I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a pleasant or pleasing travelling companion and can count the number of simpatico sidekicks who have accompanied me on my wanderings over the years on the fingers of one hand.
Yes, I’m a crabbit old bugger but the main reason is that I do not travel for “fun”. I travel to obtain facts, glean impressions and take photographs so I can present you with a contextual picture of the journeys I’ve taken, places I’ve visited and people I’ve met. If you find the picture either attractive or intriguing, you might choose to follow – broadly or narrowly – in my footsteps so you can have fun.
I don’t like to be distracted when I travel which makes me extremely self-centred. One thing I’ve learned is that, if a photographic opportunity presents itself, seize it; the picture will never be there on the way back. And if it takes two hours to shoot a single worthwhile image, so be it. So sorry that there’s someone hanging around in the car – bored out of their heads and bursting for a piddle – while you’re scurrying about taking pictures of the Sishen-Saldanha ore train silhouetted against a misty sky … not knowing if the shot will even work.
The fact that I also enjoy being on my own makes me ideally suited to the solo roadtrips which I undertake on average twice a month. I cannot deny that there is an element of glamour to life as a travel journalist but, to be honest, it’s up-your-own-arse-shallow and a life spent on the road is a very lonely existence especially since there is rarely someone with whom you can share the beauty and magic of a moment.
Exotic locations, plush hotels, award-winning restaurants and fancy cars: I experience more luxury and adventure in 12 months than most people dream of accumulating in a lifetime of threescore-and-ten years. Trust me, I’m grateful for the opportunities my chosen career has provided and, because each story is unique, the story never palls. Even despite the solitude inherent in the job.
Then why – WHY, dear God – do I persist in asking people I do not know well (or even particularly like) to accompany me on my automotive escapades? In one recent incident, an aspiring model asked if I would shoot some pictures for her portfolio. I was putting together a roadtrip to an amazingly photogenic spot on the West Coast and thought the presence of a beautiful young woman would enhance the images. Since we would be sharing a three-bedroomed farmhouse, I had no qualms about asking her to come along.
I had intimations that things might gang agley when I arrived to pick her up and her luggage for the weekend almost filled the Hyundai Santa Fe seven-seater. Props for the shoot, she said. Did she know that part of the shoot entailed walking about three kilometres through the veld to the top of a kopje, I asked? She looked at me blankly then spent the next hour-and-a-half shooting roadtrip selfies and sending them to her boyfriend who, she added, was a very good photographer.
We arrived at our destination where we were due to have dinner with the owners. She was a vegan, she said. This was the first anyone had heard of her dietary preferences. The next morning, after an hour of shooting a range of bizarre bedroom poses upon which she insisted, the young lady told me she was bipolar and had left her meds at home: could we pop down to the chemist and get some more? The nearest chemist was 45 kilometres away and, true to what was becoming form, she had no money to pay for them. Then she started asking all and sundry – including the staff at the place we were staying – where she could “score some weed?”
Her next tour de force was jamming her fingers in the door of the Santa Fe. Solicitous me, I insisted on taking her back to Cape Town right there and then. “But you haven’t taken all the pictures I wanted,” she wailed. “You’re not very professional,” she added.