Monday, December 23, 2030

# 8: Springbok to Aggenuys

I walked down to the road from my camp site and stood not long at all.  A beautiful lorry, an IM9 with the number 132 signed above the windscreen on the passenger side slid to a massive, smooth and silent halt just next to me.  Jesus the thing had power, and grace, and mod-cons.  Inside all was soft, buffered and air conditioned.  A little man was waiting for me up there and in there, a man wearing rugby shorts, rugby socks, sturdy boots on his little legs, copper bracelets on the wrist and a snor to be proud of.  
He started yabbering, flailing his arms, snapping his fingers and tipping his smoke as he lay it all down for me. 
Ek’s oppie pad Aggenuys toe,’ he says, 'I'm going to Aggenuys. /From there I'm going to Upington to offload, and from there, who knows?’ 
I learn that his friend is driving the lorry behind, they’re in convoy, because that was his lorry in the past, and there’s no way he’s going to let a kaffir drive his lorry, no way. Kaffirs can’t look after their lorries, he tells me, and illustrates this with a prime example: His friend bought a new fleet and he was the only white driver among them.  Within six months all the rest of the trucks were in for repairs, but his was still going strong.
Dis vir my n compliment,’ he says, ‘I take that as a compliment.  A kaffir can't drive a lorry.'
This man tells me that he rides 2000km’s in two days, every two days.  He says that he left his old lorry behind at 136 000km’s and that it took him only six months to do that.  He tells me that the current one is already on 4899. 
‘Do you talk to your friend behind?’  I ask.
‘No, only if we stop.  I want to get a Kenwood walkie talkie.  I can get it for R5000 and then we could chat.’
He tells me about the heat:
‘These valleys get hot,’ he says, ‘they get fuckin hot. Last week I was riding here and it was 45°. You can’t drive like that, my friend, not anything more than 50 k’s an hour. At 60 your wheels will burst. Although, okay.  If you’re empty you can go a bit faster, but with a load, with 35 ton, then you fucked - Dans jy fucked.’ 
Dis nou my tweede vrag,’ he says, ‘this is my second load.  First I went to Saldanha, and from there to Aggenuys.  I went from Black Rock to Saldanha.  Do you know Black Rock?’
‘No.  Where’s that?’
‘It’s close to Hotazel.  You know that place?  There they mine the black rock, the manganese.’
‘Have you had a tyre burst on you?’
He chuckles. ‘My maat - my friend.  I’ve had many.  But I look after my stuff carefully.  Not like the kaffirs.’
‘What is it with the kaffirs?  What’s the problem there?’
‘Okay, I’ll tell you a story.  The one day my boss phones me and he says, ‘my God, Hertlas, you must help this guy.  This guy drives and he doesn’t even check his wheels.’  
'In other words they just ornaments,’ says Hertlas.  ‘I mean, you can mos see when there’s kak and then you pull off? That’s why I say kaffirs… no, Jesus, I’m very anti-kaffir.  I hate the fuckers.  That’s one thing that God did just to perplex us boers.’ 
‘So you’ve never met a good kaffir?’
‘No, my friend, no.’
‘Not once?’
‘No. I like them not.  It’s like the Bible says.  He’s not crowned, hy’s ongekroon. You understand? It comes from the Bible. Us white people have crowns.  We can think.  They can’t fuckin think.  They like guppies that skit around in the water, their heads work like that.  Now you ask him for a nineteen spanner, a thirteen, a twenty and a ten, Jesus he won’t know what bloody side to go to, up and down and then he just ends up bringing the whole fuckin tool box. No man!’
‘How do I get to Ceres through the Karoo?’
‘Well, this is Namakwaland. The Karoo is over there, Beaufort West world,’ he says, pointing to the east, ‘if you want to go down through there you should take the N1.  If you want to have a nice little journey around you should go down from Upington, from there Groblershoop, Prieska, Carnarvon.’
‘You know,’ he says, after a bit, ‘the other day I picked a lovely girl up.  That girl said to me that she had no idea that South Africa was so fuckin lovely.  She said that in the two days that she was on the road they saw so fuckin much.  They told me they were on their way to Durban but I said that there’s no fucking way – daar’s nie n vokken manier nie - that road is bad news.  They were on the N2, now I know that road is poes dangerous and for a man and a woman, no ways, no ways. So I say okay I have a proposal.  Ride along with me, because I’m going that way, but they say that they are actually going to Richards Bay.  I am going that way but I’m going the long way round, so I tell them it’s their choice.  So they say yes, they are just going to ride along with me.  And then I organized nice work for both of them.’ 
