I was going too fast, but we were late and I could see miles ahead along the sweeping roads on the hillsides of Lesotho. A speck of dust would show up then disappear as we rounded a hill, then reappear later a bit nearer, but still far away. Eventually a car would materialise, turn into a white bakkie and sweep past in a cloud of dust.
We were hastening to get to Sani Top after entering Lesotho near Ficksburg, and zooming over Khatse Dam after waiting a while for the brakes to cool so they’d work again after too much sight-seeing braking down the steep decline to the dam. Little Jessie and Tom strapped in the back and me and Aitch in front. The Dizzis were waiting for us and Aitch hates keeping anyone waiting and especially the Dizzis, so I was putting foot, it’s true.
As I rounded one more bend at dusk my eyes widened and the donkey’s eyes widened much more. Huge, in fact as he stared at his impending doom. The look in his eyes was quite fatalistic, and he was rooted to the spot, massive bundle of sticks and bushes loaded on his back and sticking out more than his body width on both sides. On the left a high bank, on the right a cliff plummeting down to the river valley far below. Swerving was out of the question, as was hard braking, so I manual-ABS’d, slowing down as much as I could without endangering us.
As we hit the poor ass I probably closed my eyes. WHACK! A sickening bang. Dead, I’m sure. Kombi messed up. I stopped and hopped out thinking: You don’t stop and get out. For safety you keep moving. Like hell.
I walked into a wall of cussing and swearing and remonstrating in high seSotho. What the hell did I think I was doing and Who the hell was going to pay and Where the hell was I headed in such a hurry and How the hell was he going to . . . I hardly heard him. I was staring past him at the donkey walking away minus its load, seemingly none the worse for wear! I was so relieved I actually giggled and had to bite my lip.
I immediately launched into a sincere and abject apology oft-repeated and completely ignored. I apologised for speeding, endangering, carelessness, being younger than him, and for breathing. I was sorry that he’d have to catch his donkey and I regretted that he’d have to do all the loading all over again. I was getting nowhere and the tirade was warming up and getting more creative. I saw I wasn’t getting through, so I returned to the kombi and fetched R200 and pressed it into my fully-justified tormentor’s hand.
It was like switching off a radio. He was COMPLETELY satisfied and what were we talking about a minute ago again? A last apology and off we went. We still had a long way to go. Phew!
There was a sequel the next morning as we headed back into Lesotho on the same road. There was my man again, so I gave him a cheery wave. He was with a mate and he pointed at us jabbering away, grinning excitedly. We had fun imagining what he was saying. All complimentary, we agreed.