Sunday am, we got word that the work on the Property had to be stopped. “Our” land is at the border of two different ‘regions’ run by two chiefs. Just a friendly, neighborhood discussion about where the white-picket fence should go will ensue. The chiefs agreed to meet this coming Sunday. When many American families will dress their children as princesses, werewolves, superheros, and animals, the Americans in Swaziland will wait for word from the meeting. At best, they decide which chief we’re under and we start work on Monday. At worst . . . well, let’s not go there.
The halt on work presented us with a week of free time. Naturally, Brian has an endless supply of friends to visit, so we headed south to South Africa. Not wanting to seem TOO desperate for a place to stay, we stopped just south of Richard’s Bay in a small town. Sean had done a fabulous job of finding us accommodations at Nature’s Way Backpackers. For 250Rand (about $42) we had a ‘rustic’ place to stay. He called to verify their location. Over the connection, I hear the guy say, “It’s rustic. Like really rustic.”
Sean wasn’t swayed. I mean, c’mon. We brought 4 changes of clothes for 2 months of living in Swaziland. We camp on the weekends. Live out of suitcases. Don’t shower for days on end. Will eat with our hands. Will eat obscure animal part with our hands when fed by well-meaning hosts. We love scars, new things, and anything that makes a great story for later. We ARE rustic. Or so we thought.
Everything about Nature’s Way was cute. They had rescued two zebras. Yes, two zebras stood around the fire with us, warming themselves by the flames the way I do! There may have been a bit of too-free-flowing booze, but hey! it’s a backpacker’s place. We can handle this. Sure, the bathroom was outdoor. The ‘walls’ were really just a bit of reeds tied together to create semi-privacy. There was a reed-roof over the toilet. Candlelight lit the toilet area after sunset. There wasn’t a shower head. But the toilet flushed and the water was hot. Hardly rustic.
The only problem? The room. First, it wasn’t two twin beds, but one queen bed. 1 bed divided by 3 adults = awkward. Brian and I fought, but he eventually won. He’d take the floor. Sean and I had the bed. After eating some delicious pizza, we skip back to our room and we all hit the brakes as we cross the threshold. We had forgotten over pizza what it looked like. We are harshly reminded. First, 3 adults can NOT stand in the room it’s so tiny. The walls are dingy, peeling, and drawn all over. The ceiling’s cracked and flackes off when you bump it. The 2 windows are the size of a small text book and have no screens. The door doesn’t really shut and when we muster is closed, there’s a gap of about 6 inches.
Sean’s optimistic: “Yeah. It’s good guys.” Flopping himself on the bed, “Ah! This is luxury! C’mon it’ll be such a good story to tell later.”
I’m less cheerful, “Sure. What’s the worst that can happen? We get lice or bed bugs?” I silently try to convince myself the neither is that bad. Nervous laughter tittered through us. At one point, we all just crack up. Everything thinking I won’t be the wimp that says, “I’m not doing this.” While everyone hopes someone else will speak up.
We avoid sleeping as long as we can, but eventually the time has come. I gingerly lay my pillow on the top blanket, not daring to enter the covers. Brian stretches his body across the thermarest and pulls the sleeping bag up. “Oh yeah! A mamba can fit through, right here,” as he points to the space between door and floor. Chuckles ensue until he says, “I’m not joking. Look at it!” What is the worst that can happen?
For about 2 hours we convince ourselves to sleep. Then the mosquitos, aka figher helicopters come in for the kill. We throw pieces on clothings over our faces to block the buzzing assailants. No help. Their doomful buzz is loud in our ears. Then the heat our bodies exhudes makes covering up miserable.
Sean’s the first to give in. With a grump and a groan, he rises from the bed and relocates into the rain. The pelting of drops easier to face than the bugs and heat of the room. With more tossing and turning, Brian and I battle the bugs and sleep. He’s the next to leave. However, Sean locked him in, so he tries very hard to unlock the door from the inside, while still not being too loud. Hearing his sighs of utter frustration, my body starts to convulse with silent laughter. He leaves and the bugs continue their assault on me.
Finally, I get a grand idea. Grabbing the tent, I proceed to set up our two man tent on top of the bed. Great! I’ve got cushion AND no mosquitos. . . However, the heat is still intense inside this little room. After a few minutes, Brian comes back inside to inquire about the click, click, click he heard. Walking in, he sees me standing on the bed, poles in hand, straddling the tent. He lost it. Bent over with laughter, we both lose ourselves with the comic of this 3 am antic. And where did we find Sean? In the truck, reading a South African newspaper.
We survived. I’m certain I don’t have lice, we didn’t have to pay full price for the room, but the verdict’s still out on the bed bugs. Each day is a grand adventure!