(Boxing Day 1974 saw Much Better Half and I setting off on ‘Rideabout’ in our Combi Camper ‘Cambi’ with our daughters aged 4 & 7. After overnighting behind a bogged-down Rolls Royce near Golden Gate we went on to Kimberley’s Big Hole, and spent that night in the middle of nowhere beyond Griekwastad.)
Although we woke up fairly early, we were in little hurry to set off the next morning – a Saturday. Petrol restrictions meant that none could be bought over the weekend, so we had a limited range on what was still in the tank. Thus it was 10 a.m. before we finally left our overnight site and resumed the journey.
We crossed the Orange River by a ferry consisting of a large raft, which the brats found entertaining, and then had an interesting debate on whether to spend the rest of the weekend in Groblershoop or risk running out of fuel by pushing on to Upington. Finally the decision was taken to live dangerously, and on we went. I drove Cambi carefully to ensure that the petrol was sipped rather than gulped, and we made it with fuel to spare.
After an exploratory drive round Upington we elected to book in to the campsite on the island in the Orange River, after which we had a most expensive meal at the park restaurant. Two fruit-salad-and-ice-creams, two toasted cheese, two orange juice and two teas cost us R3-15.
A trip back into the metropolis in search of a movie was totally unsuccessful, so we returned and all swam in the river for a while. Then, at 5 p.m. we set off for a stroll along the bank. We hadn’t gone far when we heard the most awful yowling. I went to investigate the source, and found a large, scraggy-looking ginger cat staring at us from the rocks and undergrowth near the river. To the uninitiated his yells would have sounded like, ‘I’m being most horribly murdered!’, but we recognised them as meaning, ‘I’m lonely!’
I approached the cat carefully, talking to him. He hissed at me. I sat on my haunches and went on talking, and he moved towards me cautiously, with a couple more yowls, and more hisses if I moved. Then he came up to me and, after sniffing my hand, rubbed against it. I started to stroke him gently, and he purred – but if I tickled his back or got anywhere near his tail, he hissed furiously.
Soon MBH was also fondling him, and then the girls as well. With them, any incautious move was greeted with a swipe to accompany the hiss, so they were very careful. After we had tired of stroking him, we resumed our walk – but now we had a ginger alley-type cat trotting at our heels.
The kids were already calling him ‘Ginger’. MBH suggested, ‘William of Orange’. ‘Humph!’ I said. ‘Just call him Fizzy! He does fizz an awful lot.’ (All the names stuck, actually, and became interchangeable.)
The walk lasted until it got dark at 8 p.m., and the cat stayed with us all the way and returned with us to Cambi.
As soon as we opened up he leapt onto the sink/fridge unit with a pleased, ‘Urrr!’, and curled up there with every evidence of satisfaction. He shared our supper with even more signs of satisfaction.
However, shortly before we turned in for the night – at 11 p.m. – he left. We were relieved, because we had been wondering whether to lock him in with us or risk his displeasure by evicting him, so that solved the problem.
Until, at the crack of dawn, he returned and yelled his head off outside the door until we let him in!
He curled up in his ‘spot’, I went back to bed, and we all slept late.
(To be continued…)
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