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The Easter conundrum

May 8, 2018

As a Johannesburg native, I don’t see the appeal in venturing too far away from home during holiday times.

Unless the destination is one where very few people will think to go, like Tweebuffelsmeteenskootmorsdoodgeskietfontein (really, it’s a real place), all that will happen is you’ll land up in Little Joburg for a week… Same traffic, same crowded spaces, same people…

To avoid this frustration, I tend to stay home during December and over most long weekends, taking my leave during the off-peak season. Travelling is easier, most destinations are quieter, and you don’t bump into anyone you know – it’s the way to go.

This Easter, though, I received the opportunity to visit some old friends in the Hillcrest region of KwaZulu-Natal. Against every instinct and with much careful guesswork as to when would be the best time to leave and avoid the N3 traffic, I loaded up the Ford Ranger I had on test (you can read the review in a forthcoming issue) and we hit the road the afternoon before Good Friday.

Surprisingly, the drive down was easy and the weekend rather relaxing (the greater Hillcrest area is not quite as much a tourist trap as the KwaZulu-Natal coast…). And then Family Day came around (April 2) and we awoke to the news of protests at Mooi River. The droves of holidaymakers returning north had backlogged by 09:00 and taking alternate routes was out of the question, too.

Our strategy was to hang back and enjoy the cricket – keeping an eye on news alerts and the N3 Toll Concession’s (N3TC) Twitter feed. By 14:00 the protesters – having successfully looted and torched a couple of trucks – were cleared and the traffic was moving; we decided to take our chance. Reaching the area about an hour later, it was as though nothing had even happened…

The rest of the trip went fairly smoothly, if painfully slowly … a blinding afternoon downpour meant travellers were left sitting at the side of the road for nearly half an hour, and by 18:00 and 170 km from Johannesburg we had joined the growing backlog of traffic. We arrived home four-and-a-half hours later.

There is a point to my telling this story. The first is that the N3TC, local and regional law enforcement, as well as the emergency medical service (EMS), should all be commended for their high levels of activity between the Thursday and Monday.

As always, the N3TC did a sterling job of keeping travellers updated, while the law enforcement and EMS teams were highly visible and active along the entire route. They also tidied up the Mooi River situation far more quickly than expected.

I must also say that I was pleasantly surprised by the behaviour of everyone on the roads that Monday. I guess everyone realised they were all in the same boat, and that trying to push ahead was not going to achieve much. Perhaps the regular blue lights illuminating the pitch-dark Free State night helped, too…

It’s disappointing, though, that the Department of Transport’s preliminary Easter road safety report shows a
14 percent increase in fatalities over the period.

Next Easter I’ll stick with my instinct and hunt for eggs in my own backyard, thanks.

My life has always revolved around anything with wheels and an engine. It doesn’t matter if its an old banger, the latest hot-hatch or a fancy 4×4 – any excuse is a good excuse to take it for a cruise, spank it at the track or go bundu-bashing (the mud-and-rocks-side-of-a-mountain type, not the exploring-Joburg’s-pavements type). Otherwise, chances are you’ll find me lying underneath one of my beloved toys or with my head buried in its engine bay, tinkering away.

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