Durban to the Drakensberg

On this map of South Africa, you can see how far the mountains are from the city of Durban. It used to take us 4 hours to travel the distance of about 150 miles. Some of the roads were unpaved in the 1950s so they could quickly become a thick, muddy soup if it rained. The tires would slip into grooves left by the previous car, too. So we had to leave home early enough in the morning to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms.

There was one particularly bad piece of road, called Bobbejaan's Hoogte, or Baboon's Heights. It was an S-shaped uphill curve. Sometimes Dad had us all get out of the car so he could gain traction. We had to try to get back in in a hurry while the wheels were still turning. One time, Mike's fingers were slammed in the door. He shrieked. Someone opened the door, but he couldn't move his hand--it was frozen to the shape of the door jamb. In the confusion, the door was re-slammed on the poor fingers!

On hot days, the car would inevitably overheat. When we stopped by the road, steam hissing out of the radiator, there would appear, just like magic, a group of little boys all offering to bring us water. They were always rewarded with round copper South African pennies, much treasured by little kids.

That mountain, Thabana Ntlenyana ('beautiful little mountain" in Sesotho), is the highest point in Southern Africa, at 11,424 feet, or 3482 k.  []