On your marks, get set….

Gustav, Sophia and I arrived safely and very tired in South Africa on Friday, 12 December 2014, and instead of picking up the trailer as agreed, we drove straight from the airport in Johannesburg to my parents’ farm between Groblersdal and Marble Hall in Mpumalanga. The reason? The trailer was not ready yet.


On Monday, I had to drive back to Pretoria with my mother’s bakkie (pick-up or Ute) to receive our air freight and take it back to the farm, hoping that I might also go and fetch the trailer. But no. We (okay, the workers from the relocation company) loaded 21 boxes onto the bakkie and I arrived back on the farm with 20 boxes… Luckily we figured out it was only pillows that got re-distributed to the previously disadvantaged. On Friday, it was back again to Johannesburg to pick Hugo up from the airport. By that time, I was completely sick of driving. At least on the drive back I could sit on the passenger seat. Still sans the trailer….


By now, the whole family, except for one of my sisters, have arrived on the farm and it was magical. There were a few patients with various ailments, but apart from that we had a fantastic time. On 23 December, Sophia turned six and we had a little party with most of her cousins joining in the fun.


As usual, we had a lovely Summer Christmas with way too much food; my parents really outdid themselves. Christmas is meant for being together with your family and loved ones, so we were excited to have a surprise visit on Christmas Eve from the youngest adult in the family, our baby sister Hilge (she hates being called the baby, though). She drove all the way from Kimberley after working a monster shift. Plus: my brother got engaged to the beautiful Natasha just a week or so before Christmas.


Just after Christmas, the relocating company called and said our container had arrived from Singapore and it would be delivered on Tuesday, 30 December. So before (or just after) sunrise it was us and the bakkie and the road again.




Imagine our surprise when we got a call at 9:00 from a very embarrassed lady apologising profusely because our container hadn’t been released and we could not offload. But they promised to deliver the next Tuesday (6 January 2015) (Happy New Year!).


We were just 20 minutes from Pretoria at that stage. Sooooo, we took a deep breath or two-thousand-seven-hundred-and-eighty-six and kept going in the direction of Wilgeheuwel, Johannesburg, where the trailer was being assembled. Imagine our second surprise for the day when we realised the trailer still looked exactly the same as on 21 November, when we received the last progress photos, AND 19 December, when we went for a look when Hugo arrived in South Africa. No more deep breaths; only stern and serious words were spoken. By now the trailer was three weeks past due date. With nothing to show for our trouble apart from a whole bunch of new promises we headed back to Marble Hall, utterly frustrated.


Then it was New Year and we moved from the farm to Pretoria, trying to fit a family of four and grandparents in a two-bedroom retirement home (we do not accept visitors here as it may be hazardous to their health with all the booby traps). This time, the furniture arrived without problems, and everything is now locked away in a long-term storage facility.


To cut a loooong story short, we had many hick-ups and broken promises and ugly words between us and the guy-who-I-will-not-name-and-shame-today-but-whose-name-does-appear-earlier-when-I-still-liked-him who was supposed to deliver the trailer in the beginning of December, but only managed to do so on 17 January. Almost. SIX WEEKS!!! Late.


We took it straight to my sister’s place, as she has a lot of space, and opened and tried everything. I have to admit, we are very happy with most of the work on the trailer. It looks sturdy and strong, and the needlework is very tidy. We even slept in it for the first time and almost died of hypothermia. In the summer in Pretoria. Beat that!


But the waterpipes leaked into the nose cone, the shower cubicle kept collapsing on us and one of the zips tore out of the fabric. We were SO not taking it back to Johannesburg, and decided we will either fix it ourselves or pay someone else to do it. Which we did. Having the zips fixed on the tent also took a bit longer, with a few setbacks, but after all this trouble it seems that most things are now fixed and in working order.


Hugo has also been very busy with Petronella. Sometime between getting a new suspension, having a major service and fitting new tyres, someone replaced the shocks without some thingamajig and driving her could not be classified as “comfortable”. Felt like she was waggling like a duck or trying to do sideways face plants. More money was hemorrhaged ‒ and we are holding thumbs.


We have been busy with all sorts of admin as well:

  • Cancelling Singapore employment and dependents’ passes.
  • Changing mailing addresses.
  • Carnet de Passage (Petronella’s and the trailer’s passport, so to speak).
  • New medical aid.
  • Registering a chronic condition and chronic medications. Applying for a supply of said medication.
  • Meningitis vaccinations.
  • First aid kit. By the way, we got a mean one! If you ever need one, I know a guy.
  • Replacing the centre box between the front seats with one that has a safe. Again – ask me, I know a guy.
  • Malaria medication – we had to do a test run to check for side effects on the children. Malaria Test Kit. Malaria treatment.
  • Buying and collecting spares, tools, and a million things we hope we never need.
  • Designing and ordering stickers for Petronella, as well as business cards (yep – another guy!).
  • Taking Petronella to have the stickers fixed.
  • Trying to find 100% cotton (because you need your luxuries) bed linen for a 2m x 2 m bed. Not going to happen. I know a girl who did it for me. She is just awesome with a sewing machine, ask me. Okay, I did it. First time in 20 years I’ve touched a machine, but I did it. Fitted sheets and mattress covers for the children included.
  • Servicing fire extinguishers.
  • Fixing the alarm on Petronella (in process).
  • Dentist visits for the children. Back twice more for Gustav’s fillings. Going to theatre on Tuesday 3 February for Sophia’s under anaesthesia.
  • Bank accounts and monthly transfers so we can buy petrol for the thirsty lady.
  • Fitting a radio.
  • Buying airtime for the satellite
  • Copying and laminating all important documentation.


And we’ve started homeschooling in-between everything, with the help of the very patient oupa and ouma.


We are just about finished. The last step is to park Petronella and the trailer (who can think of a name? the thing needs a name!) in front of my poor sister’s garage and start trying to fit a mountain of stuff into them. I’m sure she and my in-laws will be relieved to be rid of all our clutter.


But first, on Saturday, we will have a BRAAI ‒ starting our trip with the best part of being a South African: good friends, a lovely family, beer and a braai in the bushveld.

2 responses to “On your marks, get set….

  1. Jenny Stephenson

    Congratulations! I’m exhausted reading about all you’ve done to even start your journey. I’ll enjoy reading about your adventures from my comfy bed! X

  2. Dortte, Hugo en Kinders. Geniet die trip. Ek kry sommer heimwee toe ek julle Namibie trip lees. Daai gebiede besoek so oor ‘n 4 weke periode (verspei oor 2 jaar!) Geniet elke oomblik verder en bly veilig!!

    Carel, Christelle en kinders

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