I've always said that an armoured vehicle is the most appropriate transport for the roads in Johannesburg. Well now I've got a tank, of sorts. The old Mercedes Benz I've been loaned while I'm up here is a close relative of a Second World War panzer. It's wide, and a bit scraped, maybe as a consequence, and it's slow. Or perhaps that's the way I drive it. You hit the accelerator and count to three before anything happens. Just before the anything happens there's an alarming clunk as the transmission system wakes up and does it's thing. My friend tells me the panzer has handled a 4x4 mountain pass better than his Land Rover. Impressive, yes?
There is positive side to driving a slow, scraped tank. When my signal to change lanes is met by the usual Gauteng driver response, which is to hit the accelerator to close the gap, I can slowly ease in my preferred direction anyway. The sight of the lumbering, slightly bashed panzer is enough to intimidate the driver of the shiny SUV. I wave a friendly thank you and receive a one fingered salute in return. Happy Days!
I've been doing some last minute preparation for this expedition. Buying benzine for my stove because I couldn't bring it on the plane from Cape Town. A bulb of garlic and some dried mushrooms to add to my food supplies because I forgot to bring them. Some toiletries, also forgotten. Added to some other business and seeing some old friends, it's been a bit crazy.
Tonight I'll leave this vibrant, colourful, aggressive and energetic hub of the South African economy. I'll leave the weaving anarchic taxis and the status symbol cars and lable conscious perfectly coiffed Hyde Park shoppers, and the traffic light beggars and the hawkers. I'll be on the long, slow road north in a people carrier full of people I don't know towing a trailer loaded with motorbikes.
Sometime in the morning we'll cross the border into Botswana. From there the long, slow and very straight road across the Kalahari to Maun.
All I have left to do is to return the panzer to it's generous owner. Then the road beckons.