bad. Once we have hauled everything upstairs I give Jonas a tour of the apartment.
“This is the master bedroom, where we’ll be staying. It’s got a sliding door that leads out to the balcony and it’s own bathroom. I think it’s reasonably accessible.”
“Looks good to me,” Jonas says after a quick inspection of the bathroom.
“On the other side of the hall there’s two more bedrooms with a shared bathroom. And here’s the open plan living room and kitchen,” I say as we return to the main living area. I open the sliding doors that lead to the large balcony that runs the full width of the apartment and step outside. Jonas pops a quick wheelie over the small step and joins me.
“Great view,” he comments. “This apartment is really something special. I think your parents made a good investment when they bought it.”
“I know Dad had his doubts about spending what he did on it, but I think he had come to realize he’ll get his money back if he decides to sell it. With interest.”
“Yup,” Jonas says. Before he can say anything else my stomach rumbles loudly. His response is to laugh out loud. “I can take a hint. I’ll do my business in the bathroom and we can head out.”
“To a great week in The Cape,” I say, raising my glass. Jonas follows suit and clinks his glass with mine.
“To a great week,” he replies. “Thanks again for inviting me to come with you. And for showing me your country.”
“I’m happy to return the favor. Thank you for introducing me to Norway over the past few months.”
“So, what’s the plan for the rest of the week?” Jonas asks as he sets his glass back down on the table.
“We’re meeting Natalie and a few of my friends for lunch tomorrow, at Spier’s Wine Estate. After lunch we figured we’d go to some of the wineries and taste some wine… Or we can go into Stellenbosch and look around. I want to take you to Boulders Beach, to see the penguins there one day. And we have to take the cable cart to the top of Table Mountain. I think we’ll make more solid plans when we meet up with Nat and the gang tomorrow.”
“Sounds good to me,” Jonas agrees. “So we’ll head back to Pretoria on the 2nd?”
“Yeah, that’s the plan. I’ve booked the cabin in Karoo National Park for us on the 2nd. We’ll be back in Pretoria on the 3rd and then we have about a week there with Mom and Dad. We have time to go to Joburg and Pilanesberg and we can do some shopping… And there should be plenty of pool time too.”
Jonas shifts his weight in his chair and smiles. “You really like the thought of pool time, don’t you?”
“What can I say? I like you shirtless. There’s a communal pool in the apartment complex by the way, I’ll show you tomorrow.”
“I bet you will,” Jonas chuckles.
To be continued…