Chris’s car stank of weed and cigarettes by the time we were half way there. A musty smell was developing in the car. I remember my eyes being somewhat sore, the wind whistling past the cracks in Chris’s old blue citi golf. The eternal droll of The Doors playing in the background:
“Desperately in need... of
some... stranger's hand
In a... desperate land
Lost in a Roman... wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane, all the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah
There's danger on the edge of town
Ride the King's highway”
Fuck it all it is a long drive. I do not remember how long because Neil, Chris, Craig and I smoked a brick of Swazi on the way. It was a seedy brick, bought from a seedy-looking guy across from the police station in Randburg, but it did us well. It was a good couple of hours. At least six I think. A new joint being rolled, the crack of seeds that Neil had again forgotten to take out, greasy smoke pouring out the window and the border drawing ever closer.
At last, we hit the border. The sun would be going down soon and we had to make it to the house before it got too dark to see. We rushed through the border, and bought what we thought was a bunch of hash, and turned out to be tiny balls of weed wrapped in brown paper. Chris had eight caps of LSD in his wallet. It was going to be a long drive from there, a single lane road that snakes and meanders itself through Zimbabwe towards Lake Kariba. A killer drive: trucks to overtake on blind rises, no street lights and no road markings. No cop would dare to stop us as we sped towards Kariba.
“Ride the highway west, baby
Ride the snake, ride the snake
To the lake, the ancient lake, baby
The snake is long, seven miles
Ride the snake... he's old, and his skin is cold”
A couple of times we almost lost control of the car, swerving back and forth, passing eighteen wheeler trucks on the wrong side, the wind and the vacuum sucking us in. We hit the dirt on the side of the road more than once when the joint was passed around. Chris, Neil and Craig took some LSD. I drove for a while in the pitch-blackness, Jim Morrison still singing:
“Get here, and we'll do the rest
The blue bus is callin' us, The blue bus is callin' us
Driver, where you taken' us”
When we arrived, I pulled the car up next to a small tree. That was the first mistake. We got out and met Brusher. He was the guy who was going to take us fishing, and did the braaing for us. He took us into the house. We had our own personal cook, a four-bedroom/two-bathroom house, a boat, as much bait as we needed, six cases of beer, a couple of balls of weed and a TV.
The acid had kicked in and we all went for a swim. Chris insisted that we drive to the pool because there were snakes around and it was utterly dark. He also insisted that he would drive. The next forty-five minutes involved Chris trying to turn the car around, and get past the tiny little tree that I had parked next to. He turned on the lights and the pool was about 5 meters away from the house. The water was good, warm. It was oppressively hot for night. Neil spun around and around in the water, and complained about the pretty lights under the surface that would make him drown. I drank a beer and smoked a ball out of the little pipe that eventually became known affectionately as One Ball Nancy.
Fishing! Glorious fishing! Neil took another cap of acid at five in the morning, just before we walked down to the little boat that would provide us with many hours of sunburnt fun and boozing. The lake is only a couple of hundred metres away from Chris’s place. A can full of worms, some beer, a couple of joints and Brusher accompanied us. There were hippos and crocodiles in the water.
Lake Kariba is an artificial inland sea that covers about 280 square kilometres of the Zambezi Valley. It is Africa’s third largest dam after Aswan in Egypt and Cahora Bassa on the same river in neighbouring Mozambique.
The Zambezi River God, the fish-headed, serpent-tailed Nyaminyami was with us. Neil kept putting his hand in the water and tempting the crocodiles. He insisted that the acid had made him realise that water was the source of all life, and that he was a brilliant fisherman. We fished for about six hours and brought home a fine catch, which we neglected to eat.
That afternoon we went down to the bottle store and bought more beer. We spent the night swimming, drinking, and finishing off the marijuana in a massive bong that I had bought in town at a little curio shop. The man at the curio shop sold me a walking stick for Zimbabwe $10 and a T-shirt.
Neil took more acid. We decided we needed more weed and asked Brusher where we could go and buy some. He, being a dutiful gardener-slash-boat-driver-slash-braaimaster-slash-illegal-drug-finder wandered off to the local village and asked around. He came back about an hour later with 10 balls, each only the size of a big pea. We insisted that we needed more. Neil was frothing around the mouth, and said he would give away all his money for a good sandwich. Brusher took us down to a group of huts sitting in a clearing in a jungle-like area. It was the most African experience of my life, sitting in the sun on the warm red sand, eating an apple and smoking one of the balls in good old One Ball Nancy while Chris and Craig negotiated through a language barrier. They finally discovered that the local “big time” dealer lived around the corner and that a scary drunk woman with an ass the size of two watermelons would take us there for Zimbabwe $5. We paid her and drove there.
The dealer had about 40 balls with him. We insisted on at least 100. He insisted that he had never even seen 100 balls at one time, and that most people only smoked a ball or two every day. We offered him double price if he could get 100 balls. He went and caught a taxi crammed full of people and came back with 100 balls.
Chris asked the big time dealer to come smoke with us, which he did. We all got in the car and popped in The Doors. We gave the dealer a beer and he asked if his brother could come along. There were no objections and his brother leapt in. I stuffed 10 balls into the huge bong as we drove randomly through the backstreets of the little town, Jim Morrison endlessly screaming. We kept moving and smoking, Neil was banging his head against the window and Chris, who was driving, was pinching the dealers brothers nose, making him hold in gallons of smoke. We got to the local airport, or rather the local landing strip. There was no one there and we raced up and down the runway, making the dealers scream as we hit 120 and skidded to a stop.
After a short while of pretending to take off we hot-boxed the car. I was swilling down warm beer as Craig stuffed another 10 balls into the huge bong. Neil was wild-eyed and crazy and the dealer’s brother started babbling incomprehensibly in an African language. He then opened the door and fell halfway out, his legs still stuck in the car, his head on the nearly melting tarmac of the old runway. The dealer clambered over me and out of the car. He lay down next to his brother. They were letting the fucking smoke out, so I closed the door after pushing the offending legs out the way. I do not know how long we stayed there, but it was a while, and my eyes were stinging from the sweat and the smoke. When we got home we remembered that the dealer and his brother were lying on a semi-abandoned runway, more drunk and stoned than anyone had ever been in Zimbabwe, and 30 kilometres from home. Neil took more acid because as he said, the one he had taken earlier was wearing off. Brusher braaied the fish we had caught the day before, and we all slept well.
After I almost fell asleep at the wheel, and Craig took over the driving, I slept all the way back to Johannesburg. We were stuck in the five o’ clock traffic, with sunburnt smiles, cut hands, burnt fingernails and The Doors blaring in our minds.
When the music's over
When the music's over, yeah, When the music's over
Turn out the lights, Turn out the lights
Turn out the lights, yeah