Trip to South Africa to say goodbye

Once I’d come to terms with the events of last month, it was clear to me I needed to go to South Africa to say goodbye to my friend JJ who’s life was so tragically cut short, doing one of the things he loved doing. There were many reasons I wanted to go; I needed some kind of closure, I wanted to learn a little more about where he’d grown up and above all I wanted to meet his friends and family to share some stories of our time together. The trip was only to be 5 days which proved exhausting, emotional but above all, totally amazing!

I left Jakarta with another friend and colleague, Danie who’s family had offered to put me up for my stay in South Africa. As they live on a farm just outside Cape Town, it’s there that we flew into from Jakarta. Luckily South Africa was just heading into autumn so the climate was still pretty warm because living in Indo, I don’t own any cold weather clothing!

Cape Town airport elephant

We arrived on a Thursday in the late afternoon and were picked up by Danie’s folks and drove the 1 hour trip to their farm just outside Wellington; arriving just after sunset. After a lovely dinner we all hit the sack for some shut-eye as Friday was going to be a long day, driving all the way from Wellington to Kidd’s Beach where JJ’s family and friends where.

On the road to Kidd’s Beach

Bright and early the next day we hit the road. This was to be a 12 hour drive with only a couple of stops for fuel and lunch along the way. Still, it was a great way to get to see a portion of South Africa. It also crushed my preconception that everyone drove around in Land Cruisers on dirt roads. The roads here put the UK to shame in most places!

We arrived in Kidd’s Beach around 7pm that evening and were invited over to the Willis family farm for dinner. Wow! I knew JJ was a popular guy but blimey, he does have a lot of friends! I think I met most of them that evening but was being severely let down by my terrible ability to retain people’s names. Still, even though I kept forgetting who I was talking to, it was great to finally meet some of the people JJ spoke about.

His family are even better than I imagined them to be. Truly wonderful people and so welcoming to both Danie and myself for making the trip over. I was glad to be there. It was an awesome evening with the most welcoming group of people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

Kidd’s Beach

The following morning the ceremony for JJ was held at the church in Kidd’s Beach. It was like no funeral I’ve ever been to. It was a true celebration of JJ’s life not done in the normal stuffy way I’d been used. No this was an amazing event with probably 300 odd people there all singing and sharing stories of the good times with JJ.

After the ceremony there was plenty of time to chat with as many people as I could (trying desperately to remember the names of folk I’d met the evening before) and hear some more about JJ. I think the best comment I heard was from his mother who some months previous had asked him not to do anything dangerous; JJ’s reply: “but mum, everything I do is dangerous!”. So true!

After many goodbyes it was time to leave and start heading back to Wellington. The plan was to get to Addo Elephant Park and overnight there before continuing on the following day.

We did mange to get there and had an great morning the following day driving through the reserve. We managed to see three out of the “big five” game animals there including a buffalo, elephants, two black rhinos, zebras, warthogs and kudu to name the ones I can remember the names of!

Elephants at Addo Park

After a pretty successful morning we got back on the road with a brief stop over in Jeffery’s Bay for lunch. The scenery wafted by as the miles clocked up and we were treated to a wonderful sunset a couple of hours from Wellington.

We got back to Danie’s farm pretty late that Sunday evening and so it was a quick snack before heading to bed to prepare for my last full day in South Africa.

Seeing as though I was staying in a large wine producing area it seemed rude not to go and sample the local produce, so Danie and I headed out the following day for a spot of wine and cheese tasting at Fairview winery.

So much choice!

The weather was just perfect with wall to wall sunshine and not a cloud in the sky which I was rather thankful of. No wonder they can produce such lovely wine here!

Tuesday came all too soon and my flight back to Indo was later that afternoon. So Danie and I took the morning to head into Cape Town for some breakfast and a quick wander around the harbour side.

Cape Town harbour side with Table Mountain in the background

Another day of great weather topped off what had been an amazing trip. This was such a short trip to South Africa, I really have to go back again soon and spend a lot more time in this wonderful country. I’m so very grateful to all the amazing people I’ve met here and especially to the Malan’s for putting me up and showing me around and of course the Willis’ for giving me a new found strength to move on with my life and continue what I love doing too.

Until next time South Africa!

Matt Dearden

Matt Dearden

English born professional pilot, writer, blogger and columnist. Currently flying the Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter in Papua, Indonesia.

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1 Response

  1. It was good to chat briefly at JJ’s funeral and hear about the type of flying you do. It seems you managed to fit a fair amount of sightseeing into your brief visit to South Africa!

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