Childhood travel memories of giraffes, tobacco and Muscadel

2017-06-19 19:00 - Anje Rautenbach
Post a comment 0

One moment I was sitting on my mother’s lap bawling tears of confusion because the noises the wild dogs made scared the living toddler daylights out of me and the next moment we were late for the gate to get into the rest camp of Skukuza / Satara / Lower Sabie - or something with an ‘S’ - and there was a giraffe in the middle of the road, blocking the way to tiny Smarties boxes in a caravan cupboard that got downed with bitter Malaria pills every morning.

The giraffe with its tall legs stood with its feet apart, and in a VW Kombi, we drove from head to tail under the giraffe’s legs; in from one side, out from the other side.

True story.

Mr Giraffe had legs for days and it formed a bridge, we went under it and through it and while a Kombi is not exactly a petite vehicle, we all said “oohh and ahh” for months to come; the story even formed part of one of my very first essays in Standard 1 (Grade 3) and it eventually lead to a teacher-parents meeting about my imagination.

I went to teachers, friends, family, the parents of friends and strangers to share the really cool story of how we landed right under a giraffe.

There was only one portion of the story that my 7- or 8-year old brain and vivid imagination didn’t grasp. And that was the word, “almost”.

Apparently this word was used to describe the whole incident, something I found out (and obviously chose to ignore) a bit too late. And “almost” was used in a comparison-type-of-thing by my parents to describe just how tall the giraffe was, and just how unexpected the sight of the legs were next to the window while we were in a Kruger-40km/h-rush to the gate.

I can just imagine how the conversation went in the teacher-parents meeting.

“Uhm, Mr and Mrs Rautenbach, we don’t encourage our students to lie.”

And then my parents, on the other side of the tiny desk, bowing their heads in a weird position of being shamelessly proud of my imagination, trying to explain that their daughter missed the word “almost”.

But it was not the first bow of the head in the weird position of being shamelessly proud of my imagination.

At the age of 5 I recited a short Afrikaans poem to the doctor.

“Dokter Marais het ‘n eier gelê,
10 jaar terug onder ‘n brug
met sy stink tone in die lug!”

Which translates to:
Doctor Marais has laid an egg
10 years ago under a bridge
with his stink toes in the air!

Okay, I might be lying. I don’t think my mother’s head bow then was a proud bow. I think it is safe to say it was one filled with red cheeks, embarrassment and a prayer to the gods of poetry.

About a year after the giraffe episode there was also another incident which probably made the teacher-parents meeting even more uncomfortable.

While visiting Montagu two words stayed behind in my very young brain: Montagu Muscadel. It probably latched on because of the alliteration or perhaps because of the distillation demonstration I saw at Kleinpasie in Worchester just the day before we arrived in Montagu. And just for the record, and to clear my parents’ name, I also saw how they made candles and baked bread. Oh yes, and I think there was also tobacco processing.

A third word accompanied the words and before I knew it I was saying “lekker Montagu Muscadel” to anyone who dared to listen.

To this day I still haven’t tasted Montagu Muscadel, but according to 8-year-old me it was very “lekker”.

Back home, talking about my vacation to teachers, friends, family, the parents of friends and strangers, “lekker Montagu Muscadel” became somehow, “Montagu Muscadel is lekker. When I go again, I’m going to buy some lekker Montagu Muscadel for you.”


And I’m pretty sure I nabbed one of the bottles my parents brought home and gave it to someone. “Uhm, Mr and Mrs Rautenbach. We don’t encourage underage drinking”.

It might have been nabbed for my teacher.

“Uhm, Mr and Mrs Rautenbach. As your 8-year-old daughter’s male teacher I can’t accept this”.

And then my parents, on the other side of the tiny desk, bowing their heads in a weird position trying to explain their way out of social services’ handcuffs that their daughter did not consume any alcohol and that her knowledge goes as far as tea, Nesquick, Drink-o-Pop and Sweet-O.

Little did they know that I probably told my teacher that I learned about tobacco as well.

Or in my words, “Teacher, teacher, I learnt how to smoke this vacation.”

Anje Rautenbach is the writer behind the blog Going Somewhere Slowly, find her Facebook,Twitter  or on Instagram!

What to read next on Traveller24:

- Sandton Station's forgotten: Where are the owners and why have they abandoned these cars?

-  12 Instagram trends: How to take the 'ULTIMATE' holiday shot!

- Tattoos, Travel and Truth