“Look Sbu, it’s better you take me to Cape Town this year or I’ll follow my friends to Mafikeng.”
“Huh! Mafikeng? You want to leave me here in Tshwane?”
“What is wrong with that?” She pushed the food plate away and stood up from the seat.
“I should spend the festive period alone? Never!” I stroked my chin trying to digest what Lerato said. The attendant had just served us burger and drinks when she came up with her Cape Town story. Having promised to take her to a coastal city for a holiday, she couldn’t wait to hear the date of departure.
Actually, we could have made the trip last year December, but limited funds on my part didn’t allow. So, I made it a point that we’d make it this year unfailingly.
It was a bit past six. My girlfriend and I came for dinner at Chicken Licken here in Arcadia. Having left the office earlier than usual, I’d fixed the date to inform her that things weren’t as rosy as expected.
Lerato and I had been together for four years and she was one lady I couldn’t joke with. Pretty, domesticated and supportive, ladies like her proved hard to find these days. On many occasions, I’d tried to set up a trap and see if she dated someone else, but each time, she passed my test.
I must say that I loved her dearly. Despite being a student, she remained committed to our affair. Each time I looked into her eyes, my own image would reflect at me. Let me just say that the girl gave me joy. So, it always hurt when she asked for something I couldn’t provide.
To spice up our relationship, I decided to take her on a vacation to one of the coastal cities during the festive period. She was beside herself with joy the moment I said it. After failing to fulfil the promise last year because my budget was tight, I looked forward to a better 2017.
But as usual, lack of funds had reared its ugly head again, threatening to cut off our holiday. Sometimes I wish my company would double my eight thousand rands salary to free me from these fund issues.
The need for a raise at work explained why I always listened to politics-related news on TV. Perhaps, the minimum wage would soon be increased across the country; strugglers like me would benefit immensely from such a decision.
With my salary slightly raised, I should have enough funds to spoil my woman the manner she’d always expected. And maybe I could take the bold step of proposing marriage to her. At the moment, things looked tough to talk about settling down with a wife, not to mention the serious issues of having kids.
“The ruling party elective conference is around the corner. Can we postpone this vacation until next year, 2018, when there won’t be any political disturbance? Please dear.”
“Next year again? Are you serious with me at all?” She dropped to the seat and stared at me in the face. “Sbu, why are you like this? How does the ANC conference affect us? What does it have to do with going for a holiday by the seaside? If you can’t make it, let’s cancel this idea.” She clapped her hands as her lips pursed. My face dropped to the ground, ruing my situation.
“Every year, you always have an excuse. Last year December, you said the value of rand has gone down. This year you are complaining already about the ANC conference. I don’t know how that is your business when you are not a politician.”
Her face turned solemn as she spoke, and I disliked seeing her look surly. I pulled her hands towards me and put on a disarming smile. “Lerato Potato!”
Her eyes flickered at me scornfully, but I didn’t mind.
“Sweet Lerato! The only one that tickles my liver! You know I can’t put this off. If things were okay, I should—”
“Please, please!! Don’t sweet talk me today. If you don’t come up with a plan this December, I’m going on holiday with my friends straight away. This is still November 17; you have more than one month to make up your mind.”
She withdrew her hands from my grip and threatened to walk away. Right then, I knew the issue had gone beyond ordinary. How could my woman become so touchy merely because of a beachside holiday? I reconsidered my stance.
The prospect of spending the festive period alone in Tshwane looked tough. I guessed I had to fulfil her wish once and for all. I recalled being the reason she stayed back in Tshwane last year and we had a good time from mid-December until early January.
“Babe, remember that this holiday will take about hundred and twenty percent of my monthly income.”
“There he goes again – always calculating percentages and interest rates. You understand economics more than the Reserve Bank governor.” She cast me a funny look from the corner of her eyes.
“Okay, let’s take it slow, babe, we are not fighting. Just two weeks ago, I gave you a thousand rands to fix your hair. You could have told me to save the money because of the coming—”
She slammed her hand on the table. “Styling my hair is a different matter from end-of-year vacation. The two don’t mix.”
“Mind you, they both take money away from the pocket, mos. You are the one who said you wanted Peruvian hair. Left to me, I would have opted for Lesotho-hair.”
