Shattered Nerves on the N3

The wet Easter weekend weather let up long enough early Monday morning for us to pitch our muddy tents and set out on the next phase of our holiday. We said our goodbyes to Franco and Lizelle, promising to do this again soon, and programmed the GPS for our next destination: Golden Gate Highlands National Park.

I had finally managed to get the hang of driving with a trailer (although reversing is a skill I will need to practice a lot more!) and the distance between Johannesburg and the Free State quickly grew smaller and smaller. We passed the first Ultra City only a few kilometres outside of Jozi without a second thought, singing loudly along with the radio and waving cheekily at traffic officers hiding behind bushes.

The countryside flattened out and the yellow fields of the Free State stretched for miles on end. Suddenly, a warning beep sounded. Another 80 km of fuel left. “It’s fine, we’ll find another Ultra City soon enough,” I reassured Gareth. We drove on.

As I watched the fuel gauge sliding deeper and deeper into the red, with nothing but endless farmland on the horizon, we started getting nervous. We had long since stopped singing and while I scoured the road signs for some indication of a petrol station, Gareth was fiddling with the GPS, trying to find the setting that shows where the nearest station is.

“Found it!” he exulted. “There’s a little town right up head, 5 km.”

Ten kilometres later, still no petrol station. “How can there be nowhere to stop on the N3?!” I raged. I started mentally preparing myself for the inevitable: we’d have to drink up that 2 litre bottle of water in the camping fridge so Gareth could have something to go and fetch petrol with. Would he be able to find somewhere within walking distance once our car had spluttered to a stop? Would it be safe for me to stay in the car on my own in the middle of nowhere or should I walk with him? Would the car still be here when we get back? Should I SMS my mother and tell her I love her?

I looked at the electronic gauge: 7 km worth of petrol left.

“There has to be something on the other side of this hill,” I prayed out loud. And then, when we reached the top, there it was. I could just imagine a break in the clouds and the light shining down as if to indicate the Promised Land: an Engen 1-Stop. We were saved.

For more posts in the Krugersdorp – Glen Reenen Breakaway series, click here.

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