‘Oh.  Wow.’
‘Yes.  They ended up staying with me, I gave them money, everything, and I’m not asking for it back my buddy, not a fuck.  I gave it to them and I said, go, do it.  So now she’s working at OK and her boyfriend is at a security firm.’
‘In Richards Bay?’
‘No. Stilfontein.’
‘The guy could find work, but then his father in law got involved. Now, look, family business is a kak bloody thing.  So his father in law dropped him, he said he smoked dagga.  So I said, why don’t you go for tests?  Fuck him! Show that poes!  But he didn’t want to, and in anyway the father in law didn’t want him to get work.  They stayed with me for two days, three days, and then my ex-wife organized them a job. And now the other day he phones me and tells me things are going well over there, they’ve got a flat and everything.’
‘That’s what I do,’ he says, ‘I try to help people.  But then you get those guys that you’ll never help, they just want to ride along.  Many guys give lifts but then they’re looking for money.  I’m not looking for that.  The man upstairs gives me everything quadruple and double again.  Ah, man, I’ve done it a lot.  Take me as is.’ 
‘What about violence,’ I say. ‘You ever been hijacked? I got a lift with a lorry out of PE once.  The driver told me he had a Magnum .45 set up in his door, pointing at the passenger seat, with a button under the steering wheel to fire it.  He said he’s had his legs shot out by an AK47 before, so now the bottom of the door is bulletproofed.’ ‘Ag kak man,’ says Hertlas.  ‘They don’t just shoot, especially if you’ve got a load on. The other day I was riding through Knysna, I was in a Freightliner, no, no, a Kanya, a 480.  I’m busy driving and I see, chomma, Jesus here comes a whole pile of shit.  
A BMW comes up next to me, sitting next to me, then pulls back again, back behind me.  Then later I see a Mercedes Benz, he does the same.  No my bud.  I think, ‘I’m carrying a value load here.’  In other words it’s hi-fi’s, DVD’s, that sort of stuff.  So I check this business and I think Jesus, fuck.  Remember I’m not going to lose my life I’ll drive that car straight off the road.  So I phone my boss, the guy’s name is Heino, and he says to me ‘Hertlas, do it.  If you see that the shit’s going to hit the fan, don’t wait my friend, put foot, pedal to the metal.’  Because that thing,’ says Hertlas, pointing to the steering wheel, ‘it’s got a tag, in other words it's like a panic button, so if I open it they’ll see I’m in trouble over the satellite. So I hold it like that.  Now I see the guys are riding behind me, then the Mercedes comes past and rides in front of me and sinks in in front there, slow.  I hold my speed, puppy, now they see they not going to stop me.  So the BMW comes up next to me and shows me the AK.  So I fuckin did this…’
He twists the wheel, the tuck jumps just a little to the right. Hertlas grins.
‘Jesus man that guy just ran that way,’ he waves to his right, swatting a fly. ‘By then the cops are already on their way but I just went.  When I hit the BMW it burst.’
He nods.  He’s happy with that.
‘No, chomma, I don’t stop for no one.  Jesus.  There’s no way.  This truck is fucking big.  That was the only time I’ve had an experience like that.’
Outside the country’s changing.  It’s always changing.  It’s getting drier, there’s more sand and less plants.  Less hills and kopjes too.  The place is flattening out, starting to burn, all green evaporating.
‘Okay,’ says Hertlas, thinking about it properly, ‘they did steal my tyres once.  I was sleeping in Vereeniging, in the town!  I’m sleeping, it’s the kind of thing you don’t expect so I left the window open and I was sleeping lekker, just a crack open for some fresh air.  I woke at five o’clock, walked around and checked that everything was lekker on the lorry.  So I go sleep some more.  Then I wake up at seven with a huge headache.  God, what now?  I check the lorry.  Jesus.  They took my trefaf tyres, these first ones behind here, they just took them off.’
‘Why did you have a headache?’
‘They take a CD and burn it!  They hold it in here so the smoke comes inside. It gives off a certain chemical that puts you out.’
‘I didn’t know about that!’
‘Now you know.’
‘So now when I sleep I keep the windows closed.’
We drive. Hertlas is tiring.  I have to keep looking at him, it causes a real crick in the neck, but it’s great being up high up here, watching the world rolling by down there, even if we are going slow.  What’s slow? 
‘The best, for me, is Windhoek.  There you can leave your windows wide open and no one worries you.  Even Botswana. No problems.  You will never have one problem.  Okay, it is a kaffir world up there, but they don’t steal your stuff.’