“For your information, there is nothing like Lesotho hair. It’s either Brazilian or Peruvian, and those are my choices. These are simple things other men do for their ladies, but in your case, you build castles in the air with your mouth.”
Judging from her defiant carriage, I knew she wouldn’t back down this time. Comparing me to other men didn’t sit well with me; I had to concede.
“Okay, we will go.” Her face brightened up and she let out a chuckle. I quickly had to re-evaluate her choice of Cape Town. Tshwane to the Cape seemed far off. It will cost almost a third of my salary to get us there by air. And that excludes the costs of lodging in a hotel or entertainment around the city. I tossed the option of Cape Town aside; I would navigate the city through Google Maps.
“I must say that Cape Town is too far. Apart from that, it will be too expensive.”
Seeing that I’d keyed into her wish, she cast aside the quarrels and turned on her familiar sweet voice.
“It doesn’t have to be Cape Town, really. We can try any other city,” she said, smiling. “I just want to catch fun after studying so hard for the whole year. My classmates don’t have to narrate their stories to me again like they did last year.”
Her soft words relieved me, prompting me to think actively about the trip. If Lerato so direly wanted a holiday, I should be able to give her. After all, she remained my one and only.
My mind roved through Durban, Port Elizabeth, East London and all the other coastal cities, but I couldn’t decide on the one that would suit.
It would be my first time out of Tshwane; so I should be cautious where to visit, especially as the issues of crime got reported daily in the newspapers and on the TV. And with my woman accompanying me, my caution should be extra.
On that note, seeking opinions from well-travelled friends came to mind. I decided to call Thulani. At least I can always rely on his views.
“Hey man. Can you please advise me on where to go for a nice beachside experience? I want to take Lerato with me this December.”
“Go to Durban and enjoy the sea. It’s amazing there,” he said without mincing words. “The warm weather by the seaside will blow you away.”
It wasn’t the first time news of warm beaches in Durban reached me. Lots of radio promos about the place made a holiday there desirable. Even in the newspapers, hotels in Durban always got advertised. I didn’t need much convincing to agree with Thulani.
“He said Durban is cool. What do you think?” I asked Lerato, bringing out my phone from the pocket to check the calendar. I wanted to set a date for the journey right away.
“I don’t mind Durban. I hear about it all the time.” Her face glowed and she came around to my side, peeping into my phone.
Lerato drew her burger closer and began to eat. I joined my sweetheart and we dined together. She even offered to put the chicken in my mouth. Her familiar joyful face returned, and I cherished those smiles that always got me enthralled.
“Now you are happy, uh?”
“You can say that again. I just can’t wait to be by the seaside with you.”
“Likewise, babes. Durban, here we come.”
After having our fill, we parted after agreeing that we would be in Durban from the 20th until the 27th of December, 2017. Even if I would have to dig deep into my bank accounts to make the trip a reality, so long it would please my woman, I didn’t mind. While she returned to her place in Sunnyside, I took a taxi to Mamelodi, where I lived.
Immediately when I got home, I dialled Thulani again for a proper briefing of the cost implications of such holiday trips. The lad didn’t hold back from telling me his mind.
“Booking early is important at that time of the year. People rush to the coasts with lots of cash. A guy like you will do well to get your budgeting right. But there are hotels for all classes of tourists.”
“Do you think ten thousand rands would be enough for us?” I’d projected that amount for the one week trip. Any estimate above that would make me reduce the number of days we’d spend there.
“Umm…more or less. Conservatively, it should be enough to some extent, especially when you cut cost. For me, I’m, familiar with the cost-cutting tricks. A lot of things get overpriced during the festive periods.”
“Thank you, man. I will think about this.”
“Keep cool and enjoy your stay there.”
It came to mind to take a trip to Durban this November just to survey the place; even if it would cost me a thousand rands to spend a night there. Doing so should help forestall any unexpected events during the end-of-year visit with Lerato. And more importantly, it would afford me the opportunity to cut unnecessary costs.
Friday evening, November 24, 2017, I grabbed my small travelling bag and headed to Bosman station in Tshwane to take a night bus from Tshwane to Durban.
I would have doubted it if someone foretold that my first trip to Durban would be an eye-opening experience. Little did I know that lots of surprises awaited me in the capital city of KwaZulu-Natal.