This is not a good combo. It’s even worse when it’s a 4 x 4 trailer and you’re in the middle of nowhere. But, we all have to start somewhere, so the first trailer we had was a normal, family-type trailer that used for camping, holidays and assorted other stuff. However, we soon decided to upgrade to an off-road trailer… and to go where no girl should go with trailer… off the beaten track.
We were en route back from camping in Zinkwazi, on the Kwa Zulu-Natal north coast. At least I think it was Zinkwazi since we never actually got to see the place through the continual sheets of torrential rain that fell like bullets onto the surrounding earth, ricocheting upwards and splattering us all in the glorious stuff, as we huddled under the barely adequate gazebo.
“Enough,” I said, “we’re packing up and going home.” An oft-repeated phrase on our camping trips, as a matter of fact.
Anyway, we packed the sodden mess into the trailer, and my daughter and I got into the car and headed inland towards the Drakensberg mountains and Joburg. It was a treacherous drive in the mist and painfully slow, as we wound our way higher and higher. It soon became apparent that we wouldn’t make it back to Joburg that same day, as it was already becoming dark.
Fortunately, friends were staying in the foothills of the Drakensberg, not a million miles away, who kindly offered us a bed for the night. It was a welcome offer and certainly more appealing than struggling onward. Turning off the highway, we drove on with my daughter providing directions.
As we arrived in the small town, she consulted the directions and map, advising me to turn left. I peered down the road she had indicated.
“Are you sure?” I asked hesitantly. There were no signs of life at all. No street lights, or any other lights for that matter. It was completely dark and deserted.
“Yep!” she said, confidently, as I, somewhat less confidently, turned the car and trailer down the narrow dirt road. Now at this point, I should tell you that there was quite a steep camber on this road, which was lined by a few small houses with rather large, unfenced front gardens on one side, and a row of trees with a ditch on the other.
As we drove further down the road, I saw that at the end there was… nothing. It was a dead end. I stopped the car.
Muttering to myself, I noticed that the road was far too narrow to turn around with the trailer on the back, and the houses with their pretty rockeries made an effective barrier to a wider turning circle. There was only one thing to do. Unhitch the trailer and turn it around, then turn the car and hitch them back up again. Simple!
It was no mean feat to get the trailer unhitched as it weighed around a tonne fully loaded. As we heaved it around, my daughter’s cellphone rang.
Now, we all have those moments where we know what is going to happen but are powerless to stop it. This was one of them. The sensible thing, of course, would have been to ignore it. But no, this was a teenager, so sense didn’t come into it. Someone calling, in fact, anyone calling, takes absolute precedence at this age, no question.
With that, she suddenly dropped the tow hitch to answer her phone, leaving me hanging onto the trailer alone. But, as Sir Isaac Newton discovered, gravity will have its way, so the trailer, with me attached, started rolling towards the ditch.
As I screamed loudly, she suddenly realised what she had unleashed, and made a grab for the trailer as it rolled past. It was just enough, along with a patch of fortuitously rocky road, to stop our progression into the ditch. But we were perilously close.
By then, sweating and somewhat less than happy, I reversed the car back toward the trailer and, hitching the two up, swung the steering wheel around and drove right across the front gardens of the houses, rockeries included, and back onto the main road.
It was a Jane Bond moment.
I won’t say I didn’t have a bit of a rant afterward, as I did, but we have since agreed to be rather careful about what roads we turn down with the trailer attached. Especially in the dark.