‘I hear Botswana is very nice?’ I ask.
‘It is very nice.  But they have the death penalty there.  Sorry to say it but if they brought that back here then you’ll see how quickly things will change.  Then there won’t be these fucking farm murders and that kak.’ 
Hertlas goes quiet for a moment, marshaling his thoughts. ‘Let me put it like this,’ he says, ‘I’m going to propose this to you my friend, the end of the world is coming poes quickly. It’s happening now.  All these earthquakes? Those men, what do you call them, Siener vanRensburg.  I don’t know if you know of him, Siener van Rensburg?  Do you yourself a favour and go to a library and ask for a book called Siener van Rensburg.  They must have it because Jesus that guy knew everything.  The murders on September 11?  His prophecy was that a bird would fly into a thing, like the building.  He was a boer.  All this that’s happening now?  He predicted it too, the tsunamis and everything else.’
‘Are you afraid of dying?’  
Broer, no.  If I go then I go.  If the Lord needs me then I’m gone. I mean, I’ve only been borrowed.  I have to make a success of the little bit of life that I’ve been given.  A person should live well, live lekker.’
He checks me out suddenly, bright eyes.
‘You wouldn’t say I’m 42, hey?’
I don’t really know what age he is. I guess I’d say about 40.
‘I don’t look like it, hey?  I’ll take two jaggerbombs, drive straight through from Cape Town and when I get home at about ten o’clock, eleven o’clock then you would think I would go to bed, but no, my buddy, I’ll go party till three or four o’clock the next morning.’
‘Do you drink Plays, or what?’
‘I drink Bioplus. But I don’t make a habit of it. If you make a habit… The other day I bought one of those Monsters for myself.  What I often do is I take a Bioplus and I put it inside a Play, then you’ve got some stamina, my buddy.  A friend said to me, ‘now Hertlas, when do you sleep?’
I said why. 
He says, ‘because you’ve just driven two days straight without sleep.’ 
I say don’t worry, I’m great. 
He says, ‘then, so, what do you drink?  How do you stay awake?’
I drink water, I tell him.’
We’re nearing the turnoff now. 
‘One day five years ago I picked three girls up,’ says Hertlas, ‘we rode everywhere together.  You meet many people.  Today, still, if I stop off in Windhoek then she’ll come pick me up, one of these girls, doesn’t matter where I am she’ll come in one of these new Mercedes Benzes.  I phone her, and, let’s say for example I’m in Ovamboland, or Oshakati, then she gets in that car and comes to fetch me.’
‘Have you got children?’
‘Ja.  Two.  But the love I had with my wife, she and my best friend fucked.’
We drive. He’s thinking about it, staring off into the distance.  He does this day in day out, every day, staring off into the distance.
‘I caught her red, red handed.  She told me that I would never catch her, so I said, ‘oh?’ and then I caught her the next weekend sommer in the bed.’
We drive.
‘Now we’re just friends.  If she wants my help then I help her.  You know what?’
‘It doesn’t help if you hold something against a person the whole time.  You can’t.  The Bible says forgive and forget.  My laaitie I’ve never hit, never.  When my mother comes to us she looks at my lovely children and she says, ‘but Hertlas, how did you raise your children?’ Then I say, “Ma, not like you did.”’
‘If I’m talking to my son then I say “Boeta, don’t do that.’ Then he doesn’t do it. But if she talks to him then it’s a whole other story. I don’t know your name?’
I nod.
‘My name’s Hertlas, but in anyway…’ 

He proceeds to tell me how he takes his boy with him on trips and when they’re driving in convoy they pull off, have a dop and sleep, then those guys in the convoy want to go but Hertlas is still sleeping so he tells his boy to drive. 
‘Daddy, what now?’ 
‘Just drive my boy.’ 
And he drives. Hertlas says he taught him, he put him on his lap in just the same way that he taught the girls.  He says that the other day at the school his laaitie was having athletics and they delivered a lorry there but only the lorry and not the driver. 
‘But sir, what now?’ said his son.
‘I don’t know,’ said the principle.
‘I can drive it,’ said the boy.
‘Can you?’ asked the principle.
‘Yes,’ said the boy. ‘My dad drives a lorry like that.’ 
And so the boy drove the thing back to behind the building so that they could store it there, and he ended up teaching the principle how to drive. 
‘He wants to drive lorries one day,’ says Hertlas, ‘and that’s good, but he must have another trade behind him too.  You can’t put all your eggs in one basket.  If he has another trade then he knows that no one can take him for a poes and he always has other work. Like welding or panel beating.’
