the road of deathis that part of the N1 starting roughly at Lainsburg to Beaufortwes in the Karoo, just over 300 km long. It is a perfectly good road as far as we could see. We were on our way to the Karoo National park to see Aloe Broomii and Aloe claviflora in bloom in their natural habitat.
The enormous notice at the side of the road gave me a bad feeling. It stated - "Record without an accident is 11 days" and "The latest accident free record is 1 day ". It was early morning 9:00, the day was only starting.
This road carries the main freight between the northern parts of South Africa and Cape Town. There are very few cars amongst these enormous heavy freight trucks. We watched the trucks pass while having breakfast at a roadside picnic table. I found them beautiful, the sound was exciting too. Not that there was heavy traffic by any standard. 2-3 trucks would pass and be gone before a car or another truck would pass again. How on earth could there be so many accidents on this road?
The reason is not very obvious at first, but apparently it has to do with a straight monotonous road and tired drivers. The overall distance to travel is way over 1000 km for most of these trucks. The drivers work for a bonus if they rush or penalties if they take longer than the allotted time to deliver. There are stops to pull off the road and rest, as well as ripples in the tar that make a noise to wake up the drivers, but only so much can be done - money has the last word.
The day started without an accident but before noon we passed an accident near LeeuGamka, one of the very small towns near the main road. A truck full of apples was standing on the shoulder of the road leaning over at an angle which just needs a tiny bump to roll the truck over. Nobody was hurt (except the pocket of the unfortunate driver). The top layers of boxes filled with apples were thrown off the truck and apples were strewn all over the side of the road. Children from LeeuGamka settlement were having a ball carrying apples in anything, mostly their shirts. The police have little patience with cars stopping at the accident sites, so we had to drive on without taking a photo of the kids.
We spent the afternoon and night in the Nature Park at Beaufortwes (very nice, we can recommend it - in our next blog) and left at about 9:00 the next morning to return home on the same road. The notice read "days without accident 0" zero! at the start of the day... then we saw the flashing lights of the police at the accident. This time it was a small pick-up truck. It was badly damaged as it rolled far into the veld. We did not see any sign of what it was carrying and that is bad as the local people like to hitch a cheap ride on the back of these pick-ups. No stopping permitted so we drive on hoping nobody died in that accident.
We wanted to see more of the Karoo so we turned north to Fraserburg, away from the road of death. We felt relaxed and enjoyed the peaceful Karoo scenery - but then absolutely unexpectedly at the roadside we were reminded that there is no "safe from harm" place.
UNSERER LIEBER MUTTI EIN GEDENKEN + 12 - 12 - 1994
In memory of our beloved mother.