Valiantly We Battled On!

Phew. What a weekend! Things went right and things went very very wrong! But like my mom always says: “Why else was perseverance made?” But let’s start at the beginning! Last week Tuesday Valiant Swart flew up to Gauteng. The trip started off productively on Wednesday with a meeting with us, followed by  a visit to his record company (Vonk Musiek) to discuss the finer points of the pressing of his new album Rondry, Fliek en die Buitelewe on vinyl. Friday broke and welcomed in the weekend, but even more importantly, the official start of spring in South Africa! With a song in our hearts and blossoms on our brains, we made our way to Café Barcelona in Pretoria for the weekend’s first performance. Things went swimmingly! The atmosphere was intimate and cosy, the audience entranced and appreciative, and the white wine plentiful and cold. Music was enjoyed, merchandise sold, and a birthday celebrated. All in all a resounding success. Come Saturday morning, the masochists among us (yep, I’m looking in the mirror) got up with the chickens to shop at the Pretoria Farmers’ Market at 6AM, followed by a trip to the Brooklyn Banting market at 9AM. Man, when did we become adults?! But I digress. After Illimar taught a couple of classes, we were off again to pick up Valiant. We hit the road, destination Mookgophong (previously Naboomspruit) in Limpopo. A mere 155kms from home – child’s play! We glided effortlessly across the N1 north and reached Ilnika (the guest farm who kindly sponsored our accommodation) in no time flat. Our friendly hosts, André Pienaar and his wife, greeted us, showed us to our comfy lodgings and offered us some ice cold refreshments. Soon we made our way to Die Boer en die Belg, the gorgeous farm venue which played host to the Waterberg Hartswerk Fees where Valiant and Illimar were set to perform. On route the first hint of things to come reared its nasty little beady-eyed head. The car’s battery light came on.  “It probably gives warning far in advance”, we shrugged and went about our business. The festival was a true delight. The surroundings were beautiful (who can get tired of an African sunset in the bush?), the grounds level and clean and the organisation faultless (shoutout to Dirk Jordaan for his seamless running of the backstage). We caught segments of Bacchus Nel (foot tapping tunes to celebrate the last light of the day) and Andra (dark and soulful to usher in the night) before Valiant and Illimar’s show at 7PM. They opened with Ek en die Blues and kept the audience enraptured with provocative tunes like Sonvanger and Mystic Boer. Afterwards we were treated to a delicious dinner of lasagne and salad backstage, and enjoyed our beverages in actual GLASS glasses… Unheard of at a festival! We stuck around until after Albert Frost’s performance – raw and real as always, and seeing Chris van der Walt on bass is always a treat. On our way back to Ilinika, hint number two of impending disaster was subtle and almost imperceptible. “Are our brights on?” I asked. “Yes” the husband replied. I took him at his word, although our brights seemed somewhat dim, for brights. Hint number three wasn’t really a hint. It was more of a sledgehammer to the head . After turning off the ignition, Illimar thought he’d restart the car, just to reassure us that all was good with the battery. Long story short, it wasn’t. A sad splutter, and tick-tick-tick, and nothing else. Zip, zilch, zero, nada. Now in normal circumstances, this would’ve been a sucky situation, but as we had to leave at half past eight the next morning to be on time for Sunday’s show, this really Sucked with a capital S.  And yet, we had hope. A dead battery can be jump started. Oh no no no. Why would it be that simple? André informed us that in all likelihood our alternator had gone to the Big Junkyard in the Sky, and therefore wasn’t charging the battery anymore. Hey ho, we soldier on. ‘n Boer maak ‘n plan and all that. André’s two strapping young sons-in-law hooked up our battery to charge overnight and we were honoured to be asked to join the family around the fire. We were treated to an impromptu performance by Ilke and Nika, accompanied by Timo on guitar (André’s three children). We sipped wine and laughed and chatted until the early morning hours. The next morning our SUV started up after a failed attempt or two, and off we went with André’s admonishment to not stop for any reason and to not use the lights, aircon or radio still ringing in our ears. Suddenly 155kms didn’t seem like child’s play anymore. Every toll gate felt like a guillotine blade suspended by a thread over our heads, as we idled in a car that spluttered and vibrated and threatened to give up the ghost. 140kms, 130kms, 120, 110… we counted down the distance left to Busstop 7. When we successfully exited the third and final toll gate, with only 35kms to go, we whooped and high-fived. Oh friends. Never count your chickens before they’ve hatched! About 5kms further, the car (what the heck, she has a name, it’s Heleen) lost all power, the steering failed, and that’s all she wrote. Fortunately disaster struck right before an off-ramp, and Illimar managed to coast us to a standstill in the turn to the old Zambezi  road, now known as Sefako Makgatho. Clearer heads had prevailed that morning when we had pled with our trusty friend Tiaan to be on standby, and before long he was racing to our rescue. Let’s speed up this tale. Tiaan arrived in Eloïse (yep, all our cars have names), connected Eloïse and Heleen’s batteries, did the whole thing, Heleen started up (Yay!) and died again after a few 100 meters in a very dangerous spot in a corner (BOO!). Rinse and repeat: connect the batteries, Heleen fires up but doesn’t fool us again. We use that fleeting spark of life to jump the curb and get to a place of safety. Into Eloïse Valiant and his equipment go to be chauffeured by Tiaan to Busstop 7, minus a guitarist. The show must go on! Illimar phones up his insurance which includes roadside assistance. We spend some time getting the season’s first tan or getting grilled to medium well – depending on whether you’re a glass half full or half empty kinda person. Eventually our saviour arrives and Heleen gets a free ride on a flatbed, and we our first in a tow truck. In the true spirit of Rock and Roll, Illimar gets a sudden and serious case of Ants in His Pants, and decides that he can still make the afternoon’s show! Once again Tiaan receives an SOS, this time to pick up Illimar when the tow truck deposits us at home. Some frantic unloading and reloading of gear occurs, and off they go! As Valiant had told our tale of woe on stage and wasn’t expecting Illimar, both he and the crowd went nuts when the intrepid guitarist arrived during the second set. Big sigh of relief. A great set was played and perseverance won the day. Never give up, kids, never give up. A huge thank you to Tiaan who went above and beyond to help out his friends, to André for his hospitality and for getting us on the road, and to Outsurance for getting us back off the road!

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