‘I worked for nine years on the railway,’ he says. ‘We had everything, but then I fell hard.  But I  stood up again.  When you’re down is when you’re closest to God.  You go up, then he brings you to the ground, then it goes well.’ 
I tell him about my friend Denis Fry’s dad who got cancer in the cheek. He got it because he worked at the railway and he had to inspect the joints on the carriages in the burning sun, screwing up his eyes against the glare of the reflecting sun with the sun’s rays burning into his cheeks over the years, slowly causing a rot.
‘Trains run on wool,’ says Hertlas. ‘And if it burns, yoy-yoy it stinks worse than a snatch.’ 
‘I don’t like lying,’ I tell him, at length, ‘because if I’m honest then I’ve got nothing to worry about.’
‘Yes my friend,’ he agrees wholeheartedly, ‘that thing always comes out.  Always.’ 
‘It’s about whether you’re hurting someone else or not,’ I say.  
There is the hissing of the road, the truck, the world. 
He doesn’t take weekends off because he’s home often, home is on the way to wherever he’s going.  The time he spends at home is not a lot, but it’s quality.  He goes dancing and he spends time with his kids. 
‘Luckily we can still travel around in our own country,’ he says.  ‘Some people can’t do that.  Where is that place?’ he asks, ‘overseas?  What is that place’s name?  Israel?  Yes, that’s it. That’s it.’
We contemplate Isreal while the desert rolls by.   
‘If they could give me a choice then I would move and go to Swakopmund.  It’s fucking mooi.  And if not at Swakopmund then I would go to live in the Cape.  I took my boy there.’
He laughs, a cackle. ‘He said jussis pa kom ons trek hierna toe.  Hiers girls – Jesus Dad let’s move here, here’s girls!’
‘Yes,’ replied Hertlas, ‘yes, give it time.  My grandma lives there, she lives in Skyeways, that flatblock.’
‘Most of my friends are women,’ Hertals says, ‘it’s much better.  I only have one chomma, the rest are girls.  My laaitie is just like me.  On his facebook and on his mixit he has 295 girlfriends. He says, ‘no dad we are just friends.’  And they aren’t just normal girls, hey, they’re models.’
‘My oldest,’ he tells me, ‘works with her mother at OK.  But they are not OK employees, she can rep and that. My laaitie phones me every day. Okay.’ He laughs again, his special laugh for when he’s thinking of his son, ‘he sms’. Then I must phone him back.  My daughter phones me too.’
He shows me a photo of his daughter.  She’s surprisingly sexy. ‘Ag, she’s beautiful,’ I say.
‘She’s 18, turning 19,’ he says.  He has photos of her but not his laaitie. His laaitie, he says, tapping his temple, is safe in his head. 
He was sterilised at the age of 29.  Since then, he says, he’s had no problems with his dick. No prostate problems, no problems urinating.  He can get himself fixed but it costs R2500. 
‘Many drivers like to fuck on the road,’ he says, ‘they see a girl they want to fuck.’
He’s not like that, he says, and I believe him.  He doesn’t like to sommer just fuck. 
‘Everybody says to me,’ he says, ‘you’ve got a cum station in every town.’
‘Yes I do,’ I reply, ‘but it’s not what you thinking.’ 
He lights a smoke as he explains that he doesn’t like one night stands.  He says you don’t know her, so you can’t enjoy it. ‘This meeting for the first night then you want to fuck, no, it doesn’t work for me.’
He had another girl, he says, and they were together for eight months to a year.  The one day she phoned him, he says, and said she’s been thinking about him a lot.  He said, ‘ja, if you didn’t do what you did, then we could still be together.’
‘It’s the Lord’s will if I drive,’ says Hertlas, ‘it’s not mine.  If the Lord says I ride, then I ride.’

Hertlas drops me at the turnoff to Aggenuys.  At first the air was still lovely and cool, but soon it began to evaoporate.  Heat remains.  I’ve taken to putting two pairs of socks on because my takkies are old and frayed and rubbing my toes up the wrong way.  The extra padding helps. The landscape has changed.  Flat, empty fields ringed by faraway mountains.  You can see to tomorrow.
All I'm doing is interpreting how I'm feeling.  That's it.  My feeling is quiet.  Reserved. Cautious.  But fucking at peace sitting here writing at the turn-off to Aggenuys.  This land is my land.  This is what I've been given. And the days will wheel by.  The land changed about 60k's out of Springbok.  It'll change again.

Hertlas said that if I don't get another lift he'll take me Upington.  I just can't go in with him to the mine. 


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